It has been 7 years since my sister and I have traveled together. It was our first solo trip together (just us – not a family vacation) and we went on the cheapest 4 star all inclusive we could find out of Toronto. So we went to Cuba. We drank cuban coffee, chilled red wine, local cheeses and fruits, I played water polo with the boys while she took a siesta and she freaked out when I stayed out til 5am with the Italian activities staff. A lot has changed since then. I was living in Vancouver, BC, she in Toronto, ON. Now I’m in Seattle, WA and she lives in Geneva, Switzerland. We went from two single workaholics to two married women of leisure 7 years later (well…..I work from home, but she’s retired). She had 2 cats, she still has 2 cats. I was single and fancy free and now have a cat and a 15 year old step son. My how things have changed.
For our second sister trip we went to Barcelona, Spain.
The first impression of a city is something that you can’t replicate. Yes, it was raining when we arrived in Barcelona and despite the palm trees, it didn’t really seem tropical like I would expect Spain to be like, but, I loved it. The streets were shiny from the rain, the sun was going down so the city lights were starting to turn on and as we walked from Placa de Catalunya to our hotel, I looked down every narrow alleyway with awe. We were staying in the El Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter). Barcelona is a gorgeous city.
Our first night we had no plans except to eat and drink! We started our evening at Bilbao Berria for pintxo tapas – Basque region-style tapas. Small tastes that are served on bread and skewered – just count up the sticks at the end of the night.
We continued our evening with a walk down Las Ramblas and peeked into Mercat de Sant Josep de La Boqueria, the famous La Boqueria market, for dragon fruit, coconut and strawberry juice. Most of the stalls were starting to close up but we scurried around for a quick tour and saw stacks of colorful, exotic fruit, every type of meat/organ that you would ever want (tripe, goat heads, pigs feet, roosters with their head feathers still attached) and the most random seafood that you would never think that you would eat. We left that market seeing something that could look like a small skinned dog, but I translated it when we got back to the hotel, conejo = rabbit.
We told ourselves we would be back tomorrow, but not before we grabbed some fuchsia-coloured dragon fruit and fresh coconut for a late night snack.
Next stop: Cafe de L’Opera, the historic cafe on Las Ramblas that made its start as a tavern in the 18th century. Our plan was to end our evening with the Chocolat con Churros. But…….we just couldn’t say no to cava sangria.
And maybe some Catalan-style bread brushed with garlic and tomato and assorted tapas, because you can’t go wrong with patatas bravas, olives and fried cheese.
We did finish the night with the infamous Chocolat con Churros and the hot chocolate was so thick, but perfect for dipping churros.
We made our way back to our hotel and I told my sister, the one thing I wanted to find was the BARCINO metal sculpture letters. Set against the city’s oldest stones, the sculpture BARCINO is the roman name for Barcelona, with 6 letters made of bronze and 1 made of aluminum. She had been to Barcelona and had never seen them. Well it turns out that these letters were right by our hotel (how she did not see them last time since they stayed at the same hotel – I do not know…)
The view of the Placa Nova and the Catedral de Barcelona at night was a perfect way to complete my introduction to Barcelona. And I couldn’t wait for what other discoveries we would make during our trip.
From Cuba to Barcelona. My sister and I have evolved from umbrella drinks, suntanning and not leaving the resort in Cuba, to eating sprees, testing out my Rosetta Stone Spanish and walking, metro’ing and busing our way through Barcelona.