Barcelona, the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, is known for its rich art and architecture, as well as for its beaches on the Balearic Sea. And of course, the ingenious creations of Antoni Gaudi never fail to impress (think La Sagrada Família church, La Pedrera, and Casa Batllo). In between marveling at architectural eye candy, one should also get a taste of the city’s traditional food with a side of flamenco.
David and I had a day and a half to ourselves before my parents joined us. The AirBnB apartment we chose was just around the corner from La Sagrada Familia. The downside was that it needed a deep cleaning. So, before we did much of anything else, we armed ourselves with cleaning supplies and scrubbed it all.
The next day, we put on our walking shoes and took an almost 6 mile loop (about 10 km) around town. We walked through the Arc de Triompf and down the peaceful promenade, chasing soap bubbles among the trees (if only with my camera). We followed the call of the water, and made it to the port area adjacent to La Barceloneta. Interesting sculptures caught our attention: El Cap de Barcelona (a surrealistic colorful tile creation that artist Roy Lichtenstein created for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona) and La Gamba (a giant shrimp, which was created by sculptor Javier Mariscal and served as an advertisement for a seafood restaurant, now is a whimsical tribute to the city’s love of seafood. We chilled for a minute on the green grass of Plaça de L’Ictineo, while listening to a local playing the guitar, accompanied by the choir of seagulls floating nearby.
Since we had more energy, we continued our walk on the famous La Rambla, the city’s main promenade, a tree-lined pedestrian street, connecting the Plaça de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. We walked slowly, taking in the colorful shops, the sounds of the different languages around us, and stopped to stare at a tree that stared back. A lady in red stood in colorful contrast to the imposing stone and wrought iron facade of Palau Guell (built by Gaudi for tycoon Guell in the 1800s).
Naturally, after all that walking, we were starving. As always, we followed our instinct and nose, and found what looked really good and authentic. Unfortunately, the place was too popular and thus full. However, one of the owners looked at us and said “Follow me!” We did as instructed, as did two other tourists, trying to keep up with the owner. Only a few minutes away, there stood another restaurant, under the same ownership: Cera 23. The other two tourists rudely cut in front of us and took the last available table, but the joke was on them: we had the bar to ourselves and got to chat with the owner and the bartender, learning more about the restaurant’s history and the local cuisine.
The story goes that three amigos born in Galicia got together over a glass of wine and put their passion for food to good use: they opened three restaurants, including the one in the Raval neighborhood in Barcelona.
The neighborhood had an artsy and eclectic vibe, and Cera 23 definitely fit right in: cozy and friendly, yet serving exquisite culinary creations. We had to try the black rice volcano (squid ink rice), snacked on green olives, and split a decadent dessert. I liked the fun “spoondelier” (a light fixture/chandelier made out of spoons) and the ornate beer tap.
We left Cera 23 with big smiles on our faces and started our walk back to the AirBnB, passing by two of Gaudi’s creations: Casa Batllo and Casa Mila (La Pedrera). Everything looked even more enchanting in the soft light of the street lamps.