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Archive for the ‘Jamie’ Category

Monday, June 2, 2014- Breakfast in Barcelona, Spain at Hotel Indigo

Jamie says: Happy 30th anniversary to Mom and Dad! And what a great present and blessing to be able to spend 9 nights in Spain with our family unit and to share in the celebration. Upon awaking, K and I brought Mom and Dad their anniversary cards. Soon after, it was time for breakfast, and a later one, too – 9:45 AM. Can’t remember the last time I ate breakfast that late! I figured out how I made it, though- I was full from last night’s late dinner.

Guess what I had to eat? Cereal and soy milk. I guess I couldn’t get enough of it. This time, I sliced up one of Dad’s bananas for a topping. Getting wild here. But it was so good. It looked like Kashi cereal and tasted like lucky Charms with the bananas as big marshmallows.

Looks like Kashi, tastes like Lucky Charms

Looks like Kashi, tastes like Lucky Charms

Dad found the solarium, and we ventured upstairs to take a look ourselves…

Awesome view from the solarium!

Awesome view from the solarium!

We didn’t lay out but had fun scoping it out.

Chillax

Chillax

Mom and Dad got some great anniversary pictures. Happy 30th anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Happy 30th anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Happy 30th anniversary, Mom and Dad!

I loved this picture!

So cute!

So cute!

We did our “Mom and the girls” shot…

The "hens"

The “hens”

…and then our “Dad and the girls” photo.

Daddy, daughters

Daddy, daughters

And soon we were off- ready to take Dad to Las Ramblas!

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Sunday, June 1, 2014- Lunch in Barcelona, Spain at Bar del Pi

Jamie says: Dad and I navigated to lunch. I had two ideas from the Rick Steves guidebook. It took a little effort to find, but little did we know that our destination would be totally worth the wandering. And we thought our tapas lunch was delicious- our lunch at Bar del Pi was another A+ meal!

Bar del Pi- a hole in the wall gem

Bar del Pi- a hole in the wall gem

The restaurant was small, cozy, and casual and had an antique-like feel.

Dad checking out the bar- lunch upstairs!

Dad checking out the bar- lunch upstairs!

The food was served quickly. Mom ordered a winner- fried (but not breaded) padron peppers with flakes of sea salt in olive oil.  I couldn’t get enough of ’em. So unique. Slightly bitter taste. A must try!

Fried padron peppers with sea salt flakes. Out of this world!

Fried padron peppers with sea salt flakes. Out of this world!

The Greek salad had a delicious feta cheese and was swimming in an oil, vinegar, and herb dressing that I could (and practically did) drink.

Greek salad with a plethora of tasty dressing

Greek salad with a plethora of tasty dressing

Ready for the best mushrooms of life? These were them! Served warm in a clay pot with olive oil chunks of ham, a bay leaf and herbs. Outstanding!

Herb mushrooms

Herb mushrooms

What else was at the Stolarz table? Two beautifully large artichokes crossed at the stems with a hot red sauce.

Artichokes, beautifully delicious

Artichokes, beautifully delicious

On our way out as Dad was paying the bill he happened upon some fried almonds. Yes, fried almonds. And you know what. Those were incredible, too. It was the icing on the cake!

Fried almonds on-the-go

Fried almonds on-the-go

After the restaurant, with our happy palates and stomachs, we sauntered the streets. On our way to a “monumental recovery of the temple,” which was a piece of history tucked in a cool back alley, we heard a beautiful voice singing the song “stand by me.” I popped around the corner. The singer was the bar tender singing for her small audience of a few restaurant patrons relaxing at the bar. I started taping the scene. There was something magical about it. She amped it up- singing louder and more beautifully to the bar-goers and my family. My family joined in, singing and swaying. It was a moment. Who would have known this unplanned stop would be a favorite (or maybe the favorite) memory of the trip.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014- Morning tapas in Barcelona, Spain at Orio, Gastronomia Basca

Jamie says: Last Sunday was our arrival day in Spain, where we practically sleep-walked off the plane to Catholic mass in Madrid (not quite, but you get the picture). A week and a ton of fun later- we’re in Barcelona ready for our second mass. Our destination? Cathedral de Barcelona! But before mass, we had a little time to explore.

We found a replica of the aqueduct and gate of the Roman Wall. It was so cool to see how excited my Dad was about it. (Almost as excited as I was at the open markets.) He had been searching for an aqueduct artifact since we arrived. I’m glad we found one for him.

Aqueduct and gate of the Roman Wall

Aqueduct and gate of the Roman Wall

Next, we explored the courtyard of Cathedral de Barcelona.

Dad and Mom at the courtyard back doors of Cathedral de Barcelona

Dad and Mom at the courtyard back doors of Cathedral de Barcelona

Of interest were the loud geese…

Geese of Cathedral de Barcelona

Geese of Cathedral de Barcelona

…and the restrooms in the middle of the courtyard with minimal privacy.

No privacy here

No privacy here

We worked our way to the front of the cathedral…

Facade of Cathedral de Barcelona

Facade of Cathedral de Barcelona

…And had our moment of Stolarz luck. The local church-goers were performing the sardinia dance which was written up in our Rick Steves guidebook. It was a simple dance which required minimal planning. The locals would trickle in, drop their bags in the center of one of the rings, and join hands with the dancers next to them. With their hands raised, the feet did the talking. Simple taps. Repetition. Music in the background. (I soon picked up practicing on my own on the side. I was tempted to join, but held back since I didn’t know much about the culture of the dance and how my gesture would be interpreted.)

The sardinia dance

The sardinia dance

With a little more time left before mass, we made our way across the street to further explore. And our stomachs were certainly more than thrilled that we did. When I say we had a gastronomic experience, I’m not kidding. Orio, Gastronomic Basca, was one of the best (and quickest) dining experience we had!

Orio, Gastronomic Basca

Orio, Gastronomic Basca

With beautiful plate after plate of picturesque tapas lining the bar, it was a smorgasbord to choose from- and with no wait time! You just grab a plate and mange mange! You may be wondering, is this a foodie’s all-you-can-eat buffet? Not quite. You take whatever your heart desires, leave the toothpicks on your plate, and count them up at the cash register before you leave. There was a fixed rate per item. Simple and fun!

Plates and plates of delicious tapas ready to eat

Plates and plates of delicious tapas ready to eat

After perusing all the options, my first tapas selection was a piece of bread topped with potatoes, sardines, drizzled sauce, and a picked onion. It was absolutely amazing.

Fancy! And absolutely delicious!

Fancy! And absolutely delicious!

The pork sandwich also caught my eye.

Pork sandwich with peppers 'n' onions

Pork sandwich with peppers ‘n’ onions

My third and final tapas selection was a thick slab of cheese with apricot preserves and nuts on a crostini.

Fine chunk of cheese with apricot and chopped nut topping

Fine chunk of cheese with apricot and chopped nut topping

I tasted K’s apple tart, which was delicious, too.

Not your average apple tart

Not your average apple tart

I probably could have continued feasting, but it was time to go to mass. We quickly counted our toothpicks and paid.

All done...

All done…

“That was killer” pretty much summed up what was coming out of our lips the whole way back to the cathedral.

Time to go to mass- at the Cathedral!

Time to go to mass- at the Cathedral!

The cathedral was beautiful. After (Spanish) mass, we soaked up the church interior.

Mass at Cathedral de Barcelona

Mass at Cathedral de Barcelona

I was moved by the statue of St. Anthony. I said a prayer and lit a candle. St Anthony makes me think of my Grandma. She’s always praying to him.

St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things

St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things

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Sunday, June 1, 2014- Breakfast in Barcelona, Spain at Hotel Indigo

Jamie says: All that walking last night must have made me hungry. I woke up and grabbed the complimentary OJ from our mini fridge and stepped out on our balcony to check out a Barcelona morning.

OJ on the porch

OJ on the porch

I wasn’t a fan of this OJ blend, but it was enough of a pick-me-up to get me out the door to the breakfast buffet downstairs.

OJ with breakfast- just like when I was a kid

OJ with breakfast- just like when I was a kid

Once I was at breakfast area, I was greeted by the friendly waiter who remembered my room number and the breakfast routine.

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet

Out came the “soja” milk in my own special tea pot pitcher.

Leche de soja (soy milk) in a tea pot!

Leche de soja (soy milk) in a tea pot!

Game plan- cereal. I love cereal and could be so happy eating it everyday. First round, corn flakes topped with walnuts…

Corn flakes with walnuts. I love cereal!

Corn flakes with walnuts. I love cereal!

…and the tasty sweetened soy milk. This time, I made my own fruit plate.

My take on fruit salad, cereal with walnuts, soy milk

My take on fruit salad, cereal with walnuts, soy milk

It was another double-down breakfast morning. For my second round, I chose the cocoa puffed cereal and again topped it with walnuts.

Cocoa cereal with walnuts

Cocoa cereal with walnuts

Right out the sliding glass doors by the breakfast buffet is the spa-like pool area. There’s something quite peaceful about it.

Pool view

Pool view

But now wasn’t the time for the pool, we had another exciting day out in the town!

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Saturday, May 31, 2014- Beverages in Barcelona, Spain at Granja M Viader off Las Ramblas

Jamie says: After our delightful market experience, we continued our walk through Las Rambas.

Our walk continued

Our walk continued

We made it to the end- to the rear side of the Christopher Columbus statue. (What a way to be greeted!) We waited ever so patiently for a little kid to finish playing on a lion statue so we could have our photo opp.  K and I “rode the art,” according to my Uncle’s Facebook response to the picture. Hey, it was fun!

Get excited!

Get excited!

We worked our way around to the front of the statue…

Back side of the Christopher Columbus statue

Back side of the Christopher Columbus statue

…and crossed the street to see the port…

Port of Barcelona

Port of Barcelona

…with all the sail boats. It was quite peaceful.

Peaceful port

Peaceful port

Then we looped back around to make our journey back through Las Ramblas. I was exhausted! The idea of walking back actually seemed daunting. My legs were ready to call mercy from all the walking. I would bet we averaged about 10 miles of walking a day. Who would think walking on vacation would wear me out more than the Body Pump classes and triathlon training I was doing at home!

Along the way back, we stopped at a Rick Steve’s destination, an old fashioned parlor called Granja M Viader.

Granja M Viader- join us for a cold milk, parlor-style

Granja M Viader- join us for a cold milk, parlor-style

It had charm and character.

Back in time...

Back in time…

I ordered, and was excited to have, a glass of plain milk. (I missed my daily glass or two of milk.)

Good ol' plain milk

Good ol’ plain milk

K went for the chocolate milk, which came in a cool bottle. I took a sip. It was good, too.

Reminds me of the look of a Yoo-hoo

Reminds me of the look of a Yoo-hoo

K and I took the milk bottles home for souvenirs. Weeks later, though, we both realized we were missing our bottles. Customs must have taken them!

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Saturday, May 31, 2014- Dinner and dessert in Barcelona, Spain at Mercat St Joseph off Las Ramblas

Jamie says: After our truly magnificent afternoon at La Sagrada Familia, the ladies ventured off to walk Las Ramblas, a nice long street with a car-free, paved sidewalk on steroids in the middle, flanked by roads on either side and restaurants, shops and businesses beyond the roads.

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

The paved part runs a good stretch of distance and has tons of interesting vendors along the way, but my favorite stop, hands down, was the market- Mercat St Josep to be exact. The bustling energy of the market was contagious.

Mercat St Josep- visible from a walk down Las Ramblas

Mercat St Josep- visible from a walk down Las Ramblas

Step inside the market, and you’ll find row after row of culinary delights and earthly treats.

Row after row of vendors

Row after row of vendors

There’s even meat hanging from the sky.

Meat vendor

Meat vendor

I suggested we walk up and down every row, starting at the one all the way on the end (orderly me). I was intrigued by a place called Organic Barcelona.

Organic vendor in the market

Organic vendor in the market

The bright ground spices on the top of their “tacos” (looked like a burrito if you’d have asked me) were appealing.

Their vegetarian tacos looked quite beautiful

Their vegetarian tacos looked quite beautiful

I ordered one and they brought us a freshly squeezed OJ.

K and OJ (haha, it rhymes!)

K and OJ (haha, it rhymes!)

We decided we’d share the meal and make it a food walk. Out came the “burrito” with a plethora of sides. (Is that dyed rice really organic?) It was good- got my veggies in.

Colorful taco explosion

Colorful taco explosion

But the fun really began was we turned our walk through the market into a chocolate walk. First stop, La Torroneria, a fine chocolate shop. For some reason, I had my eyes on candied oranges half dipped in a thick chocolate. I wouldn’t say I’m normally an orange/chocolate person, but today I was intrigued. And for good reason, they were delicious!

Candied oranges dipped in chocolate

Candied oranges dipped in chocolate

I also went for a truffle. Although they appeared expensive per kilogram, the cost for a couple was totally reasonable.

Chocolate! I went for a dark chocolate truffle, too.

Chocolate! I went for a dark chocolate truffle, too.

We all enjoyed our chocolate treats.

Mom and her candied orange dipped in chocolate. Great choice!

Mom and her candied orange dipped in chocolate. Great choice!

And the walk continued. The vendors were each so unique. Check out this egg stand.

Super cute egg stand

Super cute egg stand

And there were foods, like dragon fruit, that you would never see in this quantity in the States.

Dragon fruit on the go anyone?

Dragon fruit on the go anyone?

The rainbow of colors from the produce stands was picturesque!

Magazine cover worthy?

Magazine cover worthy?

Spiky fruits, fruits of playful shapes, brilliant colors. It’s like a playground and museum for foodies, here.

Unique produce

Unique produce

I continued to stop at a few chocolate shops and buy a piece or two to sample along the way.

Another truffle here... a chocolate-dipped orange there...

Another truffle here… a chocolate-dipped orange there…

The final chocolate stop of the night was a great one. The nice lady provided us with free samples on top of our purchases. Great customer service!

The final chocolate shop of the night

The final chocolate shop of the night

What a night! But it wasn’t over. Our walk down Las Ramblas continues….

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Saturday, May 31, 2014- Lunch and a coffe drink in Barcelona, Spain at Taberna Rincon De Leon and a little counter service restaurant near La Sagrada Familia

Jamie says: Wow! Words cannot describe how breathtaking Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is. The church is “always under construction,” but this does not detract from its grandeur and beauty. The “sandcastle” church is a must-see destination.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

The endless intricacies of the East side’s stone exterior are impressive, with a Harry Potter-like feel.

Intricate detail on the exterior

Intricate detail on the exterior

I found it quite interesting how the opposite facade of the church’s exterior has a different feel, while both tell the story of our Catholic faith. The west side is less intricate, but still magnificent. (Compare the picture above to the picture below.)

Exterior of the opposite side of the church

Exterior of the opposite side of the church

I was impressed with the outside of the church, but it was the inside that stole my heart. The ornate, sky-high ceilings were beyond beautiful. The tree-like columns, unique.

Ornate ceiling

Ornate ceiling

The crucifix on the alter was different than anything I’ve seen before- the swaying wheat and hanging grapes, representing the body and blood of Christ; the lighting; and the jelly-fish like awning.

Unique crucifix on the alter

Unique crucifix on the alter

My favorite aspect of the Sagrada Familia was the colorful, bright lighting streaming in through the stained glass windows. It was fairy tale- like.

The light coming in through the stained glass windows produced playful and bright colors

The light coming in through the stained glass windows produced playful and bright colors

The greens and blues, reds, yellows, and oranges captivated me. It was hard to peel my eyes away.

Spectacular stained glass windows

Spectacular stained glass windows

Even the staircases were playful with their spring-like spirals. I can now see where the word “gaudy” comes from, although it’s hard to believe that Gaudi himself was a simple and prayerful man with few possessions.

Spiral stairway

Spiral stairway

Even the back door was impressive.

Door with faith-filled words

Door with faith-filled words

We were all awestruck by this spectacular church. It’s truly unfathomable. The Sagrada Familia was truly one of the most spectacular pieces of work I’ve ever seen. It was surreal, unimaginable. Gaudi, you did it- mesmerized us all.

My family, awestruck

My family, awestruck

Afterwards, we were h-u-n-g-r-y. K and I split from Mom and Dad and came across Taberna Rincon De Leon, walking distance from La Sagrada Familia.

Taberna Rincon De Leon near La Sagrada Familia

Taberna Rincon De Leon near La Sagrada Familia

We sat at the bar for quicker service. I think it’s so cool how they have purse hooks at the tapas bars and at the discotecas.

Purses (and backpacks) here

Purses (and backpacks) here

We ordered a couple of tapas from the bar, including salty olives…

Salty olives

Salty olives

And a seafood salad.

Seafood salad

Seafood salad

On the way back, K found an open, counter service restaurant with NesCafe. It was mucho dinero for a tiny amount.

K and her NesCafe outside La Sagrada Familia

K and her NesCafe outside La Sagrada Familia

Ever-so-graciously, and without prompting, I volunteered to help her out with this sweet, thick coffee drink. I’m such as good sister…

NesCafe- brings me back to Italy!

NesCafe- brings me back to Italy!

What a day- and it’s not even over!

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