Bon Voyage: Barcelona, Spain

We recently took a quick weekend trip to Barcelona to enjoy the delicious tapas, beautiful architecture, and white-sand beaches.  It was the Doc’s first time in Spain, and after such a good trip, I have a feeling it won’t be our last.

IMG_1252La Sagrada Familia

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IMG_1259Stunning stained glass windows in Sagrada Familia

IMG_1261  Hot, humid, and hazy Barcelona.

IMG_1295Boqueria Market on a Saturday

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IMG_1281Strolling along Las Ramblas…with all the other tourists.

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IMG_1284La Barceloneta beach

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IMG_1303Gaudi’s Parc Guell

IMG_1304View of Sagrada Familia and the city from Parc Guell.

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During our long descent back into town, the clouds parted and we hit the beach for lunch and Round 2 of seaside relaxing.

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Sleep: We stayed at this AirBnB, which was in a perfect location in Eixample and really nice for the price.

Eat: Tapas, tapas, tapas…and paella.

Late, late dinner at Cerveceria Catalana at the suggestion of our AirBnB host.  The tapas were great and their was a wait even at midnight.  Unlike many Barcelona restaurants, it would be good for groups.  A little touristy, but still really tasty.

Lunch at Cal Pep in the Gothic Quarter.  No menus, and no bookings.  It’s not open for dinner on Saturday, so we went for lunch.  We sat at the bar (which is the way to go) and let the waiters take care of us!  It’s more expensive that we thought it should be but the food doesn’t disappoint.

Another late dinner at Bar Mut in Eixample.  Tiny, hip tapas bar with only menus in Catalan.  Very local and one of my favorite eats of the weekend.  Kitchen stays open until midnight.

Beach-side lunch at Escriba Xiringuito.  Paella and sangria…doesn’t get much for Spanish or delicious than that.

See:  La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s still-under-construction Catholic Church and masterpiece.  Parc Guell in north Barcelona.  Walking down Las Ramblas–uber touristy but good to do.  Wind through the Gothic Quarter and El Born.  Relax on beaches of Barceloneta, or the less touristy area on the north side of the Olympic park.

TTN: 

-The airport is a 15 minutes (30 euro) taxi ride from the center of town.  There are several public transport ways to get into the city, but they all seemed to take an hour, so we went with a cab.

-Most people don’t eat before 9pm.   We didn’t eat before 11 either night but were able to grab a tapas or two late afternoon to tide us over.

-Buy tickets to Sagrada Familia online beforehand to avoid the lines.  You can also pay a few euro more to climb up the tower (we did the Nativity tower), which provides great views over Barcelona.

-Parc Guell is a good hike uphill.  Entrance to the park is free but they now charge 8 euros to go see the Gaudi areas.

Hi/Low:  Falling asleep on the beach in total relaxation was a high for both of us.  The major low was getting bumped from our flight on Sunday and not getting back to London until Monday morning.

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Neighbo(u)rhood Watch: South Kensington & Chelsea


Inspired by my friend Killian, and the many requests we receive about the neighbourhoods and fun places to go in our own, I thought it would be fun to share some of our favourite places in our hood.

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South Kensington & Chelsea

Favourite restaurants and takeout:

Riccardo’s–Great neighourhood Italian, with lovely covered/uncovered terrace.

Kurobuta–Modern Japanese in a small, fun restaurant along the King’s Road.  Best sushi I’ve had here.  Started as a pop-up and is now permanent (yay!).

Bosphorus–Middle-eastern takeaway, some of the best kebabs in the city.  Cheap and very close to South Ken tube station.

Noor Jahan–Indian.  Delish.

The Orchid–excellent Pho for cold/rainy nights

Tommis or Byron–when you need a good burger

Favourite Coffee and Cafes:

La Bottega–very Italian

Gail’s–local chain

Hummingbird Bakery–the cupcakes are amazing

Favourite Breakfast and Brunch:

Megan’s–Best scrambled eggs in London and very good prepared salads.  Healthy brunch/lunch.  *Dog friendly.

Tom’s Kitchen–Nicer brunch, off the beaten path, great food

Bluebird–‘See and be seen’ spot with a great terrace, casual cafe, and nicer dining room.

Duke of York Square  farmer’s market

Favourite Pubs:

*Lucy is generally welcome at all pubs, so we tend to spend a lot of our social hours there.  Find the pubs off the high street and try to avoid any chain pubs.  You will get a much better experience (and good to very good food) if you can find some of the local, off-the-beaten path spots.  Pubs are usually open from lunch until last call at 11pm.

Angelsea Arms–our ‘local’ despite the sometimes too posh crowds.  Fantastic terrace where people just spill out into the street when the weather is nice.

Kings Arms–great pub for watching ‘football’ along the Fulham Road.

Duke of Clarence–Gastro pub that gets very busy on the weekend.

Builder’s Arms–Hidden behind St. Luke’s Church.  Great fireplace for the winter and excellent mussels and frites.

The Pig’s Ear–Old-school pub, with great winter atmosphere.

Favourite Drinks/Cockails:

The Sampler–Wine store near South Ken tube with over 50 wines to sample out of enomatic machines.

Upstairs at GOAT

Barts

Janet’s–Funny little bar that stays open after all the pubs close.  You often find Janet behind the bar taking advantage of late-night revellers.

Favourite Tea:

The Orangerie at Kensington Palace

Favourite Shopping:

Shops along Kings Road

Wyndham House–local butcher with excellent meat products (and poultry for non-beef fans)

Moxon’s–local fishmonger

Things to do:

Victoria & Albert Museum–wonderful collection of design and decorative arts in gorgeous building

Natural History Museum

Bute street farmer’s market–Saturday market along Bute Street

Bon Voyage: Burgundy, France

Where to even begin?!  Last week was one of the best we’ve had yet on this side of the pond.  It began with the arrival of two of our best friends from college on Saturday, followed by the arrival of my mom and godmother on Monday, and then capped off with an incredible birthday weekend in France.

While the visit with my mom was too short, I couldn’t have been happier to have her here to kick start my birthday week (yes, I’m a birthday week celebrator).  The only thing that made her departure easier was knowing we had an exciting weekend ahead.

Friday came quickly, and our train very early.  Before we’d hardly finished our coffee, we were saying bon jour in Paris and toasting Barlow’s 30th birthday in front of Sacre Couer.

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After hiking up to the top of Sacre Couer with all of our luggage, we earned a delicious lunch at Jeanne B in Montmartre.

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After lunch, we hopped aboard another train that took us down to Beaune–the heart of Bourgogne (Burgundy) wine country.  Burgundy produces some of the world’s top Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, and its been on my list of places to visit for quite a while.  Turns out it has been on a few of our friends’ lists, as our travel group grew from 2 to 13.  We spent next three straight days eating way too much food, drinking delicious wine, and laughing more than we ought to.  Throw in beautiful scenery and good weather and you get one heck of a trip.

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We woke up early enough Saturday morning to hit the weekly market in the center of town.  The produce, meats, and cheeses all looked incredible and so very French.

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Just one or two croissants were consumed to get us going.  We spent the rest of the day exploring several wineries in the Cote d’ Or and Cote d’ Nuit.   Our very patient guides Joy and Rob taught us the history of the area, how the wine is made, and what sets one area apart from another.

 

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IMG_1102Baby grapes.  These guys will get harvested in August or September.

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A highlight of the day was tasting a 1984 Gevrey Chambertin in honor of Barlow’s 30th birthday.  Mmmm mmm.

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On Sunday, we loaded up our market goods and hopped on bikes to explore the region on two wheels.  A paved bike path winds through the vineyards connecting small towns along the Cote d’ Or.  It was glorious!

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After working up a good appetite, we had a lovely picnic in the vineyards that involved lots of cheese, a twix bar birthday cake, lots of water, a little wine, and a good game of grape toss.

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What had already been a great day was finished with an outdoor dinner in the center of town and a giant candle to blow out.  We all shared our highs and lows of the trip–though hard to pick just one, the picnic in the vineyard was an all around high and a repeated low was schlepping our luggage through the streets of Paris in the rain.  Many more highs than lows!

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Sleep:  We stayed at the Belle Epoque just on the edge of town.  Beaune is tiny so it was very easy to walk everywhere.  The hotel was clean and comfortable, and just right for the low price.

Eat:  Oh boy, we did not have a bad meal the whole weekend.  Jeanne B. in Paris was very good, fun atmosphere, relaxed with a group.  Highly recommend if in Montmartre area.  Lunch at Au Petit Bonhuer in tiny Volnay. Ma Cuisine, Caves Madeline, and Double Sens in Beaune were all fantastic.  Most places have three course set menus, so come hungry!  Ma Cuisine and Caves Madeline are both very small, so I’d make a reservation.

Drink:  Wine, wine, wine!  And water in between.

TTN:  We took the Eurostar from London to Paris and then a regional train to Beaune.  They arrive/depart from different stations, so allow plenty of time to make the transfer.

We didn’t rent a car, but if you want to explore the area without a guide or not on a bike, it would be a good idea to have one.