Jamon and Beach-Bumming in Barcelcona

My time in Barcelona, Spain has unfortunately come to an end (thus the writing of this post).  Whereas this is much to my dismay, my wallet and cholesterol level are probably jumping for joy.  The city is equal parts foodie paradise, beach town, historical port city, vacation destination, and architectural marvel; all combined with the passion for life and the late-night revelry that the Spanish enjoy (seriously, they stay up until well past 3-4am, sleep in until mid-day, take a siesta in the afternoon, and then repeat the cycle — I couldn’t begin to keep up).

Whereas there are many different avenues you can take to explore Barcelona, my plan of attack was typically to wake up, explore the city by foot for a few hours, end up at the beach for most of the rest of the waking day, and then absolutely gorge myself at the amazing tapas bars and restaurants for the remainder of the night.  I know, I know…this is a tough life that I’m living, but someone has to do it.

There is a certain charm to the facades and architecture that gives the city a distinctive flair

Many city blocks hide interior courtyards, that allow for an easier, less stressed place to relax

La Barceloneta Harbor in the foreground, with the statue of Christopher Columbus atop a column (which marks one end of La Rambla) in the mid-ground, and the Olympic Mountain in the background (site of the 1992 Winter Games)

The often immitated “La Rambla,” the tree-lined, mostly pedestrian boulevard that acts as the main drag in Barcelona. Though the touristy kitsch has taken over most of the street, it is still the best place in the city to people watch

Football is a big deal here in the city, which happens to be home to the club team FC Barcelona (basically the equivalent of the NY Yankees in the soccer world, but much bigger)

Spanish flags and laundry hung out to dry are the most common window decorations you’ll find

As mentioned above, Barcelona is home to several architectural showpieces that elevate the city’s status and draw in tourists from all over the world.  The most historic section of town is known as the Gothic Quarter, which was a formely walled-in section of the city dating back to the 13th century.  This area is a maze of winding medeival steets, alleys, and public squares, with the culmination being the “Cathedral.”

The other significant architectural neighborhood is what is known as the Quadrat d’Or, or the Golden Square, all of which is part of the Eixample district and is often refered to as an open-air museum.  This section houses many examples of the Modernisme movement, which originated in Catalonia (this region of Spain) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and through which many of its greatest manifestations were arguably architectural works.  The pieces were completed by the likes of Domenech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch, but the most famous by a landslide is Antoni Gaudi, and for good reason.

The Cathedral in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, though it would likely be a much more dramatic picture without the crane-tower in front

Gaudi’s La Pedrera

The facade of Gaudi’s Casa Battlo

Gaudi’s masterpiece, the as-yet unfinished Basilica de la Sangrada Familia

Another view across the water, though again, the construction cranes do take away a bit from the overall image

And by the way, did I mention there was a beach?  Because if I didn’t, then I go ahead and say it: there was a beach!!!

And this is where I spent most of my time when I wasn’t eating…

Ideally, I would have liked to have posted a few better pictures of the beach scene, but being that this particular beach is a European beach overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, anything closer and I would have had to restrict access to those over 18 years old

A few years ago, Anthony Bourdain mentioned on his show that Barcelona may have overtaken Paris as the new culinary captial of the world.  I personally haven’t spent enough time traveling to confirm or deny that assertion, but I can say that this is one of the best towns to eat in that I’ve ever had the luxury to experience (aside from Columbus, that is, which will always be number one in my book).  And now that we’ve all regained our energy from sunning ourselves and listening to the waves crash ashore, it’s time to check out that culinary scene.

The first stop, as has been the on-going trend in my travels, is to biggest and most diverse local market that I can find.  In this case, it happened to be a place called “La Boqueria” and was located just off of La Rambla.  And by the way, here in Spain, Jamon (ham that has been dried and aged for several years) is king:

Entrance to La Boqueria Market

It was a bit crowded inside, but still worth wading through the tourists to check out the variety of foodstuffs up for sale

Meats and Cheeses, always a good pairing

Uncut Jamon, ready to be sliced into ruby-red, tissue-paper-thin sheets of pure salty, meaty bliss

Tropical Fruits of every variety

Dried Fruits and Nuts

Large body of water nearby = great selection of seafood

They even had a whole stand dedicated to salted and cured fish

…and I clearly couldn’t go without at least trying the salt-fish fritters

I did pull myself away from the beach one afternoon to try one of the typical touristy meals by the waterfront (see below).  And feel free to give me a bit of grieft, but touristy things are usually touristy for a reason: they are worth leaving home for.

Melon con Jamon with the obligatory Sangria

Paella – technically a Valentian dish, it is a mixture of saffron rice, fish broth, and a variety of seafoods all cooked together in a paella pan (though they didn’t quite get the bottom of the rice as crispy as I was hoping for)

When dining our for the evening (which folks don’t seem to do until around 10pm at night at the earliest), I was a bit more in my element.  It can be a bit overwheming, though, trying to choose 1 place out of the myriad of outdoor cafes and tapas bars.  My trick, in this case, was to walk around, passing dozens of empty or slightly filled tapas bars until I found the one that was overflowing with people.  Usually, the locals know where to go, so the last thing I would do is go against their good taste.

And to elaborate a tad further, the Spanish concept of a tapas bar — or a place that serves a series of small dishes — is intended for a whole group of people to enjoy, as they can order basically everything and just pass plates around, having a bite of this and a bite of that.  Being a solo traveler without a group to dine with, one might think I would be at a bit of a disadvantage here.  However, the waiters and fellow patrons certainly didn’t count on my ability to stuff large amounts of delicious seafood down my into my gullet, so I think I held my own quite admirably.  You can be the judge:

Jamon d’Iberico: the best of the best, and always a great way to start

Boiled Prawns and Grilled Squid

Jamon and a Jalepeno Pepper, Fuet Sandwich, and Fried Anchiovies

A vegetable and cheese tart-type-of-thing

Fried Octupus Tentacles

A Veal Cutlet on a bit of toast

And finally, my favorite bite of food I had the whole time: grilled razor clams

And with that, I’m spent (and too full to move).  My next activity is museum hopping in Spain’s captial city, Madrid.  Until then, Salud!

About andrewamiet

I'm a 29 (now 31) year-old former desk jockey who is now making my way around the world, experiencing all of the sights, sounds, tastes, people, and culture that the world has to offer.

8 Responses to “Jamon and Beach-Bumming in Barcelcona”

  1. Youve got an iron stomach, dude!

  2. andrew I cannot believe the amount of food you are eating and still losing weight. You are doing great. I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying your blogs. I am so proud of what you are doing and your pictures and writings are great. Keep going.

    • I haven’t been able to step on a scale, but I can tell that I’d definitely been losing weight. I guess when you are out walking around a new city for upwards of 8+ hours a day, you burn off a lot of calories. And I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog!

  3. I really enjoy how every picture the drinks are changing. Oh and the food is making me hungry.

    • Good observation! I was trying to match drinks with the various dishes (i.e. red wine with the jamon and red meat, beer with the fried dishes, white wine with the seafood, sangria by the beach, etc.). I didn’t mention it in specifically in the post, but the wine was both amazingly good and incredibly cheap — and I’m not really even a big wine person. I’d basically just order the house red or white, and they’d pour me a huge glass for about US$2-3. Awesome.

  4. Pairing the drinks with the food is always so good and fun! You are taking full advantage, my friend. Every dish looks so appetizing, I wish I were sitting across the table to share them with you. Those razor clams looked awesome…and then with a nice white to go with it. Enjoy.

    • I think that the waiter was really getting into the spirit, too, and enjoying how I was going about the meal. Either that, or he knew he had a bit tip coming, as my solo bill had to be larger than that of many of the other entire tables.

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