I had been there about 13 years ago but, long story short, it was not a very memorable trip. This time, I had the chance to enjoy it properly in the company of E. and also my brother S. who lives there.
Barcelona is an amazing city with a lot to do, see and eat. We managed to spend a bit of time exploring parts of it at the start and end of our trip. It probably was not enough to see a lot of things but we managed to take advantage of our time there properly with a mix of sightseeing, catching up with my brother and enjoying many food delights.
The rest of the long weekend, as mentioned above, was spent outside of the city at Vilanova i la Geltrú where Vida Festival was taking place in a beautiful forest setting.
For our first night in Barcelona (we were headed to the festival the next day), we stayed at boutique Hotel Pulitzer which is really well located near Plaça de Catalunya. It was a very comfortable stay and we were lucky to get a room with a view of Carrer Bergara. We had our own adorable little balcony and despite the noise in the street with people chatting late at night, the moment we closed the window it was very quiet.
My brother met us shortly after we arrived and we all headed to the rooftop bar to have a drink.
We really enjoyed all the many features of this beautiful hotel but more than anything else, it was the breakfast room that really won my heart. It was really bright, filled with plants and overall had a really calm atmosphere which is possibly the nicest setting to be in to start the day before exploring this great city.
After drinks with my brother on the first night, he took us to Taperia Ordesa where we shared some delicious tapas ranging from pan con tomate, jamon iberico and salmon tartare to grilled octopus and escalivada. It was exactly the type of food I was expecting to enjoy while there.
The next day, since we had a bit of time to spare before heading to Vida Festival, we decided to explore Barcelona a little bit.
We started with a visit to Casa Batllo, the house designed by Antoni Gaudi. We were handed headphones and a small type of smartphone that would guide us through a well put together interactive tour. The details from top to bottom were truly fascinating. I do not want to spoil it for those of you planning to go and see it. If it is not on your list yet, do add it though! And if you can, I would recommend buying the tickets beforehand, it is not only cheaper but you will also save yourself queuing twice at the house itself.
After this visit, we were both hungry so I suggested we go to Mercat de la Boqueria instead of a sit down cafe or restaurant. We walked a bit in the heat across Plaça de Catalunya and la Ramblas until we reached the covered food market. Refreshments in the shape of fresh coconut and pineapple juice and a bag of cherries as soon as we arrived were very welcome. We spent a while in the market walking from stall to stall and admiring the very large array of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood, poultry, cured meats, cheeses, chocolates and other sweet delights. We grabbed a little cornet of pata negra ham and another one filled with manchego cheese and mini breadsticks to share. I can assure you it is not possible to go hungry in this place, you will most certainly find something to satisfy your cravings (there are also many tapas counters throughout the market).
Following our stop at the market, I knew exactly where to go for dessert. We had recently watched the Netflix series Chef's Table featuring Jordi Roca of El Teller de Can Roca and had found his sweet creations fascinating. I had found out he had opened Rocambolesc Gelateria in a few locations, one of them being in Barcelona. So the decision was made to go and have ice cream there. While E. opted for a chocolate, oil and salt sorbet, I chose a pot of vanilla ice cream with toppings such as little pearls of passion fruit, strawberry bites and a cherry nose candy. It was delicious and really met my expectations. The vanilla ice cream on its own was so wonderful. There were many other intriguing choices of ice creams, sorbets and toppings. The combination possibilities are endless and a good excuse to go back!
We continued walking around for a bit before returning to collect our luggage and get a train to Sitges.
We were back to Barcelona a couple of days later and met my brother at the train station before dropping our things at his apartment.
That day, we all took a walk to Montjuïc where we climbed up (ahem... took the escalators up...) and had a beautiful view of the city. The Olympic park was closed because of a concert later in the evening so we found one of the cable car companies and got tickets to go down to Barceloneta. There was a little bit of queuing in the heat but once in the cable car, it was so much fun getting to see the city from that point of view.
Once on the seaside, we walked along the beach while looking for a place to eat. We eventually found a lovely family-owned restaurant in a back street and settled there to enjoy a few tapas of ham croquettes, patatas bravas and other delicious little plates of fried fish.
We then took the metro towards the Gràcia area of Barcelona where we walked around a bit looking at the pretty buildings and balconies. We found a local bar where we sat and enjoyed some refreshing G&Ts to end the weekend.
Vida is a music festival that takes place in the Summer in the beautiful forest setting of Vilanova i la Geltrú. We had passes for the whole weekend there and our friends had booked accommodation in Sitges where we could get buses to the venue.
The whole place is really well organised and the music stages nicely located. The different performances are also quite well scheduled so, except for the rare exceptions, you can easily go and listen to a lot of the various concerts.
Iron & Wine, Franz Ferdinand, Of Montreal, Oso Leone, Nuria Graham etc. were some of the performers we got to listen to. But I have to admit that the highlight for me was definitely St Vincent's show. Her concert was incredible and her music and presence on stage phenomenal.
Another thing I really enjoyed at the festival was the vast array of food available. A whole area in the forest was exclusively set up for food trucks, tables and chairs, where to enjoy all the delicious things. There were so many choices that it honestly took me a long time to make any decisions on what I wanted to taste. On the first day, I settled for a pizza with cured ham and goats cheese, accompanied with homemade potato chips (crisps). On the second day, because we are so original we all got the fried chicken bucket at Volovan. Actually, one of us first got it and after trying some of it, we all had to have our own. It was topped with the creamiest guacamole mayonnaise. The pieces of fried chicken were crispy and succulent, and the fries were just perfect. Because some of the concerts were happening quite late (one of them being at 1.30am), we also had a bit more food later. I had spotted a Mexican food truck hidden in another part of the forest and there, I got cochinita pibil tacos which were really delightful. Beside it was another food truck selling the nicest crepes so we also got a couple to try as a sweet note to our standing up meal. I had a lovely dark chocolate one while E. made an even better choice with a dulce de leche and coconut one (great flavour combination!).
We really enjoyed the whole set up. The atmosphere was so nice and relaxed with even families and their young kids and/or teenagers attending the event. The festival is limited to a certain amount of tickets so it is definitely not overcrowded.