I have discovered that I no longer travel to see art or architecture, nor to be in the wilderness or to catch a whiff of history.
I travel to eat.
We went to Barcelona last week, Matt for a meeting and me to hang out and work-some/play-some with a friend and his family who live there. (I did end up meeting some potential clients as well, so this was not all for fun, I swear!)
The side benefits were that I gained a couple of pounds trying out tapas (I highly recommend Tapaç 24, and you MUST try their version of the Catalan classic dessert of chocolate with bread), tasty Catalan meats (chorizo, etc.), churros for breakfast (oh, deliciousness of fried extruded dough sticks doused with sugar!), and the crowning glory — a tasting menu at Cinc Sentits or “Five Senses” the last night we were in town.
Oh. My. Word.
So, at this restaurant, we approached the world of micro-gastronomy. We tried a menu that included a tomato sorbet garnished with young basil leaves and garlic “foam,” a creamy white garlicky soup poured over perfect squares of sardines alongside slices of peeled red grapes perfectly arranged in a circle, and the best seared beef I’ve had in ages, with a potato mille-feuille casserole alongside. We tried two regional wines as well, side by side, which thrilled Va, one of our companions. Dessert included three separate plates, one of which was built on white chocolate pop rocks — I kid you not, they popped and fizzed in our mouths as we ate.
It was a tasting meal with small plates, and truly, between the four of us and two bottles of wine, this should not have been a decadent meal, but oh wow. It was so good I felt sick after. And to top it off, J&Va had us meet them at an excellent bookstore beforehand, so I came home with a treatise on science and discovery as well as the latest Lorrie Moore book.
Of course eating was not the only thing we did — because I met my friend J to work at local libraries (which are absolutely beautiful and all have wireless), I also got to see different neighborhoods, from the Gothic to Gracia. We worked for awhile and went to have lunch at the Boqueria market off the Rambla, where we stopped at Pinotxo (Pinocchio in Catalan). And I got to along for the ride to hang out with J&Va’s kids at Parc Guell, the Gaudi creation, after work that afternoon.
Va and I also went shopping and walking one afternoon, after she finished her novel (!!!). And Matt and I met them both for lunch on the beach one day, post-conference, at Escriba, near the Frank Gehry fish and the old Olympic villages.
While Matt and I weren’t eating with those folks, we took in the castle on Montjuic (Jewish Mountain) and got some of Spain’s Civil War history — we saw the field where the Franco regime shot the Catalan president, Lluis Companys, handed over by the Nazis. The modern scene there is tourists, planes heading to the airport, and the stacks upon stacks of cargo containers at port, alongside huge cruise ships. And of course, on the side looking to the hills, the city spreads out below your feet, with the Sacred Family, Parc Guell, and more in the distance.
An absolutely beautiful city, with a temperate climate and landscape that made me think of California, and yes, I’m going back there for sure some day.