Monday 31 July 2017

2017 Spanish Food Adventure - Day 6


Before checking out of our hotel in Calella we went in search of some breakfast. We noticed this breakfast menu at a nearby cafe, combo 1 seemed like a bargain so we stopped here.

At just €2.90 this was the best breakfast deal we'd found so far.
The croissants and bread were really fresh and the coffee was excellent. 

A few hours later we were in Barcelona, the 57km journey took just over an hour by a direct train from Calella. Our hotel for the night was Hostal Sans located close to Sants train station, a room here cost €47 per night for a double room with wifi and air con. 

We wanted to visit the El Raval district of Barcelona, we made our way there via Placa Espanya. Walking was thirsty work in this heat, an ice cold blueberry white tea was just the ticket though.

There's some fantastic street art to be found in Barcelona.

The Museum of Contempory Art (MACBA) is a popular spot for skateboarders, they can always be found skating outside. We didn't go inside MACBA today but we saw a great punk exhibition here last year. We'd remembered that close by was an excellent vegetarian restaurant.

We searched for quite a long time before finally finding Vegetalia. Some of the best food I ate in Spain last year came from this place. There was just one empty table on the terrace outside, we wasted no time in making a beeline for it.

My old friend the menu del dia, the €11.40 deal looked good to us.

We'd be here for sometime so we ordered a jug of sangria.

We both ordered the same starter, lima bean sautee with seitan. The crunch of the lima bean combined with the well seasoned seitan made this a most enjoyable dish.

When the main courses arrived we decided to share them, this was the stuffed green peppers with tomato sauce. The soy and vegetable stuffing was delicious but what really stood out for me was the really rich tomato sauce.

The other main was tofu, lentil and mozzarella burger served with rice and salad, a delicious combination.

Dessert was my favourite course though, spiced bread pudding with whipped cream and soy milk caramel. I adore bread pudding and this was quite possibly the best I'd ever tasted, My wife couldn't finish hers so I very happily helped her out as it was far too good to leave.

After lunch we kept walking until we finally reached our favourite district in Barcelona, El Raval. Most tourists flock to La Ramblas whilst El Raval is often overlooked, this place has heaps of character though and is an area I highly recommend you search out and explore.

This area was being prepared for a small music festival that was to take place in a week or so.

The streets of El Raval were a real treat on the eyes, I loved this original signage and felt the grafitti on the shutters of the shop added to the character.

In the centre of El Raval you will find Rambla El Raval. A wide tree lined avenue which is a popular spot to have a drink or enjoy some tapas. It was once described as an oxygenating lung in the heart of El Raval.

At the far end of Rambla El Raval you can find Fernando Botero's enormous bronze cat. He's been smiling at passers by in this spot since 2003, we always make time to visit him when we're in Barcelona.

We made our way towards the port area passing this stunning building on the way, I loved the concrete facia and ribbon like stairwell running along it's edge.

This is a replica of the submarine Ictineo I, built by Catalan engineer, inventor, artist and writer NarcĂ­s Monturiol i Estarriol. It can be found in the courtyard of Barcelona's Maritime Museum. If you ever visit the museum be sure to take a peek through the porthole on the side!

We reached the port area but with the sun beating down all we could think about was cooling down and the solution was nearby.

No, we didn't jump into the sea! We visited El Bosc de les Fades, Barcelona's enchanted forest bar. This air conditioned bar is the perfect spot to cool down over a drink whilst you're surrounded by trees with spooky faces in this enchanted forest. The dark interior is lit by small lights amongst the trees and there's even a small waterfall in the far corner.

I was tempted but was still full up from my lunch.

A pint of Estrella Damm I couldn't resist though.

We strolled through Placa Reial just off La Ramblas, a beautiful courtyard filled with palm trees and lined with restaurants. It's a great place to sit but not a great place to eat as it's really aimed at tourists, so expect frozen tapas and high prices if you do decide to eat here.

We spent an hour or so exploring the narrow streets of the Barri Gotic district. It's a real maze and the perfect spot to get lost amongst all of the small shops selling a wide range of things from handmade jewellery to breakfast themed swimming costumes.

There's also no end of ice cream shops in the Barri Gotic area, this pistachio and banana combo was particularly nice.

We couldn't visit Barcelona without strolling around La Boqueria market off La Ramblas. We got here just as places were starting to close so some bargains were to be had, we had our eye on the fresh juices.

Just €2 for 2 fresh juices, My wife asked the lady selling them what her favourite flavour was, "Kiwi and coconut" she replied. This made my decision an easy one, it was really delicious and refreshing.

We started making our way back towards the direction of our hotel, cutting through El Raval for a final look. 

The evening was still young so we stopped off at a bar for a glass of beer. The local beer made in Barcelona is Estrella Damm, it's also becoming increasingly more available back in the UK.

A huge cheeseburger arrived at the table next to us, it belonged to the chap coming out of the bar. I watched as he had a fairly long conversation before finally taking a bite. The anticipation was killing me, I'd have sunk my teeth into it right away.

A quick look at some more street art before finding a supermarket to buy a snack from to eat back at the hotel.

The snacks in the supermarket were quite disappointing really, had we waited we could of bought something far more interesting from a bakery a few shops further up the street.

These were rather nice though, the same snack that some bars had brought to the table with a drink.

We'd walked quite far today so decided to call it a day as we had an early train to catch in the morning to Seville.

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Day 7 - On to Seville

Friday 28 July 2017

2017 Spanish Food Adventure - Day 5

Caldes d'Estrac and Mataro

I woke up feeling slightly better today which was a huge relief, I was dreading having to waste precious time being ill in bed. We decided to catch the train that runs along the coast and explore Caldes d'Estrac and Mataro. We took a look around Caldes d"Estrac first, a really quiet town with picturesque streets and a lovely church. Behind the town we discovered a derelict walkway with excellent views out to sea.

We jumped on the train and travelled 9km along the coast to Mataro, the largest town in the Costa del Maresme. The Nau Gaudi building can be found in Mataro, it's considered the starting point of Antoni Gaudi's creative process. It was closed so we couldn't go inside but we did discover that since 2010 it's been the home of Mataro Contemporary Art Museum Consortium, forming the exhibition space of the Bassat Collection.

Although up and about again I still wasn't felling my usual self, I'd taken hardly any photos and had very little appetite. I'd not even taken a photo of my lunch which was very unlike me, it was a just a ham and cheese bikini sandwich from what I can remember. This statue was nice but what really caught my eye in this photo was the raw concrete textured wall behind it. 

Back in Calella we bought some cans of beer and went along to Santi's Beach Bar for the battle of the bands competition. It was a bit of a struggle but we spent a couple of hours there and caught up with some friends. We'd hoped to return back to the main festival this evening but I still wasn't feeling too good and my mind was now focused on feeling better for Barcelona tomorrow. A friend at the beach bar had recommended a burger restaurant in Calella called Surf and Turf so we decided to go there this evening. Their thick hand cut potato wedges with a spicy dip were superb.

We were here for the burgers though! The burgers were homemade and the toppings were impressive. I chose the cheese burger with bacon, salad and caramelised onions. Usually I'd have squashed it together and eaten it in no time, with very little appetite though I managed just the meat and onions. A damn good burger for sure but had I had more an appetite I'd have enjoyed it far more than I did.

The homemade veggie burger my wife ordered was excellent too.

Our time in Calella was drawing to an end so we strolled along the beach for the last time. I hadn't experienced much of the festival due to being ill which was a great shame.

As I sat on the balcony for the last time my thoughts were now on Barcelona where we would be visiting tomorrow.

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Day 6 - Barcelona

Thursday 27 July 2017

2017 Spanish Food Adventure - Day 4

Cycling to Malgrat de mar 

This morning as it was quite cloudy we decided to hire some bikes. Before doing so we stopped at a cafe for a spot of breakfast. I had a tortilla sandwich with a coffee and orange juice costing around €5. The best option my wife could find was pan con tomate, she supplied her own chillis and tomato from a nearby shop to liven things up a bit.

The bike hire cost €8 for 4 hours, the cloudy conditions were perfect as I didn't fancy cycling in the direct sun today. We made our way along the coast to Malgrat de mar where once we arrived the heavens opened. There was only one thing to do, shelter from the rain over a spot of lunch.

We'd eaten at Maui bar a few years ago, the dining area looks out over the beach making it an ideal spot to enjoy some lunch.

My wife's green salad was huge, she didn't want the feta cheese so I helped her out with it.

I usually order one of the meat dishes here but didn't seem to have much of an appetite today. Instead I ordered a Russian Salad, it tasted great but after a couple of mouthfuls I felt really full. This was most unlike me as I always usually clear my plate, I did manage to finish my strawberry mojito though which was exceptionally good.

As we passed through Santa Susanna this fantastic brutalist building (Hotel Caprici) caught my eye. I was keen to spot some brutalist architecture on this trip and this was the first decent example I'd seen.

Before returning the bikes we stopped for a couple of drinks at Santi's Beach Bar as The Zipheads from St Albans were playing. The place was rammed and the crowd were loving them, we'd seen them at Boomtown Fair before and really enjoyed them there.

It was halfway through my glass of sangria at Santi's Beach Bar that I realised I didn't feel at all well. We quickly returned the bikes and walked back to the hotel where I spent the next 18 hours in bed feeling really rough and being sick.

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Day 5 - Caldes d'Estrac and Mataro