¡hola! from Spain!

September 24 – After a full day at work, hubs and I caught our flight to Barcelona, with a stop-over in Munich. Knowing that we would not have time to eat before our flight, I purchased two pies from work. Gotta love our packaging!

pie

We had the opportunity to fly on the new Boeing 787-9 dreamliner. Hubs informed me that this aircraft was first put into service by Air Canada in July 2015. The windows are bigger than in the traditional aircrafts, and they do not have the traditional sliding blinds. The technology to block out light is more like transition sun glasses. I flew economy class, and I wouldn’t necessarily point out that there was more personal space, but I’m also not a large person. I do know someone that flew premium economy and thoroughly enjoyed the experience because there was noticeably more leg room, and this friend is tall.

The flight was calm and wonderfully uneventful. There was not a single baby or child on board the completely full flight! During take-off, the plane was significantly quieter than other planes I have been on – not as much engine noise, or simply better sound proofing? I was excited to discover that Fast & Furious 7 was available. All I will say is that this one was the most entertaining of all the Fast & Furious movies, mostly because it is completely over-the-top. The scene that made me laugh uncontrollably was the Daddy’s Gotta Go To Work scene.

I wasn’t able to get much sleep on this flight, but I have a hard time sleeping on any flight because it’s a challenge to get comfortable. I wish that economy class on Air Canada would offer the foot rest. Even though I am of small stature, I have my own set of problems. My legs and butt tend to get numb if the seat height isn’t quite right, or if the seat cushion isn’t padded enough. I was so exhausted by the time we reached Munich that I did fall asleep for about 30 minutes in the waiting area during our layover, and then I was out cold for the entire flight to Barcelona (around three hours).

Unlike our trip to Croatia, we retrieved all of our luggage from the bag claim; nothing was missing. We were off to a great start. Welcome to Barcelona airport!

shuttle

Just kidding. We’re waiting for the shuttle to take us to Margot House Hotel. The hotel, named after Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in “The Royal Tenebaums,” was newly built in early 2015, and it is beautiful! It’s a boutique hotel, set on one floor of a building. Margot’s coolly detached and glamorous persona sets the tone for the look of the hotel.

Margot, is a deep woman with a hidden side to her, giving off a glamorous and almost elusive feel.

margot-door

They have nine rooms in total, and their goal is to create a home away from home, by having a large common sitting area that is bright and inviting. They have a gourmet kitchen, where breakfast is served every morning, buffet style.

margot-greatroom

margot-tea

margot-kitchenbynight

And they offer free tea, coffee, and pastries throughout the day – and it’s good quality tea and coffee. Hubs and I actually spent a lot of our down time drinking tea and coffee while researching things online.

margot-snack

The rooms are minimalistic and modern. I loved the polished concrete floors and am considering this for my future bathroom reno. The huge shower was fantastic! Originally I was skeptical of having an interior window (room 3). It’s a window that doesn’t really look out to anything – but it works if you want a peaceful, noise-free sleep. The bed was incredibly comfortable.

room3

margot-bed

margot-lamp

margot-storage

margot-bathroom

margot-shower

For more photos, including rooms with a view, visit Remodelista.

The breakfast consisted of fresh fruits, cheeses, cured meats, eggs (hard boiled, or scrambled to order), with freshly squeezed orange juice.

margot-kitchenbyday

I truly felt so comfortable at Margot House. In fact, I already miss it, and I will likely compare many future hotels to this one.

We have spent a day-and-a-half in Barcelona. This is a large, bustling city with amazing architecture. Prior to this trip, I had never heard of Gaudí. His work can be found all over Barcelona, so if you are interested in his work, you need to spend at least a week here. Margot House is located across the street from one of his designs – Casa Batlló. We only viewed it from the outside.

casabatllo

Based on the recommendation from the lovely receptionist at Margot, we had our first dinner at Citrus, where we had our first taste of tomato bread. I’m hooked! It’s simply crusty bread with fresh (or maybe roasted) tomato spread on.

tomatobread

The duck magret with pineapple and pistachio was delicious, and different from duck we’ve tried elsewhere. It must be the pistachio.

duck

The tuna dish was ok, but nothing special.

tuna

Barcelona looks like a biking city, with bike lanes spanning the city. And for the number of cyclists and drivers on the road and pedestrians crossing against the lights, drivers seem calm. I don’t think I heard any honking in this city. I want to also mention that most people drive cars, not minivans or SUVs. There are also a lot of motorbikes on the road.

bikelane1

bikelane2

Before arriving, I had done some research into things we should do/see in Barcelona that would interest us. I discovered that at the Palau de la Música Catalana, a concert hall, there was an orchestral performance of Carmina Burana! Without hesitation, I purchased tickets.

palau1

palau2

Knowing that hubs wouldn’t be as excited about this (he only fell asleep once), I chose the more economical seats; however, I suggest paying a little more for better visuals. Luckily this was orchestral and not a full production, so sound is more important that sight. I had goosebumps, especially when they performed O Fortuna. They performed it near the beginning of the program, and again as the finale. And again for the encore. It was mind blowing! For those of you that do not know it, here is a performance found on YouTube.

After emailing Palau to find out how long the performance was (1.5 hours), I made dinner reservations at Accés restaurante. I haven’t mentioned meal times in Spain yet. Typically people wake up and start work at 8:00 am. They only have a coffee and maybe a pastry. Mid-morning they would break for breakfast. Lunch is the largest meal of the day, and many people will go home. Most shops and businesses close for lunch between 2-4 pm, for lunch and a short siesta. You then return to work and continue until 7:00 pm and onward. Dinner starts between 9:00 and 10:00, and many local restaurants don’t open for dinner before 8:00. So our 9:30 pm dinner reservations helped us to blend in. The bellota ham was so good! I’m officially a ham snob. No more Serrano ham for this gal, nor do I want the regular Iberico ham. I love the Jamón ibérico de bellota. What’s the difference? The bellota are black-hoofed, free-range pigs, and their diet mainly consists of acorns. The curing process is also a bit of an art, comparable to wine making. If you want to learn more, visit jamon.com. If you like visuals like me, Serious Eats provides some photos of the pigs. I’m doubtful I will find ibérico de bellota in Toronto, simply because it is already so costly in Spain. Imagine how expensive it would be here, though this older article in the Globe and Mail is giving me some hope that maybe it’s not far (but probably still too costly).

Earlier in the day, hubs and I tried Ibérico ham, but perhaps not the bellota, at La Boqueria (the market). It’s a great place for foodies to visit. I love that it is both a place for people to buy things to take home, and an eatery.

market

market-fish

market-tomatoes

market-ham

There are many places that provide seating around the perimeter of their stall. Most of them were jam packed with people eating, and waiting to grab the next available seat. We found a place that was serving up some good looking seafood. Of course I cannot recall their name, but their grilled seafood platter was very memorable.

market-tapas1

market-tapas2

September 27 – Today, after two wonderful nights, we sadly checked out of Margot House. On the upside, we are starting our new adventure. We met up with our Backroads group this morning, and were greeted by Oriol (Uri), our team leader. He’s a great guy, and after quick introductions, he led us to our shuttle. The ride would be approximately two hours to our picnic destination, where we would get fitted and start our ride. Partway there, our shuttle broke down! We were on a narrow highway, but the driver managed to pull over just enough so that other cars could pass. How lucky were we? There was a second Backroads group heading in the same direction on a luxury bus. We flagged them down and joined their group of 16 (our group is 17).

After a very lovely lunch set out by Martina and Nestor, with live music provided by an accordion player, we had our first route wrap (orientation) meeting. In the background, we could hear thunder and see the ominous clouds rolling in. During our bus ride, we did run into some heavy rain, and Uri warned us of the unstable weather forecast for the coming week. But we are with a good group – people that seem to have a positive attitude. I should mention that we are team North America. All the guests on this tour are from the USA except for us, and three that are from Montreal.

Spain-2015-Backroads-JLG-1

Spain-2015-Backroads-JLG-10

Although there was some rain during our ride today, I loved it. How can you not love being surrounded by snow-capped mountains, which we were told were not snow-capped yesterday. The key to enjoying your ride in non-ideal weather conditions is to pack for it. We had warm layers and rain gear. It rained on-and-off, and we were also faced with a strong head wind during the final two kilometers, but I felt like a million bucks. I rode the full 37.5 km, even the 4 km climb. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but somehow hubs and I made it to the hotel first. That certainly gives me the confidence I need, though there are some very strong riders in the group.

day-1-efforts

Our ride ended at our hotel, Hotel Bernat de So, which will be our home base for two nights. It’s most definitely a great place for cyclists.

Bernat

bernat-bikefriendly

bernat-wood

bernat-room

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