When Husband and I married almost 16 years ago, we knew we’d eventually have kids. What we didn’t know is that we’d have our first one almost two years to the day after we got hitched. Yep, you read it right. Boy Child’s birthday is the day after our anniversary. It also comes during the same week as Christmas. As such, our anniversary tends to fall by the wayside each year. This summer, since we were on our own, Husband and I decided to get out of dodge for an early/belated anniversary trip back to Spain.
Holy balls, friends, we actually made it to the gate without having to run! We even managed to grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. We felt as though we were totally winning at this point. We boarded the flight and everything was good — until landing. We started our descent into Barcelona and both noticed that we were coming in a little too high and a lot too fast. We hovered over the ground a little longer and then felt the back wheels touch the tarmac. It was actually pretty smooth, but then we heard the engines rev back up and rather than land, we took off. Wait, what?!? As we climbed away from the airport, we were told that the tower advised the captain to do another approach. As we did our second approach, we came in lower and slower and landed just fine. Touch and go landing? Check!
Trip Win #1: Taxis in Castelldefels. The taxi rides in Castelldefels are ridiculous…ly inexpensive. We’ve actually noticed that it’s a trend in the Barcelona region. They have a plethora of cabs, so the prices really aren’t too spendy. When we arrived in Castelldefels, we realized that our hotel was further away from the station than we thought. We spent €7 for our taxi. Totally worth not having to hike the overpass dragging the bag.
Trip Win #2: Apartamentos Marfina. So far, the only questionable place on Booking.com was the stinky winner in the Paris ‘burbs. Apartamentos Marfina is located right on the beach. Literally. The prices were good and I had booked a “studio with sea view”. When we checked in, they were able to give us the key to the room and told us that it was on the very top floor. We went to the very top and realized that it was the roof. Not seeing anything, Husband went down stairs and asked again. This time, one of the managers came up with us. Our room was on top of the roof, with a private terrace attached. I have never stayed in anything like it. It was the only one up there and the view was simply stunning. We found a market nearby and decided that dinner on the terrace at sunset was a great plan … wine, cheese, meat and fresh baguettes!
Trip Fail/Win #1/3 (depends on how you look at it): European beaches. Let me preface this by saying I’m really not much of a prude. I’ve done a couple of Bay to Breaker races, so seeing half-naked peeps or peeps completely in the buff doesn’t really faze me all that much. However, when you’re not used to seeing a bajillion people with their bits hanging out, it can be a little unnerving at first — especially when it’s the first thing in the morning. Not quite my style (ummm, nobody needs to be subjected to me going topless), but to each their own. Just be forewarned that it’s completely normal and natural to see peeps au natural on public beaches, not just in Spain, but on many European beaches.
After we had our fill of sun, sea and half-nekkid peeps, we ate some leftover cheese and bread for lunch, changed clothes and headed into Barcelona. Husband found an awesome sounding four-course cooking class on Viator.com, so we figured we’d go into town a little early and walk around. One of the great things about Barcelona is that there is always something or some place that you can explore that you either haven’t been to yet, or may have just glossed over on a previous trip. The class was located in the Gothic Quarter, which we hadn’t really had a chance to explore yet.
Trip Win #4: The Gothic Quarter. This part of Barcelona is definitely touristy, with lots of expensive shops and restaurants. However, if you walk off the beaten path a little, it’s amazing what you can find…ancient Roman columns, anyone? They are literally located in the middle of the quarter on a side street, housed in a building. The alleyways and streets are narrower than the rest of Barcelona and you just get the feeling that you’re stepping back into time when you walk through them. Plus, there’s an awesome brew pub (Craft) that has delicious house brews and a few imports (Sierra Nevada).
Trip Win #5: Taste and Cook Cooking Class. Oh. My. GOD. If you’ve ever thought about taking a cooking class when traveling, don’t think — just do it. You will NOT regret it. This particular class gives you the option of going to the market prior to the class itself. Since we had already hit up the Boqueria several times, we opted just to start when it was instructional time. When we arrived, we sat next to a lovely couple that were in the middle of moving from New York City to Denver (by way of a two month side trip to roam around Europe). When the rest of the class arrived, we donned our aprons and got to work.
We made a mouth-watering gazpacho, a salted cod flatbread, seafood paella and a creme brûlée with a little Catalan flair. The chefs, Mario and Carlos spoke excellent English, gave detailed instructions and kept refilling our wine glasses. I’m pretty sure Husband and I went through about a bottle each. The only dish I wasn’t much of a fan of was the flatbread. I’m not a huge seafood person, but I gave it a shot and decided that if I make it at home, I’ll just substitute it with something else. Now, I just need a paella pan and voila! Instant dinner party, yo.
We got up, ate breakfast and decided to hit up the beach again. Because really, when you’re an ocean person by nature, you really can’t quite ever get enough sand and sea. It was a little warmer and slightly more crowded since it was a Saturday. One of the many cool things about Playa de Castelldefels is the restaurants. About every 200 meters or so, there is a little mini-restaurant on the beach, with the actual restaurant behind it along the promenade. We hit up Txoco for lunch/appetizers. We ordered the patates bravas (spicy potatoes) and jamon croquettes (ham croquettes). Absolutely delicious. I am a lover of all things potato and I probably could eat those potatoes all day er’day.
After lunch, we saw that the crowds at the beach had grown, so we changed and decided to head back into Barcelona — just because. We took the train into the town and started walking. We thought that we were walking toward Plaça Catalunya, but apparently, we weren’t. We finally stopped, consulted the almighty Google Maps and realized that we had walked almost three kilometers in the wrong direction. We turned around and eventually made it to where we thought we were going.
We walked along Passeig de Gracia and reminisced about why we love this city so much. Every time we visit, we ALWAYS discover something new and awesome about it. As we walked, we decided to hit up El Velódromo (spot where we ate breakfast with Husband’s mom, dad, auntie and uncle on our first trip). We ordered a salad and argentine beef to share. We weren’t super hungry, but we knew that we should probably eat something.
After snarfing our tapas, we headed back to Castelldefels. We walked along the shoreline for a good while, enjoying the surf and the fading sunshine. Around 9:30 p.m., we felt the familiar pangs of hunger, so we thought that we’d do as the Spanish and grab something to eat.
Trip Fail #2: Eating out at 10 p.m. Okay, I know that they eat late here. Honestly, as an American that enjoys eating dinner around 6 p.m., it was hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that there were virtually NO empty seats in any of the restaurants. Families were out walking along the promenade, restaurants were buzzing and it seemed as though life was truly waking up this late at night. We finally found an empty table and ordered desserts. After we finished, we were amazed to find the restaurant filling up again with more people.
If you want a more authentic, less-touristy version of this part of Catalonia, I’d definitely recommend Castelldefels. It has a very local vibe and most of the visitors were either Spanish or Europeans from neighboring countries on holiday. English isn’t widely spoken, but rusty high school Spanish works pretty well. Prices are reasonable and the beaches are far nicer and less crowded than those in Barcelona proper.