i’ve had so many travels this year, i feel extra fortunate. i don’t normally travel this often and i sometimes forget how much inspiration comes from stepping outside your day-to-day world, getting a fresh perspective and seeing life from other countries outside our own. as you probably couldn’t help but see from the abundant instagrams i posted, i went to cuba last november with tour company extraordinaire coast to costa. it was the trip of a lifetime that i highly recommend you make and especially encourage you to do so soon if you live in the states, now that the current administration may make significant changes to how americans can visit cuba. traveling to cuba with coast to costa makes what can be challenging an easy, relaxing and most especially fun and beautiful trip. we had such a memorable cuba trip that coast to costa invited me to travel with them to spain as an ambassador of their trips so i could share how they travel, and i jumped at the opportunity.
so, to get right to it, here’s what a trip to barcelona, spain (and beyond) is like with coast to costa. we traveled with a great group of new friends from all over the country and met some wonderful people from barcelona along the way. we stayed in a beautiful flat with the prettiest terrace in a very central part of barcelona, walking distance from great restaurants and shopping and many of the sites and historical spots you’ll want to see while in visiting. coast to costa sets up the trip so that you get acclimated to the city quickly, and then feel comfortable enough to venture off on your own should you want to. so first off was our evening with our incredibly knowledgeable guide sam of zucker & spice travel who took us on a tapas and wine crawl all over the city. i had some of the best tapas i’ve ever tasted! here’s what you shouldn’t miss.
Cèntric canalla — my favorite place to eat tapas, this spot originally opened its doors 1862 and since reopened in 1942 — so they’ve long been serving their delicious vermouth along with yummiest tapas like escalivada with anchovies and the patatas bravas with chilli aioli. A lot of locals frequent this bar, always sure sign of the quality of the food.
can cisa / bar brutal — another excellent meal was had here, in the arty el born district with a funky decor and an extensive and excellent wine list. again, the tapas here were divine and meant to be shared at a communal table. we had some out of this world anchovies, a salted cod and potato dish that was the dream comfort food and a pork sandwich i would eat every darn day if i could.
Cañete — everybody said we should go here, and sadly we waited until the last day of our trip (with 11 people) and we couldn’t get in. however, i hear from my niece who’s a huge foodie that the food here is life changing. so make it a priority and learn from our mistake! located in the center of the Raval, their bar has just been awarded the Entrepreneur’s Kitchen Award.
La Boqueria — one of my personal favorites is the traditional old marketplace and the largest public food market in the Ciutat Vella district on las Ramblas (meaning Esplanade in spanish), a pedestrian walking street through the city to the oceanfront if you keep walking. You can gourmet shop to your heart’s content here, and dine on some of the freshest food the city has to offer — lots of booths have samples, too.
Mercat de Santa Caterina a trip to spain with coast to costa. — with its beautiful colorfully mosaic wavy rooftop designed by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue to replace its 19th-century predecessor, this the more contemporary version of La Boqueria — less crowded than la boqueria, too but also filled with beautiful produce stands, restaurants, cafes and bars.
casa batlló — The Casa Batlló was Antoni Gaudí’s architectural masterpiece, finished in 1907 and is perhaps the best example of modernism from the beginning of the 20th century. Hidden behind the modernist façade which mirrors a calm blue sea, tours include the Noble Floor which was the original residence of the Batlló family, the Attic (formally storage rooms and wash tubs), the gorgeous Roof Terrace with its mythical Chimneys and the fabulous Stairwell. it’s all incredible and not to be missed.
park güell — Created by the renowned architect Antoni Gaudí between 1900 and 1914. The grounds are a combination of lush green and some of gaudí’s most beautiful and unique work. be sure to buy tickets, otherwise, you’ll be able to walk the park, but not visit the architectural treasures. we failed here, too and didn’t have tickets!
basílica de la sagrada familia — much more than the huge Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, the basílica is forever changing for it began construction in 1882 and to this day is still not finished. the main chapel is breathtaking and masses are still held here. it’s honestly one of the most beautiful masterpieces of architecture i’ve yet to visit. book tickets online to avoid the lines.
coast to costa often includes some wonderful day or overnight trips out of the main destination, and this time we visited barcelona’s wine region and a couple of great wineries. we also road tripped to cadaqués — which is the most beautiful coastal village i may have every visited. truly, i’d like to retire there. it looks a little bit like a miniature greece — everything white and blue. so here’s a bit about those amazing trips.
Can Ràfols dels Caus winery — just outside the city of barcelona and about an hour’s drive is their incredible winemaking region. we had the most amazing tour here — this exterior looks like a spanish mansion, but this place is like the batcave inside! the owner Carlos Esteva began rebuilding his grandfather’s 17th century estate at the end of the 1970s, digging underground (it took two years!) to build the winery in this huge limestone cave. and the wine, of course, is most delicious!
salvador dalí museus — on our road trip to cadaqués we stopped in Salvador dalí’s hometown of Figueres and visited a museum dedicated to his life works. what an incredible homage to him — we were all wowed by it and it gave me a whole new perspective into how prolific his work was. from self-portraits to furniture, to murals with hidden paintings within them, this museum has everything dalí under one beautiful roof.
cadaqués — leaving the town of Figueres we headed to the sea, up and around a winding road into stunning cadaqués. as you come around this bend, the village is laid out before you with its red tiled rooftops and whitewashed buildings and the twinkling blue-green sea and you just kind of let out this huge gasp. it’s that pretty. we checked into hotel tramuntana and it was so charming and so lovely — everything you’d want in a seaside hotel. modern, but simple with super comfortable rooms with stunning views from little balconies with french doors to allow in the sea breeze. and a perfect breakfast was served each morning. i could have stayed here much longer!
el barroco — a magical dalí-themed Lebanese restaurant with the lushest, flower-filled outdoor dining terrace. it was raining a bit the night we arrived so we dined in their equally charming interior that was chock-full of unique art, brick-a-brack, and antiques. our host was wonderfully charming and the food delicious — pita, falafel and hummus and all kinds of Lebanese specialties we couldn’t stop eating. our host even played a little piano concerto for us to finish off the evening with our baklava. perfect!
brown sugar — don’t miss a mojito (made with brown sugar) at this little hole in the wall bar. the local music is as lively as the atmosphere, which spills out into the narrow streets. such a perfect way to experience this small, quaint village.