Barcelona: Spanish Meal Hours

The theme for the fourth day of our vacation in Spain is “Eat Like a Spaniard!”  We were going to attempt the meals that the people in Spain have.

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At home in Canada, we eat three main meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with small snacks in between if needed.  However, according to our travel guide, the people in Spain have SIX meals!

This is how their meals are laid out.   (more…)

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Barcelona: Tapas in Txapela

There is one more important Gaudi that we wanted to go to.  We could not locate Park Guell, a garden which Gaudi designed.  We took the Metro all the way to the nearest station and then found out it was another 1.5 km walk.  We had enough for the day and turned back, heading back to Plaza de Catalunya.

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We had tried tapas in a pub before and Suanne hated all the smoking.  Near the Plaza de Catalunya we found one that has much lesser smoking and the place is more airy.  It looked busy too, but at the same time, it also looked very touristy.

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We had the option to get seated by the tapas bar or the tables.  In many places in Spain, the prices for eating at the bar and at the tables are different for the same food.  The bar prices are cheaper.

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We opted to get seated at the tables.  It’s more comfortable … and we don’t have to deal with eye contact with the bartender … and we don’t have to chat with our neighbor.  Spaniards are chatty and they will talk to you in Spanish!!  Not this time, we were dead tired and just wanted to have a quiet, take-it-slowly meal … and catch up with our notes.

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I had beer, Suanne had water.  I don’t really like to drink beer.  I only ordered that so that I don’t look wimpy.  LOL!  Believe it or not, after just half a mug of this, my face will turn bright red and will take at least 1/2 hour to clear.  Suanne ALWAYS bug me about it … “Honey, your face is red again.”

Oh please … not too loud.  The next table could hear!

I can’t quite figure out the pricing of beer here.  The waiter asked if I wanted the 0.4L for €2.95 or the 0.5L for €3.95.

BTW, €1 is about CAD $1.60.

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This is a touristy tapas restaurant alright.  The menu is available in the language you want.  They have it in German, French and what nots.  On the tables are paper mat printed with numbered pictures of the tapas they have.  The translations are on the menu.

We have an order sheet (like dim sums in Richmond!) to circle what we wanted.

The food are more pleasing to us.  Suanne said she likes this better.  I just think that this is watered down and presented better for tourists.  Anyway, here are some of what we had.

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The Pintxo Octopus (octopus in Vinaigrette) was €1.70.  It was particularly nice with the chopped onion, tomato and peppers.

The prices here felt cheaper to us because at the other places, the prices of each dish is about €4.  However, the serving here is much smaller and often bite sizes only.  We actually like it better with bite sizes because we get to try more types of tapas.

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The one above is called Igueldo.  It is made of tomato sheets and lined with a Catalan cheese called Atura.  €1.70.

The cheese was quite mild tasting like mozarella.  We like the cool and refreshing taste. (more…)

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Barcelona: Guess Where We Had the Tarta de Queso

After the whole day of walking, our feet were killing us.  We looked for somewhere to rest and get a drink.  We wanted somewhere simple.

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We came upon this restaurant which looked familiar.  So we went in and since they have really delicious looking pastries too, we ordered some.  Suanne gravitated towards the Tarta de Queso as always.  Alright, it is cheesecake but the words name Tarta de Queso sounded cooler.

It was served somewhat fancy considering that we did not expect a place like this to do that.

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I had a simple pastry.  Loved the way they served this.  You may think that … so what?  This is nothing unique.  It sure is considering where we had this.  We had this in, believe it or not, … (more…)

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Barcelona: Guess Who We Bumped Into At Casa Mila

It was a long day.  The day started off with waiting two hours for the start of the Tour de France.  And then we went to the Sagrada Familia which we waited for one hour to get to the top of the tower.  And we went to Casa Batllo where there are no chairs and Suanne wanted to listen to every commentary on the audio guide.  We were dead tired.  But still we continue to walk to another famous apartment designed by Gaudi.

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The Casa Mila is one of the more famous of Gaudi’s apartments.  Like Casa Batllo, Casa Mila is over 100 years old.  It is amazing that after all these years, this building looked like it was 10-20 years old only.

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The lines turned me off.  This is going to be another agonizing wait to go in … not to mention having to deal with the boring narations on Gaudi’s architecture and designs.  Suanne said we should go since we are already here.  I said I am OK waiting for her at the street benches … and that was that … she is not going to go in herself.

I wanted to take a complete picture of the Casa Mila.  We crossed the street to a center median and while I was taking a shot, Suanne nudged me and whispered.  “Honey, look who is standing next to us”.  I turned around and oh wow … it was … (more…)

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Barcelona: Casa Batllo

Right after we visited Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia we next went to the Eixample district of Barcelona.  This is where there are more Guadi’s works.

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We took the Metro and exited at the Plaza de Catalunya end of the Passeig de Gracia and walk along the most expensive street in Spain.  This street has all the big names in fashion LV, Gucci, Armani … you name it.

You don’t have to be rich to shop here.  You could also get brands like Giccu, Arnami, VSL along the street for a fraction of the price in the stores.  Take a look at how the peddlers holding to the strings.  One hint of trouble, they will be able to wrap everything up in no time.

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We went to Casa Battlo.  This is one of the few masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi and was built over 100 years ago (in 1907).   (more…)

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Barcelona: The Sagrada Familia

The theme for our third day in Barcelona is Gaudi.

In most of my conversation with friends who learned that we are going to Barcelona, the one word that very often comes up is Gaudi.  Gaudi is the celebrated architect in Barcelona.

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His most famous work is the colossus and massive ambitious Sagrada Familia.  The Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic church which started building in 1882.  This makes it 120 years already in construction.

The Sagrada Familia (meaning Holy Family) is unlike any church you will ever seen.  It is jaw dropping just looking at the immense structure and the intricate sculptures.

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It was late morning when we got there.  You really need to time your visit because the Sagrada Familia is the most popular tourist attraction in all of Barcelona.

We joined the line to get in at the 75m mark.  They have markers to let visitors know how long it will be to get in.  The line moved quite fast so it was not so much a problem waiting in the hot summer sun.

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The entrance for the two of us costs €35.00.  That include the extra of a Guided Tour and the lift to the top of one of the towers.  The Guided Tour is available in multiple languages and are limited to certain times of the day.  I think there is one every 3 hours or so.  We were fortunate that there was one that starts in 30 minutes.

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When completed, the Sagrada Familia will have a total of 18 towers.  So far only eight towers are completed.  All of the eight completed ones are the smaller towers.

The 18 towers will symbolically represent the Holy Family of the 12 apostles, 4 evangelists, Mary and Jesus.  Eventually, the main tower representing Jesus will tower twice over the other towers.  Even at this scale, it is impressive.  I can imagine how the Sagrada Familia will be church of all churches.

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When completed too, the Sagrada Familia will have three fascade.  They are named Passion, Nativity and Glory.  The Passion and Nativity are currently completed.

Our tour starts at the Passion entrance which depicts the suffering of Jesus leading to his crucifixion.

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The sculptures were done many many years after the death of Gaudi and is the work of another sculptor.  They are controversial even when it was completed in the 1980s.

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The tour guide pointed out a lot of the symbolic sculptures that were not apparent to us.  For instance, the above Soduku like grid of numbers.  Can you figure our what that means? (more…)

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Barcelona: Our Version of “Savory Breakfast”

On day three in Barcelona, I stole a few hours again from Suanne.  I wanted to be there for the start of Stage 7 of the Tour de France (Barcelona to Andorra).  The race was supposed to start at 9AM and so we thought we be smart and stake our spot at 8AM.

We got ourselves a great spot.  It was the first turn after a 1km ride down the avenue.  I was pretty pleased with the spot except for one problem.

It was the procession and the floats that starts at 9AM.  We had to wait until 10AM before the race started.  It was a long wait … two hours!

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The race ended in no time.  All the riders rode past under 1 minute.  Gosh … we waited 2 hours for 1 minute of action.  Oh well … at least I was right there.

Suanne was very patient with me. She was quite hungry because we had not had our breakfast yet that morning.  I know because her stomach gives a mean growl when she is hungry.  LOL!

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So we just randomly go into one of the many restaurants along the Paral-lel Avenue.  We selected the one with English menu displayed at the entrance.

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We are getting into the habit of getting Cafe Con Leche.  So we had that again.

We learned that Spaniards have a very different meal times that the rest of the world.  For instance, they have TWO breakfasts.  The first one is a simple pastry and coffee and the second one is known as the “savory breakfast”.

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I don’t know what “savory breakfast” really mean.  I attempted to ask the waiter about this but he doesn’t speak much English.  So we just made up our own version of “savory breakfast” by selecting items we thought were “savory”.

I told the waiter that we wanted a Pork Loin with Cheese Sandwich.  Lost in translation … instead, we were given an egg sandwich instead.  We had no complain because to our surprise the sandwich has ripe tomato in it.  It was very much like the Pa Amb Tomaquet we had the previous day.   (more…)

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Barcelona: Le Tour de France

I could not believe my eyes when I saw the yellow banners in Barcelona.  I knew that the Tour de France is going on but I did not realize that they had chosen Barcelona for the stage outside France.  Not only that … TWO stages were held in Barcelona.

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It was Stage 6 (Gerona to Barcelona) and Stage 7 (Barcelona to Andorra) that involved Barcelona.

I love cycling.  I used to cycle 40+ km to work almost every day of the week.  I stopped doing that ever since I had a wipe out two winters ago and ever since then, my Giant TCR-2 road bike had been sitting on the bike stand at home.

When the Tour de France was going on in summer, I would go to work late because I wanted to watch each stage to the end.  That was when Lance Armstrong was reigning supreme.  Guess what … Armstrong is back on the Tour again this year and I am not going to miss this chance of a lifetime.

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Look at those toned muscles.  It was a good thing I decided at the last minute to bring along the 70-200L 2.8 lens with us on this trip.  Along with the 1.4x extender and with the crop body of the Canon 40D, I had quite the reach I needed.  The long lens was heavy to carry around on vacation but it sure paid off.

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Well, my lens was not nearly as long as the many professional photogs we saw.  This guy’s lens must be 300mm?  400mm?  Must have cost a fortune.  Suanne will never allow me to buy one of those.

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Our hotel conceirge was extremely helpful.  He spent 30 minutes helping me find a great spot to watch.  I was so impressed that even though he did know much details of the Tour in Barcelona, he did the research on the internet with me and plotted painstakingly the entire city route where the tour will pass.  So with the custom map he gave us, we went to the foot of the Columbus Monument.

We were there about 1 hour before the scheduled arrival of the leaders.  I like this spot because the cyclists will need to ride through a double curve around the monument and then ride on a straight wide avenue.  For one hour we did not budge from our spot because once we move, it gets filled and it will be impossible to get a railing side spot again.

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The wait was not too bad because there are lots of entertainment before the peloton passes by.

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The sponsors have floats and throws out freebies.  Suanne was pretty good catching them.  She got a nice keychain from the French Gendarmarie (military police) and a cap from Skoda which she proudly wore through the vacation.

Her trick?  All around her were guys and Spanish guys do not fight with girls.  Suanne literally grabbed the cap from a guy’s hands and he let her have it.  There are advantages being female in Spain.

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After an hour of entertainment, things gets more formal.  Security got tighter as they controlled the people from crossing the streets.

And then from the distance we could hear the roar getting closer.  There were a lot of cheering the past hour but this roar was decidedly different.

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To a lot of people’s surprise … (more…)

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Barcelona: Paella and Tapas for Dinner

One of the quest we had coming to Barcelona is to dine at El Bulli.  No, we were not one of the lucky 8000 diners selected this year (out of 2,000,000 reservation requests!) to have the privilege to dine at the world’s best restaurant.  I thought since I am here I give my best shot.  Who knows right?  I could get lucky that someone with reservation might all of the sudden cancel their reservation.

So, our quest starts on day two in Spain.  We made phone call and sent email begging them if there is anyway they could accomodate us.  After all, we came all the way from Canada … pretty far, please?  This to and fro with El Bulli went on for THREE days.  I am gonna tell you if we got a table … not now … in a few days.  I got to post this in sequence.  LOL!

For now, we’ll share about the traditional Spanish food we had.

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Dinner for the second day were simple affair.  We had been snacking way too much too.  We were not too hungry but we had already decided exactly what we wanted to eat.  We have a list of Spanish cuisine dishes that we have to check off — so that we know what else we are missing.

We quite randomly went into one that we thought is frequented by Spanish and not tourists.  Heavens, I don’t even know where this restaurant is.  There are so many in Barcelona that you will not go hungry.  Most of them are small outlets.

And most of them are filled with SMOKE too.  This one is, much to Suanne’s disappointment.  She does not have much choice.

Also many of the restaurants in Barcelona also has a jackpot machine or two at the entrance.  Gosh — gambling, smoking and drinking is something you don’t see a lot of in Vancouver.  Wait till these Spaniards come to Vancouver … they’ll suffer.

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Did you know that Sangria is Spanish?  I read somewhere that this red wine punch originates from this part of Spain and very popular during the hot summer months.  The restaurant did not serve their Sangria (€3.90) in a pitcher like how it should be traditionally.

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Suanne obliged my suggestion to pose with the Sangria.  You know, it is kind of obligatory to pose with the food we eat, like the way you pose at the sights you visited.  That is chowtimes for you.

That was solely for show only.  She took a sip and declared she did not like it.

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She had tea with lemon (€1.35) instead because she was beginning to develop a sore throat from all the travelling and lack of sleep.

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We ordered a small personal sized Paella.  This is called Paella Mixta.  As you know, I am a fast learner when it comes to languages.  Mixta means “mix” — and I remembered it the first time I heard of the word.  I think I have a natural knack for languages, particularly Spanish don’t you think?

This one is €11.40.  It was the FIRST time … (more…)

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Barcelona: The Picasso Museum, The Chocolate Museum and The Barcelona Cathedral

We spent the day criss-crossing the city of Barcelona.  It is the result of not having planned the day’s itenary.  So I randomly decided that our first place to go to for the day is to focus on the part of the city called the Old Town.

Our first stop is the Barcelona Cathedral.  After all, cathedrals are often the most imposing structure in European cities and towns.

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The Barcelona Cathedral was under restoration works.  The scaffolding obscured the exterior architecture of the building.  But it was still open to the public because the renovations is limited to the outside.

The Barcelona Cathedral is located in an area called the Old Town where the streets are narrow and a confusing maze.  It was hopeless using the map.  It took us a few wrong turns before we found our direction.

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The Barcelona Cathedral is a Gothic (French) style place of worship.  The Gothic architecture is characterized by it’s high vaulted pointed ceilings.  This allows cathedrals to be built without thick solid walls to support the massive structure.

This cathedral took 600 years to completely built.

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It must have been in existence for some time already but this is the first time I came across modern votive candles like these.  Instead of wax candles, this is entirely electrical.  Drop coins into the box and voila!

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The Barcelona Cathedral is also the church where the first Indians brought back from the Americas were baptized.  There is a sculpture of the event outside the walls of the Cathedral.

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We next headed to the Chocolate Museum.  Chocolates had been and is still today a popular drink in Spain.  Chocolates are native to South America.

We used the Barcelona Card which gives us a 30% discount on the entrance fee of €4.00.   (more…)

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