Barcelona: Day 1

England is my little lily pad, from where I can hop off to so many amazing destinations. This weekend I pounced on Barcelona for a bit of city sun, legendary architecture, and of course heaps and heaps of tapas.

Hotel 1898 is located on the vibrant “Las Ramblas” street which divides the boutiquey Raval district from the Barri Gòtic medieval heart of the city. With their nautical design theme, the accommodations feel like balcony staterooms with high ceilings, framed marine charts, and gleaming teak floors reminiscent of a ship’s hull.

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The best part of the hotel is La Isabella Terrace and rooftop pool. What beats having breakfast while lounging on cushy striped deck furniture, enjoying the breeze under the shade of a canvas umbrella surrounded by panoramic rooftop views of the city?

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The H1898 signature breakfast includes fresh slices of Iberico ham, Norwegian smoked salmon, tomato bread, a heaping platter of fresh fruit and a glass of rose cava. No breakfast is complete without a steaming cup of cafe negro to start the day.

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After using my bird’s-eye view of cathedral spires and landmarks to get my bearings, I set out on a walking architour of the city’s most celebrated buildings. First stop was Gaudi’s Casa Batlló on the Passeig de Gràcia.

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This 5-story Art Nouveau townhouse has nary a straight line in it. It twists and swoops and even seems to bubble and blister in places. I loved the tiles in the light well and on the undulating dragon-spine roofline. It is a bit of a tourist trap – the queue for 20€ tickets was a rather bothersome ordeal but I couldn’t miss the chance to see a page from my old architecture textbooks come to life.

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Tapas are the world’s best food when you’re like me and prefer to try lots of little bites of different flavors rather than one big dish. They’re also great when you’re after some simple light fare, which I was following my tour of Casa Batlló. Just around the corner on Carrer de València is Cornelia & Co, the “daily picnic store.” The Barcelona equivalent of Dean & Deluca, it’s perfect for grab-and-go gourmet food and wine, where in spring a picnic is always a tempting lunchtime option. I had time to spare so decided to enjoy the service at one of the outside bistro tables.

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Don’t be intimidated by the Barcelona Metro. It is clean, well-lit, and easy to navigate. If you’re travelling with a friend, I recommend is the T-10 card, which is a ticket loaded with 10 journeys to share – for just 9.80€. I wish other cities (hello, London!) would catch onto this.

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If I had to name my architectural mecca, it would hands down be Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s “Barcelona Pavilion.” Designed for the 1929 International Exposition, this minimalist masterpiece inspired the iconic Barcelona chair – and also a certain NYU undergraduate studying architecture back in the day. It has all the tranquility of a temple; one of  the most serene moments of my visit was watching the red drapes flutter softly in the balmy breeze wafting through the open space.

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Had a charming wander through the leafy Pablo Sec neighborhood on the way back to the hotel.

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To experience the luxurious side of the Catalan gastronomy scene, I tip my hat to Michelin-starred Cinc Sentits in the Eixample district. A truly intimate atmosphere – there are only ten tables in the earthy, wood panelled dining room.

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cinq4Tapas

house-marinated gordal olive with orange peel

house version of the traditional pan con tomate

bacalao crisp with fresh mató cheese, parsley, and lemon

house-made cracker with romesco sauce

cinq5Oyster with seawater “air” and lemon

cinq6Caramelized foie gras “coca”

pastry crust | chive arrop | leeks

cinq7Razor clam

green bean | mini potato | traditional pil pil sauce

cinq8Wild Mediterranean skate

spring peas from Llavaneras | escabetx | chive flowers

cinq9Squab breast

croqueta | red wine poached pear | forest fruits

cinq91Suckling pig

eggplant | basil | wild mushrooms

cinq92Strawberries from the Maresme

blackberry cream | yogurt powder | celery ice

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warm salted caramel | black beer ice cream | hazelnut crunch

cinq94“Tentacions”

orange-chocolate crisp with flors del remei liqueur | forest fruit mini muffin | mint-dark chocolate truffle | bunyol del cuaresma

A rarefied and truly authentic Catalonian experience!

And there we have it – how to fall in love with Barcelona in just one day.

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