My trip to Barcelona was uneventful; a relatively new experience and, alas, not something I would shun in the future. Whew!
Quickly through Passport Control and luggage out quickly, it was off to one of my favorite boutique hotels: The Murmuri. It is near, but not on La Rambla, so you are surrounded by upscale shops, locals and, in Barcelona, rarefied quiet. Traveling alone on this cruise, I wanted to try one of its smaller rooms and found it to be quite comfortable. It still had one of the best showers I have found in my travels, just as in its suites, and a very nice included breakfast buffet…plus some of the kindest staff around.
|One of the smallest rooms at The Murmuri. |
Still comfortable and stylish
After my early check-in, I met with some of my clients who have been on every Culinary & Cultural Cruise I have had since 2007, for breakfast. They are an amazing couple…and every year everyone’s favorites.
It was then a shower and off to La Boqueria; one of my favorite markets for some lunch.
My “usual” place’s offerings just didn’t look as inspired as in the past, so I wandered around eventually scoring a seat at El Quim; noted by Anthony Bourdain as one of his favorite dining spots. I have been eating there for a very long time, having spent many months in Barcelona in decades past, but with its notoriety comes tourists “having” to eat there…and not knowing what to order so I saw many a seafood platter being passed over the counter.
I, however, had other plans: Time to enjoy the “good stuff”!!
|The open kitchen at El Quim de la Boqueria|
|Razor Clams and a nice Cava. Yum!|
I sat down and was immediately greeted by two of the staff speaking to me in rapid fire Catalan. I raised my hands and said, “I got nuthin’! I only speak English.” With that they began teasing me, handing me a Catalan menu and telling me to learn. So the fun was about to begin…and so was my personal “Culinary & Cultural Experience”. Fresh olives, fresh anchovies, black sausage with onions and finally, my favorite, razor clams.
|Fresh Anchovies with vinegar|
|Black Sausage with onions. A favorite!|
And as I ate the servers just kept filling my glass with cava…only to find no charge for any of them on my bill. I was full and enjoying my first moments in my return to Barcelona.
Full and happy I walked the 1.25 miles back to The Murmuri and took what I thought would be a short nap…until I received a text from some other clients/friends at 8:00 p.m. So with that it was time to get out on the town and enjoy the Barcelona nightlife. Cocktails on a rooftop bar overlooking Port Olympic and then heading out to find some local experience.
Shockingly (not) we wound up at Los Caracoles, which is also one of my favorite places in Barcelona. A bottle of cava along with snails, suckling pig and Catalan sausage with white beans. All were great, but being served by ancient waiters in a restaurant founded in 1835 overlooking the wood-fired kitchen makes dining here special.
|At Los Caracoles you literally walk through the kitchen|
to get to your table. If you are lucky, and know to ask,
you can dine watching the magic happen.
|Snails with a pork/lardo reduction are delicous|
|The intense flavor of Catalan suckling pig|
is like nothing you can get in the United States
|Catalan Sausage and White Beans:|
The ultimate in comfort food
It was then time to show my client/friend the “real” Barcelona: Dive bars! For some reason he gave up around 2:00 a.m., when the Barcelona bar scene was just getting warmed up.
The next morning, before heading over the the Seabourn Encore, breakfast and then a 3 mile walk over to Sagreda Familia and back. While the Sagreda Familia doesn’t really do much for me, the architecture around Barcelona most certainly does. My pace was a bit faster than most locals taking a weekend stroll, but not so fast that I didn’t stop to go “wow” on occasion.
A quick taxi ride with yet another of my favorite clients and we were aboard the Seabourn Encore. I am staying in Penthouse 1127, which adjoins with a V6 suite. (It will be interesting to see if there is an noise that comes through the door.over the next two weeks.)
With so many familiar faces, and Chef David and Jovan having already assisted me with my Goldring Travel Culinary & Cultural Cruises, we had our organizational meeting within an hour of my boarding and most everything was sorted. I did caution Chef David that since he did such an incredible job last year, and I had so many returning guests, hearing “Last year was better” just isn’t an option! Somehow I don’t think I have anything to worry about!
Dinner was, of course, at The Grill by Thomas Keller…and, yes, I did order the chicken!
|Order the Chicken!|
After dinner it was up the Observation Lounge and, to be sure, this cruise has a very happy and friendly vibe to it.
The next morning we arrived in Mahon, Menorca, Spain.
|Sunrise over Mahon, Menorca, Spain|
|Mahon, Menorca, Spain|
Because the little things show a lot, I ordered two poached eggs. Perfect!
I decided to experience a Seabourn tour hiking the north coast. I was confident it would be not nearly as challenging as the one I took on Wrangell Island, Alaska; a truly memorable and breathtaking (in more ways than one) experience. It was an absolutely beautiful hike with changing landscapes over the 4 miles. As this was the last tour of the season, with Mencora pretty much shutting down for the winter, there were very few people around…though we did encounter a hunter and his two dogs apparently successfully bagging two rabbits.
|The North Coast of Menorca is beautiful|
(Of course there was one husband who felt it necessary to complain the entire time, but walking ahead of him all but eliminated the issue. People really need to read the tour descriptions and accept the fact that when it says “hike” it is, well, a hike!)
Upon return to the Seabourn Encore, it was time to get things organized for some of the Goldring Travel upcoming events, including the next day’s big event in Chateauneuf-du-pape, so I really didn’t have time to visit much of Mahon itself. That and a longer hike gives me reason to return!
But I did take the time to have half of my mandatory Hamburger and Hot Dog Test. Honestly, the best overall hamburger ever. Not only a perfectly cooked juicy and tasty burger, but great presentation.
After a lovely dinner with the Guest Services Manager on Formal Night (the lobster was excellent) it was time for bed because tomorrow is a big Culinary & Cultural day!
Interested in a Seabourn cruise? Give me a call, drop me an email or send me a Facebook message!
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