Barcelona: Plaça Catalunya and amazing lunch at Bar Cañete

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Our last day in Barcelona (three days was the perfect amount of time for a city break here) was a bank holiday (just like in the rest of Europe) and all the shops (apart from one shopping centre) was closed. It wasn’t warm enough for the beach either so we walked around the city some more (we accumulated lots of steps this weekend!).

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Up to Plaça Catalunya and along Las Ramblas. The former was pretty quiet but Las Ramblas was packed with people. Why we weren’t sure as there’s nothing much to see and apparently lots of pickpockets.

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We also walked around El Raval, the neighbourhood of our lunch restaurant, Bar Cañete. It was a little run down, but it probably looked worse with all the shops closed. The shop windows are covered by a metal door, usually covered in graffiti, which doesn’t look all that pleasant but obviously serves a purpose.

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Our reservation at Bar Cañete was for 1pm, when the restaurant opened for lunch and when we got there a few minutes before 1pm there was already a queue of foodies outside.

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We got seated straight away and the restaurant was full in minutes! Our waiter was very efficient without stressing and really helpful suggesting dishes and wine. The ambience was great from the start and the food blew us away.

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The pan con tomate arrived to the table shortly after having ordered it and it was the best we ate in Barcelona! The bread was flaky and crusty but still a little soft and it was just the right amount of tomato, garlic and olive oil. And love the large portion size!

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The white asparagus cooked to perfection and recommended by our lovely waiter was amazing! So fresh and loved the subtle flavours.

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As you may know by now, I can never resist a good croqueta and the two types on offer here were certainly worth trying. The round one with jamon iberico was seriously nice, but the oblong lobster croqueta was even better. Absolutely delicious!

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The next dish was this “meatball” as it was called on the menu. We didn’t really know what to expect but we were both surprised and delighted to realise it was their version of patatas bravas, but with pork. The ball was made from mashed potatoes with bits of pork mixed in, coated in breadcrumbs and fried, then covered in a mayonnaise sauce and a spicy tomato sauce. OMG – it was incredible! So nice in fact we straight away ordered another one!

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The green been and shaved asparagus salad with nuts was also really nice and worked really well with the creamier dishes.

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We also had these lovely fried artichokes, but the portion was so large we couldn’t finish it. So sad.

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To finish off our meal we had the suckling pig with potato mash and the most delicious sauce. I like to finish a tapas meal with a main course-like dish as it fills you up differently than the more snack-y bits. This was really heavy but absolutely amazing. No pudding required.

This was the perfect way to end a perfect (apart from the not so warm weather) weekend in Barcelona with the perfect travel buddy!

Bar Cañete, Carrer de la Unió, 17, 08001 Barcelona, Spain

 

 

Barcelona: Born and burgers at Bacoa

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Lots of restaurants in Barcelona are closed for Sunday dinner, so we hadn’t made any proper plans. Instead we decided to go for a walk, from our hotel in Barri Gotic to the Born district not far away, that went from scruffy to trendy quite recently.

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Now it was filled with restaurant (some closed for the evening, some fully booked) and hipster bars and we really liked the vibe here. I really enjoy walking around different neighbourhoods in a city and get to know the city that way. It paints a picture of what it’s like to live there and that beats queuing for tourist attractions in my book.
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After walking around Born for a while we turned on to the main street by the seafront and saw a packed burger place. Yes, we could eat a nice burger and take a break from tapas. And it was completely rammed with people, young and old, which we took as a good sign.

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The burger chain (they have a few restaurants in Barcelona and one in Madrid) isn’t your typical fast food joint. You order by the counter but get to choose what type of bread you want and any toppings you like to really make the burger your own.

I chose the best quality beef burger, a brioche bun, cheddar and their recommended trimmings and truffle mayo on the side and it was seriously good. The beef was really tender and full of flavour. The garnish nice and fresh and the bun lovely.

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Emma had the chicken burger that had been marinated and was really tender as well, with brioche bun and the recommended toppings. We also shared a side of patatas pravas that were really nice!

Oh, and another good thing. Once you’ve ordered you get an order number, sit down at the wooden tables and then they bring you the food when it’s ready. Much more civilised than McDonald’s. And obviously nicer!

Bacoa, Av. del Marquès de l’Argentera 1, 08003 Barcelona

Barcelona: La Pedrera and tapas lunch at Cerveseria Catalana

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One of the highlights on our long weekend in Barcelona was definitely La Pedrera. A colleague of mine recommended it and we found it really interesting.

The building, designed by Gaudí in the beginning of the last century, is so different to anything I’ve seen. It’s part wacky, part beautiful and part ugly in my opinion but definitely interesting!

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Even the doors are very different. It’s refreshing to find out that this building was designed over a hundred years ago as it still feels modern.

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The best part of the audio tour that was included in our ticket was definitely the rooftop. Unlike other rooftops there’s no greenery or seating area. Instead you can walk around in this art installation with crazy chimneys.

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It’s such an experience and the views are breathtaking.

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Especially this perfect view of La Sagrada Familia.

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Just look at the proportions. Pretty cool!

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Back inside there’s a small exhibition about Gaudí’s work and techniques that was interesting, but entering a flat furnished exactly like it was when the building was built was more interesting to me.

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The crazy features are toned down, but you can see Gaudí in every detail. The door frames, the handles, the metal features outside of the windows. And somehow it works with the traditional furniture.

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Back on the ground floor you find this impressive art installation. So different. Although it’s a museum, people still live in the other flats in the house today. I cannot recommend this enough. Even if you’re not a Gaudí fan (I’m not), or that into art or architecture you’ll still find this interesting – I promise. It’s just a completely different perspective.

La Pedrera,  Provença, 261-265, 08008 Barcelona, Spain

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After this cultural experience it was time for lunch so we walked to the much talked about Cerveseria Catalana. It’s touristy but authentic and insanely busy. I’ve had it recommended by friends and they all love it.

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I certainly see the appeal. The only downside is the waiting time. They don’t take bookings so you put your name on a list on arrival and they’ll shout your name when the table is ready for you. Or, you can just hover by the bar seats and snatch them when somebody leaves, as there is no list for those seats. That was a lot faster and what we ended up doing.

I like the vibe sitting at the bar counter, especially in a busy tapas bar at lunch time. That’s where the action is.

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The first two dishes we had were these gambas (prawns) in olive oil and garlic and padron peppers. Both nice but not that special.

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But the tortilla, that blew us away. It’s seriously good. Just perfect in every way and tasted divine. I would come back just to eat it again.

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These mini beef burgers with cheese and sautéed onions were also amazing!

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Lunch at the bar counter, this was our view. As you can see they have some dishes lined up at the counter as well so you can order just by pointing if you’re not sure what’s what.

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I pointed to this pinchos with crab, mayonnaise and corn. So good, just incredibly filling.

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I also had these razor clams, that I didn’t see on the translated menu, but our bar counter neighbours had ordered them so we did the same. Yum!

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We were too full for pudding, but I like the dessert menu displayed like this.

Cerveseria Catalana, Carrer de Mallorca, 236, 08008 Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona: cocktails at Old Fashioned and late supper at Bar Mut

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After our fab (but early; we sat down at 7pm) dinner at Bodega 1900 we found a nice cocktail bar called Old Fashioned to chill in. It was small and cosy, had nice music on but you could still talk and an extensive cocktail list. Lovely! Also, all the staff were bearded men with white shirts and suspenders. Cute!

I went for a Gin Tonica, the Spanish version of gin and tonic served in a large glass on a stem. I tried one with strawberry notes and it was served with a dried strawberry slice. Really nice!

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Emma asked for a fruity drink and received one with strawberries and raspberries. It was good fun sitting here chatting and people watching for a bit.

Old Fashioned, Calle Santa Teresa nº 1, Gràcia, 08012 Barcelona, Spain

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Until we got hungry again and headed to nearby Bar Mut that I was drying to try. I so love that the restaurants here are open late.

At Bar Mut there’s no printed menu, but some dishes are written on the board and your waiter will tell you the rest. You can also choose your fish and shellfish from the iced counter. Everything’s fresh and seasonal. Simple, but not too simple.

We started off with white asparagus that were perfectly cooked, and served with a light mayonnaise, nuts and leaves.

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I’ve never been able to resist croquetas and this time was no exception. These big ones with iberico ham were amazing!

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Our last dish (I mean, we had had a proper dinner earlier that evening) was a this lovely beef dish with morels and a delicious sauce.

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We walked out happy and full, heading back to the hotel in our taxi for another full day of exploring Barcelona the next day.

They don’t have Uber here but other similar taxi companies (the one we used had its own fleet and all cars had free water and wi-fi – so good!) that we used a lot, especially in the evenings when we were tired from walking all day.

Bar Mut, Pau Clarís nº 192 (Diagonal), Barcelona, Spain

 

Barcelona: Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia and sandwich lunch at Praktik Bakery Baluard

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Hola!

Just back from a long weekend in Barcelona with my best friend from home, Emma, I’m dying to share it all with you. The restaurants and the sights. So let’s start off where we ourselves started; with Park Güell.

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We both arrived late on the Friday night so didn’t see anything of Barcelona then, but we stayed up talking long into the night. After breakfast on Saturday we took a taxi to Park Güell as it was all across town from our hotel.

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We walked around the huge park for a good hour and a half taking in the different ‘rooms’ and enjoying the magnificent views. It’s a good mix of Gaudí quirkiness and greenery. And it feels very exotic with palm trees, oranges trees and cacti a plenty.

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There are lots of buildings (and some lived-in houses!) all in very different styles but because the space is so large and different it fits!

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It’s a real oasis bang in the city and although many people visited when we did it never felt crowded because of the vast green spaces.

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For us, not being all that crazy about Gaudí’s style, this was a great way to explore it in a an accessible way.

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Although not my style at all, I find these gingerbread houses adorable!

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And the views – breathtaking!

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Park Güell is free to visit, although one area requires a ticket). We were happy to just walk around the free part of the park. And although it has lots of hills the bigger paths are all wide and accessible (as the daughter to an occupational therapist I notice these things). It’s not the kind of park where you bring a picnic or sit on a lawn but there’s a restaurant and other vendors if you get thirsty or peckish.

Park Güell, 08024 Barcelona, Spain

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Our next stop was La Sagrada Familia, but we didn’t go in. For us it was enough to view it from the outside. There is such a thing as too much culture. Plus we were hungry and needed a sit down.

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But it’s pretty incredible.

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Amazing details.

La Sagrada Familia, Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain

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We stopped for sandwiches at a lovely bakery in a hotel for lunch, that we just happened to walk past. I had read about the Barceloneta branch of the bakery so knew it would be nice! And it was.

I had a crusty baguette with jamon and tomato (so good!)  and Emma had one equally nice with manchego and sundried tomatoes. And to finish off the meal we shared a lovely tarlet with strawberries and raspberries (chocolate crust, crème pâtissière and fresh sweet berries) .

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Everything in the bakery looked super fresh and inviting, and the seating area was light and airy; the perfect place to enjoy a quiet sandwich lunch.

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Praktik Bakery Baluard, Calle Provença 279, Barcelona, Spain

Dublin: bars and pubs

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When I visited Dublin last year I had the perfect tour guide; my Irish friend Sinead who lives there. After brunch, shopping and a mid-shopping coffee on the Saturday, we were ready for some vino in the afternoon. The first place we went to was the cute The Bailey Bar with stripy canopies and pastel colours. We managed to snag one of the outdoor tables and spent an hour or so chatting and people-watching. What a treat at the end of October!

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Next we went to one of the most famous pubs in town; Kehoes (try pronouncing that!), and I realised I had been there when I last visited Dublin. It’s a great mix of tourists and locals here, and it still feels genuine. Plus it has the prettiest ladies room I’ve ever seen in a pub!

The Bailey Bar, 2 Duke St, Dublin, Ireland

Kehoes, 9 South Anne Street, Dublin, Ireland

Dublin: brunch at Dillinger’s

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For Halloween last year I went to Dublin for the weekend to visit my friend Sinead and the city was bustling to say the least; in part because of Halloween but it was also the Dublin Marathon that weekend and of course there was a big rugby game on (like most weekends in Ireland).

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I arrived late on the Friday night so we only had time to catch up over a bottle of wine, but spent the next day out on the town. We started with a delicious brunch at Dillinger’s in the cosy Ranelagh area.

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The place was packed when we arrived but we got a nice table (can’t remember if you can book or not) and started to read to menu. For a brunch menu, this was one of the best I’ve seen; I wanted to eat everything!  In the end I decided on the hash brown with guacemole, poached egg and smoked salmon while Sinead had the waffles with fried chicken and maple syrup. Both dishes were really nice (just a tad too big for us).

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We also had bellinis drink (appropriate when on holiday) and coffee.

Our lovely Saturday continued with some shopping, both in Ranelagh and central Dublin, and some drinks outside before going home to change and then on to dinner.

Dillinger’s, 47 Ranelagh, Dublin 6, Ireland