I was torn. I didn't want to leave Paris! Five days was definitely not enough to immerse myself in what the city had to offer. On the brighter side, I was on to my next adventure; Barcelona. I didn't really know much about the city except that it was the host for the 1992 Olympics. Friends and family have told me how amazing the food was. In my head, it was going to be hard to beat the French cuisine in Paris. And I was actually shocked that the food in Barcelona was top notch. Tapas is the key word here. Everywhere I turned, restaurants offered different varieties of tapas. My server at the first restaurant I went to kindly filled me in on the origin of these small plates. The word tapa came from the spanish verb tapar. It literally means to cover. The tradition was to cover one's sherry glass with bread or meat to keep fruit flies away. The meat they used was ham or chorizo. Salt was important. It not only warded off the fruit flies, the saltiness encouraged patrons to drink more. It, in turn, made the bartenders more money. It has since then evolved into a Spanish tradition in which patrons order a drink and a tapa would accompany it. Some restaurants specialize in tapas. And in Barcelona, it seems to be the norm. So here are a few restaurants I absolutely recommend when you visit.
1. El Quim
This tiny food stand with a cramped and always busy bar is located in the infamous Boqueria. It is located on the very busy street/promenade of Las Ramblas de Catalunya. It is a very old
food market where you can find different kinds of cheese, desserts, seafood and cured meats. The small restaurant itself is somewhere towards the back. Trying to find this place just added
to the anticipation and excitement of tasting the apparently amazing food. When I finally came upon it, I was lucky enough to find a seat to squeeze in at the bar. Priorities were made. I ordered
a beer. I was tickled to find out that they offered San Miguel beer in Spain. Evidently, the very popular Filipino beer branched out in the mid 1900's in Spain and got a license to brew San
Miguel beer. Talk about coming full circle eh? After getting my beer, I noticed that every plate they put out looked incredible. I read the menu and I almost ordered everything! I told myself to
keep it together. I had 3 more legs on this European tour. Spending all of my money in one restaurant was not a good idea. I finally ended up with the fresh whole steamed artichoke with some kind
of balsamic vinegar based sauce. I could tell that the vegetable was super fresh. The sauce was great as well. It had tinges of savory notes. I then had the pickled sardines. It was out of this
world. Fish and acid just go so well together. And the olives on top were delectable as well. Man! Olives in Europe are on another level. They are so much tastier than the ones in the States. I
finished my meal with a Butifarra served with white beans and grilled tomato. A very important cuisine in the Catalan region of Spain, this sausage is made with pork and spices. The actual spices
were classified. I guess the cooks didn't want to give out their secret recipe. Upon doing some research, the link is based on an ancient recipe derived from Rome. And there are variations of
this dish and the ingredients in it in Italy and Portugal. All in all, an excellent place to have a meal. I just don't know where they cook it. The whole food stand is 10' x 10'. The efficiency
these guys have back there and the way they use the actual space to cook food is very commendable!
For more information, visit www.elquimdelaboqueria.com
I had been to Barcelona no more than a day and I was already in love with it. Old Barcelona's walking streets gave me this feeling of being transported to a time gone by. I discovered many restaurants and stores with hardly a sign in front hidden in the maze of walk ways. Which begs the question. How do any of these businesses stay in business? For one, these side streets are not visible. Two, the thought of walking in a dimly lit street at night wouldn't entice me with an invitation to patronize such businesses. But for some reason, they stay afloat. I'm assuming it's because the locals approach advertising in the city of Barcelona differently. I believe they still depend on word of mouth to keep the longevity of their business. That's old school yo! I slowly walked around and touched the walls of the buildings as if they had something to say. I let my guard down a little. Well, not that much. My mama didn't raise no fool! I know this city is famous for its pickpockets. Most of these side streets are dark and dimly lit. But I can't help but relax and be a little immersed in the beautiful culture this city, in the land of my ancestors, was offering me.
There is something so therapeutic about being fully immersed in a large body of water. It's like the USB cable that syncs me to the earth. And everytime I do it, I am fully rejuvinated and in tune with the world around me. And our third day in Puerto Rico was the day I got to do a lot of that.
I made reservations for us to go on a catamaran and snorkel for a good chunk of the day. I was so excited!!!
Our day was early. We had to be at the pier in Fajardo at 9:00 am. We had a 40 min-1 hr drive from Condado so I was awake by 7:00 am. Some people in our group were awake at 6:30 am. Yes, they are a little craycray, buy I think they were just excited. After some coffee, we got in our trusty ol' rental car with the hard breaks and drove to the pier. The realization didn't really hit me until I saw our boat. And what a glorious boat she was! Her name was The Traveler.
I have to admit, I didn't think I was going to go back to Old San Juan. But the girls suggested going to dinner there after our excursion through the mountains of El Yunque Forest. I said "Why not?" One, I left my charger in one of the outlets at Ostra Cosa and I might still find it there. Two, we might get to talk to our bartender Jonathan again; none of which happened that night. What did happen was my eyes opened up to the beauty of this old city. The dim amber street lights combined with the cobble stone roads and building architecture transported me to a time when things where much simpler and love was easier to find.