Let me tell you the story of the six pound pear.
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Let me tell you the story of the six pound pear.
For once our flight times were kind to us and our flight back to London wasn’t until 8pm. Not wanting to miss out on anything, we therefore decided to spend the last day going to Montserrat.
Montserrat is a tiny village built at 1200m on the most unimaginably steep mountainside. Montserrat means literally ‘serrated mountain’. It’s not hard to understand why when you see the odd shaped mountainside…
The main attraction at Montserrat, aside from the mountains, is the monastery dated to 1025 AD. Seriously, how on earth did they manage to build it? I’m always amazed at architecture from the past.
|The monastery is at the top of the picture – can you see it?|
We bought a combined ticket for the train ride from Barcelona and cable car ride up to the village. It cost €20 and took an hour.
I’m terrible at looking at historic buildings and museums (unless we’re talking about the Natural History museum in London). I have a non-existent attention span and really struggle with moving from one artefact to the next, reading the information boards, unless it’s something I’m intrinsically interested in.
Luckily M is similarly minded and we did the obvious thing to us at least, and decided to go for a strenuous hike up the hillside. Taking in the complete and utter silence together with the exceptional view was time well spent and I felt incredibly relaxed afterwards.
|Footwear still completely inappropriate|
At the top of the mountain we stumbled across this chapel:
I would highly recommend a visit to Montserrat if you want to spend some time out of the city and enjoy some beautiful scenery.
We only spent a few hours there, as we had done everything we wanted to, and decided to return to BCN for leisurely last meal.
My friend Sarah today told me about this incredible app called Trip Advisor City Guide. Although I’m already a huge fan of Trip Advisor, I really wish we’d known about this other app before our visit to Barcelona. It’s brilliant. It lists all the restaurants close to where you are together with their ratings and reviews. What’s so special about that I hear you ask? It’s the fact that it works on GPS alone so there is no need for expensive phone bills while abroad. You just need to download the appropriate guide for your destination before you leave home.
Anyhow back to our dinner in BCN. The food was pretty unremarkable but we ate it sat in an old square filled with late afternoon sun, so really it was the perfect setting. I also made great friends with some dogs…
|Saving our first Sangria for the last meal|
|Check out those dreads!|
And there ended the final day of a hugely enjoyable three days away!
With skies like this, there could only be one destination for today – the beach.
We started our second day by walking to Montjuïc Park, where there are some of the best views of Barcelona to be had. Here I enjoyed using the panorama setting on the camera.
We took a couple of photos of each other. M’s photo was far more successful than my own. Stupid wind…
Seeing as the weather was so beautiful, we decided to walk to the beach rather than get the metro. I made a couple of friends along the way.
The sky was blue and the sea even more so. Absolutely stunning.
|Excuse the stupid face – I haven’t quite got the hang of these yet|
Although there are many hugely overpriced restaurants on the water front we found one called Surf House which served some really tasty food at approximately £7 a main dish. I ate scrambled eggs with gruyere cheese, parma ham, asparagus, pesto and toasted foccacia. M chose a burger.
|Lunch time views – not too shabby|
Dinner that night was the best of our entire stay and was happily on the road we were staying, Carrer de la Carretas. We visited a restaurant called Lo de Flor. Well, I say visited. This was a massive understatement, we actually visited this restaurant no less than three times.
We stupidly arrived at 8pm to find it well and truly closed. After skulking back to the apartment we turned up later, at 8.30pm, to find it, you guessed it, still closed. Finally, we were third time lucky and on returning, this time at 9:15pm, found it open and already busy. In fact it was so busy that we got the last available table for 2.
Lo de Flor’s food was deliciously fresh and unpretentious. We shared the best burrata I’ve ever tried. For those who haven’t tasted it yet, burrata is like mozzarella’s superior cousin – so creamy and milky. This was followed by a lamb stew, think a typical English one, but freshened up with lots of cherry tomatoes and herbs. I could definitely see myself eating this in the Summer here. I just need to perfect a recipe for it first…
|Love this wine list and just look at the prices!|
We woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed having had the best night’s sleep in Charles’ apartment.
Eager to see what the day would entail, we rushed out after our breakfast of fresh croissants on the roof terrace.
The weather for our whole trip was fantastic. Practically 20 degrees in February – much needed after the months of appalling weather here in the UK.
I stupidly didn’t order our guide book in time. I thought that Amazon would work its magic and deliver it super quickly, but no, it hadn’t arrived by the time we left for the airport. And now we have a guide book for a city we won’t visit again for ages. Boo. I stubbornly refused to buy one in Barcelona due to the elevated pries. Instead, we relied on a rubbish bus map that literally fell apart over our 3 days, and some excellent recommendations from my Spanish friend, Ana.
We spent our first day getting a feel of Barcelona. We walked from our apartment to the sea front, before walking along the famous ‘La Rambla’ strip. We had been warned countless times about pickpockets, but we were lucky. I think it might have had something to do with our super complicated bag system which meant it took almost 5 minutes to get out my purse every time we wanted to pay for something.
We walked along, taking in the atmosphere, before arriving at La Boqueria, a fantastic food market just off La Rambla.
We got the metro to Gaudí‘s cathedral (La Sagrada Família), which was more than a little disappointing as it was covered in scaffolding.
Then it was time for lunch. Barcelona is strange for eating out. Yes, there are plenty of tourists traps which you obviously avoid, but there aren’t very many cute cafes which you want to stop by at. It’s just a bit local for that. Lots of dark cafes, full of men watching TV or on the ever-present gambling machines. It wasn’t overly tempting. However, our tummies were rumbling so we plumped for one and ordered the omnipresent ham and spanish omelette.
I like Barcelona because you can walk yourself around a great deal of it. Seeing as we were disappointed by Gaudí‘s cathedral, we wanted to see more of his designs, so we walked our way up to Park Güell. This park was designed by Gaudí and was built in between 1900 and 1914.
I love how considerate the Spanish are for thirsty dogs.
We then returned to the apartment for a well earned nap and drink on the terrace.
Then onto dinner, another of Ana’s recommendations, ‘El Bitxo’ which was in the Barceloneta district. A beautiful, traditional tapas bar.
Martin ordered earl grey infused cat fish, while I (boringly) chose roast beef.
And that spelled the end of a very full day. Adios. Part 3 tomorrow…
We’ve just returned to London after a very busy day sightseeing in Monserrat, Spain, but I just have to add the first part of my Barcelona blog posts.
This first post is about our accommodation which was trusty old Airbnb again. I swear I’ll never be able to go to a hotel again – Airbnb is just too good.
We stayed in Charles’ apartment which was a three minute walk from Parallel metro and only ten minutes from the main strip called La Rambla.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking…
Not one to miss out on a good offer, M and I decided to celebrate the first day of our holiday by going for the special early bird set menu at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze.
The offer, in more detail, includes four courses and a peach bellini. Maze offers a selection of small dishes. The set menu allows you to pick any four in any combination, for example you could have two desserts if you really wanted to.
The food at Maze isn’t the best you’ll ever try – it relies a little too much on salt for its predominant flavouring. I certainly wouldn’t ever order the £75 set menu. However, when you catch a good deal like our Toptable one, it’s certainly worth a visit. Particularly as the surroundings are nice, and it feels suitably special and ‘posh’ which is largely due to the highly attentive waiters and waitresses. The totally over the top iPad wine list also adds to the sense of occasion.
I’ll run you through what we ate…
Bread to start with, obviously.
Brasied beef feather blade, pomme puree, shimeji mushrooms
Duck terrine, black pepper poached pear, fresh walnuts and Sauternes gel
Steamed pork bun, sweet corn and fried onions
Clementine parfait with clove ice cream, Cointreau glaze
Chocolate and peanut bar, caramelised banana
I hugely enjoyed the unexpected petit fours at the end of the meal – always a highlight.
If you’re interested in the offer you can find it here. It’s £30 for 4 courses and a peach bellini. It’s available Sunday to Thursday for either lunch (12-3pm) or early dinner (6-7pm). This particular offer ends on March 31st 2014.
We escaped the foul weather in London to a beautiful weekend visiting Caz in Cambridge.
|An awesome picture hanging up in Caz’s house – she’s a vet|
She spoiled us rotten. Starting with sausage casserole at lunch, followed by a homemade lemon drizzle cake, before moving onto roast chicken with all the trimmings for dinner. She has turned into such a domestic goddess. I should probably just start calling her Nigella…
We were extra spoiled by the dauphinois potatoes she served with the roast.
This reminded me of the dauphinois potatoes I used to make for the Ginger Pig, so I thought I’d share the recipe.
Serves 10 – sorry it’s so big, but I used to make this for the shop! Just cut down the quantities as you see fit.
1L whipping cream
0.5L full fat milk
salt and pepper
a little butter
1 clove of garlic, crushed
10 large Maris Piper Potatoes
You will need a large shallow oven proof dish
1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Peel the potatoes.
2. Mix together the milk and cream in a large bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper
3. Using a mandolin or a slicer attachment on the food processor, slice the potatoes into 3mm thick rounds. Slice the potatoes straight into the milk and cream mixture.
4. Grease the bottom of the oven tray and smear the garlic over the bottom of it.
5. Pour the potato mixture into the oven dish and use your hands to flatten it down a little.
6. Bake for 1 and a half hours. Pure unadulterated bliss.
Anyhow moving on from the Dauphinois. We stayed over and made the most of a beautiful Sunday by walking across the meadows to the most chocolate box pretty village of Grantchester.
We couldn’t resist having lunch in the Red Lion’s beer garden. I had roast ham and all the trimmings.
I was so warm, full and happy that I nearly fell asleep in the sun!
A visit to Grantchester wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Orchard tea rooms. We rolled ourselves there, and enjoyed tea and scones.