2 weeks of travel had finally started to take a serious toll on me physically. I was sore pretty much everywhere and starting to have more AlkaSeltzer to recover from the previous night’s festivities. As I mentioned before, travel like this is a marathon not a sprint, and now I was about to cross the finish line, wrapped one of the foil blankets and then collapse to the ground in exhaustion. OK, maybe not but I was starting to look forward to a day in bed upon at home, which was on the not too distant horizon. Fortunately, another day of great weather was helping me kick into into final gear.
I had been interested in trying the Catalan version of paella called fideuas, which uses noodles instead of rice. A couple of people had recommended a place, which actually had 3 branches, Arroseria Xavitva, one of which was just under 2 miles away, which in the great weather seemed doable, my aching body aside. The path took me through a more working class area of town called Sant Antoni, where there was a lot more graffiti and not the seemingly ubiquitous chain stores, which after being inundated with them elsewhere was a nice change of pace. The weather also allowed me to finally take advantage of dining al fresco.
Since I had worked up a pretty good appetite from my long walk, I immediately ordered the Paella Valenciana fideuas given I also knew it would take awhile. About 20 minutes later, this thing of beauty arrived.
The noodles were short and thin called garrofon, which looked like enoki mushrooms. It was at first a very strange experience scooping up noodles versus rice out of a paella dish but the flavors were still all very much a classic paella Valenciana (well except for no snails, which was a plus really. There was even a noodle version of the sorcarat (aka the crispy bits on the side) and overall, a very tasty paella. I would definitely have this again when available.
I had walked by the Barcelona Beer Company on my way to Xavitiva and decided to check it out after my lunch. Spanish beer overall is pretty terrible – drink wine instead – but I had heard good things about this craft brewery. Plus, I could get 4 tasters for 6 Euros.
I had the bartender recommend 4 to try and had a nice variety of tastes and styles, my favorite being, surprisingly, the ginger heavy Belgian style, which normally can be a bit much. Overall very solid, especially for the price.
As I made my way back to El Born for my next stop, I saw a lot why I’m conflicted about Barcelona. It has a lot big city problems, homelessness, crime, graffiti but with also a lot of splendor and grandeur that makes it fairly unique. It also has an undercurrent of danger and instability that can be unleashed at any time given the strong separatist movement and overall Catalan attitude. And finally, it has a ton of crass commercialism that caters to the huge tourism industry. So yeah, it’s…complicated.
It was time to get my culture on at my favorite museum in the city – The Picasso Museum. While it doesn’t feature many of his masterworks, it is the best representation of his astonishing range of his career – from early neo-classist leanings to his destruction of art in his cubism period to his extensive use of mediums beyond painting, including his great pottery work. Per usual, I didn’t take any pics of the works themselves but I enjoyed some of the new additions since I had been there along with a new appreciation of perhaps the most important work there – his exhaustive recreation and interpretation of Velasquez’s masterwork Las Meninas, which is worth the price of admission alone.
Since I had a 6AM alarm set for my flight home (ouch), I didn’t want to take my usual siesta, which allowed me to stroll around El Born during sunset. I also finally made a stop at the famous bakery Bubo to pick up Marzipan and gianduja flavored croissants for breakfast.
I tried to have another wine tasting at the highly regarded Bar Brutal but alas they weren’t going to be open until 7PM. I also stopped off at another wine store looking for a specific wine but struck out yet again. Just not meant to be this time at least, oh well.
For my final dinner, a few people had recommended a classic Catalan spot for tapas that was also very close to my hotel, a plus. La Puntual, from the street, looked like a small bar but that belied the large backroom that was the heart of the restaurant. My friend Damian had told me to be on the lookout for this Iberico ham brand called Joselito so when I saw there was a chorizo from them, I knew that had to be my starter.
It was, quite simply, the best chorizo I had ever tasted – tender but firm with an explosion of favor – absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, my main course isn’t pictured because, quite frankly, it didn’t look visually appealing. A classic Catalan winter dish, the best way to describe it if steak tartare and Sheppard’s pie had a baby. It was a very hearty dish of chopped beef, potatoes and some spices that was very tasty. It paired very nicely with the Ribera del Duero I had along side it.
Since I couldn’t let the last major dish I had on this trip not be pictured, I had to get a dessert and the chocolate truffles with cream sounded like a winner. The things I do for my readers. I wasn’t expecting such an artful presentation but man was it good. Four very generous chunks of delicious chocolate truffles rounded perfectly with the homemade cream. A great way to end my culinary adventures on this trip.
For my final nightcap, I headed back to ElDiset for a nice glass of cava. My bartender Alejandro wasn’t there alas but I enjoyed sipping my cava at what definitely would be a local haunt if I ever lived in Barcelona. As I had the last vestiges of my cava, I reflected on what a fun trip overall this had been. My body had paid for it in multiple ways, but after long (too long) break from traveling – and of course, this blog, I felt invigorated.
A final recap by the numbers on the trip:
13397 miles in the air
10342 average steps per day
745 miles driving
100+ types of food consumed (I gave up trying to catalog the exact total but close enuff)
28 major meals
32 different Spanish wines sampled
12 different Euro beers
1 very happy, satisfied, stimulated, enlightened and yes, tired traveler.
Hasta vez proxima.