Joe and I often stop for a minute and marvel at the fact that we’re currently living in Europe. Out of nowhere, one of us will turn an awe-struck, giddy smile on the other and say, “holy CRAP, can you believe where we are right now…?? Can you believe how beautiful ___ is??” or something similar. We experienced this feeling more than once this past Saturday during an epically exploratory, culturally enriching, taste-bud tantalizing and mind-bogglingly beautiful day out and about in this fair city.
After enjoying an educational and visually beautiful trip through the Museum of Catalan History, we headed around the corner to visit a local brewery called Black Lab, which bills itself as the first brew pub in Barcelona (and is housed in the same building as the museum) and beckons attractively with shaded outdoor tables and nostalgic ’90s jams (written on the window: “Honest Craft Beer Made Here”).
We started with two beer cocktails (his had mezcal and IPA Claudia, and mine had tequila and Sunday Pils) and some zesty guacamole, and then befriended our server. Her short, bleached hair started in dark roots and ended in grown-out green highlights, she wore bright blue lipstick, and we bonded with her almost immediately (first in Spanish, but then in English when more beer-specific vocabulary was required). She informed us that, in addition to their regular raspberry “Sour Lady” beer, they had one brewed with jalepeños – would we like to try it? A spicy sour beer, are you kidding?? Joe’s face looked like a kid’s in a candy store, and I was pretty excited as well. Fortunately, it turned out to be even better than it sounded, and Joe quickly declared it was one of his favorite beers of the trip so far. Its watermelon-pink color (despite the raspberry – and jalepeño flavor) made it that much more fun to drink.
Food and beverage goal number two of the day involved a tiny tapas place a block from our apartment. Every time we had walked by, a line of at least 10 people went out the door – usually by 6pm – but its sign advertising cheap margaritas, mojitos, and other “exotic” drinks kept catching our eye. And so, on Saturday after stop number one, we high-tailed it home, changed in to more evening-appropriate attire, and headed down the street to Bodega Biarritz 1881 15 minutes after it opened (it’s lacking a website, but not popularity). We snagged a small table with half-wine barrel chairs snugged up against a wall, and our waiter brought us an interesting menu: we could either choose random tapas from the bar and then would be charged by the number of tooth picks on our plates, or we could let our sever choose for us and pay a set price. Feeling lazy, we chose option b and let the food come to us. It was flavorful, flaky-gooey, meat and cheese heavy, and totally wait-in-line worthy – as many people began to do not long after we got settled and the place filled up. The menu did inform diners, however, that once they’d finished eating, they would not be served any more drinks so that the next guests could get in and keep the line moving. Seems to work well for them, and we left feeling full and accomplished.
Since it was only 7pm and still sunny in the neighboring, always bustling Plaça Reial, we headed that way to hang with the locals and people watch. Before settling in, however, we were entertained by a roving group of acrobats – five (very strong) young men who tumbled, climbed, and flipped their way into their viewers’ hearts. Another unexpected and entertaining Barcelona experience – check!
We did then find two brightly colored seats at a rickety metal table at one of the peripheral restaurants that lined almost the entire, large, rectangular square (I have no idea what it was called – we never went inside) and promptly ordered the deep red drinks we’d spotted one table over: strawberry basil mojitos. The amount of sugar we discovered left our teeth (and later, heads) aching, but they were a delicious indulgence. We got to see one more tumbling performance, watched two adorable little girls attempting to imitate the acrobats, inspired smiles lighting up their angelic faces, and enjoyed the last rays of sunlight filtering through the palms lining the plaza. One glass of cava each cleared out some of the mojito’s sweetness – and balanced out the bill’s price – before we headed back home. We may have consumed multiple types of food and almost every sort of alcohol under the sun, but it was a full and immensely satisfying day.