Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tapas Dancing in Barcelona

March 5th - March 19th. Planes, trains, buses and bicycles have taken these Senior Nomads to 10 countries and over 30 cities since we left Last July. We've revisited many places we were familiar with from our time living in Europe and other pleasure trips, but Spain just wasn't on our radar.

I do remember a quick work weekend in Madrid in the 80's and Michael and son Christopher had a great visit to Barcelona together in 2000, but until these past two weeks in Barcelona, I don't think we really appreciated this wonderful country. Had we known that once you've come down with Tapas Fever you don't really look for a cure - and dancing in the streets at midnight is just what you do, we could have easily settled here for a few more weeks. Maybe on Senior Nomads Round III.

 Tapas were everywhere! Buffet style, at the bar,Wherever.Whenever.

For those of you who know how much I like to read about food, think about food, cook any kind of food, write marketing prose about food - but, when the fork hits the table, don't actually eat much food, you will also know that I found Nirvana in small terracotta plates. Tapas! They were filled with my favorite salty, savory, fishy, porky, tomato-y, potato-y, obsessions served all different ways on demand - and all just my size. If ever there was a restaurant that combined the Sushi-go-Round with a Tapas-go-Round (we could call it Tapishi) I would have to be pried from the table.

And then there is Paella. Now that it something I can eat large plates of. In fact, I took a Spanish cooking class and we made a mountain of it. This version used a large squid like creature called a cuttlefish and its sticky ink turned the dish a deep dark ocean blue.

I am so glad Rafael volunteered to clean our Cuttlefish.
The most flavorful tomatoes I've ever tasted.
The finishing touches to our days work..
The class started with a walk through Barcelona's famed Borquieria fresh food market to gather ingredients. Once we were back in the kitchen we made (and immediately drank) several pitchers of fresh Sangria while preparing the base for Catalonia Creme to chill for dessert. Then we made two large pots of fresh fist stock using what looked like the ravished leftovers from a sea lion's dinner. On to Gazpacho with gusto, Potato and Onion Fritatta, Pan con Tomate (crusty bread slabs toasted and vigorously scraped with pieces of garlic and then gently rubbed with the cut sides of vine ripened tomatoes). Did I mention the Paella? It was a labor of love but so worth it. Beyond the tender cuttlefish, there were lanky crayfish, huge shrimp with all their lovely bits, buttery mussels, and spicy chorizo chunks. We dined on the fruits of our labors while our instructor took us through a regional wine tasting - all in all, a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Our apartment was in the center of the city on the edge of the Bjorn district and just a few blocks from Plaza Catalonia. We could easily walk to the Cathedral, and the Palau De La Musica - and with a little morning fortitude we walked to the harbor and nearby beaches. We had a metro station across the street for adventures beyond our four mile walking limit! We took the free walking tour as usual and Michael took the Gaudi walking tour while I was at my cooking class. We hiked up to Park Guell for more Gaudi gawking, and a trek to Montjuic. We enjoyed two great concerts including a trio of Spanish Guitars in one of the cities most beloved churches, the Santa Maria Basilica del Pi and a rousing piano recital.

Yet another happy couple shot - this time on Montjuic.
Stumbled on what looked  like a Pagan Ritual celebrating your stuff. But in fact it was a lovely traditional dance performed every Saturday night in Cathedral Piazza by dozens of the young and old alike to rousing live music. Although every circle did dance around their stuff...for safe-keeping.
Mr. Campbell enjoying Gaudi's glory in the sun.
I regret not getting to the Picasso Museum, but the days were perfectly filled with our commitment to live daily life - including wifi and cell phone challenges (a separate Nomad blog for all that!) Some days we stayed home and read and did laundry, caught up on bills and our daily diary, played Scrabble, cooked and counted our blessings. Oh, and watched the Barcelona Marathon pass by under our balcony while having breakfast on morning. Nice!

A go-to first night dinner featuring roasted chicken and potatoes
One last highlight! Through a friend in London Michael was able to get his hands on a rare ticket to the FCBarcelona vs Osasuna match at the hallowed grounds of Estadi Camp Nuo. The match  was in the afternoon on a Sunday. It was a beautful day, and since Michael loved the hype and excitement around the stadiums when he'd attended matches in other cities, I decided to escort him to the stadium to see the hoopla for myself and then head off for some alone time and a civilized dinner. As it turns out when Michael opened the ticket envelope at the gate he discovered two tickets and two VIP wristbands! Well hang on a minute - maybe I would consider a slight change of plans!

With credentials in hand, we were able to nod to the riff-raff, take a few pictures, and then beeline to the VIP lounge where there seemed to be unlimited bubbly and beer (no alcohol served outside or inside the stands for the aforementioned riff-raff), and tapas. We found our very VIP seats and settled in. I stayed for a respectable hour and then scooted off to seafood dinner. Michael was able to witness a very important moment in soccer history as the revered Senor Messi scored a hat-trick; 3 goals in one game and become the all-time leading scorer for the club. Sorry I missed it, but by then I was deep into a entire grilled sea bass loaded with rosemary, lemon and garlic. Something Mr. Campbell cannot appreciate. So it was, as we say in America, a win-win situation.

Sorry boys - No wristband, no real beer. But I love you all.
 Michael getting warpaint for BFC. He loved it!
 Over the course of our travels we've had some good discussions about the future. How long can we do this? How long do we want to do this? What does the next phase look like? We both feel I can return to work of some kind to top up the retirement fund. That's fun to think about, too. Michael does love his yellow pad and a good Excel sheet - so we're working the options.

I should have left a 'job-seeking' notice for a full-time Tapas Taster on this board
Next up Rome! We have a great place booked that is about a 20 minute walk from the Vatican.
I'll catch you up in a couple of weeks. Thanks for reading.

Debbie and Michael
The Senior Nomads

p.s. Did you know that Salvador Dali designed the Chupa Chups logo? Makes you respect those little suckers more now, doesn't it?

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