Friday, January 23, 2015

Nine days in Barcelona - Paellas, Café con leche and Awesome Sights

Coffee at Brunch and Cake in L'Eixample
We visited Barcelona during the Christmas and New Year holiday. We absolutely fell in love with this beautiful and original city. Barcelona is a visual and cultural delight showcasing the Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell and Casa Batllo. Although December is seasonably cold, averaging 55 degrees, the holiday period is extremely busy bustling with tourist from around the world. Main tourist attractions sell out quickly, therefore it is wise to book tours 1-2 days ahead of time. La Ramblas, the main thoroughfare strewn with shopping, restaurants and attractions, was busier than Times Square during prime tourist season. 

La Ramblas, Barcelona

With a light jacket, the weather is wonderful for walking and the abundant sightseeing Barcelona offers. We walked about 8 hours every day covering all of Barcelona's different neighborhoods and sites during our stay. Barcelona also has a fantastic public transportation system with stops at all major attractions. After all the walking, I didn't feel guilty indulging in all the wonderful local Spanish culinary delights and wines.

Rooftop view from The Arenas de Barcelona

Montjuïc, situated in the eastern mountains off the coast, houses the Montjuïc Castle, various parks and offers amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea. On our first day, we found an amazing park full of cacti (Montjuïc Cactus Park). This Park is home to 800 species of cactus. We saw round cacti with bright flowers growing on top and the surreal cactus forest with over ten feet high cactiThe climb up the mountain was steep, but the view was well worth it. The mountain can also be accessed by a suspended cable car that connects with the beach. My husband, who is scared of heights, refused to take the cable car.   

Montjuïc Cactus Park

My husband and I wanted to experience a local flavor, therefore we rented a lovely, affordable 2 bedroom apartment in Poble Sec. Only a 20 minute walk to La Ramblas, the area, once known as a semi-seedy watering hole, is now transforming itself into an up and coming neighborhood and is a favorite with locals. My husband was able to test his Spanish / Catalan at the nearby restaurants, coffee shops and experience local life. However for my next trip, I plan to stay in the Eixample area.  Eixample has excellent restaurants and a lot closer to most attractions. We ended up walking there almost everyday for breakfast or dinner.You can find English spoken in most restaurants and shops located in Eixample.

We read that Barcelona has public WiFi so we didn't get the phone plan. It was a mistake. The WiFi was only available in parts of La Ramblas and it would've been useful to have a translator. We had an app we used off line but it wasn't as good.

Things we found useful on our trip

Now, let's talk about coffee. First, we walked into what looks like a local chain coffee and bread place (365.café in Poble Sec). Prices for coffee are amazingly cheap. You can get a small latte for 1 euro. The girl behind the counter only spoke Spanish / Catalan. We asked for coffee with leche, but I guess she couldn't understand our accent. Finally my husband asked for cappuccino and she understood that. Coffee was great. You can drink it without sugar, but with one sugar it was the best! We finally figured out to ask for Café con leche. It is the most popular form of coffee in Spain.

365 Café in Poble Sec 

Here is a cool guide on How to Order Coffee in Barcelona

The Arenas de Barcelona
Next day we ended up in the Arenas de Barcelona and had coffee and gelato downstairs at Farggi. 

Arenas was designed for bullfighting, but now its a giant mall with cool views from the rooftop terrace.

Farggi at the Arenas

Gelato at the Arenas

We spend the rest of the day exploring Montjuïc mountain. It is well known for the Joan Miró Foundation, Castle of Montjuïc, Botanic Gardens, Poble Espanyol and the Olympic Stadium. It requires a lot of climbing but provides amazing views of Barcelona.

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
We watched the Magic Fountain dance at night. It's only open on weekends during winter months. 

The fountain is situated below the Palau Nacional on the Montjuïc hill and near the Plaça d'Espanya and Poble Espanyol de Barcelona.

After a long day, we headed to get Paellas at Amaya at La Rambla 20-24

I had chicken Paella with Sangria and cheese plate plus tea for dessert. Everything was awesome. Loose tea was served in a nice teapot. Sangrias were huge and strong.

My husband had seafood Paella and he absolute loved it. We ate there few times during the trip and it was always good. They have menu in English, but don't expect them to speak English. Few times my husband got wrong dessert, but it was good, so no big deal.

Stay tuned to more details on our Favorite Breakfast, where to go for New Year's and more.

Exercises and Tips for Health & Energy (because you will need tons of energy to explore Barcelona):
The Key to Longevity - The kidneys
Eight Exercises for Fitness, Healing, and Longevity
QIGONG WALK to increase Qi (vital energy) quickly
How to build up Chi (Qi) to fight off Illness
Standing Qigong produced superior results
What is stronger Qigong or Coffee for an instant “hit”?


Tips for healthy Digestion (to help with all the good food you have to try in Barcelona):

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