City Escape: Barcelona

Acting like a tourist, or heaven forbid, looking like a tourist, is never a goal of mine when I travel, but in BARCELONA that’s nearly impossible because from the Mediterranean sea to the city center, BARCELONA is a fascinating city to explore.

I couldn’t resist getting a photo of the atrium at the Mandarin Oriental designed by PATRICIA URQUIOLA. When we arrived, I immediately fell in love with the mesmerizing scent permeating the entire hotel, but try as I might, I couldn’t get the staff to reveal their special blend.

We needed to get on BARCELONA time, so instead of taking a nap, we headed to the Museu Picasso with our wonderful guide, NURI. Afterwards, it was off to lunch at Tapaç 24. They don’t take reservations, but we walked right in, sat at the counter and watched the action in the open kitchen.

We ordered these Grilled Baby Squid after noticing that all the ‘locals’ were ordering them. The verdict? Super-tasty!

The Bikini Sandwich was the most delicious grilled ham and cheese you will ever taste. MARTHA STEWART would call it a ‘best of class’ sandwich. It was loaded with Spain’s renowned jamón Ibérico, mozzarella and grated black truffles.

Another popular dish is Patatas Bravas. The crisp potatoes are topped with a spicy, paprika-laced tomato sauce and a thick garlic aioli, that looks kind of weird, but tastes really good.

Gambas! These were unbelievable and set the mark for all other gambas in Spain. The sweet shrimp were lightly fried until crisp and then lightly salted. Perfection! No wonder, Chef CARLES ABELLAN worked for FERRAN ADRIÀ at El Bulli.

We probably could have slept for 24 hours after our tapas tasting, but we decided to stroll down Passeig de Gràcia known for great shopping and Antoni Gaudi’s most famous architectural marvels including the Casa Batlló.

One thing you have to accept right away is that the Spanish eat dinner really, really late, so the early evening hours are spent socializing with friends. Our first stop of the night was the rooftop terrace at the Hotel Omm where the delicious raw bar was served by a woman in a sailor outfit! Our friends convinced me to finally try Moët & Chandon Imperial Ice with fresh mint. I know, champagne with ice? But it was actually quite good or maybe it was just the chic atmosphere and great company.

Our last stop before dinner was Monvinic. This wine bar has thousands of wines that you order from an iPad that details each selection. Service was knowledgeable, the vibe was sophisticated and the small plates were surprisingly delicious. I’ll definitely go back on my next trip to BARCELONA.

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