Before leaving for the club on Friday night, I had set out my running clothes to provide a small glimmer of hope that I might actually achieve more physical exertion than simply walking at least once during the trip. It wasn’t because I felt guilty about not working out, or about eating and drinking non-stop- which was surprising to me. The motivation was purely the fact that I knew even an easy 3 mile run along the water could potentially be one of the best parts of my trip – that’s how happy running makes me. And if I could do it relatively pain free, I’d be even happier the rest of the day.
Since we had actually left at a “normal” hour Friday night (Saturday morning…) I shocked myself by waking up, throwing on my sneakers, and heading outside for a run.
Our location was really convenient for a run down to the beach and along the water and as I went I passed a few fellow runners and a farmers market – I instantly felt wonderful. My legs were a little achy from all the walking we were doing every day, but at that same time, they felt refreshed because I hadn’t done any strength training or real cardio all week.
I ran along the water and it was pretty, but I was on the Port Vell side so it’s mainly just a lot of boats. When I started, it was still not very crowded out but by the end of my run the streets and waterfront were starting to fill up.
I stopped at a park with benches and used my phone to do a deck of cards workout with squats, dips, sit ups, etc. I got a few weird looks but it was a very quiet area so I didn’t feel too weird.
On my run back to the hostel, I had to stop at the farmer’s market! There were a handful of booths with cheese, vegetables, jams, chocolate, and bread. There were also a ton of games set up – they were made out of wood and kind of reminded me of Nok-Hockey, but I didn’t recognize any of them. Later in the week, I’d find them at Montjuic Castle and Emily’s Spanish would help us play a few of them!
When I got back to the hostel (after running back and forth on our street a few times to end at an even number on my Garmin - #RunnerProblems) I turned on the lights, opened the window and said “GOOD MORNING, RISE AND SHINE.” Much to the chagrin of Emily and Jon, I was ridin’ high on endorphins and ready to get the day going.
Brunch & Cake
Eventually, I got everyone up and motivated – we showered and got ready for our planned brunch at Brunch and Cake – a restaurant that my friend Brynn had told me to follow on Instagram FOREVER ago. It’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing Instagram accounts in the world – the food is so damn colorful, plated beautifully, and HEALTHY!
I got a café con leche for the walk to Brunch and Cake as I tried to mentally prepare Emily and Jon for the wait that we were sure to encounter when we arrived. Brunch and Cake is located near the college, and you can tell you were in the college neighborhood – the places just seemed hipper. Sure enough, Brunch and Cake was packed and we were told there would be an hour and ten minute wait.
Jon stood on the sidewalk to people watch while Emily and I walked down the block and found a cute café where I got a green juice. The inside of Cosmo was SO so cute and I felt like I was in Brooklyn.
Jon texted in seemingly no time that we were up next – it ended up not even taking an hour until we were seated and handed menus (in English!) at Brunch and Cake.
As usual, Emily and I decided on two things that we wanted to split. The first was a salad that had sweet potatoes, arugula, guacamole, salsa, and a vegetarian taco “meat” that was absolutely ridiculous in a good way. We also split a banana/oat pancake that was legitimately the size of the entire dish, with the banana layered underneath and covered in granola, seeds, nuts and fruit. Plus, all of the syrup that was poured on top.
The pancake was a little dry, but that salad was phenomenal!
Parc de la Ciutadella
After brunch we took our time wandering over to the Parc de la Ciutadella, where we passed the Arc de Triomf. As we passed under the arc I naturally compared the park to Washington Square Park.
There’s a pedestrian street that leads from the Arc de Triomf to Parc de la Ciutadella and we took our time taking in the band that was playing, the people selling massive balloons, blowing bubbles and sat on a bench to watch insanely talented kids perform soccer tricks. Eventually we continued into the park and I was instantly in love. It was Central Park-esque in the sense that people were lounging out on the various lawns with full on picnics and towels set up – you could tell they planned on spending many hours there.
Everyone you looked there were different performances going on and we sat down to watch a group of hippies slacklining. I so wish I had gotten up the nerve to ask them to try it, but the Riekorderling Raspberry cider I was drinking, while delicious, wasn’t quite strong enough to give me that extra push ;)
There were however small children whose parents were nowhere to be found that were giving tight-rope walking their best attempt, with the help of the random men who lifted them up. Europeans man – so much more laid back!
I even saw people with these awesome blow up bean bag type things and now I definitely need to get one for days and nights in Central Park.
We all could have spent much more time exploring this park – there’s even a zoo inside – but sadly we had to be on our way to walk over to our cooking class!
Weaving in and out of the maze-like streets of the Gothic Quarter, I was happy I had decided to pay the $10 a day to use my phone data. There were a few days when I didn’t turn it on, but for the most part we would probably have spent the entire week lost had we not been able to use Google maps. Yes, we had physical maps, but the streets are so winding and confusing that we didn’t stand a chance! It wasn’t until day 3 or 4 that we finally felt confident getting ourselves back to the hostel.
We arrived at our cooking class and waited outside the door for a few minutes, making small talk with some of the other people who would be in our class (there were 11 of us total). When Angel opened the door and let us into the space, I knew it was going to be a good night. It was bright, spacious and absolutely spotless.
Angel went through the menu that we would be cooking that evening, and then led us outside for a tour of La Boqueria.
I hung on her every word as we wound our way through one of the oldest food markets in Europe – we stopped at a few different booths and learned about ham (jamon), seafood, saffron, paprika and more. I’ll be writing an entire post that goes into more detail on the Foodie Experience – because it was incredible and anyone going to Barcelona should absolutely do it!
I wrote notes on my phone the entire time and learned SO much about food that I had never known. The difference between Serrano and Iberico ham, the salt content in Atlantic seafood vs. Mediterranean seafood, the different between anchovies vs. boquerones, and the fact that in Barcelona, barnacles are considered a delicacy.
Angel explained that the front of the market tends to be really packed with tourists, but as you make your way further back its more local. She also mentioned that a lot people are starting to get upset that vendors are essentially selling out and selling smoothies and ice cream because that’s what the tourists are buying.
After our tour of La Boqueria, we headed back to the kitchen and Angel went around the big island explaining what the different steps of the recipe would be. We each got assigned a task for the meal prep – I was on veggie chopping duties.
The knives were extremely sharp, and I had already managed to slice my finger with a bread knife cutting baguettes in bed at 5 a.m. during the trip – so I was a little wary. I managed to make it through the peppers, carrots and green beans without amputating a finger or hand.
We each raised a glass of sangria and said cheers the way the Catalonians do – Salud y Buena Vida!
The rest of the evening included lots of wine, lots of laughs from Emily who couldn’t keep it together for some reason, and lots of interesting information and stories from Angel as she used our prepared ingredients to make tortilla and paella.
The tomato bread, a very traditional Catalan dish, blew me away with its simplicity and flavor. Sourdough toast, three streaks of a garlic clove, and half of a tomato rubbed all over the bread. A hefty drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of sea salt and VOILA – one of the freshest appetizers ever! I’m so sad that the specific tomatoes they use in Barcelona can’t be bought in the US – but I’m going to have to give it a try anyway.
The tortilla is also very traditional – and it’s not a tortilla like you picture when you think of Mexican food. It’s actually more like a frittata and the only ingredients are eggs, potatoes, tomatoes and olive oil! I was fascinated by the fact that the onions and potatoes were cooked by boiling them in olive oil. The sound of it all sizzling away was music to my ears.
Angel also showed us a Youtube video of someone flipping the most massive tortilla – before showing us the easier way of doing it using a flat surface and a spatula.
Watching Angel make the paella was like watching an artist – simply following a recipe would never yield the same results and what she made for us. Filled with vegetables, chicken thighs, sausage, mussels and prawns – it was incredible!
Another great moment during the class was waving across the roof to Angel’s 100+ year old neighbor – so adorable!
The last hands on portion of the class was getting to blow torch our own Catalan Cream for dessert – turning a layer of sugar into a crispy, crunchy, caramelized creation.
We all hung out around the table eating, drinking, talking, and enjoying the experience before saying thank you and goodnight to Angel. I also purchased some saffron (it’s very expensive, and I got a very small container of it) and smoky paprika for if I ever attempt to make my own paella!
We got back to the hostel and began to get ready for another night out on the town. When I heard that we would be going to a craft beer hall, I was PUMPED. Pumped enough to ignore the fact that the club we’d be going to was going to be techno music.
CocoVail was AWESOME and had so many beer options. There was live music when we arrived and we were given wristbands that meant every beer was $5! I had two IPAs (shocking, I know) and enjoyed the laid back, picnic table vibe of the beer hall. I also enjoyed a conversation about Sunday Funday on Rainey Street with an expat from Austin, Texas!
Eventually it was time to head over to City Hall – a short walk away from CocoVail. This was the first club we went to that wasn’t on the beach – it was located in the middle of the city and used to be a theater in its heyday. Redesigned, it now features different types of DJs and themes every night of the week. We happened to be there for techno night – which is so not my scene. I lasted for one song in the basement because of Emily’s pleas to give it a chance – but I couldn’t hang with the ravers.
We ventured upstairs to the ground floor where there was a much smaller dance floor and DJ playing non-stop 90’s and 2000’s hits. I was in heaven. I mean, Miley Cyrus and Avril Lavigne? Jackpot.
I got a water bottle from the bar, which Jon proceeded to squeeze and spray all over my face. I was not a happy camper. As he recounted later, “Lauren didn’t talk to me for like 5 whole minutes – that’s a really long time for her to stay mad!” Accurate! But then I ordered a tequila and orange juice and my spirits improved. I love that a lot of times when you order a drink at a bar or club in Barcelona you get a cute little glass bottle with your mixer and pour it into your glass yourself.
We ended up being the last three people on the dance floor at City Hall as we requested that the DJ play Ke$ha. We took the subway home that night because the metro station was right outside of City Hall and our walk back we were hysterical about I don’t even know what. Ke$ha and raucous laughter in the streets - perfect way to end the night! (More baguette, meat and cheese too, of course!)