It was hard to believe this long awaited trip to Spain was finally here! Everything I had fought so hard for over the last year was about to begin. I was really excited and overwhelmed at the same time. What was to come? Did I pack everything? Did I train hard enough? I was about to find out all the answers. I met up with Amie at the San Francisco airport and we took a direct flight into Barcelona. Before we boarded I dropped my phone in the terminal. I realized it too late and had to leave my phone behind which turned out to be a blessing and a curse. The overseas flight was not as torturous as I had anticipated. There was an empty seat next to me so I was able to lean over and get off my butt some for the flight. To a paralyzed person, this is priceless when you can’t move out of the seat for eleven hours. We arrived safely in Barcelona and I finally received my first passport stamp! We checked into our downtown hotel and went out to find dinner and some night life. The city is beautiful and the energy is uplifting. It reminded me a little of NYC with the old art deco buildings and a little of Puerto Rico with all the bright happy colors. Lots of cast iron that gives an old gothic feel. The architecture is a mix of old ornate buildings and modern clean lines. I can see why people fall in love with Europe. It’s a slower simpler pace. People seem happy and accommodating. Everything is so cute with attention to detail. The prices are reasonable and tipping is included in the prices. The accessibility was pretty easy. There were curb cuts every where; nice smooth stone ones with no yellow bumps! They even have wheelchairs on their street crossing signs instead of just a person walking. Love the inclusivity! The bathrooms were a bit challenging in the smaller places but if you looked around, finding one big enough for a wheelchair was pretty easy.
For our second day Amie booked a food tour with a lovey and knowledgable local lady. We started out in a small cafe with some local breakfast foods; a potato patty made with cabbage, onions and garlic and some pigs feet. Not something I would have ever ordered but glad I tried it. The feet were surprisingly tasty. They are very fatty, but it’s that collagen kind of fat that just melts in your mouth, leaves your hands all sticky and your joints lubricated. A hearty way to start the day along with a cup of delicious Cafe con Leche. From there we went to a bodega and tried a glass of local vermouth with olives and sardines. Then to a small ice cream parlor for orchata with sweet bread. The small local family owned places gave us a great feel for the culture of the local life. For lunch we landed at a big market in the center of town called Mercat de Sant Antoni. The market is one of the oldest and is enormous. We tasted local nuts, some fried cod and then a plate full of black label dried ham. Amie was in heaven. Our guide was a wealth of information and we learned about the history of the area and how certain foods became traditions of Barcelona. We wrapped up the tour at a local winery. We got to pour our wine right out of a barrel and then drank it in the traditional way from the decanter. Tricky not to spill it all over. It was such a fun day and we returned to the hotel satisfied, stuffed and buzzed. Jet lag took us over and we both crawled into bed.
Friday we celebrated Amie’s birthday! We started the day visiting the infamous Gaudi church, La Sagrada Familia. Building was started on the church in 1882 and won’t be finished until 2030. It’s an overwhelming work of art with too much detail and symbolism to take in upon one visit. It was such a unique experience, I felt like I was rolling into a fairy tale. Juxtaposition and Art Nouveau mixed with touches of Gothic architecture. The outside made me feel cold and melancholy but the inside was warm and vibrant. The stained glass was breathtaking and lit up the inside with rainbow colors everywhere. The pillars were designed to look like a forrest. The altar was odd. Not the big celebratory spectacle one usually sees in old churches, just a hanging statue surrounded by lights and what looked like plastic grapes. It almost looked comical to me. Wheelchair accessibility was easy and free. A side entrance with an elevator took us to the main floor without having to wait in line. The tours into the spires are not accessible
We wrapped up Amie’s day with a gift from her finance, a sensory eating experience at Enigma. It was quite the gastronomic culinary adventure. About 30 one bite courses paired with drinks eaten over five hours. We were guided around several rooms in the restaurant each having it’s own array of tastes and textures. Some of the rooms had chefs preparing the small bites in front of us while they explained the preparation, ingredients and how to eat it. At the main table we had several dishes that we were not told about. Part of the experience in this room was guessing what it was that we just ate, hence enigma. I thought I was going to be good at this but I guessed wrong on almost every dish. I could taste the influence of Goudy’s surrealism and juxtaposition in some of the dishes. My favorite bite of the night was a thin strip of Wagyu beef that was perfectly seared and then drenched in egg yolk. The lobster claw with lobster roe was a close second. After dinner the staff set up a little birthday celebration for Amie and invited us to the bar for an after dinner drink. We got back to the hotel in the early hours of the morning with only a few hours before having to get on a plane to the second part of the journey, The Camino de Santiago…