Beaches, Burgers and Boomerangs / by Nadia Fallahi

Finally, a country where I can speak the language!  A big group of us decided to head south to España for a few days to visit Barcelona and Madrid.  We did about four days in Barcelona and two or so in Madrid.  Because we did these together, I decided to clump them into one post together.

Spain was incredible, and I was so excited to visit for my first time.  I fell in love with Barcelona.  From the sandy beaches to incredible food to super amazing people and poppin’ nightlife, there was just so much going on.  I feel that any time I am near the water, my mood and happiness jump ten fold.  I do love living in the city, but I always need to be near the ocean, I have come to learn.  Abroad Fest was happening in Barcelona the same weekend, so I was scared I would see every single person I have ever known in one place, but it was better than assumed.  Plus, it was great to run into friends from SC that I wasn’t sure I would see this semester.  I’ll forever dream of running around trying to make Boomerangs, eating noodle paella and sipping drinks on the oceanfront.

Madrid was so different from Barcelona.  I felt like I was going from LA to New York.  Madrid was a really cool city, but I feel like we kept running out of places to go and things to eat.  I mean, I literally had four burgers from the same place in our very short time there — still not sure if this is good or bad (plus, I haven’t had a burger in over two weeks because of this).  I think it was also hard that we decided to go to Madrid during the week rather than a weekend.  Also, I probably would have appreciated the city a little more should we have gone there before Barcelona.  Madrid was still really cool, and I am glad that I got to visit.

 

BARCELONA

 

FOOD

Sensi Tapas

All of my friends I had consulted about Barcelona said that I must go to Sensi for tapas, as they were the best in the city.  They have a couple different restaurants, but we went to Sensi Tapas on our first night in Barcelona.  We started off with a little sangria and bread before delving into the delicious dishes.

Daniel and I shared about five different tapas.  I love tapas because it allows you to try so many more things that if the plates were full portions.  I don’t remember what we ordered exactly, but I do know that we got patatas bravas because we ate them whenever possible.  Everything was delicious and perfectly prepared.  I couldn’t have asked for a better first dinner.

 

Can Solé

If you ask anyone who has ordered the paella at Coachella, they will tell you, hands down, it is the best paella that they have ever tasted.  I agree with this statement 110%.  I was interested to see what Barcelona had going on with their paella and to see if it would top that notorious Coachella paella.  As soon as I tasted the paella at Can Solé, I knew that the competition would be stiff.  One of my friends highly recommended Can Solé, so we decided to go there on our second night.

The paellas serve about 2-3 people, so we got two orders of the paella mariscos, along with some salad, calamari and vegetables to share amongst the table.  The paella at Can Solé was simply delicious and so flavorful.  The seafood was so fresh, and I was even eager to try all of the mussels (something I usually never touch) and other mollusks.  While the Coachella paella will forever hold a special place in my heart, the Can Solé paella was ready to give it a run for its money.

 

Tras Paso

On Saturday, we tried to go to this big market that is held if Barcelona every so often, as recommended by yet another friend.  To our surprise, the line was sooooooo long, and it would be at least an hour before we got in.  We were set to go to Park Güell at 3:30, so we wanted to grab something quick-ish for lunch.  We walked around the area where the market was and ended up going into Tras Paso.  Tras Paso was a little café with a set menu for patrons to order from.

There was a option to start with salad or soup, followed by a beef, fish or vegetarian main course.  I opted for the salad and fish dish, which was light and tasty and came with grains and freshly prepared vegetable. This may not have been the most elaborate meal we ate, but it was definitely delicious, especially when we added a little hot sauce to the fish.

 

Marina Bay by Moncho’s

We kept walking past this jaunt, as it was on the beach right where all the clubs are.  We decided to eat here on our last night in Barcelona because it was close to the clubs and the menu looked good.  For our own sort of entertainment for the meal, we convinced Daniel to live read the Zola Twitter story from a few months ago — a great performance that left all of us dying of laughter.

A few of the boys and I split two paellas, and our table split some starters.  We got two seafood paellas, one rice and one noodle.  The noodle sounded really interested, as I hadn’t heard of such a thing, so I insisted that we ordered it.  The paellas were amazing, definitely standing up to Coachella and Can Solé.  I loooooooved the noodle paella, and I still dream about it.  The sangria was also very tasty and sweet.

 

LIFESTYLE

MACBA

Every city we visit, i always feel an urge to need to see some of their art.  In Barcelona, this brought us to the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA).  The building was huge and grandiose — you could definitely tell that the structure was fairly new.  I loved the set up of the interior, from the walkway up to the organization of the galleries.  All of these skate heads were hanging outside and working on new tricks, so it almost felt like LA again.

We went all thru the museum looking at different exhibits and pieces.  My favorite was the space exhibit on the top floor.   The collection of pieces was so strong, and I really fell in love with the installation.  The MACBA is definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in Barcelona.

 

La Sagrada Familia

Gaudí is the king of Barcelona, and his Sagrada Familia is incredible.  The giant church is a staple of Barcelona, and after visiting, I can understand why.  Besides the well-known structure and exterior, the interior is so complex and stunning.  Every single inch of La Sagrada Familia is so intricately decorated and delicately constructed.  No wonder that after over 100 years, they are just beginning to finish up all of the last bits and pieces.

Definitely go to La Sagrada Familia during midday.  The light will come through the stained glass windows so beautifully.  The colored windows are another staple in La Sagrada Familia, and it is fun to walk around and see how the reflections change throughout the cathedral.  I wish we had figured out the elevator tickets before we bought ours.  We were willing to climb to the top, but they do not allow you to use the stairs.  La Sagrada Familia was amazing, and I hope to visit again so I can see all of Barcelona from the top.

 

Park Güell

Another Gaudí jaunt, Park Güell is, sadly, most known amongst my demographic for being featured in Cheetah Girls 2.  We headed up to Park Güell after lunch for an afternoon of exploring.  We walked the grounds for a bit, making sure to get lots of pictures from the benches over looking the whole city.  The views were stunning, even if we had to fight some study abroad basics to get perfect spots.  Also, make sure to buy tickets ahead of time.

We spent a lot of time in the tunnels taking pictures and trying to master some Boomerangs.  I think we really channeled our best Cheetah Girls, as everything looked so good.  I loved how intricate and detailed Park Güell was.  You can tell that Gaudí really poured his heart and soul into the park, along with his other spots.  Park Güell is the perfect place to visit on a sunny Spanish afternoon.

Parc de la Ciutadella

The day we visited, La Sagrada Familia, we basically walked all throughout Barcelona.  We wanted to end the day at the beach, so it was a perfect time to slide through Parc de la Ciutadella on the way from La Sagrada Familia.  The park is vast and beautiful.  It it much flatter than Park Güell, and there was so much going on — from runnings on their daily grind to ping pong tournaments.  

Parc de la Ciutadella is probably most well known for its huge fountain.  We stopped here for a while to take some photos and walk up to the top of the fountain.  The park was beautiful and the weather that day made it that much better.

 

Casa Milà and Casa Batlló

I included these two together since both were designed by Gaudí and are very close to one another.  We knocked both out on our walk to La Sagrada Familia.  I am not sure if you can go into either (I think you can go in Milà, but I’m not certain), but they are both equally beautiful to visit and see for yourself.  Gaudí’s style is so specific, so the more of his works you see, the more distinguishable they become.

 

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas is a major street in Barcelona, lined with various shops, restaurants and markets.  Las Ramblas is always packed with tourists and locals alike.  We were staying very close to Las Ramblas, so we were often walking all up and down looking into the stores or just trying to get some Dunkin’ Coffee (aka Dunkin’ Donuts).  

 

 

 

NIGHTLIFE

Opium

Any American kid will tell you that you must go to Opium, one of the clubs on the beach.  We decided to go here on the second night of Abroad Fest when R3HAB was playing.  I am really not sure how I keep having run-in’s with R3HAB because I am not even that big of a fan of his.  Anyways, we bought tickets (which included a drink) and decided to go along with every other American in Barcelona that weekend.

Jackson, Daniel and I had sat on the back patio that afternoon for a drink, but they have most of the club closed off so you can’t see how big it is.  The club was massive when they open it up all the way.  There were people everywhere, and everyone really seemed to be digging it.  The set-up is great and the music was spot on.  I think all of us genuinely had a great time that night, and I would highly suggest a stop in to check it out for yourself.  Also, you can walk right out onto the beach from the clubs, so it is the perfect place to go for a little air. 

 

Shoko

Shoko is another big club on the beach, literally like right next door to Opium.  One of my friends said that Shoko was better than Opium, so we thought it could be work checking out.  Shoko was much smaller, but there were still so many people.  We got some weird ticket that was like 12€ for entry and two drinks, plus we could skip the whole line.

Shoko was still very fun, and I thought the music was soooooo good.  They played so many different kinds of songs, and I will forever search to find the triple mashup of “Coco,” “Hollaback Girl,” and “Gecko.”  

 

The Room

The Room quickly became a great spot to start the nights out at.  We would go there for a little while before heading to the clubs.  Their drinks are well priced, and the location is so prime.  Room is literally like 30 yards from the clubs, so it is perfect to start here.  We would like to go with the barrels and split between a few of us or get the 3/5€ shots.


MADRID 

 

FOOD

Mercado de San Miguel

I think we spent the most time here in Madrid, without a doubt.  Mercado de San Miguel is a huge indoor market (not like Time Out Market Lisbon, though) with a bunch of different vendors offering sangria to produce to pizza to burgers (bless).  We ended up at Mercado de San Miguel for lunch on our first day, and we would proceed to eat here four more times before leaving.

I mainly got burgers from Meating Point (more below), but I also tried mini pizza and these different mozzarella hour d’overs things.  There is really good sangria at a booth in the back that is a coffee bar also.  Mercado de San Miguel has some amazing food, and I would probably spend a lot more time there if I was living in Madrid, for sure.

 

Meating Point

RIP to these delicious burgers.  Found on the side of Mercado de San Miguel, you will find Meating Point and be taken on a delicious journey.  You can pick from all different styles of beef, ranging in price and quality, or even decide on four mini sliders.  I usually opted for the 8€ or 7€ burger, both tasted great.

Unfortunately, the burgers at Meating Point do not have any fixings (like lettuce, tomato) other than their original sauces.  You MUST order your burger with aioli and braves — in lieu of patatas bravas.  I do not lie when I say it is the most delicious combo.  It’s so delicious that I literally had four of these combinations within 48 hours…

Mercado de San Antón

Another market, but much different.  Mercado de San Antón is much larger than that of San Miguel, with more stalls and vendors along with a wine bar and lounge on the roof.  We ate at Mercado de San Antón on a Sunday night (pretty late too, now that I think about it).  Most of us got (surprise) burgers from one of the stalls on the second floor.  We then took to the rooftop for a little sangria before heading out.  Erik said that the rooftop of Mercado de San Antón is really fun around sunset, so I wish we had gotten the chance to head over then. 

 

 

LIFESTYLE

 

 

Buen Retiro Park

T G we had pretty good weather the day we went to Buen Retiro Park. The park is huge and has so many different parts to it like Palacio Cristal.  Buen Retiro is mostly known for it’s huge fountain pond thing, but it is worth a good walk throughout.  I wish that is was a little warmer so we could go on the boats.  You can rent them for some time and row throughout.  

 

 

 

 

Palacio Cristal

Located within Buen Retiro Park, Palacio Cristal is literally a little glass palace of sorts.  It was definitely a lot smaller than I had imagined, but still super rad.  They had some sort of exhibit there, so different kinds of animal bones were being hung in one area.  The lighting is fantastic so make sure to snap a few pictures or Boomerangs while over there.

 

 

We also made stops by the Royal Palace and Temple of Debod, but just passed by without really stopping in.  The views from Temple of Debod overlooking Madrid were fantastic!

 

Matcha Had Me...going on a long cleanse from red meat and other toxins...