Sabor criollo

One of the benefits of living in a multicultural city is the opportunity to stumble across different cuisines. Especially if you know it will be good seeing the numbers of people regularly eating there. An authentic flavour of South America brought to our table on a Friday evening; washed down with some Venezuelan brew.

Venezuelan cuisine, “cocina criolla” as it is known, reflects the complex history of the country mingling European influence (especially Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese), indigenous roots and African ancestry. This unique blend makes it a flavoursome dishes.

In our table the national dish, Pabellón Criollo, and the most famous dish, Arepas. The Pabellón Criollo is a simple dish of shredded beef or pork, black beans, white rice, and sometimes accompanied by fried plantain. Arepas are cornmeal disks that are grilled, baked or fried. Unlike in its neighbor country Colombia where it is normally eaten unadorned, in Venezuela Arepas are split open and filled with a variety of cheese and/or meats. In Venezuela, Arepas are generally eaten as snacks or as side companions at meals. For us, as a main dish.

Not your usual dining experience

Immersed inside and underneath Barcelona’s iconic Liceu opera house on the Ramblas, Opera Samfaina offers people a gastronomic adventure and a wildly visual theme park. The experience is a multi-sensorial and dinning extravaganza with Catalan food at its heart. A great activity for team bonding. Once seated at our round, themed table, we are entertained by overhead projections of the ingredients they could have had. But taking no notice of the organising of the event meant a vegetarian evening of what seemed like a psychedelic trip of Catalan cuisine laid ahead. Skipping the fish, meat and pork dishes and instead having lettuce, tomato and potato based dishes.

The project of this restaurant was led by the brothers Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca famous for El Celler de Can Roca which was voted Best Restaurant in the World in 2013 and 2017.

Though it is a wonder how long this place will stay open. It is said that the venue that opened in July 2016 is now on debt moratorium.

By letter only

Long summer evenings allow for time basking in the park and having a picnic. Enjoying a rare bottle of wine in which one must hand write a letter to the owner to get some of his produce. Local sausages and cured meats and cheese from around Europe. This is the reward and the celebration of the end from enduring months of bad management and borderline bullying behaviours.

Andorran gastronomy

The “bordas” are typical rural buildings made of wood and stone, legacy of Andorra’s rural past. Bordas were used as haystacks, stables, refuges or to store farm implements. With the change in lifestyle, many bordas were abandoned and only recently converted over the years into hotels, houses or rustic restaurants.

Borda del Rector is in the entrance to Incles Valley, between Soldeu and El Tarter. It has been opened since 1968 and specializes in homemade Andorran cuisine.

Being in between Spain and France, Andorra has taken on cooking traditions from both these countries and has also developed and maintained some of its own, unique recipes, using local wild produce as much as possible.

High in the corner of Andorra

In the extreme northwest of Andorra, in the parish of Ordino and adjacent to the border with France; protected by the top of some of the Pyrenees mountains, and chaired by the Tristaina peak (2,878 meters high), is a group of three lakes.

A 6.5km walk will take you through the three lakes starting with a steep initial climb which has a slope of around 300 meters. The first lake, “Estany Primer”, is at 2250 meters high. The third and highest, at 2330mts, is called the “Estany de Més Amunt”.

Start the walk early for two reasons. First, there will be a lot less people. And secondly, local knowledge says that the best weather is in the mornings, and that it is more likely to rain in the afternoon.

In each lake fly fishers try their luck. They can only take a maximum of 8 fishes of 22cm long as a minimum. Fish introduced a long time ago by humans as originally this glacier did not have any fish.

A country of valleys and peaks

In Europe Andorra ranks in as the sixth smallest nation. It consists of 181 square miles and a population of only 78,000.

This tiny country has one of the highest human life expectancies in the world, the expected life span of a person is 82 years of age.

With no airports and no rail system it is a wonder that over 10 million tourists visit Andorra each year, mostly for the skiing. Andorra’s revenue is generated from all these visitors; it constitutes ~80% of Andorra’s GDP along with the finance sector.

This little country in the Pyrenees is divided in parishes. Ordino, at 1,298m high, has 4810 inhabitants and is one of the most beautiful Andorran towns. A nice place to stay with numerous restaurants to pick from

Looking up at Gaudi’s creation

Gaudi’s most famous creation is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world with around five million visitors every year.

When the Sagrada Familia is fully built, it will have 18 towers to represent the twelve apostles, the four books of Jesus, the master tower for Jesus and another one for Mary.

Today only 8 towers are completed, four are part of the Nativity facade and four are part of the Passion facade. The Nativity facade was completed under the supervision of Gaudi himself in 1935.

Those with fear of heights can be at peace as there are no sudden drops or open spaces. The climb up is normally in a lift; though once you have checked out the views from the top, everyone must walk down approximately 400 stairs along a spiral staircase. For those brave enough make sure you step out into the little balconies and look up as well as down

Parc Güell

This park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. It was originally planned to be a housing estate with big gardens and green spaces for around 60 villas but only two houses were actually completed due to a lack of interest. One of which Gaudí lived in, though designed by architect Francesc Berenguer in 1904.

The park’s design, as all of Gaudí’s works, is built with the natural environment on which it was situated, taking advantage of the mountain it sits in, rather than fighting it. The park is in 17 hectares and includes rounded forms, columns that look like tree trunks, animal figures and mimics nature’s shapes. Most of the architectonic elements are decorated with mosaics made from colourful ceramic pieces with a technique called “trencadis” which Gaudí is said to have invented. The technique is used to cover structures with colourful mosaic, normally in odd shapes and pieces of ceramic, glass or marble tiles.

The park owes its name to Eusebi Güell who commissioned Antoni Gaudi for building Park Güell. Back in those days, the mountain was called “Muntanya Pelada” (bare mountain) because it was so barren. It is almost impossible to imagine what that might have looked like.

El mercado de la Boqueria

El Mercado de la Boqueria is a 2,500 square meter market that sits on the site where the Convent of San José was founded in 1586. La Rambla became very popular and in the 1820s when the Monastery was destroyed by a fire, the market was transferred to this location.

The market is a labyrinth with more than 300 stands that sell food and produce from near and far. You can have lunch or dinner there trying all sorts of things, from razorfish to cuttlefish, snails to rabo de toro. And any type of ham imaginable.

A day on Montjuïc

Montjuïc hill is 173 meters high and next to the sea. It houses the National Museum of Art in Cataluña in the Palau Nacional; which was designed for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition.

It is said that the word ‘Montjuïc’ comes from Mountain of the jews as there was a Jewish cemetery with medieval origins in the mountain. The other theory is that the name comes from ‘Monte Jovis’ as there might have been a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter.

The mount has historical importance not only for the events there occurred but also as the quarry that used to be there provided most of the stone for the historic buildings in Barcelona.

The easiest way to get here is by metro that connects to a 5 minute funicular ride. Advisable in hot summer days.