what we ate

How can one put into words food that defines a culture.  Tapas.  It’s not a type of food, it’s a lifestyle.  And I didn’t feel like that lifestyle was conducive to me taking pictures of that particular food.  Tiny cafes and restaurants crammed with people, low ceilings, and very little light.  I don’t mind snapping photos of my food stateside, but it felt a little awkward there.

I did however take a few at the mercado de san miguel in mardid.  That place was o-mazing.  Think Boston’s Quincy Market meets your local farmer’s market with really good wine!

Speaking of wine, I had the best wine I’ve ever had…several times!  But I’d say my favorite drink was a Spanish concoction made up of vermouth, a big silver machine and a serious harry potter spell.  It was delicious.  The locals call it “Vermuth de Grifo” and it is most definitely a Spanish specialty.  This particular nectar comes out of a large tap, is dark like Guinness, smooth like ink from a new fountain pen, poured over ice and an orange wedge.  You are immediately hit with spices like pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg and the splash of citrus make it go down smoothly (and quickly)!  This drink tastes like the Archipelago Havana candle smells – a little bit of heaven!

It was while in Madrid that we participated in a tapas and wine crawl which I highly, HIGHLY recommend.  We ate Jamon Iberico, Manchego Cheese, freshly grilled asparagus and a garlic creme sauce, olives, bread with a thin layer of fresh tomato paste, fresh muscles with a very light tomato-ish broth, shredded beef in a lemon puff pastry, grilled beef with the best french fries I’ve ever had (because they are fried in olive oil), and finally helado with pedro ximenez gran barquero.  Basically it was an insanely sweet, syrupy wine that you actually put your ice cream into as if it were a “float” if you will.  The evening consisted of three restaurants, eight tapas, and nine wines… beyond worth it!

We also ate at the world’s oldest restaurant, Botin and tons of outdoor cafe’s and tiny establishments too numerous to record here.  My favorite part?  Besides being able to get amazing tortilla espanola every morning, it was that everything was so fresh!  For 11 days I didn’t have anything pre-packaged or from a can.  This must be heaven.

where we stayed

4 hotels, 3 cities in this order:

Hotel Gran Ronda, Barcelona
We arrive in Barcelona quite early;  so we drag our arrival to the hotel by choosing to travel by subway rather than taxi.  Hilarious mind you.  Especially since someone didn’t take my packing advice and decided to haul a really big suitcase…but I’m not naming names.

After the subway (and subsequent serenade by an accordion player) we did take a taxi to the hotel because it was “muy cerca, no?”  It is now 11am.  Check in isn’t until 2pm.  We’ve been awake for almost 24 hours.  Early check-in was not an option at this place.

The hotel was what I would expect from a European 3 star, small & clean.  After dropping our bags and agreeing to scavenge for food, we landed at what we thought was a mile from the hotel.  We eventually made our way back and thought maybe if they see us sitting in the tiny 10×6 lobby they will take pity on us and give us a room.  Nope.  Stupid Americans, always trying to get things.  So instead we became part of the furniture for the next two hours, dozing in and out of consciousness.

We realized the next day that we had originally only walked two blocks to our lunch place and that the hotel, although very small, was perfectly located for many destinations.  If we had just walked the other direction, not only would it have spared me from witnessing what I consider to be the grossest intersection in the world, but we would have seen the internet cafe and regular cafe all of 15 seconds from the hotel door.  Although the staff was a bit awkward and the room small, it was very clean and they did give us the best room: top floor with a balcony, over looking the street.

Dona Maria, Seville
This hotel was by far my most favorite.  The hotel was WONDERFUL and you couldn’t beat the location.  Hey, the fact that Samantha Brown stayed here just made my day!

Another room with a view.  We were the top left.  The best.

The hotel’s deck was the PERFECT retreat after spending most of the day traveling by train from Barcelona to Seville.  The homemade sangria was out of this world and to drink in the shadow of La Giralda…can’t be topped!

We toured La Giralda the next day and from the top we got a pretty good view of our hotel.  Yep, the swimming pool in the foreground is our hotel.

It was totally worth it to stay an extra night in Seville because each night my sis and I sat out on the deck and closed the place down.  I could have sat staring at the cathedral all night!

Catalonia Las Cortes, Madrid
This hotel was beautiful! (And perfectly located)  We only stayed here two nights, but the room was huge (even by American Standards), with yet another balcony (although only from the 3rd floor this time).  We were also just across the plaza from this place.  Possibly the swanky-est bar I’ve ever been too.  A few too many ex-pats, but too cool to not visit at least once.  How could we pass up a place that looked like this?

U232, Barcelona
I was wishing we had stayed at this hotel for our first two nights in Barcelona rather the other way around.  Ironically, our last night, our last hotel, had the most comfortable beds!  I loved everything about this hotel.  The staff, the design, the heated towel rack…  The only thing I would say I didn’t like much is that it wasn’t super close to the university or Las Ramblas.  This may be a bonus for those who don’t want to be in the tourist hub of LR, but how can you visit NYC and not go to Times Square?

We found tripadvisor to be a useful resource, especially if you want to see what a hotel really looks like.

i left my heart in spain

How could I begin to capture the colors of Southern Spain?  I couldn’t; and I really didn’t.  I found myself not taking as many photos as one might expect.  I found myself wanting to remember the moment with my other senses.  It’s like it was too perfect to try to capture in a picture.

This first photo was taken from our hotel window, and I think it’s my favorite from the whole trip.  Mostly I think, because I want to be the old woman in the photo.  I absolutely must, I mean MUST live in Europe before I die.

The next two were taken of/from one of the hundreds of outdoor cafe’s.  The best, fresh food ever and atmosphere that can’t be topped.  More to come this week…

hola de espana

I cannot believe just how much I love Spain.  I knew I was going to like it, but seriously, my sister and I are trying to figure out a way that our husbands would not be upset if we never came home!

So far we have been to Barcelona and Seville.  I LOVED Seville.  One word: flamenco.  Be Still My Heart.

And our hotel was magnificent.  We are now in Madrid for a few days and it feels much like having traveled to NYC from historic Boston.  But we have a tapas and wine tour tonight, so I’m sure my romance will continue.

Until next time…



My ever present wanderlust will soon be quenched as I will soon make my way to the land of Don Quixote, gypsies, flamenco, tapas, and red wine… I’m going to Spain!  My sis and I will be traveling to meet my mom & dad (woo-who!) as they will be coming off of a week-long Mediterranean cruise.  I am so excited and have been reading and searching and making a huge list of places to go and things to do.  We will start in Barcelona and then head to Madrid and finally to Seville.  I hope to make my way to the Southern coast for at least a day and maybe see the hills of Rhonda as well.  But even if I just sat in a cafe in the middle of the city, I would be satisfied (as long as there was wine…beautiful Spanish wine!).

I think it’s hilarious that we are actually taking a family vacation, just the four of us…as adults.  We never did as kids; we always had another family along to act as a buffer keep us entertained.  I have no doubt we’ll all be on our best behavior and be relatively well behaved…but we just might give the Griswold’s a run for their money.

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