Cornpops.com

If there’s anything on the internet that proves a brand will try ANYTHING to stand out, cornpops.com is it. I don’t understand what’s going on, but there’s definitely an aspect of Choose Your Own Adventure. I imagine the pitch for this going something like, “OK, so we’re going to get the most ridiculous shit together and tie it all loosely together and then people will talk about it.” And, look, it worked, I’m talking about it. And now you are. (Thanks, Joe.)

Cornpops.com

Simply (?!) Breakfast

This site makes me envious, sad, angry, and hungry, kind of all at once. Who has time and energy enough in the morning not only to think of a different delicious-looking breakfast every day, but to also compose a beautiful photo of it? Most mornings for me involve either a hasty bowl of cereal or a granola bar on my way out the door. What I wouldn’t give to be able to make what appears to be an omelet with sundried tomatoes and mozzarella in the morning! Or an egg and bacon sandwich on real bread!

Does anyone have any advice on how to turn oneself from a night person into a morning person?

Simply (?!) Breakfast

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 8: Sitges

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

It was on this day that the realities of staying at a gay hotel began to set in, but only in that the realities of staying at a gay hotel are that there aren’t any women down at breakfast besides J. Earlier in the week, it was impossible to notice because we were the only ones at breakfast. Today was very hot, so why not spend the morning lounging on the beach reading trashy novels? In any case, that’s what we did until lunch. We had a smoothie at Parrots Terrace and then light sandwiches at Mostaza right next door before, uh, going back to the beach to read trashy novels for the afternoon.

Douglas at Parrots who had steered us so rightly to The Beach House on our first night in Sitges suggested Mezzanine. We weren’t AS thrilled with Mezzanine, but only because of the incredibly high bar set by The Beach House. The atmosphere was lovely, the service charming, and the tempura de gambas had eyes. The food was presented amazingly, but unfortunately, there was something missing from the taste. The chocolate cake for dessert, however, was out of this world.

tempura-de-gambas

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 8: Sitges

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 9: Too Hot to Shop

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

We had caught a headline saying something like “African Heat Headed to Spain”, earlier in the week, and if it hadn’t arrived by yesterday, it was certainly here today. After breakfast, we decided to take one more trip around town and down by the beach. On the boardwalk, we were surprised to find techno music playing and a set up for a spin class. Only in Sitges.

We caught our train back to Barcelona after sadly bidding Sitges adieu. Our hotel, Aparthotel Calabria, was in a different area of Barcelona than we had stayed earlier in the week. While it was fine, I’d suggest staying closer in to the Barri Gothic. This hotel is next door to two grocery stores, incidentally, and features giant rooms with kitchens. The room would definitely be great for a family, especially one that wanted to cook a few meals in. Our hotel looked out onto a courtyard of old buildings that had a very Eastern European feel. We dropped our bags off, cooled down for a bit, and headed out for some more walking around.

Needing lunch, we decided it was a good time to finally go to La Boqueria. La Boqueria, one of the must see attractions in Barcelona, is a large covered market with about 125 different food stands. Fish of all kinds, meats of all kinds, produce of all kinds, snacks, candies, herbs, spices, etc, etc, etc. Really a sight to see. We wanted to try either Pinotxo or El Quim but couldn’t get a seat, let alone a menu at either place and didn’t feel like dealing. J got a plate of different vegetarian foods at a health stand along the back wall. I had been hoping against hope to find the food I had enjoyed so much in Berlin, the Döner kebab, and I had heard rumors that Barcelona had them, too. Well, I found one, and it wasn’t any good. I guess we’ll have to go back to Berlin sometime to get them.

It was too hot to do anything. We had hoped to do some shopping, but couldn’t get it going. We had checked out the Chocolate Museum earlier in the week but hadn’t gone in, deciding to save it for today. It wasn’t too expensive, but it was geared exclusively to children and we should have skipped it. There were some cool chocolate sculptures, but nothing mind altering. Depressed and now needing a chocolate fix, we had to go over to Valor for some more cold chocolate drinks, which were delicious, again.

Unable to do anything else because of the heat, we kind of collapsed in the shade on the stairs of a museum in a forgotten plaza and listened to a woman play Flamenco guitar while we zoned out. Soon, we moved our siesta into the courtyard of the Ministry of Culture. There was fountain there in which we watched a woman put her feet. I don’t know what the fountain was for, but I’m certain it’s not for touristic feet dipping.

We had wanted to check out Comerç 24 but couldn’t get a reservation later than 1:15 in the afternoon so we decided to check out Tapaç 24, the no-reservation, Tapas joint by the same chef, Carlos Abellán. If you had only one day in Barcelona, I’d suggest coming here for lunch and dinner, it was that good. We ate a menu of tapas suggested by the waiter, I’m not sure we would have ordered differently. We ate foie burgers (a specialty), grilled cheese with truffle oil, pan y tomate, patatas bravas, and probably a few other dishes that I’m forgetting in all their glory. Best of all was dessert, something I’m going to bring to America if I have to open a restaurant myself. 4 scoops of chocolate ganache drizzled in olive oil and flavored with a generous portion of sea salt. It doesn’t make sense until you try it, trust me. Go here often in Barcelona.

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 9: Too Hot to Shop

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

It was J’s birthday today, which I clearly forgot until the middle of the morning. All week, I had been trying to think of a way to celebrate a birthday while on vacation and then I just forgot. Then again, we’re on vacation, the whole time is a celebration!

We thought we’d do a little shopping in the morning before catching a commuter rail-like train to Sitges. Taking advantage of our close proximity to Barcelona Cathedral, we popped in quickly in the morning and confirmed that it’s not nearly as cool as Santa Maria del Mar. There is this crazy garden in the back of the Cathedral, though, with palm trees and geese. We then headed over to Calle Petritxol to check out Xocoa. On our way, we heard a giant commotion roiling though the alleys. We got to the mouth of Plaça de Sant Jaume, only to be blocked by a giant garbage truck trying to get by 2 riot police vans. (Almost no one drives in the close alleys of The Born and Barri Gothic except for the street sweepers and garbage men and women, who seem to be cleaning nonstop). It took the garbage truck about 5 minutes to get by, which seemed like forever because I REALLY wanted to see what was going on in the square. It was impossible to tell what the people were protesting, but eventually, a group of men were let into the building and everyone cheered.

Xocoa is a chocolate boutique that sells lots of great snacks and gifts and snacks to gift. We picked up a chili chocolate bar and a few truffles that were yummy. There are a few other chocolate stores on this street, making it worth a visit.

We checked out a few more stores and then mistakenly went to 4Gats. I say mistakenly because I had talked about this as a restaurant to avoid and J had only heard me talking about it, not what I said. She thought I wanted to go there and I thought she wanted to go there. There’s a reason people need to communicate and that reason is to avoid restaurants like 4Gats. The restaurant is historic and the building interesting, but if you’re going to go, I’ve heard the coffee and dessert route is the way to go. We got the fixed price lunch menu and a chance to sit up on the balcony looking down on the main dining room. The service was friendly, but the food was awful. I got a creamy pasta starter that was the best of everything we got. J’s fish came with veggies that looked and tasted like they had been boiled for 2 days. We felt snookered, afterward, to realize that the desserts we had ordered were not part of the fixed menu as we had believed. Go here, take a picture, and then go someplace else for lunch.

We went back to our hotel and picked up our bags to go to Sitges. The train ride was about 35 minutes, and while it had been drizzly and cloudy in Barcelona, it was sunny in Sitges. We got off the train not knowing how to get to our hotel. Finding the information booth closed, we walked around Sitges, stumbled upon the Mediterranean Sea, and then lucked into finding our hotel, Parrots. After booking the hotel, I read up on Sitges and found it described as, “The internationally renowned sun-drenched gay mecca of Europe” and, “Gayer than the capital of Gayland”. I saw “Is Sitges too gay?” and, “Too gay for families?” on a couple of message boards, and whatever that means, the answer is no. Yes, there are a plethora of gay men in Sitges. Unless you’re a secretly gay Republican that pretends not to be gay by being virulently homophobic, you will have a lovely time in Sitges. That said, Parrots is a gay hotel with a sauna that just opened and J was the only woman down at breakfast, garnering a few inquisitive, but friendly looks.

We asked Douglas at the front desk where to go for dinner, and he sent us to, what he called, “The third best restaurant in Sitges”, The Beach House. It was amazing and the portions were very generous. J got the watermelon salad and baked tortelini and I got the Cesar and Tuscan chicken. Everything was fabulous and, well, fabulous.

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 2: More Walking

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

This day started fortuitously enough as I burned out our sound machine/alarm clock. You wouldn’t think this was a big deal, but none of the hotels we stayed at had clocks in the room. 2 of them had bidets, though, which is an important lesson on priorities. After wandering around for a minute looking for a place to eat breakfast, we ended up at Taller de Tapas in The Born around Santa Maria del Mar which ended up being my favorite area of Barcelona. I ordered what seems to be Barcelona’s civic meal, un bocadillo de jamon y queso and JR had a croissant.

Next stop, the Picasso Museum. After waiting in line for about 20 minutes, we were let in and started walking through the different rooms representing different eras of Picasso’s painting. It was fascinating to see so much work by a single artist, but the museum was somewhat of a failure on an informational level. The descriptions on the walls of the first couple rooms were helpful and pointed out the important paintings in each room. As we moved forward, however, the descriptions became confused, describing paintings not being exhibited, or worse yet, paintings in rooms we had just seen. It was neat to see Picasso’s work in other mediums such as printing and ceramics, and the illustrative representation of his playful relationship with his friend and secretary, Sabartes (doodle portraits on pinup posters and a portrait of Sabartes in a ruff!). The real treat of this museum, though was the special exhibit, Forgetting Velazquez. Las Meninas. “Las Meninas has been one of the most widely analyzed works in Western Painting” and the exhibit was a series of artists showing their interpretation of the painting in their own style culminating in Picasso’s own multi-month 40-odd study of Las Meninas. The special exhibit made the museum worth it for me, though JR disagrees and suggests the whole thing.

After the museum, we did some more walking and wandering and ended up on the edge of Parc de la Ciutadella at an Argentinian place called El Foro. El Foro was notable for the presentation of its Gazpacho (a bowl of tomato soup and a long plate with chopped onions and 3 different types of peppers) and the salsa which, from what I could tell, was olive oil, oregano, pepper, and bay leaf mixed into deliciousness. Parc Ciutadella is a large park on the outskirts of the old city of Barcelona. There is green space mixed in with trees, ponds and giant sculptures. The zoo is on the grounds of the park, but we didn’t visit. One exit of the Parc feeds out to the Arc de Triomf at the end of a long promenade. This is, apparently where the children go to light firecrackers with their grandmothers and the novice rollerbladers timidly hone their craft. One fellow was practicing jumping and turning around in mid air, almost falling every single time, I couldn’t look away.

After almost going into the chocolate museum (an almost I wish we had repeated a week later), we walked back to the Cathedral area going into about 5 different chocolate stores. This is my kind of city. Before going into our hotel, we went to Chocolateria Valor and got chocolate drinks. I had a Chocolate Francesa, which was about the best thing I’ve ever had. Drinking chocolate is big time in Barcelona, but what do you do in the summer? Cold chocolate!!! Wow it was great. Want more. Now.

Our friends Abbie and David picked us up for dinner and we headed to Euskal Etxea for dinner. Euskal Etxea serves Pintxo, which seems like Basque Tapas to me. The main difference being most of the Tapas are laid out on the bar, served on a slice of baguette with a toothpick. The toothpicks are important because at the end, they’re counted up and you pay per toothpick. This was great too! I missed the steak looking Pintxo, but I’m pretty sure I had quail eggs with mayo on some sort of ham. I ate more than I should have and it was still one of the cheaper dinners we had in Barcelona. Good times.

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 2: More Walking