Tuesday, February 9, 2010


*I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but it's the first time I've left Ireland since July, so cut me some slack!

We are back from our first trip to Spain. We decided we are probably the only people in the whole of the British Isles who haven't been to Spain. For those of you not in the UK/Ireland, 'Spain' is to Brits like 'Florida' is to Americans. This comparison hasn't really done much for my desire to go there. I mean, I've been to Florida loads of times! Plus, you hear so much about the Brits invading Spain and there are shows on TV showing all these Brits acting like complete jackasses. Not my idea of a good time.

Fortunately, my friend Gemma lives there and we had the full benefit of hanging with locals! I think we only heard native English speakers twice the whole time we were there. We had a wonderful time! On Sunday it was warm enough to wear short sleeves. This means on February 6th it was warmer than the average Irish summer day. Oh yeah, and the sun was out for 3 DAYS IN A ROW. Wes and I were in heaven!

Here are a few pictures from each day and a description of what we did:

I arrived early on Thursday. I brought the clouds with me, so between that and the fact that I woke up at 4am, I was tired. So we just hung out and I tried to take a nap. Gemma was putting down the blind in my room and this is what I saw. This is how the Catalan deal with the occasional shower when they're trying to dry their clothes:

I thought it was genius. I should also point out that people did not do this on their street front terraces. The Catalan are not a ghetto people.

After lunch it was decided that the bed they had for us to sleep on was unacceptable. It was fine for just me, but two people would have been uncomfortable. So, we went here:

That's right. I went to IKEA in Barcelona. They sell hot dogs at the end, just like every other IKEA! After IKEA, in true European-style, we went to dinner at an Indian restaurant at 10:30pm. I get mad at Wes when we eat dinner at 8:30pm which I think is entirely too late. I adapted fairly quickly!

On Friday we went to Montserrat, which is a mountain about 45 minutes outside of Barcelona. The Santa Maria de Monterrat is a monastery located here. It is a very peculiar looking mountain and the name literally translates to 'jagged mountain' in Catalan. Oscar tried to insist that I should try rock climbing here and that I would really love it. Um...I assured him that I'm certain that rock climbing isn't for me. He kept trying to insist I would love it and it was clear that he was unfamiliar with my history with stairs and heights.

We had lunch there and Gemma insisted I try mel i mató.
This is a traditional Catalan dessert which is soft cheese with honey poured over it. It was really nice. The cheese didn't have a very strong flavor, which is what I was most nervous about. Plus, I could bring the honey pot home as a souvenier. Score! We walked around the monastery, saw some real live monks, and admired the view. During the summer and on the weekends the place is packed, so we were really fortunate.

We then headed back to Barcelona and went to Parc Montjuic to see the Castell. It was most recently used in the Spanish Civil War of 1938-39. 

There were more amazing views of Barcelona and the Mediterannean Sea.

Of course you got a good view of the dildo. This is very similar to the one in London. Apparently, there's a bit of a scandal as both were finished around the same time by two different people. Each person thinks the other one stole their idea.
And of course you gould see Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, or Church of the Holy Family. It was magnificent. We didn't have time to go inside on this trip, but we'll be back in May for their wedding, so we're planning on visiting it again.
After all that, we went home to change, picked up Wes at the airport, then headed out for dinner at a traditional Catalan restauarant. I didn't get a picture of the food, but we basically each had a piece of bread the length of your forearm with various toppings. Mine was steak, roasted vegetables, and cheese. YUM!!! After dinner we went to a bar with gorgeous views of the city for some birthday drinks. It was a great birthday!

Gemma and Oscar don't have a car and they use scooters to get around the city. I was a little nervous about this, but once we started going it was awesome. What a great way to see the city! 

We went to la Bouqueria which is a huge market in the city centre. I love stuff like this, so I really enjoyed it.

Now I know where to go for a cured pig's leg.

And birds, rodents, and small reptiles (for pets, not eating):

We wandered around to see the sites before and after we met some friends for lunch:
Two of Gaudi's creations: la Pedrera (sorry it's blurry) and Sagrada Familia.

The next day we toured la Pedrera. His creations are so whimsical that I can't help but think of Dr Seuss. Apparently the family that commissioned this house also asked him to create the furniture. Sadly, in the end they didn't like the furniture and ended up burning most of it. The way Gaudi created his art was quite interesting and scientific. His furniture, door knobs, and drawer pulls were all ergonomic. Here are some pictures from the house:
This is a reflection of one of the scientific models he used to design his buildings. It's made of chains and hangs from the ceiling.

After the house we went to Parc Güell, which is a park that was commissioned by the same family that commissioned la Pedrera. It's most well known for the beautiful mosaic terrace. Please note the presence of short sleeves.

After the park we drove up somewhere. I don't know where really. It was about 45 minutes away and it was at the top of this windy road out in the countryside. We were going there to meet some friends for lunch. The thing that made this lunch special was the cal çotada, which is a traditional Catalan food. It was a huge restaurant and since it was a Sunday it was jam packed. Wes and I were the only non-native people there and our friends were nice enough to use this fact to our advantage and get us a great table. Seriously. The views over the valley were spectacular and the food, wine, and company were excellent. We both agree this was probably our favorite part of the trip. Cal çotada is grilled onions (larger than a green onion, but smaller than a leek) served with a tomato based sauce that you dip them in once you've peeled off the charred outer layer. You wear a bib and gloves because it's pretty messy.

After the cal çotada they brought out little grills with lamb and sausges, along with a plate of beans. There was also bread that you rubbed with garlic, then tomato, then sprinkled with salt, before drizzling it with olive oil. Delicious! THEN, I know, it was never ending! Then they brought out Crema Catalana which is the Catalan version of creme brulee.

It was the perfect vacation! Great friends, food, and sights. We are so fortunate to have been able to explore the city with locals. Two of the people we met were actually high school exchange students in PA, so I could even chat with them about that! Lucky for us Gemma and Oscar are getting married in May, so we get to go back and do some of the things we didn't have time to do on this trip. We'll be on our own to navigate our way around the city, so things will be a bit different! We're looking forward to it already!


  1. Thanks for all the great pics! I am very jealous. Barcelona is one of my favourite cities!

  2. I agree, it was a great weekend (including the pouring rain and the trip to IKEA :p)!! Don't worry, we won't let you wander around on your own the whole time you'll be here for our wedding. We'll try to have some time for our guests too ;))
    Great pics, BTW!!!
    See you very soon again!!!!! :))))

  3. What a great trip! Looks like you did everything; when you go back it will be so easy! And how blue is that sky:)

  4. great trip report and photos! barcelona is such a cool city, and lucky you to have local friends to show you around :P