Our second day in Barcelona happened to fall on a local Catalan holiday. Granted it happens to fall on another date that will live in infamy (September 11th), this particular holiday happened many moons ago (see history lesson below). We woke up and after getting a few breakfast nibbles, we walked over to Husband’s parents’ hotel (Mélia Sarria). We noticed that there was really no one out and about, and then remembered it was a holiday. The Mélia Sarria Hotel is a beautiful hotel. Very sleek and modern. Husband’s parents came down first and it was hugs all around. Not only did I grow up in my own wonderful family, but I was welcomed into another wonderful family when Husband and I got married. Aunty and Uncle came down a few minutes later and I really, really wish that I had been able to record their reaction. They came off the elevator and they both just had this perplexed look on their faces. As they walked closer to us, it began to register what kind of shenanigans were taking place. Surprise success! More hugs! The gang hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, so we headed up to the hotel restaurant and our second breakfast. The breakfast buffet at this hotel is amazing. It caters to many different nationalities and had so many different choices. Shrimp Chinese dumplings? Um…yeah. Rice with furikake? Check please!
After breakfast, we all decided to head out and walk around the ‘hood. We walked up along the Avenue Diagonal and checked out the different shops and restaurants along the way. We saw locals with the Catalan flag draped around their necks like a cape, walking toward Placa de Catalunya. We reached La Perdrera (BTW, I just realized as I typed this that I have been spelling and pronouncing this wrong for the past two weeks…Spanish fail) and took a look at the outside of it’s quirkiness. La Perdrera is a building that was designed by Antonio Gaudi, Barcelona’s architect, designer and
crazy innovative artist. This particular structure is currently used as a museum and an exhibition hall. The tickets were a little spendy (about €21/adult), so we decided to say nah for now.
Husband’s parents, Aunty and Uncle decided to head back to their hotel (12 hr time change and jet lag don’t do a body good), so we decided to keep on truckin’. We hopped on the metro and headed down toward the water. We got off at the Dressanes station and walked across to Port Vell. If you’re looking for seafood spots, this is definitely the part of town up your alley. 7 of the top 10 paella spots are located in the area, so there’s that. Girl Child has a love affair with anything ocean related (except seafood…and really any non-chicken nugget related food), so we decided to check out the Barcelona Aquarium. Tickets were €75 total for us to get in. Note to self: If you’ve ever lived in the vicinity of a kick ass aquarium (Monterey Bay Aquarium, Okinawa Charaumi Aquarium), then it’s
ridiculously a little hard to be a fair patron at other tiny not-so-large ones. For us, it wasn’t worth the money. Another note to self: This place was PACKED. Wall-to-wall strollers, crying kiddos, pushers, shovers; you name it, it was there. If you do choose to go, just don’t go on a local holiday.
When we made our escape from the fish tanks, we hoofed it over to Barceloneta. Barceloneta is one of the more popular beaches in the area. We walked through some of the quieter streets and gazed up at the clotheslines blowing in the breeze. Then we saw it. Not leprechaun gold (although that would be pretty frickin’ sweet). The first topless sunbather. Boy Child’s reaction? “Mom, we’re in Europe. It’s gonna happen sooner or later.” Touché, young padawan, touché. The Mediterranean is beautiful. The sand is slightly more gravelly than what we know, but the golden color is contrasted perfectly by the clear aqua of the water. It was a little cloudy outside, but this beggar is NOT a chooser. We took off our shoes and ran to the edge and put our feet in. Toes + Water = Blissfully happy.
We spent a good hour pretending that we had been whisked away to some tropical paradise when we realized that we needed to jump on the metro to head back for dinner. When we got to the station, we were quickly ensconced in a mob of caped Catalan crusaders. We squished ourselves onto a train and thankfully, had to switch trains. We ended up going in the opposite direction, so our holiday merry-makers were on their way. We made it back to the apartment and let the kids have a little bit of downtime before dinner.
For dinner, we had made reservations at a place that was literally right around the corner from us. It’s a quaint, yet modern little Italian joint called Gusto’s. Uncle is Italian (Brooklyn Italian…which is almost more so than being from Italy), so we were *really* hoping that this place wouldn’t disappoint. When our waiter came and greeted us, Uncle whipped out his Italian and we knew this place was legit. We had some appetizers and must say…THE best bruschetta I have ever had in my 37 years of existence. The main dishes, desserts (and yes– Brother-in-Law if you read this–real Limoncello) were fantastic. The amount of laughter, food, family (and Limoncello) made this dinner one for the books. *As a side note, I just learned that Beyonce ate there. So if it’s good enough for the Beygency, then yeah…it’s for reals.
To be continued…
QUICK HISTORY OF CATALAN HOLIDAY ON SEPTEMBER 11:
Back at the beginning of the 18th century (1700s…I always mix up the centuries with the actual dates. Admit it, you probably do too), King Charles II of Spain was on his deathbed. Dude didn’t have any kids and decided to be a sneaky lil’ devil. He decided leave pretty much the whole Spanish empire to King Louis XIV’s (yes, *that* King Louis of France) grandkid, Philip. This didn’t sit too well with England, the Dutch Republic, Austria and peeps in the Holy Roman Empire. They were like, “Hold up, yo…not cool” and decided to re-form their Grand Alliance with each other. Leopold (leader of the Holy Roman Empire) decided that *his* kid, Charles, would be a better fit to run the Spanish empire. They declared shenangians and formal war was declared in 1702. The Grand Alliance was kicking butt and taking names. However, as they were getting ready to head into the dragon’s lair of France, the Allied unity broke down like a bad lemon. New peeps took over in England, and with France, they signed treaties with each other; then with the other members of the former Rebel Alliance. Phillip remained King of Spain (King Philip V), but dude had to renounce any claim to the French monarchy. Meanwhile, in Catalonia, the Catalans weren’t giving up so easily. They were thinking that Philip was still a shady guy, so they resisted. Unfortunately, because everyone and their moms had signed treaties with each other, they couldn’t go in and help the Catalans. Finally, on September 11, 1714, the Catalans surrendered and admitted defeat. Long story short, September 11 is the Catalan holiday celebrating getting steamrolled by Spain. You have to hand it to them–there’s a certain awesomeness in celebrating defeat.