(Disclaimer: I started writing this blog post about a week ago and am finally finishing it now)… So Mel has officially come and gone – home that is, to Lincoln, Nebraska. I miss her so much already! My mom arrived safely in Barcelona on Sunday, April 13th. Damian, April, and I took the metro and bus to get to the El Prat airport on the outskirts of the city and finally arrived to Terminal 2 almost 45 minutes after she was scheduled to have landed. I was freaking out, sweating, and so worried that she was sitting there waiting for us or even worse, had tried to get a taxi to our apartment. After about 8 minutes of frantically searching the arrivals area for my 5’ 2’’ mama, Damian spotted her as she exited the baggage claim zone. Thankfully, she had been set back about an hour due to customs lines and baggage delays. It was quite a joyous feeling to get to bear hug her and finally welcome her to Barcelona!
So a recap of her trip shall ensue… On her first day of the trip, we got her settled into the apartment, showed her a glimpse of the neighborhood, and took the train to Sant Cugat to watch Damian’s futbol match in the late afternoon. It was perfect weather to sit in the sun for a couple hours and leisurely enjoy a few child-size brews. After the match, we came back to Gracia (my neighborhood) and later dined at the tasty Cantina Machito.
Monday, Day 2, got off to an early and productive start with a stop at Boldu bakery and a visit to Gaudi’s Park Guell. Mom tried her first cronut on the way to the park, which was received with rave reviews. After having entered via the side escalators, we walked around Park Guell hitting the must-see spots like the cross, his house, the benches, and the local performers. Mom even bought a Spanish guitar CD for Scott; the musician was precious with his enthusiastic appreciation. The rest of the day was consumed with a trip to Sorli (kind of like our Trader Joe’s or Hy-Vee), lunch on the terrace, and visiting the Rambla and La Boqueria with Cass. Walking down the ever-crowded Rambla was mom’s least favorite part of the whole trip due to the excessive hoards of people and the need to be on the lookout for pickpockets. Monday evening Cass, Brenden, Damian, my mom and I made dinner at home and then attempted to go bowling at Diagonal Mar; much to our disappointment, the bowling alley was closed when we got there, resulting in arguably the only fail of her visit.
Day 3 began with cupcakes for breakfast! We shared red velvet and crema catalana (more or less the local version of crème brulee) cupcakes and lattes at an outside table of Cup & Cake before walking all the way down Paseo de Gracia (Barcelona’s luxury shopping street, also home to Gaudi’s Casa Batillo and La Pedrera). After making that lengthy stroll, we made it to Plaza Cataluña and then tackled the tiny streets of the Gothic and Borne areas in the old (and touristic) heart of the city. We savored early afternoon gelato at my favorite gelato shop, Gelaaati di Marco near Jaume I, took in the massive beauty of the Cathedral and the Santa Maria del Mar churches, and finished off the afternoon with a shared order of patatas bravas from Bo de B near Barceloneta.
Tuesday night Cass, Brenden, my mom, Sergi, and I went to a great tapas bar where mom got to try various tapas (croquettes, caprese salad, tortillas, salchichas y huevos fritos), sangria, and a few cañas. Very fun evening!
Wednesday morning got off to a later start but we took on the day with our Sagrada Familia guided tour. Although it was my second time taking the tour of the inside of the grandiose Basilica, I still got a lot out of the interesting little tid-bits the guide threw in as we walked around. Mom loved it (not to mention the gift shop afterwards). Gaudi’s genius really was / is an impressive feat. Post tour, we headed to La Paradeta for some fresh seafood that made for a perfect lunch.
Wednesday night my mom and I took the metro to Damian’s family’s house for dinner, but before we dined Mel and I did some damage at Mar’s store, FIFO. It was so fun to finally shop with her in the store and we both ended up getting really cute Seafolly beachwear items. Mom finally got her first taste of milanesa and got to spend some more time with Abrileta.
Day 5: Picasso Museum, bocadillos, bike riding, Bunkers, and meeting Marta! Thursday, aka Mom’s Birthday Eve, aka Maundy Thursday o Jueves Santo, was quite a day. In the a.m., Damian met mom and I at the Jaume I metro stop to go to the renowned Picasso Museum in the Borne area. As a pleasant surprise I got in free! We toured the permanent collection; my favorite part is still the Blue Era, but his “pigeons” set is also awesome. Afterwards, we met with Cass to go get bocadillos in Plaza de Sant Jaume and stop by the hidden roman ruins in the Gothic quarter.
We then rented bikes and had a blast for the next couple hours as we biked to the beach, up to the W hotel, down the boardwalk, through Ciutadella Park, and out by Arc de Triunfo on our way back. Cass was able to snag some amazing, candid photos; in hindsight this was Mom’s favorite thing we did on her visit! Afterwards, Cass, mom, and I took the bus up to the Bunkers so she could see the city from the best viewpoint of which we know. Thursday night we met Marta at Dionysus (a nearby Greek restaurant) for dinner. It was a really fun dinner with the four of us; we topped off the night at a bar called Avenue to officially ring in mom’s birthday!
Friday aka Mel’s Birthday aka Good Friday: Cass, my mom, and I took the train to Sitges for a beach day! I think mom loved seeing a little beach town like picturesque Sitges… rocking our Seafolly buys, we spent the afternoon lounging on the beach and soaking up some much needed sun.
Once back in the city, we got ready and had a bday aperitivo on the terrace before heading to Da Greco for her birthday dinner with Cass, Brenden, and Damian. Per the usual Da Greco did not disappoint; I tried hearts of palm for the first time and loved them. I think everyone liked what they ordered, the only complaint of the evening was that we were seated in the upper lever where the atmosphere was a bit stuffy and overly fancy for our liking. Celebratory wine and tiramisu consumed, we finished off the night hanging out at the apartment teaching Mel some new games.
Day 7: Mel’s first and only Saturday in BCN began with catching up on rest, then some gift shopping along Paseo de Gracia before a late lunch with Damian. We searched high and low for the perfect gifts for family, friends, and co-workers. After resting our tired feet for a bit, Mom and I ventured back out – taking the metro down to Barceloneta and walking down towards the Port Vell. We found the Restaurant la Barceloneta without difficulties, and were shortly shown to table with a nice view of the port. Here mom got to try some seriously tasty Catalan dishes – bread w/ tomato spread, buñuelos (cod fritters), Codorníu cava, seafood paella, and crema catalana for dessert.
Day 8 (Easter / Pascua): Brenden, Cass, my mom, and I met up with Damian near La Catedral de Barcelona to get good seats for Easter mass. Unfortunately, what we thought was a Spanish mass turned out to be a Catalan mass so while our party understood very little, it was still beautifully decorated and good to be in church on Easter. As the weather really cooled down this day, Cass, my mom, and I had a lovely brunch afterwards back at the apartment before a siesta.
That evening, my mom and I took the metro over to Plaza España to meet up with Petra and her current host daughter, Rachel. Post introductions, we took the elevator up to the top of Las Arenas and took in the 360 degree view of the city from there. We then walked over to Montjuic and staked out a spot from which to watch the Magic Fountain show. It was awesome because the inaugural song for the show was the opening song from the Lion King. I hadn’t been to the fountain show since 2011 so it cool to see it again, especially this time with my mom. Later we rode the metro with Petra and Rachel to Sagrada Familia and then got dinner together at Petra’s favorite pizzeria on Avenguida de Gaudí. We split a delicious goat cheese salad and then some pizzas (with typical Spanish toppings like egg, tuna, goat cheese, and corn). Before calling it a night, we walked down to Petra’s house so mom could see where Cass and I stayed for our first month in BCN last summer.
Day 9: Last day of the trip was a lazy/catch-up/packing day. The weather was kind of crappy not to mention that the Monday following Easter is a regional holiday here in Catalonia, aka nothing’s open, besides some restaurants. Mom and I finished watching Mud, and then watched The Color Purple together on the futon. After finishing re-packing her suitcase, later we went over to Damian’s house for dinner. We ended up eating at La Tertulia on the rambla de Poblenou, where mom got a bocadillo con patatas bravas for one last time. We tried Abril’s mona (like a big chocolate thing with Violetta on the front) and had coffee for dessert back at their apartment before Sergio and Damian drove us home. Early the next morning they returned to pick us up and take us to the El Prat airport in the a.m. Damian and I went in with my mom and helped her get checked in and all that. It was very hard to say goodbye to her again so soon… I am very lucky to have her as my mother.
After mom’s visit, life went back to the routine (ish) here – intercambio, working, running, reading, etc. Wednesday the 23rd was Día de Sant Jordi (the book holiday here). On this day guys buy a rose for their girls, while girls get the guys a book. It is a huge deal here in Barcelona and it was fun to participate. Adi got back from Israel… we went to the beach together on Saturday in Poblenou! Now we’re hopefully going to go to Bilbao Thursday, then to San Sebastian Friday- Sunday. Thursday is Día de los trabajadores here which is a national holiday, and as it falls on a Thursday many people will do the “Puente” (bridge) and take off Friday too for a long weekend. Damian and I just celebrated 7 months together yesterday; crazy how time flies. Well that’s the update thus far – talk to you soon!