C2 and I traveled to Spain over Spring Break, during the mounting concern over the rapid spread of the corona virus. The flight over was uneventful except for the medical emergency on the flight from Chicago to Munich. A older woman from Romania collapsed on the way to the restroom, directly at our feet, as we had opted for the emergency row for expanded leg room. The crew took excellent care of Nina, hooked her up to oxygen, monitored her vitals, made her as comfortable as possible, even with the language barrier, as C2 and I escaped to alternate seating. Note to self: always carry a list of meds if you travel with a serious medical condition.
C2 and I walked nearly 50 miles in five days of exploring the streets of Barcelona. Our flat was less than one block off the Ramblas, the walking thoroughfare of the city, dotted with plazas, flower and pastry shops and Gaudi architecture. The streets are immaculate and after several noisy nights outside our flat windows, we learned that trash is picked up every night, roadways or calles de Barcelona are sprayed with hi- power washers, and hard surfaces swept clean. Noisy, but with the virus ramping up, we appreciated the heightened effort.
Favorite sites were the Park Guell and Sagrada Familia. One side benefit of traveling during the cusp of a pandemic, is no crowds, no annoying tour groups or gaggles of tourists off the cruise ships. No lines, less people, as we slowly explored all aspects of this marvelous city. The day we strolled the park was idyllic with bright blue skies, a warm sun and cool breezes. All of foliage budded out, seemingly as we strolled by. Oleander, succulents and flowering spring bulbs lined the pathways. Parakeets chirped their song.
At the Sagrada Familia, I blinked back tears at the beauty of Gaudi’s adoration on display in all the minute details of the architecture, the carvings, the color, the stained class and the nod to nature in all aspects of the design of the space. The elevator ride to the top of the towering Passion Tower got my blood pumping as we stepped out on the high platform to look out over the roof of the church and out over the Barcelona cityscape. There are so many great views in Barcelona, almost like a set designer styled our walks around the city.
My favorite open food market was Santa Catarina in the Born district, noted for its curvy, multi-colored roof. C2 and I cooked several meals in our flat experimenting with local vegetables and pork sausages purchased from the market. Artichokes are in season and featured in all the tapas bars. We ate them fried, marinated and roasted. Favorite dishes were sautéed sardines, stuffed calamari, and bombas (a fried potato croquette with aioli and spicy tomato sauce). Barcelonians love their chorizo, cheese and pastry. What’s not to love?
Due to Trump’s confusing television address, we didn’t sleep one night as we analyzed, consulted with concerned state-side family, and rearranged our flight home. Our airline routed us through Frankfurt versus Munich and then to O’Hare. We cancelled a day trip to a monastery and local officials halted a guitar concert but we rallied on our last day in town, joining a small cooking class featuring paella, tomato toast and sangria. Our chef, born in Brazil, trained in London, living her best life with her Barcelona-based partner, demonstrated the finer techniques of paella using fresh seafood,bomba rice and smoky and sweet paprika. We met other travelers from London, Russia, New York and San Francisco. We sliced and diced peppers, cleaned mussels and chopped tomatoes before assembling the paella in orchestrated stages and layers of flavor. After nearly three hours of smelling the delicious flavors of garlic and herbs, we were ready to eat! It fortified us for the long trip home.
Back in Fort Worth, we are on day 6 of a quarantine issued to us after a health screening in Chicago by the CDC. No symptoms to date just time to reflect on our travels, and renewed appreciation of freedom, surrounded by the virtual support of our family and friends. Weird times. Below is a list of Barcelona must-do’s when we travel again.
Places to eat: Tantarantana for tapas
El Quim in Boqueria Food Market – best dish was eggs and grilled squid
La Cova Fumada – very small, grandma still runs the kitchen. Try artichokes, sardines and house specialty, la bomba. Good bread.
Shopping: we liked the Born area best, found several espadrille sandal shops, pottery places and a fun gift store called Recordis Barcelona for unique, one of a kind items. Of course, all the attractions feature gift shops for souvenirs. Shop at a local food market or Carrefour for wine, nougat candy and chocolate to bring home.
Classes: Amazing Paella and Sangria by Nanda, find her on Airbnb.