Landing in Barcelona felt like coming home. I know the airport and city well, I know the smells and sounds and the language. Going back wasn’t a vacation but a return to the life I once had. Everytime I go back it’s a little bit like picking up where I left off. Like returning to a book you’ve put down for awhile. It takes a moment to remember everything and find your place, but once you get started it all comes back to you.

First of all, the weather in Spain is perfect. In the Midwest there’s a saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.” That’s fantastic if it’s bad weather but still applies to sunny weather which can be a major let down. The weather in Spain takes longer to change so it can stay the same for weeks on end. In this case, it was 75 and sunny the entire time I was there; my favorite weather by far.

The trip began in Barcelona and the small town of Lloret de Mar on the Costa Brava. Known Europe-wide as a place to party on spring break, it has its charms as well. The little hidden spots most tourists don’t get around to finding are the diamonds in the rough.

Cala Banys is a small cove hidden at the end of the coast line. You can get there by walking the trail or  driving through a neighborhood in the mountains. Bamboo chairs and glass tables are lined up next to the palm trees that tower over them. The sound of the waves hitting the rocks in the cove is the best sound I have ever heard. I discovered this place soon after I moved to Lloret in 2007. In a world full of uncertainty this was where I felt most calm. In the afternoons, I would take my book and a few euros, order a coffee and sit and read for hours. I had my favorite spot and I cherished it. Coming back to Cala Banys was bittersweet. I adored being there but was heartbroken to leave it. I am comforted knowing that it was there long before I was and will be there still when I return. In celebration of our amazing holiday, we shared a bottle of Ferran Adria’s Inedit cerveza and watched the sun go down over Lloret.

On Monday we went to Barcelona and had lunch with our very dear friend (and new dad) Xevi.  He took us to a new place in the city called El Nacional. If you ever have the chance to go, you must! Walking in you get a choice of four restaurants, all specializing in different cusines from tapas, seafood and meats. Waiters walk around shouting out the daily specials and tempting you with plates of bravas, calamari, squid ink paella and more.

Shrimp, Gambas, Costa Brava

The prices are very reasonable and in the tapas bar particularly, you can get so much for so little!

EL NACIONAL Barcelona

 Three Things to Know about Dining in Spain

1. It is rare to have checks split
Most likely, it won’t be possible. Be prepared to split it among the group, for meals out, cash is always easier.

2. Substitutions? Forget about it.
You might be able to get bravas with sauce on the side, but not likely. Tapas come how they come. Sides aren’t a thing so if you get a steak it might come alone. Refills don’t exist and yes, sometimes beer is cheaper than water.

3. Digestives, which are really shots
After most meals, a shot of Lemoncello might be suggested. These ‘digestives’ are said to help you with after dinner digestion. I don’t know that it’s necessarily true but it gives people a reason to have an after dinner drink and that’s just fine with me.

 The best thing about Barcelona is how walkable it is. There is so much to see and do that I could walk for hours and never get bored of it. Even the pavement is beautiful, looking both up and down is a requirement for a comprehensive understanding of this city. I walked a lot while there, stopping to sit on a terrace for either a coffee or a Gin & Tonic depending on the time of day.

Barcelona

The mix of languages, the scent of tapas in the air and of course, the shopping all make up this fabulous city.

Drinks, Spain, Champagne

We ate our weight in freshly caught seafood, drenched in lemon juice. I tried  Erizzo’s de Mar or Sea Urchins for the first time; though not completely sold on those. They have the look and texture of a sweet potato, though the briny flavor of the sea. It’s an interesting mix. However, no matter what dish is in front of me, when it is combined with salty sea air and perfect weather, that intoxicates me enough to give it a try.

Sea Urchin

 I am convinced Spain is heaven on earth. I hope that you get to see it someday, meet the locals, taste everything and experience the lifestyle that is so close to my heart.