A recent cruise in the Mediterranean dropped me off in Barcelona, a city I hadn’t been back to in a long time. So instead of heading from the cruise port to the port of air, my companion and I decided to spend a couple of days in town.
On our first night, we strolled from our hotel looking for a bar, Paradiso, that we’d heard was supposed to be good. We found it, but the line was long and we didn’t want to wait. Just around the corner we found an outdoor tapas bar, Celler de la Ribera, and grabbed a couple of seats.
We both got the menú degustació, which started with a salad featuring tuna belly in olive oil followed by a plate of salty Ibèrico ham.
A passle of fried padron peppers followed. Like shishito peppers, which they resemble, padrons are mostly mild but about one in 10 will have a kick. I got that one right off the bat and it was indeed a surprise.
Crispy prawns were coated in breading and deep fried.
And grilled pork was tossed with peppers and potatoes. Nothing was a knockout, but it all seemed a fitting welcome to Barcelona.
Walking back, we again passed Paradiso and the line was even longer. A couple of weeks later, the organization called the 50 Best Bars in the World would name it number one. So opportunity missed.
Breakfast the next morning was at Ocaña in the Plaça Reial.
I had what seemed to be the Spanish version of a full English breakfast, with chorizo sausage, white beans, tomato bread, potatoes and a poached egg.
Rick had the traditional tortilla, the egg and potato omelet-like device, which, though slightly singed, was delicious.
Plaça Reial, with its stately king palms, is one of my favorite, um, plaçes in Barcelona. That morning it was a bit overrun with delivery trucks, but it’s still a lovely oasis.
That afternoon we spent some time roaming La Boqueria, Mercat St. Josep, off La Rambla. It doesn’t look like much from the street, but once you’re inside it’s row after row and aisle after aisle of tantalizingfoodstuffs. I loved the spiral potato chips idea (can’t believe Disney hasn’t copied it), but I bought some saffron, dried tomatoes and infused oils to take home.
Our farewell dinner was at Restaurant 7 Portes, a traditional Catalan restaurant in operation since 1836.
It’s a bright and stylish space, reminiscent of a Paris brasserie, with large mirrors, hoop-skirt chandeliers, checkerboard tile flooring and crisp white linens.
We started with croquettes and sardines.
I moved on to the traditional paella with lobster and seafood, served tableside.
Rick chose a chilled seafood platter – oysters, mussels, prawns, and sea snails – that was as fresh as the sea breezes just outside the front door.
Flan caramel for dessert.
A pianist played in the other room, and our servers kept our wine glasses and bread basket full.
When our check was presented, it noted that we had been seated in a booth that once had been occupied by Che Guevara. And indeed, when we turned around we noticed a nameplate on the wall for the Cuban revolutionary.
He had probably also arrived by ship. We left the next day by plane.