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La Vacanza (quasi) perfetta - Rome and Barcelona Trip Report

La Vacanza (quasi) perfetta - Rome and Barcelona Trip Report

Dec 31st, 2012, 06:18 AM
  #41  
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Join Date: May 2004
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On Saturday I again went over to La Pa for breakfast. I felt like a pro now since I could work the coffee machine without help. Today, I picked up a ham and cheese brioche for my friend and a cream brioche for me (to die for - so good), as well as fresh fruit, cafe con leche and 2 bread flautas to bring with us on the picnic lunch we planned to have later on Montjuic.

We had to check out of the room before leaving for the day, but the hotel kindly allowed us to leave our bags at registration to pick up later. We then walked down Las ramblas to La Boqueria to pick up the rest of our items for our picnic lunch. We hit up a deli stand for 2 kinds of ham and 2 kinds of cheese (9,50 euro), we got a generous bunch of mandarin oranges (less than one euro), and a bottle of red wine (4 euro). Our picnic supplies procured, we went back to Plaza Catalunya to get on the red line tourist bus.

This took us through a different area of the city - Sants station, the Plaza de Espana, MNAC and up into Montjuic where we eventually got off at the Miramir/Jardins stop. This stop had fabulous views of the city of Barcelona on one side and views of the Mediterranean on the other, all in the setting of a lovely manicured garden. We took pictures of the city, the view stretching beyond the Sagrada Familia, and of the sea before settling down to our picnic lunch. The cheese was fabulous, the bread was perfect, the wine was lovely and the mandarins were a perfect dessert. We sat and talked up on the mountain, taking in the panorama of lovely Barcelona.

When our picnic was finished, we got back on the bus to continue down towards the port and into the Barri Gotic, where we got off the bus to walk back to the hotel. We needed to retrieve our luggage and move it to the other hotel. The new hotel didn't seem too far when we'd walked it the previous day, but suddenly with luggage it felt like a million miles away. We should've taken a cab; lesson learned.

We cleaned up and I took an extra long shower, knowing I wouldn't see a shower or a different set of clothes for the next 24 hours or more. We wanted to have tapas and people watch, so we headed back to a bar on the Gran Via that we'd seen earlier and that was incredibly busy. It was called Ciutat Comtal - the inside bar was busy, but there was an empty table out on the street, so we snapped it up and situated our chairs to look out at the passing crowd.

We ordered a bottle of cava to celebrate our last night and a successful trip, along with an order of patatas bravas to help soak it up. It was relaxing and the cava was eminently drinkable. After a few hours of cava and conversation, we headed off to dinner. My friend was tiring of Catalan cuisine (I wasn't there yet), so we went to a Chinese restaurant in the Eixample called Out of China.

It was cutely decorated and the dining room was quite large. Since it was still early, there weren't many people there but many more began to trickle in as the hour grew later. I ordered the veggie dumplings followed by the vegetarian meatballs with peanut sauce , and my friend ordered the spring rolls followed by the duck. The food was good, but I was a little surprised by the meatballs. They were tasty, but it was literally just four meatballs on a plate. No rice, no nothing. For 9 euro, I felt like it wasn't a good price and there was also nothing to break up the flavor which, after the second meatball, started to taste overly sweet. I was not a huge fan of those meatballs, but everything else was very good.

Our dinner complete, we went back to the hotel and I picked up my belongings. My friend walked me to the nearest taxi stand and off I went to the bus station. I had about an hour before my bus, but I'm chronically early for everything and I didn't really know how the bus system worked. The bus pulled in at about 10:40 (scheduled to leave at 11) and we loaded our bags into the bottom of the bus before boarding. We departed on time, and luckily the bus was quiet so I was able to get some sleep. The arrival in Madrid and my flight from Madrid to Philadelphia all went without incident.

I liked Barcelona very much. It is beautiful, stately and sweeping and modern and progressive in many ways. I enjoyed the food and the architecture and the friendliness of the people. I would consider returning in the future. I was happy with my decision to try a new country on this trip, and I think it's likely that I will do so again the next time. It will be Italy plus somewhere else, and I think I will end the trip with Italy instead of beginning it so that I always have my "home" to look forward to.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I'll be happy to answer any questions or give more information if I have it.
nnolen is offline  
Dec 31st, 2012, 06:50 AM
  #42  
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
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Hi N. I had exactly the same reaction as yours on my arrival at the empty Buca di Ripetta, but I went on to discover Enoteca Buccone a bit further down the road.

Thanks for all the interesting details - your favourite cooking magazine titles have been noted.
tarquin is offline  
Dec 31st, 2012, 09:10 AM
  #43  
 
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Shadow of the wind is one of my favorites! Great trip report, i have never been to barcelona and have thought of extending our italy trip to add it on. Thanks for the report.
willowjane is offline  
Dec 31st, 2012, 11:28 AM
  #44  
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Willowjane - you definitely should! Barcelona was a beautiful city. Have you read Zafon's other books? I tore through Prisoner of Heaven earlier this month. Couldn't put it down and gasped out loud more than once!

Tarquin - yeah, I have eaten at Buca di Ripetta before (more than once) but just something about that totally empty room this time...
nnolen is offline  
Dec 31st, 2012, 12:22 PM
  #45  
 
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nnolen - i do so wish we'd taken the HOHO bus in Barcelona! we stayed in a hotel near the magic fountain [Hotel Fira-Palace] and though it had certain advantages [large rooms, quiet, out of the tourist hurly burly] it was a long walk to the nearest metro station at Plaza Espagna, and an even longer walk when we got there as the `'correspondences" [don't know the spanish for that] were veeerrry long.

consequently my over-riding memory of Barcelona is of my sore feet.

i'd quite like to go back, but I'd want to stay somewhere more central.
annhig is offline  
Dec 31st, 2012, 03:13 PM
  #46  
 
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Just "The Angel's Game". I will have to get Prisoner of Heaven tonight! I needed something new to read. Great report!
willowjane is offline  
Dec 31st, 2012, 04:16 PM
  #47  
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
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Thank you for a great afternoon read,
I will be going to Rome for the first time next summer and I too am a non meat eater, and a bookstore lover-so I took notes-

clicked on your name and saw I can now go to Rome with you again-yeah-happy.

btw-lovely thing you did writing the note to the owner of Al Gran Sasso.

Went to Amazon to read about Carlos Ruiz Zafon-where have I been? Is there an order I should read these books in?
FabulousFrance is offline  
Dec 31st, 2012, 10:01 PM
  #48  
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Willowjane - you'll have to let me know what you think of Prisoner of Heaven. You'll probably let me know in two days because you won't be able to put it down.

Annhig - yes, a central location was really beneficial. We could have walked pretty much everywhere.

Fabulous France - that's how I felt when I found him! I had never heard of him in the US (and still don't much, apart from people i happen to convert ) I think Shadow of the Wind should come first, followed by Angel's Game and then Prisoner of Heaven. According to Zafon, time is irrelevant and you can read them in any order, but I don't think I would have had the same perception if I'd read Prisoner of Heaven first because it would have killed some of the surprises.

Oops - I'm turning this into a book thread.
nnolen is offline  
Jan 1st, 2013, 02:54 AM
  #49  
 
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Euskal Etxea is the restaurant/pintxos (not tapas!) bar at the Basque cultural center in Barcelona. It's run by people from San Sebastián, the gastronomical capital of Spain if not all of Europe. All about going for pintxos in food crazy San Sebastián: http://www.todopintxos.com/home/home.php?lang=en

According to Ferran Adria (El Bulli), the world's most renowned chef during the past decade, San Sebastián is the best place to eat in the world "in terms of what you can get at any place you happen to walk into". And some 16 Michelin stars in this small city. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandsty...rink.shopping2

European capital of culture 2016.
kimhe is offline  
Jan 1st, 2013, 03:00 AM
  #50  
 
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.. and at Euskal Etxea you were most probably drinking the slightly sparkling dry Basque wine Txakolí, usually poured into the glass from about a meter to get it sufficiently airy. http://www.saveur.com/article/Wine-a...s-Coolest-Wine
kimhe is offline  
Jan 1st, 2013, 05:49 AM
  #51  
 
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Thank you for your trip report - I really enjoyed it.
I think it's a good idea for you to visit another city along with Rome. Can I suggest Prague, Amsterdam or maybe Istanbul? You have probably been to Paris.

And good for you on becoming a vegan. I'm sure it was difficult considering the foodie you are. Although my husband and I have cut down on meat, we (more me) can't give it up completely.

Happy New Year all!
SashieZ is offline  
Jan 1st, 2013, 05:38 PM
  #52  
 
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Great report! Thanks for sharing!
sarge56 is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2013, 06:08 AM
  #53  
 
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I know this is not a book thread but Wow! I didnt think it could be as good......i love the style of writing. Thanks nnolen for encouraing me to read this, i had a very pleasant few days and now i have to catch up on housework!
willowjane is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2013, 01:50 PM
  #54  
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You're most welcome! I wish more people would find him. I have a total writer crush on him.
nnolen is offline  
Jan 4th, 2013, 05:24 AM
  #55  
 
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Nnolen, solo Snoopy e (quasi) perfetto!
tarquin is offline  
Jan 5th, 2013, 04:47 AM
  #56  
 
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Bought the book as well and hope to return to Barcelona to do my own Shadow of the Wind walk.
SashieZ is offline  
Jan 5th, 2013, 11:50 AM
  #57  
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SashieZ - hope you enjoy the book!

As far as the vegan thing goes, I took PETA's 30 day vegan challenge fully expecting to go back to eating meat when it was finished...but I just couldn't. And anyone who has read previous trip reports knows that I absolutely loved duck and beef and foie gras and everything else animal, so it was a big change for me.

I won't say anything else for fear of sounding preachy or freaking out the omnivores, but I just really can't picture eating meat ever again because of what I learned and experienced in those 30 days.

And yes, I know it's yummy. Trust me - it's the first thing people want to say to you when they hear you don't eat animal products.
nnolen is offline  
Mar 1st, 2015, 07:17 AM
  #58  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
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I too had missed your Roma/Barcelona TR. Very enjoyable.
TDudette is offline  
Mar 1st, 2015, 10:45 AM
  #59  
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Thanks, TDudette. I don't do much on Fodor's anymore (because I found it could suck away entire work days), but I try to still write up trips at least.
nnolen is offline  

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