Our final destination on the European trip was Barcelona.
Two years later, Barcelona, Madrid and Toledo were part of our itinerary on our return trip from South America.
Passionate. Sophisticated. La Vida Loca! y más!
Home to Catalan culture, modernism and the gastronomic feast of pure indulgence in eating with gusto! And as if traveling to one of the liveliest cities this part of the world isn’t enough, this city that rests its laurels on the architect Antoni Gaudi is home to Casa Milà, Casa Battló, and the famous Sagrada Família church. The 1992 summer Olympic Games was hosted by Spain and held in Barcelona.
During our first trip, we stayed at the Ohla Hotel. Swank and weirdly modern, the bathroom and shower was right in the middle of the room and the water closet hidden on a wall behind the bathroom. It smelled so good and they serve champagne on check-in. Their food at the Gastronomic Bar served excellent food!
Let me put it this way, every place we ate made our tastebuds tingle for more. Your palate wrests on local Cava, sirloin steak in sea salt and pepper, tapas, mussels in white wine sauce, Sangria…what isn’t there to love when it comes to food in Barcelona? The word “diet” has no place in Spain.
There is a subway station right in front of Ohla Hotel and is in a more quiet area of Barcelona. It is walking distance to the Hop On/Hop Off bus stop and located one block from the back of the hotel is the Barcelona Shopping Line, where you have over 5 Km of design and creativity. It is Europe’s largest retail area and literally just a stone’s throw to the words “shop till you drop” district!
On our second trip we stayed at another boutique hotel called Omm. This one was at the other end of the Barcelona Shopping Line and right in front of all the noise, chitter chatter, and night life of Barcelona! What better location than to be right beside Prada and Diagonal Exit Metro Subway. Of course, we got to explore more of Barcelona including La Rambla, where the Philippine Consulate is located.
The icing to the cake on this trip was courtesy of Hotel Omm. They had a special feature for dinner during our stay. And no, it wasn’t at their hotel. We took a cab to get to Barceloneta Beach, where dinner was at the Pez Vela of the W Hotel. And my God, what a spread. This was dinner for two!
No wonder gluttony is so sinfully good.
Because technically, Madrid was a stopover en route to and from Singapore to Brazil, we made sure that we spent a couple of days in Madrid as well. And it did not disappoint. As a matter of fact, we loved Madrid more than Barcelona. While Barcelona has that eclectic feel, that radiant vibe, that chutzpah as a city, Madrid is an artist’s palate of a city. If you love the food in Barcelona, none of that matches the food in Madrid – and rightfully claiming the culinary capital of Europe. And the evenings in Madrid are made for fine arts and fine dining. Never have I spent so much to taste food this great, and not regret a single Euro!
But eating is not the only thing that will captivate your hearts in Madrid. From medieval mansions to royal palaces, from the lazy markets to the lovely garden Parque de Buen Retiro, none of the cities in Spain compares to how beautiful the city of Madrid is.
This can be either a day trip or a half day trip. Take the bus from the market place in Madrid for this destination which is about 30 minutes by high speed train or a little over an hour by bus. We took the bus. And I would recommend just the half day walking tour. Go first thing in the morning (so it’s not too warm), have lunch there and get back to the city. The buses are every hour on the hour.
Dramatically set atop a gorge overlooking Rio Tajo, the stories have it that once upon a time, Christians, Muslims and Jewish communities co-existed peacefully in this place. And you can tell during the walking tour of Toledo how deep that culture is. The forte of Toledo is the art of El Greco. An impossible to classify painter, as synonymous as the city of Toledo.
If there is one country that one should just travel to (without having to hop from country to country), Spain is definitely among those on the top of my list.
The other two – Canada and Japan.