by Joseph V. Amodio
(Page 2 of 3)
My room, in sleek brown and silver tones,
offers some surprises, so be sure to tap the walls like
youre in a James Bond flick. Halfway through my
stay I realized one wall slid to the side, revealing
a translucent glass panel looking into the shower, for
a sexy show in silhouette. I also liked the handsome,
blue-glass bottles of water dropped off in my room each
day, to keep me hydrated.
The Stone Spa downstairs, with its
polished pebble floor, is a tranquil oasis where I indulged
in a combination jacuzzi and massage. Or you can try
other treatments, like a steam with Vichy shower (a
foam rinse of milk, honey, and rosemary), mud wraps,
waxing, or an outdoor couples massage in the back garden
utilizinghola!suction cups, cocoa, or gently
Dining options in Barcelona are extensive
and impressive. On my first night in the city, for convenience
sake, I hit the Casanova Hotels Mexiterranée
restaurant, a fusion of Mexican, Catalan, and Mediterranean
flavors. The white cevichezesty sea bass with
coriander and purple onionis served martini style,
the grilled rib-eye Coloradito provides a filling slab
of beef marinated in a guajillo and ancho chiles sauce,
and the flaky tart tatin is served warm, drizzled with
Papantla vanilla (Papantla being a major vanilla-producing
region in Mexico). I also try the quesadillas sincronizadasa
delightful mix of wild mushrooms and butifarra sausage,
a spicy regional specialty. Also recommended: the tortilla
soup (soothing) and cactus sorbet (refreshingly tangy).
For dining with a sea breeze, check out
La Gavina, on the waterfront. Menus here come in six
languages, though not all the waiters dobe prepared
to point. Theres not much by way of décor,
but you cant go wrong with the acorn-stuffed Bellota
ham appetizer and a pitcher of the Cava Sangria with
umpteen liquors, plus Fanta Lemon, mixed at your table.
The seafood paella, piping hot from the skillet, and
monkfish with lentils and garlic, are sure hits, as
are desserts like the grapefruit and rose sorbet, and
Crema Catalana, their version of crème brulée.
Also, dont forget Castro, a gay
restaurant where quite decent Mediterranean fare is
offset by rather indecent décor (swags of S&M
chain drapes and large photos of nuts and bolts). Its
popular, so call ahead for reservations.
For a hidden gem, trek into the Gothic
quarter in search of LAntic Bocoi del Gòtic,
a cozy charmer with heavy wooden tables and ancient
stone wall (one of the citys original walls that
dates back centuries). Platters brim with local sausages
and cheese, and the coques de recapte, Catalan thin-bread
pizzas (the house specialty) flaunt toppings from the
expected (tomato, assorted veggies) to the exotic (herring,
codfish, marrow). Just say sí to dessert. The
cinnamon-toffee ice cream and raspberry bavarois (a
Bavarian cream concoction) will have you contemplating
extending your stay.
Barcelona is definitely a walking city,
but it also offers an easy-to-navigate subway system
that makes getting around a fairly simple affair. Some
must-see sights to visit during your stay include the
Museu Picasso, which is set in a block of medieval mansions.
This place is perfect for those not crazy about museums.
Its small, with brief explanations of Pablo Picassos
amazing works, from his youth (when he hung out in Barcelonas
seedy districts painting the bohemians), through his
Blue and Rose periods, to the ceramics he dabbled with
in old age. A room containing Las Meninas,
his series of 59 paintings inspired by the old Velázquez
portraits of Spains youngster royals, will take
your breath away (if not provoke a giggleits
vintage Picasso, with the kiddies hair like shoe
boxes, and all those eyes and noses crowded to one side
of their heads).
Before strolling around the city, it
would be wise to get a map that pinpoints Gaudí
architecture. The works of this genius are sprinkled
throughout the city, with several in Eixample. His crown
jewel is the (unfinished) Sagrada Familia church, with
its mind-blowing steeples that seem to drip like candle-wax.
You can climb up inside, but even the view from below
is arresting. From here, walk to La Pedrera, an apartment
building on the Passeig de Gràcia, a chic shopping
boulevard. Take the tour inside, exploring a curvy-walled
apartment and the meringue-dolloped roof deck that Dr.
Seuss wouldve loved. Three blocks down, theres
Casa Batlló, another Gaudí wonder. Or
head up to Parc Güell, where theres not a
single straight line, and the landscape must compete
with Gaudís mesmerizing mosaics that skitter
over benches and stairs.
Meanwhile, La Boqueria (set halfway
down Las Ramblas) is the largest market in Europe. Here,
Barcelonans shop daily for the regions freshest
produce, seafood, meats, and more. Youll work
up an appetite just watching the hustle and bustle.
The Casanova Hotel offers a fascinating Boqueria tour
and cooking class with Jaume Brichs, their food and
beverage consultant and a Michelin-pedigreed chef.