I hope you enjoyed Day One in Barcelona of what I call our “Dream Trip” to the Mediterranean, which you can read here.
I left off with our wonderful breakfast at the elegant and luxurious El Palace Hotel in downtown Barcelona. After we noshed on tomato bread and jamon and had our fill of cappuccinos, we got in a taxi and headed to Sagrada Familia.
Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família
Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, more simply know as Sagrada Familia, is a world-famous basilica designed by Catalonian architect Antoni Gaudí which has been under construction on and off since 1882.
What a stupendous structure! Everywhere you look there is something fascinating or unique or exquisite – usually all three at once.
Exterior Photos of Sagrada Familia
It’s hard to pick a favorite aspect of Sagrada Familia as there are so many wondrous artistic pieces throughout. But if I was forced to choose, I would pick the Expressionist Crucifixion of Christ that has an umbrella shaped canopy, called a baldachin, hovering over it. This stunning work of art is suspended over the High Altar of Sagrada Familia.
It immediately caught my attention the moment we walked through the doors into the basilica. Its ethereal glow and delicateness made it hard to take my eyes away. It’s where I spent most of my gawking during our brief visit.
Interior Photos of Sagrada Familia
I could easily devote an entire post to the history of Sagrada Familia and its endless architectural and artistic details and stunning facades.
If you’re interested in learning more about Sagrada Familia, their website has a copious amount of information including details about its history and architecture, the meaning of the Sagrada Familia, options for visiting and you can even purchase tickets on this site, which you should certainly do ahead of your visit. Also, be sure to show up about 10 minutes before your ticket time to get through all the security checks. I believe there were three.
We bought self-guided tour tickets but had less than an hour before we were meeting some friends. So we chose to focus more on seeing as much as we could of the basilica and didn’t listen much to the recorder. If you plan to see this magnificent church, be sure to carve out at least 90-minutes to two hours.
Off to Cava! 🍾
After our Sagrada Familia visit, we met up with my stepkids’ cousin and her boyfriend at the Arc du Triomf. Alyssa and Stu have lived in Barcelona for two years and they love it. They were so kind and thoughtful to spend the day showing us around, taking us to some of their favorite places.
After saying our hellos, we boarded a train to the Catalan village of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia in the Cava region to wine taste at Freixenet.
It’s just a 30-minute train ride from Barcelona with lots of pretty scenery along the way, including vineyards, of course! Cava wines are sparkling, like Italian Prosecco or French Champagne.
Freixenet is undoubtedly the most famous Spanish cava in the world. My parents used to buy it when I was a kid. You are sure to recognize their signature black bottle with gold cursive lettering. And if you’ve always wondered how to pronounce Freixenet, it’s not Frex-in-ay nor Free-jin- ay nor Frex-in-net, it’s Fresh-en-net.
An interesting fact about Freixenet is it’s own by the same family that owns Gloria Ferrer here in Sonoma County.
Freixenet is located right next to the train station in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Within a couple minutes, we were standing in the courtyard of the winery where there is a Freixenet bottle car that was created for the 1929 World Fair in Barcelona.
It was a beautiful sunny November day so we decided to begin our cava adventure by each enjoying a glass on the patio.
Freixenet makes many more wines than the ones we Americans are so familiar with. I wanted to taste cavas that I couldn’t get in the US, which was an easily fulfilled request as there were lots of wines to choose from that aren’t distributed to the states.
After we finished our glass of cava, we headed to the indoor tasting room in another building right next door. We tasted lots of different cavas and had some Spanish tapas too, including that delicious tomato bread I mentioned in my Day One post. Tomato bread and cava is a pretty awesome combination, I must say!
After we got our fill of cava and tapas, it was time to catch a train back to Barcelona for more fun!
El Nacional 🥘
By the time we got back to Barcelona, it was just getting dark. Alyssa and Stu wanted to take us to one of their favorite places for food, wine, and atmosphere – El Nacional.
El Nacional is the most high-end food court you can imagine. It’s a Spanish food emporium, filled with a variety of restaurants and bars. The building is a treat to see. It’s an open space with soaring ceilings and has such elegant architecture and style, reminiscent of the 1920s.
We found 4 seats together at the bar in the center – lucky us! – and each ordered our own glasses of Spanish wine. I prefer white wines so I ordered an Albariño.
Stu and Alyssa suggested we try their favorite tapas at El Nacional, croquettes. Oh my! These bite-sized fried morsels were made with jamon and queso (ham and cheese) and I will never forget them!
Next we were off to Perikete, a neighborhood favorite of Alyssa and Stu’s. The seating gods must have been shining down on us this particular evening because, once again, we found a place to sit.
Perikete is a small and crowded tapas bar with wine barrels for tables and jamon legs hanging from the ceiling, the fats they drip captured in while plastic cones.
While we’d be eating tapas again, this time it was a smorgasbord of tapas. We feasted on padron peppers, fresh tuna with onions and tomatoes, some egg and potato frittata I fell in love with (and I don’t even like eggs), stuffed mushrooms and of course, tomato bread. We also had a delicious pitcher of sangria, a when-in-Spain must-have!
By this time we were full of tapas and wine and it was getting very late. But you know, it’s our last night in Barcelona, we’re hanging out with the young, cool people, so why not stay up late and go to a hip bar? You only live once!
Alyssa and Stu took us to Paradiso, a speakeasy – and probably the coolest cocktail lounge in Barcelona – that makes drinks you’ve never imagined, both the concoctions and their presentation. Everything about this place is unique and it’s full of surprises. Even the menu lights up when you open it and the entrance is an old-fashioned refrigerator door.
I wish the lighting had not been so dim because our drinks were whimsical and creative works of art that would have been a thrill to photograph. I did take a video of my treasure chest and Alyssa’s Trojan horse cocktails arriving at our table that you can see here.
Bill’s drink was much more low key than ours, served in a tall martini glass but what a martini glass it was! 🐙
After our extraordinarily great day, we gave our hugs and said our goodbyes to Alyssa and Stu, vowing to return to Barcelona again someday for more fun with these two beautiful – inside and out – humans.
Thank you, Alyssa and Stu for treating us to such a special and memorable day. We loved every single second!
Off to bed Bill and I went, very late and with the expectation Spanish wine hangovers the next day. But we were also excited to wake up and embark the ship for our very first cruise!
In my next post about our Dream Trip, publishing after Christmas, I will be sharing Day Three that will include lots of photos of our suite and the stunning ship.
Thank you for reading!