T’estimo Barcelona, again and again :)

Posted on September 11, 2012

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This past month I had the full intent to take it easy and slow down. Me being me, that did not really happen as my days in Europe were jam-packed with things I thought was necessary for me to do. The first week I have spent in Rome (click on link to see my Rome food tour and about gelatos). The rest of the time, I was in Barcelona.

Barcelona has been my adopted city as it always welcomed me with open arms. Having the chance to go back there a few times, it gave a degree of comfort of familiarity and friendliness. It was sure a big plus that my best friend Manel lived in Catalonia for most of his life as I get to see BCN from the eyes of one who knew it best. As I have said, from the many times I have been here, I think we have exhausted the museums and grand paragons of history that BCN could offer. This time around he showed me tradition. We went and followed the old tradition of the casteller.

Castells to someone who hasn’t been living in this culture might boggle or even horrify the mind. Castells were daring people who made towers of themselves, sometimes 7 to 9 stories high. Ten stories of people were achieved a few times and it is one that is most celebrated. If you want to see more of what it is all about, keep on following my blog for when I hold an exhibit. I would soon curate all my images and build a show of Catalonia’s community of castellers.

For two straight weeks Manel and I went to about 6 diadas (castell event), each having about 1 – 3 collas (teams). In the midst of it all, I was in a state of awe. This was not because of the huge risk these people were taking for the sake of tradition. I was most impressed by the sense of community and trust that the participants have for a common goal. How magnificent it was to see camaraderie and determination to build. It did not matter what the age. Young and old alike, generations meeting and holding the tower firm and strong.

The best thing that I would remember from this photography gig was the warmth of the Catalan people. I have met countless people who readily helped me produce stunning images welcoming me to their homes (Thanks Pere!) and giving me an impromptu tour of Casteller de Villafranca‘s rehearsal hall (Thank you Jeroen!). I enjoyed very informative good conversations once they understood what I was up to. Their willingness to share their culture was astonishing. I have about 120 gigs of images that I have to sort out and go through the painful process of selecting the best ones for an exhibition. How I am going to do that I am still not sure :)

The last few days I actually put the big camera to rest and went around BCN looking for foodie rewards for the hard work Manel and I have completed. As I do have my favorites, I swung by them one by one. If you ever find yourself in BCN, visit the usual suspects like Museu Gaudi, Sagrada Familia, gawke at the impressive collection at the Picasso Museum and do stroll down La Rambla. But don’t stay there for foodie treats. Get off the beaten path and get a taste of the real BCN as a local would see it.

Beneath are my all time favorites and BCN foodie musts!

1. Chocoholic route

Start with breakfast of Chocolate Con Churros at Granja La Palleresa. Fill the day with more doses of chocolate with 70% cacao chocolate bars from Vicens, Xocoa and Escriba.

2. Craving Paella, Catalan style

To enjoy the real thing, go to where the locals go. Go to Rias Dos Mino. To get entertained watching a paella gets cooked from start to finish, go to Escriba.

3. My love affair with tapas is quite extensive.

To indulge with tapas, our go-to place is Qu Qu for really good Patatas Bravas, Chistorra, fried artichokes and Pan Con Tomate. Another place to enjoy Calamari Romana, Chipirones, croquetas and of course always a dose of Patatas Bravas is Rias Dos Mino. If you walk past all the throngs of tourists in front of La Boqueria, you would find a good tapas bar, Bar Boqueria. I am addicted with their Chistorra and Tortilla de Patatas. Big plus was a conversation with one Pinoy crew.

5. La Boqueria

I know, I know, I know. I said no touristic spots. But I cannot help myself going to this all-year-round market. It is a foodie haven and I don’t think I would ever tire of its vive.

5. Fideua

Most places that serve paella serve this dish all around Barcelona. For a quick dose and still be assured of its quality, go to Mauri (love, love, love this place!). What would be better than Mauri is getting invited over for a home-cooked fideua. Much more comfy and with second servings :)))

6. Bread and baked goodies

A good bakery is one that is right next door. Manel has more than one occasion got me fresh madelenas for breakfast from Il Fornet. This bakery has franchises all over Barcelona, wouldn’t be too hard to find them. For chocolate cakes, I would go to Mauri. What’s more is that this time around I have a new discovery. It is a light sweet treat called Xo Xo, lighter than a donut and with light custard inside. Found it on Enrich inside the old bull-fighting arena converted into a mall by Plaça d’Espanya and also sold at Escriba.

7. And the one that got away, Can Paixano

Local bar where to enjoy a quick bocadillo and cheap cava, eating standing up on this eatery’s bar. My idea of a foodie moment. This time around though, it was unfortunate I did not make it on time. When we visited, the owners were off to a vacation. Ah well. Next time, I’ll make it first on my list.

See why I keep on coming back to Barcelona? It is a foodie’s haven. Good food and with good company of the bestest friend one could have. How could I keep away? Until then Barcelona. This wouldn’t be the last time I visit :)