Saturday, June 1, 2013

Cerveseria Catalana: The best food to get in Barcelona

Before I left for Barcelona my new office mate Tim told me to make time to eat at Cerversaria Catalana. I saw that it had good reviews online but wasn't that intent on making it a priority. After a day at La Roca where I was able to buy a Fino bag at a bagsak (really low) price we decided to go visit the place. The wait time was 30 minutes. I was like "whut?" why is it so long but noticed that the place was packed and people were really waiting. Our curiosity was piqued and we decided to wait.

It's a good thing we waited because we ended up eating the best food I tasted in Barcelona. Our waitress was a Pinay who had been in Barcelona for the last 25 years. She was so happy to talk with fellow pinoys that she told us exactly what to order and boy were we happy we followed her.

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Sampler platter

The sampler platter is their best seller because you get to taste several of the tapas at one go. At around 15 euros this was a good deal. It had calamares, shrimp, fried green peppers, clams and croquetas. Believe me when I saw everything was so so good. The croquetas were a wonder from the first bite. I never thought croquetas could taste so yummy. The clams were juicy and flavorful that I just slurped them up. The shrimp was good as well. The calamares was so addictive after a squeeze of lemon and dunk in aioli. We had to order the calamares and clams again.

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Close up of the clams and green peppers

We had beer again since we were with Mels. She kept saying that this was the best food she'd tasted in Barcelona and she's been here twice na. After stuffing ourselves full of tapas we still opted to get dessert and shared a creme brulee cake. Yummy.

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Creme Brulee cake

This was an amazing meal. We loved it so much hubby and I ate dinner here for two more straight days. If you eat at only once place in Barcelona make it Cerveseria Catalana.

Visit to Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya and Masquiteria de la Salamanca

Thursday was a rainy day. However I thought that maybe I could still do what I planned on my schedule and set off for MNAC or Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. My siblings told me to go there and of course I put it down in my schedule and bought a ticket again online.

I took the subway route that was calculated by Google Maps as the fastest  but to my disappointment, it was raining so hard and the walk I would be making would be up the hill. So I abandoned my plan and took the subway back to Plaza Cataluna and just went around the shopping centers there. I can easily spend hours at the ground floor checking out all the cosmetics and skin care items anyway.

While I was having lunch hubby called me that he had the rest of the afternoon off so I went back to the hotel to meet him. Turns out he and his boss still had use of the car and driver and I suggested we go to the museum since the car could bring us directly there.

The MNAC actually sits on top of an elevated part of Barcelona. I actually passed by on my Hop On-Hop Off tour and was able to take pictures of when it wasn't raining.

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Cafe area outside of MNAC

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Panoramic shot of the view from MNAC

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Facade of MNAC

MNAC is huge! There is a long lobby area that leads to a place where you get to choose the exhibits you want to view. It was amazing being able to check out the lesser known artists of Barcelona.

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Le Morte de Cleopatra

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Ceiling of the dome

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This last image was particularly stunning to me. The painting looked almost alive. There was loads of art that I wish I took more pictures of but sometimes you just want to absorb the art. There were paintings that would span an entire wall and some up to the ceiling as well. I know nothing about art but I just appreciated what I saw.

We didn't even see the entire museum when we decided to go have early dinner. We asked the driver to take us to a good resto in Barceloneta since that is where the best seafood is supposed to be. Unfortunately a lot of them were still closed till we finally ended up at Masquiteria de la Salamanca.

We ordered their pica-pica platter, some paella negra and the Estrella beer.

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Chorizo

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Bread with tomato and olive oil

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Pica-pica platter

So their pica-pica platter is the size of a serving tray. Yep, it is that big. to the right you'll see fried baby squid. To the left that is fried anchovies and the top and bottom are calamares. The center is fried green peppers. Mels immediately requested for some aioli and we generously dipped everything in it. It was so freaking good.

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close up shot of the pica-pica platter

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Paella Negra

So my siblings warned me that paella is usually ordered per person so we ordered for 3 persons. We should have ordered for two only as the paella they served us was huge. When they say per person it is like a whole plate of paella is for you. This paella negra was fantastic with the aioli we asked for.

As we were leaving the resto the pinoy wait staff said hi to us. Too bad we didn't see them earlier. So out we went back under the rain and the driver took us back to the hotel where we collapsed into a food coma induced sleep.

Barcelona: Braving the subways

This was my third day of going off alone around Barcelona. I was prepared to use the subway and had researched already what I was going to do. Day 3 is when I was going to go the the Picasso Museum, eat at El Xampanyet and wander around.

It was very easy for me to board the line nearest our hotel then transfer lines to the station that came out near the Picasso museum. I was even able to ask direction and apparently from the station you just walk almost a straight line to come up onto the street where the Picasso museum was. Another tip here is that you can buy the ticket online to avoid lines. Gosh I love the internet.

However, I was waiting for a friend since she and her husband were also in Barcelona at the time. We had met up for dinner the other night. The name of the place escapes me at the moment but suffice to say we enjoyed our food. Anyway, I bought an extra ticket for Mich since she said she wanted to go to the Picasso museum as well.

When Mich arrived, we were able to enter the museum without much lines. The museum however does not allow pictures to be taken inside and there were a lot of tourists. It was quite interesting since I now know a little bit more about Picasso and his history. At least now if people mention Picasso's blue period I know exactly what they're referring to. We were able to spend around 2 hours in the museum and the gift shop. I bought some prints but have not had them framed yet.

Once lunch time came, we walked a little bit to El Xampanyet which is rated highly in Lonely Planet. Mich and I squeezed into a small table and ordered lots of food. There were these little potatoes with crumbled chorizo on top, some anchovies that were delicious and of course the tomato, olive oil and sea salt bread. Unfortunately, I was too intent on eating the delicious food to take pictures haha.

After our lunch Mich was kinda interested in going to the chocolate museum which was a short walking distance away. I agreed since it was fun going around doing the tourist thing in Barcelona and I had to walk off what I ate.

The chocolate museum has a small chocolate cafe at the entrance where you buy your ticket. Imagine my joy at discovering that the ticket to the chocolate museum is a chocolate bar! Now here are some of the pictures I took.

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chocolate truffles

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chocolate for baking

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chocolate goodies

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chocolate bars

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Sagrada Familia in chocolate!

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La Pieta in chocolate

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  The museum talked about the history of making chocolate in Barcelona. There were also examples of the equipment they used in casting chocolate. There were also a lot of artistic masterpieces carved out of chocolate. Makes you wonder if this chocolate can still be eaten. Inside there was a small room for some sort of cooking/baking demo where we saw little kids.

Once outside we could not resist buying some chocolate souvenirs. I got a chocolate, olive oil and sea salt bar, a caramel and chocolate bar and a cheese and honey with dark chocolate bar. I really should eat the last one as it is still in our ref.

I told Mich that the Catedral de Santa Maria del Mar was also within walking distance so I took her to it and she was similarly thrilled with the architecture. After that we parted ways at the subway.

I waited for hubby at the hotel and we decided to go out for dinner at Tapas 24. As usual I forgot to take pictures of what we ate except for the one below.

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La Bombeta

La Bombeta is some sort of potato and ground meat ball. It was a bit expensive at 3 or 4 euros a piece but the ball is bigger than your average meat ball. We also had the grilled octopus and the callos. Strangely enough we also had a bottle of white wine to ourselves and managed to finish it. Rather hubby finished it. This was probably our most expensive meal due to the bottle of wine at almost 20 euros.

The wait at Tapas 24 was around 15-20 mins. The place was full and some people still came in while we were eating to be told the wait was 45 mins. Gosh! I enjoyed the meal and of course the company. So that closes out my third day of wandering around on my own in Barcelona.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Taking the Hop On/Hop Off tour in Barcelona Part 2

  This is part two of my post on my Hop On/ Hop Off tour in Barcelona. If you want to read part 1, you may do so here. Anyway, when I bought the tour I bought the option for two days. Thus, I kept my brochure, earphones and ticket to reuse on my second day.

  On the second day, I did the same as yesterday getting on the tour from the La Pedrera stop. However instead of taking the West route, I took the East route. Both routes are the same for the first two stops which are Plaza Cataluna and the Bario Gotic.

  I remember my siblings telling me to check out the beach because it was nice but since it was cold, there really wasn't anyone on the beach.

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Barceloneta

What I was able to do was walk a bit from one of the stops to the Catedral de Santa del Mar. This church is another example of Gothic architecture like the Gothic Cathedral. I also found it quite beautiful.

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Entrance

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Interior

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Stained Glass Windows

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View of the interior

  I consider myself really lucky to have been able to visit these cathedrals without having to deal with crowds.  Going during the weekday is a good idea. While I was going around, hubby excitedly called me that he got tickets to El Clasico and that he wanted me to buy him a beanie. I did not know what El Clasico was but apparently hubby was able to get tickets to a FCB - Real Madrid football game that same evening! So off  I went to Glories. I had lunch there and bought hubby a beanie from H&M.

  I still had some time before I had to meet hubby so I was able to squeeze in Parc Guell. I don't have a lot of pictures because that is a very popular tourist place and it was so cold. I was just using my phone so I would need to remove my gloves to take pictures and I didn't want to do so.

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Arches in Parc Guell

  I gave in though and decided I needed at least one picture before rushing off to take the bus back to La Pedrera and walking back to the hotel. I even slept a bit. When hubby returned it turns out several of his office mates were going to be watching and we were lucky enough to hitch a ride with them to Camp Nou.

  Hubby was super excited and he was getting all giggly like a girl once we were outside the stadium. I have never seen anything so big. It was bigger than the Araneta Coliseum. Outside we could hear people chanting their team songs. The energy was all around us further hyping us up. Our tickets got us high seats and the people there helped us find our seats despite not talking to us in English. We had an amazing view.

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View from our seat

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Hubby watching the game

  Unfortunately, FCB got creamed  by Real Madrid in this game. However it didn't matter to us because we witnessed something that was once in a lifetime. I doubt we'll ever get the chance to watch another El Classico in Camp Nou anytime soon. So with that, our night ended once we got back to the hotel.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Taking the Hop On/Hop Off tour in Barcelona Part 1

Since I was going to be going around Barcelona alone, I had to figure out what kind of places I wanted to take. I was asking an office mate for some tips and she suggested that I take the hop on/hop off tour. It was the first time I've encountered this concept being a hick from the third world so I did my research.

Apparently, I could book this tour through Viator and print out the voucher for it to present to the tour bus operator. I took the East to West tour since it sounded more interesting that the North to South route. You present the voucher to the tour guide and she hands you a receipt which you must show to every bus operator whenever you hop on a bus. In case this wasn't clear, there are several buses that ply the route throughout the day. You get to stay at one stop for as long as you want and when you want to go to the next stop, you just wait for the next bus to stop on by. Unlike Manila, the buses only allow passengers on and off at the bus stops.

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Ready for my tour!

 The tour starts at the Plaza Cataluna which is quite a ways from my hotel via foot. However the beauty of the hop on/hop off tour is that you can get on it from any stop. Which means all I did was join the bus at the La Pedrera stop.

I was able to appreciate Plaza Cataluna in the quiet of the morning. It was 9AM and the only other tourists I could see was a pair of Koreans/Japanese.


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Quite lonely at 9AM

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Not sure what this statue is for
 
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Maybe this is dedicated to someone?

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Luckily the bus operator was kind enough to take my picture.

I wasn't that impressed with the Plaza because I only stayed in the Plaza itself. I didn't go around yet on that day because I wanted to see the other sights and not just go shopping (yet). So off I went to the next stop which was the Bario Gotic.

I got off the Bario Gotic stop and decided to follow this couple who seemed to know where they were going. I turned the corner and froze when I saw this.

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The Gothic Cathedral

I was stunned.  Of course in the Philippines we have our own cathedrals but there was just something about this one that made my heart skip a beat. I felt like I was in the presence of something old with history and amazing.



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Gothic Cathedral front view


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Gothic Cathedral entrance


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Gothic Cathedral interior

  The interior was absolutely incredible. I think this is the official cathedral of Barcelona since Sagrada Familia is not finished yet. I think during the tour it was also mentioned that this is a basilica to rival that of St. Peter's in Italy. One of the great basilicas in Europe in fact.Wandering around it, I could really feel the Catholic in me crying with joy. I knelt down at a pew and prayed a little, thankful that I had the opportunity to see this place.

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One of the sides of the cathedral


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The altar

My only regret is that I was unable to show this place to hubby. Anyway, I proceeded with the next stop on my tour which was Port Vell. It wasn't that exciting. It's just a stop to get to other places since the infamous Las Ramblas ends a few streets away. There's also the Columbus monument for sightseeing purposes.

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Columbus monument

The next stop was the Museu d’Història de Catalunya which I had previously purchased a ticket to. As I was entering the museum I saw that apparently I was going at the same time as a bunch of grade schoolers who are probably there for class. However I didn't see them at all and usually had the exhibits to myself.

This museum is about the history of Catalonia which is the region Barcelona is in before it became a part of Spain. It was really cool since I got to see stuff which I would normally just read about in history books or see in the Discovery channel.

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Pottery from olden times

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what Catalonia used to be

So Catalonia used to be a walled city with its own harbor. There were a lot of wars with its neighboring city states so along with agricultural artifacts there were also examples of weapons of war.

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Ballista!


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Knight

How awesome was it that I got to see an actual ballista? Plus they had some examples of knights on horses and wow their horses are huge! There was also some armor that you could put on but it smelled stinky so I decided to pass. I didn't hesitate though to take my picture with the mirror.

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Selfie!

My day wasn't done yet but I think this post is a bit too long already. I'll continue this with a Part II.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Visit to La Pedrera/ Casa Mila

Ok, I seem to be on a roll here. Time for another blog post for another Gaudi creation: the Casa Mila or La Pedrera. In the olden days, cue 1920's music, great architects were also asked to design the homes of influential families. Wait, that's not much different from now. Anyway, Gaudi designed and built the homes of two significant families, the Mila family and the Batlo family. I only went to one house however and I choose Casa Mila because it was nearer my hotel. This was on the same day that I went to Sagrada Familia so I really didn't want to walk very far.

The ticket cost me around 16 euros which I found a bit expensive. However I was there already so decided to pay up and go in. The line wasn't long at the time so it took all of five minutes before I was able to enter and behold a sort of atrium on my way to the elevator.

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Apparently, La Pedrera as a tourist attraction is divided into several areas. There's the roof, the attic which is also the museum of weird artifacts (I'll get to that later) and the rooms. In the interest of giving readers an idea of what Casa Mila looks like, here's a miniature below. Please forgive me as I use Casa Mila and La Pedrera interchangeably. They are the same.

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You start off by entering the elevator which takes you straight to the roof. On that roof you will see some really fantastical and weird sculptures. There's a group of helmeted heads that is collectively known as the warriors. If you've been to Sagrada Familia, you'll notice that there was a design similar to the warriors there as well. As per our guide, it is a motif that appears regularly in Gaudi's works.

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It was really cold on that roof and unfortunately I was alone and not willing to ask strangers to take my picture. That's something that I got over of in time.

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When I say freaky, I wasn't kidding.
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Something not PG-13 crosses my mind when I look at the picture below. Ahem, I will leave it to your vivid imagination dear reader to guess what I was thinking. Suffice it to say when hubby saw my pictures he was convinced Gaudi was on/smoking something as he dreamed these things up.

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So, remember this is the first part of the tourist attraction. Once you've had your fill of freaky sculptures, it is time to descend to the attic.

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Gaudi apparently did not just slap some bricks on each other to come up with fantastical creations. He carefully planned everything he wanted to do.
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Gaudi would always make scale models of the places he designed and built.
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I don't know which place the object below was supposed to be.
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I think this one is supposed to be part of Parc Guell.
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Gaudi had an interesting way of figuring out where the beams and ceilings would need support. He would get chains and suspend them from the ceiling. Then he would position a mirror below to be able to see the chains as an upside down building!
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So despite my suspicion that Gaudi was high on drugs, he was actually a very careful planner. After roaming around the attic, I finally ended up in the last part of the building which is the living quarters and rooms of the Mila family.

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Old bicycle

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young child's room

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bedroom

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kitchen

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bathroom

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desk

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dining table

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old school gramophone

It was like being able to take a peek at how the family lived in the 1920's. Everything looked preserved like a family member could step right back in at any moment. I personally was not impressed with the bathroom since I believe my lola's house probably is still using the same kind of fixtures hehe.

For my souvenir, I got myself a music box at 10 euros. When I was a little girl I remember my mom showing me her music boxes. Thus it was a no brainer to get one for myself. I think this one plays a song by Vivaldi.

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Would I recommend a visit to La Pedrera? Probably not since most people say that Casa Batlo is better since every room is designed differently. These two places aren't that far apart and it doesn't make sense to go to both. Oh well, chalk it up to experience.

FYI, you can also buy tickets for La Pedrera online but I chose not to.
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