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Made it to Spain for the holidays!

Greetings fellow travelers! I have noticed on the forums that there seem to be a number of us headed to Spain for the holidays, so I thought I would share our arrival story for those eagerly anticipating or are nervous about their upcoming travel here.

First up- Delta online check in systems were working again! When we went to Portugal in August we could not check in online, which caused some anxiety. For this trip, we did the TrustAssure steps a few days before leaving (uploading vaccine records, etc), did our Spain Travel Health app (48 hours before arrival in Spain- yes arrival), and were able to check in online. While a few extra steps, feels a lot more like normal. At the airport, our vaccine cards were verified. Delta would not let you on the plane without having completed the Spain Travel health app. It isn't hard, but is necessary to generate a QR code that will be scanned when you arrive in Spain. All was a very smooth process coming out of Minneapolis to JFK. Flights were fully booked, and mask compliance was good. Flights out from JFK also very full and mask compliance was very good overall here too.

I didn't sleep on the flight so was quite tired the arrival day. All we planned day 1 was just getting to our destination. Once arriving Barcelona, we came to find no lines to enter EU & go through immigration. Incredibly smooth process. My general sense is the Spanish are very happy to have travelers and ready for us. We just had to make sure we had our QR codes ready as we came in.

Once arriving in Barcelona, there is a super handy tourist information booth to your right when you are leaving (to get Taxi's , trains, etc). We found a very helpful gentlemen that helped us understand what we needed to do to navigate the trains into the city (hop on over to Terminal 2 and take the train). We took the shuttle to the other terminal, where we also found very helpful train people that helped us get our tickets into the city and up to Girona. They walked us through what to do. That along with Google maps helped us feel a little more comfortable. Trains were busy but not overcrowded at all.

After arriving in Girona, we sought out our AirBnb. We got settled in, and I had to sleep. After a nap, we walked around this charming city to start soaking it all in. The weather is sunny and a little cool, but feels quite wonderful given what we left behind in Minnesota for weather. Looking like a nice mix of indoor and outdoor eating is also possible here. After the sun goes down, the lights overhead are amazing. It is like a cascade of lights illuminating your shopping. Incredibly charming!

We stopped in a local store and picked up some fruit and vegetables, which lead to my first trip discovery. Persimmons, where have you been all my life? Oh my goodness. We had this tasty fruit and plan to consume lots of it while here! I have itchy shopping fingers for all the little Spanish goodies I have been seeing as we window shop. Good thing I brought a big suitcase!

My overall sense is that the Spanish are ready for us to come and super happy to have us here. Even with the Covid rates on the rise, I am feeling very safe so far here in Spain.

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488 posts

Thank you for posting this! We leave for Spain in 9 days. I am keeping up with government and news websites, but it is so helpful to have first-hand accounts with all the little details.

I hope you have a wonderful trip!

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2256 posts

I had my first persimmon in Spain last month too! They especially taste good when combined with mangos and pomegranate seeds. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

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Thanks for the info! Just had a friend come back from Spain and she had a great time, and one who just booked tickets!

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2594 posts

Yes, persimons are quite popular in Spain, especially in Catalonia, I believe we are one of the largest exporters in the world lol! We call them "Kakis" in Spain. My mom is a big fan and always had some around the house around Christmas. I was surprised when I discovered that persimons are not consumed much in the USA.

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So this is yet another way the SF Bay Area is not like the USA in general, it seems, because our sidewalks and yards are littered with persimmons falling off the trees and the produce bins at the market are stuffed with several varieties of them - the dessert table at Thanksgiving had more than one cake/bread with persimmon as a main ingredient, as usual hereabouts.

And btw, Amber, thanks for the report -- look forward to hearing more! Be sure to check out the civil war markers there in Girona in addition to all the older historical sites.

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Always interesting to see others like persimmon too!

Carlos- it’s funny you mention them being called “kakis”. Yesterday I was excitedly babbling to my tour guide about persimmons and how wonderful they are. She had a completely blank look on her face. Then we tried saying “kakis” but I don’t think it came out right as she looked more confused. Once we pulled up a picture on our phone then it became clear. It was a VERY funny moment. I of course stopped by the local store and got another kaki yesterday. ;o)

avirosemail- yes indeed you are lucky to have such bounty. In Minnesota, we would probably say the same about apple trees. I admit to doing some research to learn how I can get these little babies in the US. I’m finding some growers in California that ship them, which has me pretty excited. I also have been digging around in the online catalogs of some of my local grocers and see I can get some there too- these must be some of those exports Carlos is referring to. ;o)

Thank you as well for the comments about the historical markers- we will do a bit of research on this too.

It’s pretty quiet here in Girona from a tourist perspective. I have heard Americans several times though- so I think a bunch of us might have gotten the message about Christmas in Spain. Yesterday we did a walking tour of the city which was really fun. There was almost no one out in the morning and early afternoon for our tour. It felt like we had the city to ourselves. I was able to get some pretty cool pictures of this medieval city with no other tourists in them. That just doesn’t happen that much. It was delightful. We did the walk on top of city walls and enjoyed some lovely weather. It was just warm enough that we had lunch outside as well.
With all of the amazing meats and cheeses here, I buckled and already started making charcuterie platters. We stopped by a shop and bought some Iberian ham. I picked up cheese and olives and other snacks. For our evening meal we just ate this and were in heaven! It was wonderful. This was also a great option for eating a little earlier and back at our AirBnb. The charcuterie you can create here is a whole other level. Yum yum yum.

Today is our anniversary and we have a special day planned. We are headed on a tour of Costa Brava. I am really looking forward to this, as it is just us and the guides. And then dinner at Casa Marieta (thank you Carlos for this recommendation!). And somewhere in there I am probably going to buy more kakis. ;o)

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Loving the report. :) And intriguing to know the Japanese word for persimmon (also grown and widely available there) is also kaki. Surely one borrowed from the other……

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Happy to hear your travels to Spain went smoothly. We spent a couple nights in Girona in 2010 and absolutely loved it. Such a charming city. We loved walking on the walls and in October the weather was warm so we were able to eat outdoors every meal. I remember visiting a wonderful market where we bought snack items, including olives. There were tons of bins of all different kinds of olives. Prior to that visit, I was never a fan of olives, and now I LOVE olives, thanks to Girona!

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then dinner at Casa Marieta (thank you Carlos for this recommendation!)

I'm sure you will enjoy your dinner, it's quite a venerable establishment in Girona. My personal recommendation would be 'Canelones de Ceps' (if in season), a typical dish of Girona made with baked pasta stuffed with local mushrooms toped with creamy béchamel sauce, tastes like the forest!

You can then also consider Arròs Negre, which is like a Paella, but made with squid ink, typical of the Costa Brava area, tastes like the sea!

Buen provecho or bon profit (as we say in Catalonia)!

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To go with creamy dinner fare at Casa Marieta take a look at the blush wines -- rosado is their term -- because they have really good offerings of rosés.
And save room for dessert at Rocambolesc! amazing ice cream (and check out the modern chic pastries across the alley)

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Charming Girona continues to weave its spell over me. I cooked breakfast at our AirBnb to start the morning. Yesterday, we picked up goodies at Vimet, a local market up the street. This has been our go to market on the trip. At this point the workers recognize us as we toddle in and pick up our provisions. I can tell they are smiling behind their masks when they see us, as we see the twinkle in their eyes.

I managed to figure out how to work the stove, and I didn’t burn our eggs and potatoes. “Is that pan non-stick? Who knows- let’s add some olive oil and give it a try!” Ah, the adventures of cooking when things are not yours. I didn’t burn the place down or set off any smoke alarms. Although looking around, I’m not so sure this place even has smoke alarms. I topped our breakfast with some cheese from the Christmas market, and sliced up the morning kaki. Wait- you didn’t think would miss the kaki? ;o)
We took a short 3 minute walk to meet our tour guides for our Costa Brava tour. Off the four of us went to explore the Costa Brava.
First thing we notice on the initial drive- wait, are those hot air balloons? Sure enough, it turns out you can go hot air ballooning in this area. I make a mental note for what is sure to be a future trip.

A short drive later- we arrive at the first fishing village, Calella de Palafrugell. The village was empty. It was GLORIOUS. I think we might have seen 10 people total in this area. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. The weather was warming up nicely, and we started peeling off layers. Pretty soon I was down to just a T-Shirt, as the sun was warm and it was lovely (around 60F). We explored this beautiful little village. We walked along the water on the paths to Llafranc. It was so quiet on the walk that we could hear the gentle waves lapping up on the shore. It was just bliss. I could sit and listen to water lapping up on rocks for hours, so I was pretty happy. The views were just spectacular, and it reaffirmed what a great time of year it is to be here.

When we got back with our guide to the van, our driver gently scolded our guide because we walked too fast! We were now a full 15 minutes ahead on our itinerary. So we had a bit of time to kill. Soon we came to our next stop, a lighthouse and hotel called El Far. Wow this would be an amazing location to stay. As you look around you it is the sea. Just stunning views! Since we were early, this meant I got to enjoy a glorious Americano coffee while basking in these views. I feel myself melting into a happy puddle.

Soon we were off again, this time to Begur. What a neat town! It was a slice of Cuba in Spain. We learned about how many people from Begur went to Cuba to secure their fortune in the 19th century due to an economic crisis in Spain. When they came back, they worked to re-create a little Cuba. It resulted in these Indian houses that were absolutely lovely. As we wandered up the streets, we say Cuban restaurants and other the general feel is what I would expect in Cuba (I have not been, but can imagine the vibe). The architecture of these Indian houses is amazing.

From the town center, we walked up the Begur castle, the remains of an old castle. It’s on the top of the hill and boasts amazing views in every direction. The walk to the castle, yep- I am starting to work up a serious appetite! After enjoying the stunning scenery it was time to go to lunch. We headed off to the town of Pals, and a Catalonian restaurant called Ca La Teresa. It’s one of those places that only has the menu in the local language. Ah, been looking forward to hitting places like this as they have the best food. Our guides recommend a seafood dish that is kind of like Paella. The food was lovely. It was warm and saucy, and just comfort food. Like so many of our trips, we find unexpected delightful moments.

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I wasn’t expecting our server to speak any English, but she did and we had one of the cutest moments of the day. After our main course, we ordered Americanos to have with our Crema Catalana. With a completely serious look on her face, she asked “Do they call it an Americano in America?” Why yes, yes they do. ;o) It was one of those adorable genuine moments I will remember forever as we shared a smile.

Refreshed and re-caffeinated, we were off for afternoon adventures. Now, on to some medieval villages. First up is Pals. Wow- this village does not disappoint. I feel like I have been transported to medieval times! Walking the cobblestone streets we see picturesque bougainvillea greeting us on several of the buildings. The village has this warm golden tone to all the buildings. Its low season here and almost nothing is open, maybe one restaurant. The village just invites you to wander its lovely streets and soak it all in.

From there we headed to Peratallada, another medieval village. This one has more businesses open, but it was still low season. I noticed a few beautiful hotels and restaurants open. Making mental notes and taking pictures of these places as I walk the beautiful village. Who, me, planning to come back? ;o)

Peratallada was amazing as well, and we enjoyed seeing the 25 foot deep moat. The city was also lovely. One of the streets had the width of wagon wheel groves worn right into the rock of the street. The grooves were so deep I was left wondering how awful it would be if your wagon wasn’t standard width!

After a stop for a bit of shopping, we headed back to our place. It was time for a rest before our dinner at Casa Marieta. Girona was now coming alive with people filling the streets. We fell asleep to the sounds of shoppers but our sleep was short lived. I was jolted awake. I thought to myself “that sounds like a marching band?” It was full on big band music. I peeked out the window and sure enough, I was close! There was a vehicle like a modified van with a platform on top. There was a band of about 6-7 people playing big band music as they drove the streets! It was both hysterically funny and utterly delightful at the same time.

Well, now we are up so time to get ready for dinner. We headed off for some more shopping at the Christmas market and in the stores. I buy another wheel of cheese at the Christmas market. I made a total rookie mistake this summer in Portugal- I didn’t buy the cheeses I liked right on the spot. And our broken US supply chain has meant the local stores that used to get the cheeses can no longer get their hands on them. So I bought wheel number 2 of cheese. I wonder how much cheese will fit in my suitcase?

Dinner at Casa Marieta did not disappoint. I highly recommend this place. We did have the mushroom cannelloni, and it was delicious. When we put our orders in, we had this random amalgamation of dishes. Our server got a lot of good laughs over working with us that night. I told her “you see the random set of stuff we are ordering. How about you figure out what wine to drink and we will just have that?” She laughed and helped up pick a Cab Merlot mix that was delicious. I hadn’t seen the post about the Rosada before we went. So now I think I am going to need to try some Rosadas as the trip proceeds. After a lovely bottle of wine and a meal, it was off to our accommodation where we promptly passed out in a heap. ;o)

Thank you to everyone following along and commenting- I am seeing the posts and trying to work things in where I can. And delighted how much we all like kakis. ;o)

Where I can’t fit things in, I have notes for future visits. Next stop- taking the train to Vilafranca Del Penedes for wine country.

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I am enjoying your report about Costa Brava. It brings back wonderful memories of our trip. We drove from Barcelona to Cadaques, where we spent one night. Along the way we stopped in Tossa de Mar, Calalella de Palafrugell, and Llafranc. I remember wishing we had more time on the coast. After spending one night in Cadaques, we then drove to Girona where we spent 2 nights. I would love to return, but so many other places to visit. Not enough time!

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I'm glad you guys had such a fun dinner at Casa Marieta. What a great trip report, I eagerly await the next part!

Regarding that slice of Cuba in Spain, it may surprise some visitors but Cuba and especially Catalonia have had strong ties since the colonial times, one need only look at the similarities between the Catalan Independence flag (Estelada) and the Cuban flag.

On the Costa Brava there is an old tradition called a "Cremat", which dates back to the Catalans who immigrated to Cuba and then returned to Spain after the Spanish-American War. A Cremat is a rum drink mixed with cinnamon and roasted coffee beans that is then lit on fire in a big pot and flambéed. This caramelized coffee-rum beverage is drunk by old fisherman all along the Costa Brava, who sing songs lamenting the loss of Cuba and the "good ol days" called Havaneres. I've done a few Cremats in my time and the whole ritual feels very performative, a piece of living history.

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Amber, this is somewhat off topic, but if you happen to find a lot of persimmons at home, consider drying them. They’re not uncommon here in Oregon, and I was given over 20 pounds by a friend. They’re delicious dried!

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Thank you everyone for commenting and giving me observations and well as adding color to some of the experiences!

Carlos- that Cuban tradition sounds amazing! It has been great to understand more of the Spain-Cuba relationship. As I get older, I am increasingly curious about which countries have strong ties to each other and seeing how they influence each other. It’s fun and interesting! Is it possible to experience a Cremat anywhere say in a restaurant? Or is it really a tradition we can’t experience that way. It sounds lovely.

Kmkwoo- I am realizing I think I need to do more Spanish olive exploration here too. I couldn’t find the shop in Girona you mentioned, even though I kept an eye for it. Might have to do a bit of hunting for Olives up in Barcelona though as this sounds delicious! There is definitely never enough time for travel- agree 100%

Patricia- you have just added a delightful idea! We have a food dehydrator at home, and this is getting me thinking. So many delicious things to do with persimmon!

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Warning- I am feeling chatty. ;o) Couple more reports coming right up.

The morning dawned cool yet sunny, and it was time to leave charming Girona for Vilafranca del Penedes. Today is mostly a travel day, so not too many observations. When we arrive at the Girona station, I feel it kicking in. Sandwiches? Okay, we are among friends here. What is about traveling on trains that makes me want to buy those tasty sandwiches at the station? Am I the only one?

I keep a keen eye out, certain that SOMEONE will have sandwiches as we move forward and buy our train tickets. Super helpful lady from RENFE helps us figure out which train to take from Barcelona Sants to Vilafranca later, and we toddle off toward our platform. I’m keeping my eagle eye out- and then I spot it. One of those little train station restaurants! You know, the ones that have goodies for those waiting and goodies for those leaving on their train. While my husband minds all our stuff, I go in search of sandwiches. JACKPOT! I find those long skinny baguette like thingie sandwiches with jamon and cheese. I try not to drool staring at it while I wait in line. I get up to front, order my sandwiches for takeaway, and we tuck them into our bag for eating later. I even know that it will be hours before I eat said sandwich, but it doesn’t stop my enthusiasm.

We board our train for Barcelona Sants. My husband has to help lift my suitcase to put it up in overhead storage. Okay those cheese wheels in my bag are a little heavy. ;o) We get tucked away on the train and into our seats. We are on a regional train, and it takes about 1 and a half hours to get to Barcelona Sants. I am directionally challenged, so I was a bit concerned about only having 14 minutes to find our other train once we arrived. But much to my delight, it was super easy at the station and we made it to our connecting train 10 minutes early. We hop on this train, which will ultimately take us to Vilafranca del Penedes. We arrive at our stop, and are on our way to our AirBnb. After walking for a while, we hang a right at the Cathedral and we are at our stay. We meet our wonderful host and get tucked into our apartment. Today is the tail end (pun intended) of the Rooster fair, and event here in town. We notice chicken and rooster images adorning many of the buildings.

After settling in, I finally get to eat my sandwich. Oh it was so delicious! Unpretentious tasty ingredients. I’m in my happy place.

Things are pretty quiet here in town. We decide to hit the local grocery store and pick up some goodies. I’m feeling like eating in tonight and I am in the mood to cook something simple. So we work our way through the grocery store and get our supplies.

I’m all proud of myself for navigating the store and then I step up to the checkout. We unload our stuff and then cashier starts speaking rapid fire Catalan or Spanish or something to me. I’m a deer in headlights. I have NO CLUE what she is saying. She figures out pretty fast I don’t understand and helps take our produce over to the scale to weigh it and get stickers for each item to scan. OH- OOPS. Okay, now I understand why that other lady was so slow in the produce section earlier. It’s all making sense now. My husband finishes weighing it all, we pay, and we are off! WHEW- we did it.

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I cook us a simple dinner and afterwards decide it is time to embrace a new tradition- drinking chocolate! Now, I have had Mexican hot chocolate before, but I am excited to try the Spanish version. I warm up my oat milk on the stove humming away as I gently stir in the chocolate powder. After it is all warmed up, we have our drinking chocolate with a pastry I found in the store. I was trying to find churros, but they didn’t have them. I found some long skinny pastry with chocolate in the middle throughout and chocolate sprinkles on top. We did these in our hot chocolate. My husband is Mr Chocolate, so is pretty much in heaven. Oh my- the cheese officially has a contender for room in the suitcase. And it’s lightweight. ;o) WOW- this drinking chocolate is amazing.

This part of the trip is our least planned part. I know in general about a number of things to do, but we are a little off the beaten path here. When I did our trip planning it was super hard to find things in English. Or to find information that didn’t contradict itself in different places. But I know we are in the heart of wine country and a main Cava producing region. There is also a tourism bureau here too, which is usually a good sign to me. We’ll set out for the bureau in the morning to clarify my questions. If all goes well, tomorrow is the wine walk!

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It was pretty cold this morning when we woke up. It’s a bit of a cold spell in the area, so it about 34 Fahrenheit when we wake up. The tile floors are a bit icy on the feet so socks are definitely required! After some morning coffee and a breakfast (yep, had the daily kaki) we were off!

The grand plan for today is to figure out this wine walk. Sure enough, when we get to the tourism center, they have maps marked and everything. The tourism center is quite nice with good information on the area. Much of it is in Catalan and quite a bit translated to Spanish, and some English. But we were in luck. The lady working at the center spoke English. She pulls out a map for us and highlights a nice route. Mas Tinell and Torres should be open today (Monday) and are in walking distance! Armed with our maps and tourist information, we set off for the day. As I look at the maps, there are many different tours you can take in the countryside here. A number are probably best by bike due to their length, but several are a nice length for walking. Today, we have the countryside to ourselves. We encounter only one person on the whole walk to Mas Tinell.

We arrive within a half hour. This Gaudi designed hotel is really interesting to see from the outside. We walk up to the tasting room and- it’s locked. Hmmm…. We walk over to the hotel only to discover they are not open for tasting today. ;o( Oh bummer. Well, off it is to Bodegas Miguel Torres. We recognize the Torres brand since they are very large and popular worldwide. We’ve seen it on the shelves at our local stores. So we wind our way through paths and country roads over to the Penedes Torres location. It’s a beautiful walk, and the weather is warming up nicely. It’s one of those peel off the layers as the day gets warmer kind of walks. Seeing the dormant vines gives a whole different perspective, and it is beautiful in its own way. I can see why this area is so popular. We arrive at just after 1 p.m. El Cellerat is open for lunch and has lovely views of the vineyard. After a fair amount of walking, we enjoy a leisurely lunch here. It’s a chalkboard menu- yay!

I’m a foodie, so if you are not into food, skip past this section as I am about to rave. First off, they give us a little dish of Spanish olives. A variety of them. My curiosity is piqued, I have never seen some of these before. We also order some small potato dish with aioli. I tell my husband we have to order this as I keep seeing people eating it in restaurants and am wondering why. OMGoodness! It was so good. We also order a cheese plate. I knew a little about Spanish cheeses because I like Drunken goat, and every Spanish cheese I have bought at home has been really good. But I’ve only had a few varieties. These cheeses! Wow oh wow! My husband and I look at each other as we savor these cheeses. So good. I start to mentally plan where I am buying a second suitcase to take home solely filled with Spanish cheese.

The olives were also interesting. Some kinds I had before. As I bit into one kind, I swear the thing bit back. Wow it was a sharp flavor. It was a little bitty perfectly round olive. It seemed like a different variety- any ideas what it was? I don’t know.

And then the main course- another one of those saucy Catalan rice dishes. This one with mushrooms and seasonal vegetables. It’s simply and earthy and I really like it. I’ve decided I need to learn how to make this at home when I get back. Anyone else made this and have a recipe they recommend?

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After lunch with wine, we wander off in search of the historic water tower which marks the end of the wine walk. We get there and take the wine walk back. This is a much busier walk, I think we saw ten people along the 2.5 km. ;o) It’s a walk through the vineyards along a country road (like a gravel or dirt road in the US). There are no wineries on the walk, just enjoying the vineyards. It’s really lovely. The weather is just perfect for a country walk, and we are feeling very blessed to be here. We enjoy a quiet evening in with some simple food, and some more drinking chocolate. Goodness that stuff is wonderful!

Tomorrow we are headed to the wine museum, hopefully a cheese shop, doing a few stops on the Bar a Vins tapas tasting, and maybe another walk. Let’s see how it goes! Thanks for following along on our Catalonian adventure. ;o)

Oh yes- in case anyone is worried, I am keeping careful watch on the Covid situation here. People are super careful about masking and we continue to feel very safe. I'm not too worried about the restrictions coming up as I am not so much out at the nightclubs at night. So far it continues to be a wonderful journey!

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Wow what an adventure, great storytelling too, perhaps you should start a blog lol!

Regarding Cremat, it's a bit of a "local's only" tradition that's done as a cultural performance as much as for the drink, I have yet to see it on a restaurant menu as I doubt they can truly recreate the experience. Last time I had one was with a group of fellow Catalan émigrés in Los Angeles, we did it in a small backyard and it was definitely a fire hazard lol!

Regarding that mushroom rice dish you had, I think you might be referring to Arroz Caldoso (Spain's answer to Risotto) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arroz_caldoso
It is typically done with seafood, but is also done with mushrooms or meat in more inland regions. with mushrooms it is called "Arroz caldoso con setas", there are many recipes online, but only in Spanish I think.

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Regarding churros (and similar varieties) the key is fried and eaten quickly - anything that has been sitting around for more than 20 minutes isn't at its best. Look for a churrerria near a transit hub just as you did for sandwiches near the train station - commuters will stop for a churro and chocolate before they head home, in a variation on happy hour :-)

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Thanks again for reading along, and adding to the narrative with more color and your own experiences! This has been super fun. Okay, next installment.

One last day here in Vilafranca. Today we have big plans, even if we are moving at a very turtle like pace. First, we set off for the wine museum- less than a block from where we are staying. It’s a nice museum with a history of winemaking in the region. We are the only two people in the whole museum. We start our way at the top floor and work our way down as we learn Cava production. Takes us less than an hour to get through. At the bottom, they have a lovely glass of wine waiting for us to sample.

We ask at the museum about the Bar A Yins tour. They call up the tourist office to get more details, and we learn it runs year round. But as we look at the restaurant list, almost nothing is open for lunch. We figure out it is more of an evening thing. Ooops- guess I should have realized that. Live and learn.

Next it is off to the cheese shop I found online. We hunt down Xerigots. As we are walking up, I am thinking, “this area seems more warehousey than commercial”. We find the door and I think “hmm… no windows.” But I am industrious so I just open the door and walked in. The woman inside seemed surprised to see us, and had to hunt down another worker that spoke English. He was fascinated at how we had found him. I had found their cheese tasting events online, so I thought it was a commercial shop. Not so much. He explained they mostly sold to restaurants, and did some online sales. But he was also clever, and not one to pass up a sale. Online they sell kits of a variety of cheeses for cheese tasting. So he was happy to sell one to me, and I was happy to buy one. New adventures in cheese! Normally when they do their cheese tasting events, they also take you to their cellars where they age the cheese. He offered to take us down if we wanted to come back later in the day when we wasn’t so busy. That was very kind- even though I know we probably wouldn’t have time. Off we went, and I was delighted with my new found cheeses.

We headed off to a local Tapas places for lunch and did a the fixed price menu. We spoke no Catalan, and our server spoke no English, but we made it work. Of course more Brava potatoes are consumed by me, and anchovies for my husband. He just loves those little fish.

In the afternoon, it is warming up nicely again. Off go the coats. We decided to take another walk on our list of possible walks in the area. This time it is out to a historical church. It offers another walk through vineyards and some olive groves. It’s pretty much just us and the occasional workers in the vineyards. We listen to the hum of the machine they use as they clip, clip, clip and prune the vines for this spring’s growth. It’s very peaceful. After a pleasant 4 km walk through the countryside, we head back into town. I have definitely decided this is just a perfect place to go biking or walking. There is a lot to do, and we really didn’t even get to that many wineries! We could have easily spent a few more days in this area.

We pick up a few more provisions for the evening to enjoy with our new chesses and had a quiet night in with a bottle of local wine. Tomorrow it is off to Barcelona!

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It is time to head off into the big city! I made us one last breakfast (kaki’s included) before we headed off. We take our train into the city and make our way to our new AirBnb where we will be based for the rest of the trip. We arrive and get settled in to a cozy little place.

Our host recommended a great little neighborhood place called Pinxus and we headed there for lunch. More Tapas. ;o) This was a great restaurant, and we really enjoyed the food. One of the first things that caught my eye was churros bravas. Huh? How can you have churro and potato together? I was confused, but suspected it was somehow really good. I was right. It was potatoes shaped like churros. Wow I could eat those with that little dipping sauce all day long. SO GOOD!

After having our fill of tasty Tapas, it was time for some grocery shopping. I hear the countdown to the holiday like a ticking clock in my head, and I want to make sure we are set since things will close down here for a few days. Off to the grocery store to start getting what we need. I’m enjoying my Spanish grocery shopping adventures. Of course, grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do at home too, so it makes sense I would enjoy this. Anyone else find grocery shopping in another country an epic adventure?

Another exciting little detail is that our host has a Moka pot! We first discovered Moka pots in Vienna years ago. We even bought one we use at home after that trip (along with lots of other coffee making accessories). I realize Europe has corrupted my coffee habits. After all this Europe travel, I now have a bean grinder, Moka pot, pourover, Nespresso machine, a nice espresso machine, and a French press. The only thing I don’t have? A drip coffee maker. ;o) How can you not be a little corrupted by the fabulous coffee in Europe?

After shopping, we drop everything off and head off to Montjuic castle.

I neglected to check something as we set off in a taxi for Montjuic castle. I forgot to check the weather! Of course, some fog and drizzle were rolling in, rendering the views from Montjuic hidden. Bummer. We will have to try to fit it in another day. So then we head off down toward Poble Espanyol, enjoying a beautiful downhill meandering walk. We arrived pretty late afternoon at Poble Espanyol, and there were very few people there. It is a great way though to see different types of architecture from around Spain. I first visited 5 years ago when I came to Barcelona. Part of the fun for me of this place is getting to see the artisan products. At that time, I had bought a necklace from one of the artisans, and it was one of my most treasured pieces of jewelry. All her pieces are one of a kind- and I wore it a lot. And then heartbreak happened. It got lost along on the way on one of our trips. Have you ever lost something you treasured?

Just before the trip, I finally figured out which shop I had purchased it in, and discovered she is still in business! As we were trying to hunt down her shop (this place is a total maze), I spied a scarf maker. I walked into the shop, and was the only person there. I got to see the loom where she makes all the scarves she sells in the shop. And I picked out a nice, warm, beautiful scarf. After a delightful conversation with the owner, I completed my purchase. I asked her if she knew this other artisan I was looking for, and she walked me over to her shop. *I think I heard the hallelujah chorus when we arrived”.

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I walked into Oksana’s shop, and I could not have been happier. She makes a lot of dresses and items for flamenco dancing, as well as the jewelry. She was very surprised I remembered her shop and hunted her down. Hey, that is what us trip planners do when we have extensive pandemic planning time on our hands. ;o) I found two different unique pieces of jewelry. Being the only one in the shop, we had plenty of time to look things over and try pieces of jewelry on. I made my purchases, and we were on our way again.

As we walked past another store I thought- “Ooo, a confectioner”. Time to find that nougat Carlos was telling me about. It is a must for our Christmas celebration. It was a Vicens shop! We were the only ones in the shop, and the lady working was generous with samples. Wow is this stuff good. We bought some for Christmas as well as plenty more to take home. How much can my suitcase weigh again?

After completing our purchases and feel wildly successful, we headed back for a quiet evening in. Another fabulous day! Tomorrow- Sagrada Familia!

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Today we are headed to the Sagrada Familia. After about a half hour walk from our accommodation, we arrived at the Familia. We were all ready to go with our headphones so we could listen to our audio guides as we toured the building. This turned out to be an unexpected bonus. Having our headphones on completely drowned out all the background noise, and it was like having your own quiet tour of the building. I found myself completely disappearing into the tour, and it was wonderful. Of course, the inside of the Familia is simply exquisite. It’s hard to put into words. It was a cloudy day, yet the stain glass was still just incredibly vibrant. Just magical.

After the finished touring the Familia, we went across the street to the Christmas market. We wandered through the market, seeing plenty of Caganers and Uncle Tio’s. These traditions make us smile. This is our first ever Christmas in Europe, and we are definitely enjoying the Christmas markets. The more we walk around and see the festive atmosphere, the more I think “Wow- they really how to do Christmas in Barcelona”. During the day, at night, it is just so festive and bright. It brings a lot of cheer in what has been a difficult year for us all. I am just amazed at all the beautiful Christmas decorations.

In the afternoon, we headed over to Cortes Ingles to the market for provisions for our Christmas charcuterie. Wow- it is quite a store! It has everything we need to complete our snacking pleasure. We have olives, Iberian ham, chorizo, cheeses, crackers, nougat, fruit and lots of other snacks. Good thing we are walking a lot to burn off some calories!

In the evening, we did a tour of the gothic quarter. Walking through the historic quarter with everything lit up for Christmas was wonderful. Along the way, we stopped for churros and hot chocolate and listened to the stories of how Barcelona developed and its history. It was a pretty diverse group of tourists with Germans, Indians, and Americans. It’s always fun to see who is visiting from different countries. Our tour also went by the Santa Lucia market as well as a local artisan market where we had some time buy some artisanal chocolate. I would describe it as a nice paced saunter through the gothic quarter. We arrived back at our accommodations, and pretty much collapsed in a happy exhausted heap.

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Christmas Eve has arrived! Today we headed off to a cooking class, where we will learn to make several dishes. I was quite excited to learn I will be getting a good recipe for bravas potatoes- my new favorite food along with kaki’s. ;o) We try anchovies on manchego cheese. Here I also learn another important lesson, you can use cheese as the delivery mechanism for fish! No crackers required. I feel this is another important revelation that will come in handy in the future.

I try machego cheese for the first time. Well, guess we will be adding more cheese to the suitcases. Our whole cooking class is all Americans- 10 of us total. All triple vaxxed interestingly enough. We had a wonderful time cooking with our hosts. We made a Spanish omelet, seafood paella, and Catalan cream. All very approachable dishes that I know I will be able to recreate at home. We drank wine, we ate, and enjoyed everyone’s company.

We sauntered over to La Boqueria afterwards for some more market shopping, as it will be closed the next several days for the holiday. I do find myself slightly creeped out by the sheep heads. But hey, I get it, you have to use everything. Definitely some items here I won’t be eating any time soon. But many other tasting delicacies.

I hunt down my Manchego cheese as well as find some additional cheeses. We also pick up some saffron to bring home for our future paella making adventures. I'm curious what others have brought home from markets?

We enjoying wandering the market and soaking in all the different displays. After happy wandering, we head back for some rest before the evening festivities.

For the evening, we headed over to see the Flamenco performance at the Palau de la Musica. We bought a combined ticket that allowed us to tour the Palau ahead of the performance. The inside of the Palau is just stunning! We took the audio tour and learned more of its history. It’s amazing how much English we continue to hear around us. It’s quite clear there are many Americans and Canadians here in Spain for the holidays. We enjoy the beauty of the Palau and settle in for the performance. Somehow I didn’t realize I had bought second row seat for the performance. They were so close to the stage that you could see every single facial expression of the dancers and the supporting band. The facial expressions during many dances is quite intense. The performance was amazing! The dancing, the music, the artistry was simply wonderful. I am so grateful to the fellow Rick Steve forum member that recommended this for Christmas eve!

The audience gave the performers a well deserved standing ovation. It brought all the performers to tears. In that moment you could see on the performers faces how hard this pandemic has been and how grateful they were to be performing. (I’ve seen the same look on performers faces in Minneapolis this theater season and have started to recognize the expression). Any of us that were close to the stage couldn’t help but feel and see it too. It was a great reminder how grateful we are to be here right now given how challenging the last few years have been. After they did an encore, we gave another standing ovation, and it was off into the night we all went. I would highly recommend attending a performance at the Palau-such a beautiful venue.

On our taxi ride home, our driver went along Passeig De Gracia. The streets above us were alight with lights and had these lovely butterflies- it felt like we were in some kind of forest. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it was an enchanting ending to a lovely Christmas eve in Barcelona. Merry Christmas everyone!