Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Barcelona 1

We have been home almost 10 days and the glow has not gone away. Here is a report ( broken in sections) of our 3 plus days in Barcelona (a city of almost 2 million residents and about a half a million visitors, daily, in high season).

Got to our hotel, "Hotel Colon" about 9 AM. The hotel is wonderfully situated across a plaza from the main Cathedral. Also less than a block from a main artery which carries many forms of transportation, including the "Bus Turistic", hop on-hop off service to over 40 main sightseeing attractions in the city. Unloaded our bags and took off on foot for a neighborhood stroll. The main old Government square, Jewish Quarter, alleys and small streets full of shops and eating places, "La Rambla" ( Barcelona's main walking street) and one of the world's great food markets, "La Boqueria". The market has literally everything from soup to nuts. Hundreds of stalls, fresh seafood, of all kinds on ice, too excess, vegetables and along with this a good number of pick-pockets. Be careful in any large city in crowded places.
Back to the hotel at 1 PM to meet another couple from the cruise and lunch at "Cafe de L'Academia". This, plus other spots, had been recommended by our friend Mark Gibson who gets to Barcelona 3 or 4 times a year to visit his daughter. We had the hotel make a reservation for 1:30, early lunch by Spanish standards, and when we arrived at 1:25 the metal shutter was still down, but others were waiting. The curtain rose at 1:35 and the four of us were seated in the small main dining area. Service from the staff, who are not fluent in English, but who have a working knowledge, was friendly, helpful and prompt. Most Spaniards arrive for lunch between 2 and 3. The restaurant is on a small street at the "Plaza Sant Just"( name of the church) and the phone number is 93 319 82 53.
Our first meal consisted of a shared bowl of fresh Green Beans, Peas, Bacon and tomato's all simmered in a stock until taste blended and they were just the right consistency. My following first course was a beautiful small stacked salad of crisp greens, Parmesan slices and pear pieces all doused with light Spanish olive oil cut with just a few drops of vinegar. The olive oil was the best that I can remember.
I followed with a small plate of Spanish sausage, poached egg and sliced asparagus. A beautiful and tasty combination. The four of us shared a bottle of white wine and two desserts, lemon tart and apple bars. Not a bad introduction to the Barcelona restaurant scene.
On the way out I asked for a recommendation of an equally good place for dinner and was given a card of restaurant "AGUT" which when I returned to the hotel was a number one priority for that evenings reservation. I often ask a good restaurant where else they recommend, when I am in a new locale.
A stroll back, people watching from a bench on the Plaza and a long siesta filled the afternoon and early evening, until a third couple, from the ship joined the 4 of us for the walk to "AGUT".

We were slightly better in our timing for dinner, arriving at 8:45, they opened at 8:30 to find one other table already occupied. Natives seem to begin their evening meals between 9 and 11. There large meal is often "lunch".
The restaurant was slightly larger than "L'Academia" but again not over run with American tourists, although the next table contained a very attractive young couple from Finland.
My meal was outstanding, simple and wonderful. Again the table shared a bottle of wine, although several people ordered individual drinks. I started with a full plate of baby frogs legs with a Beurre Blanc sauce and several fresh ground herbs dusted on the seafood. For my main course I selected Oxtails in a Red Wine sauce, OUTSTANDING. It maybe one of the most wonderful dishes I have ever had. The Oxtails had been caramelized and braised with a few small carrots and onions in this stupendous Red Wine sauce. It came in a wide medium deep bowl and if Marilyn had not pulled me away I would still be eating wonderful warm rolls dipped in the sauce, obviously no meat or trimmings remained. If you should happen to be in Barcelona try Restaurant AGAT, Gignas, 16-08002Barcelona Tel. 93 315 17 09. Whatever they serve will be worth the visit. A walk home, a little conversation on the Plaza and bed as in the morning we would be off again, and so will this narrative.

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