We pick up the recap of EuroTrip 2017 on the way out of Aix en Provence, as we begin the drive back to Barcelona, where we planned to spend the remainder of the trip! This part of the recap will cover the route back to Barcelona, and our first full day there.
- Game of Thrones filming locations in Girona
- ALL the tapas – jamón ibérico, pa amb tomaquet/pan cont tomate, patatas bravas, etc…
- Boqueria Mercat
- Gaudi architecture
- Stroll the Gothic Quarter
Day 5: A long drive from France to Barcelona
We set off from Provence around 12:00pm, intending to stop in Girona for a late lunch and a quick tour of some of the locations used in Game of Thrones. All was going as planned, and we were making great time as we crossed the border back into Spain. But then, all of the sudden, traffic was at a complete standstill as we approached the small city of Figueres.
Keenly aware of the ongoing Catalonian independence debate and the recent independence referendum vote, we quickly assumed the worst. Well, maybe not the WORST, but one of the worst case scenarios for travelers on a schedule: that there was some kind of widespread transportation strike going on.
We turned on data on our cell phones and did a quick Google news search. Sure enough, there was a massive protest going on, blocking all major routes into Barcelona. And we were still about 2 hours away! Apparently protestors were physically blocking the roads in some areas, and huge big-rig trucks were just parked on the road, blocking on and off ramps.
After about 2 hours of trying to go back and forth between the major roads to see if either of them had been unclogged, it was starting to get dark, and we didn’t know if or when this protest was going to end. We had long since given up our dream of visiting Girona, so we decided to get adventurous, and try to self-navigate the back roads and take the long way into Barcelona. Overheard as a group of 4 frustrated foreigners tried to navigate the Spanish countryside:
“Let’s just take this little road to Banyoles, then we will figure it out from there.”
“OH!! It looks like we can get to Besalú if we take a right here.” “Is that even a good thing?” “I think so.”
“Wait, turn around, it looks like this road ends in a river.”
“If we can take this back road to Olot, then we can cut down to the C-63 and we will be good to go…”
“Guys, this is turning into a dirt road into this dark forest.”
“This looks like where we are going die…”
The protests ended up dying down around 7 or 8:00pm, because I guess even protesters need supper. Our convoluted back-roads route ended up taking us back to the main route to Barcelona shortly thereafter. We FINALLY made it to our hotel, the Hotel Vueling, at around 9:30pm, about 4 hours later than planned. Then, after dropping off the rental car back at BCN airport, we were ready for a damn beer.
The hotel was located on Gran Via, which was a great location as it was within walking distance of the Raval, Sant Antoni, and Eixample neighborhoods, as well as Las Ramblas. With the day we just had, we were looking for something walking distance that served food late, and luckily one of the places we had researched beforehand was right around the corner: Fabrica Moritz brewery and pub.
It was a massive space that would be great for large groups, and the have a very expansive menu. After plenty of jamón ibérico, pan con tomate/pa amb tomaquet, patatas bravas, and some tasty house brews, we were finally at ease.
Day 6: La Boqueria, Las Ramblas, and Barri Gotic
The next morning started with a quick workout at the hotel, followed by a walk through the Raval, en route to La Boqueria – the most famous market in Barcelona.
The Raval is known as a hip, diverse neighborhood with a lot of bars, international food options, and young people. The narrow, old streets have somewhat of an edgy feel to them, but it’s clear that gentrification of the area has long been underway.
En route to the market, we made a quick stop at Nomad Every Day coffee shop, regarded by many to be in the top echelon of Barcelona coffee.
I took this opportunity to try my first affogato – a double shot of espresso with a scoop of ice cream. I chose pistachio ice cream. It was lovely.
With a new pep in our step, we were en route to La Boqueria! About 5 minutes later we emerged onto Las Ramblas and pushed our way through the tourist crowds to get to the market. I came in with two goals; to get a famous Boqueria fresh fruit smoothie for 1 euro, and to get a MEAT CUP. Within minutes it was mission accomplished. There were smoothies and meats everywhere.
After our appetizers and doing some walking around, we decided to sit down for a real breakfast at the Ramblero stall.
After breakfast, we wanted to walk around and explore the beautiful streets of the Gothic Quarter. We came across several pleasant and lively plazas, and eventually happened upon the Barcelona Cathedral, which was magnificent.
Next up was Parc Güell, a park in the Gràcia neighborhood designed by the legendary Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudí. Tip! Cabify is Barcelona’s Uber/Lyft substitute. It works pretty much the exact same way, and the fare was reasonable.
We elected not to pay the fee to enter the middle of the park where the main Gaudí structures were; we were content to walk the free surrounding paths and take in the breathtaking views of the city.
After a lot of walking around, we were ready to sit down and have a beer! It’s a little bit of a challenge to find good beer in Barcelona, but we had done our research and knew of a place in the Gothic Quarter called Kaelderkold. A casual place with 20 or so craft beers on tap, it was exactly what we were looking for to unwind a bit.
Next, we ran into an issue that we were aware of going into the trip: restaurants don’t open for dinner until at least 8pm! At least the good ones…
It was 6:30pm, and we were wander the streets around our hotel looking for a good place to have a bottle of wine and some light pinxtos, thinking that SOMETHING must be open. Nope. The only places open were the ones with pictures of their food on multilingual menus outside the door. No thanks!
We decided to go back to the hotel and utilized our free “welcome” drinks, before walking back to La Volàtil, pretty much right when it opened.
The place was empty, but we had a good experience talking to the waiter in detail about some of the items on the menu, and we got a seat where we could see straight into the kitchen as our food was made. We had some very good tapas (pan con tomate!) and wine as an appetizer, before walking down Gran Via to Crudo Bar, where we had a 9:30 reservation.
Crudo is a casual yet stylish bar and restaurant specializing in fresh seafood, but also serving the standard Catalonian tapas plates. We had some more pan con tomate (duh!), some jamón, some ceviche, and various other small seafood plates. All were fantastic!
After dinner, we really didn’t have anything specific planned. We all agreed that we were in the mood for a beer, so we ended up going back to Kaelderkold to close out the night.
Stay tuned for the rest of our stay in Barcelona!
- Views from Parc Guell
- Jamón ibérico and smoothies from La Boqueria
- Nomad Every Day
- General feeling of safety in all sections of the city that we visited, despite protests and political tension.
- Not yet – Part 2 of our stay in Barcelona still to come!