We have another marathon of a day today, but I promise it will be awesome! Buckle your seat belts. We're going for a ride to Montserrat, a mountain range in Catalonia which translates to "serrated mountain."
We booked this approximately 7-hour-long Montserrat, Tapas and Wine Half-Day Tour. The tour's actually conducted by Castle Experience Wine Tours, although I just checked their website, and it looks like the pricing is the same when you convert currency, so it likely doesn't make a difference which vendor you book through. There are many tours to Montserrat from Barcelona, and you can even take the train on your own, but we liked that this tour not only visits Montserrat but also includes lunch and a wine tasting. More on that later!
We met up at Plaça de Catalunya where we were directed to join our guide Miguel and the rest of our small group. We would be sharing our bus with a few other groups as we headed to our first stop. Along the way one of the guides on our bus gave us a super funny run through of Barcelona's history.
On our drive from Montserrat to the Oller del Mas vineyard we passed this eerie stretch of land which was the victim of a 3 day long fire in July 2015. Firefighter Marc Sellares later returned to the area and carved 1,200 crosses out of the burned trees. It's now called El Bosc de les Creus, or the Forest of Crosses and serves as a memorial to the lost woodland. Honestly it's pretty creepy but also pretty cool. It felt very Tim Burton-esque.
The bite of tortilla española was also really great! It had crispy onion on top which added a nice added bit of flavor and texture! The tuna was my least favorite as it was the least exciting, and probably could have used a touch of acid.
Miguel suggested we drizzle the winery’s olive oil over everything, and that was a great suggestion because the olive oil was top notch.
There was also a dessert, which reminded me a bit of tres leches cake, as it seemed like a sweet milk-soaked cake, but I'm honestly not sure what it's called.
|Drawn by the 5 year old son of the owner|
So apparently this particular day, October 12, was a National Holiday in Spain called Spain Day. We were told it was the one day of the year where you would see lots of Spanish flags in Barcelona, since most of the folks there don't really identify themselves as citizens of Spain but rather citizens of Catalonia. The Catalonia flag is much more prevalent in Barcelona than the Spanish national flag. We saw some people parading around and carrying flags, and statues adorned with Spanish flags and stickers.
Dinner tonight was pre-booked and pre-paid at Tablao de Carmen for their Flamenco Tapas Dinner. Tablao de Carmen is actually located inside Poble Espanyol, an open-air architectural museum originally built for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition (World's Fair).
It contains 117 full-scale buildings representing 15 autonomous communities of Spain − Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Catalonia, the Valencian Community, Extremadura, Galicia, the Baleric Islands, the Community of Madrid, the Region of Murcia, Navarre, and the Basque Country. It also includes a theater, restaurants, artisan workshops and a museum of contemporary art.
At the time of this post, admission to Poble Espanyol costs 12,60€ for adults, but with an advance booking at Tablao de Carmen you get free admission! For our 6 pm booking, we could arrive as early as 4 pm, but were closer to around 4:30 by the time we made it. That gave us a decent amount of time to explore and shop, however Lucy and I totally fell in love with Poble Espanyol and would have enjoyed more time here, as well as use of the audio guides which I'm sure share a lot more about all of the gorgeous buildings. We definitely missed certain parts, but hope to come back someday to check it out in even more detail.
Perhaps my favorite building here represents the Arcos de la Frontera village in Cádiz, in Andalusia. Holy whitewashed buildings. I just couldn't get enough. It was just SO beautiful.
There are also little exhibits with videos for each geographical region of Spain: North, Center, South, and Mediterranean. The one representing the south was full of orange blossoms, and was just so fragrant and spectacular.
As luck would have it Tablao de Carmen is located in my favorite building, the Arcos de la Frontera.
|View from the entrance|
Our table was front and center, and quite close to the action.
As I mentioned earlier we opted for the Flamenco Tapas Dinner, but there are heartier (and more expensive) options as well. We thought the tapas menu offered more than enough food to satisfy us, and the more extensive menus in retrospect would have been way too much food.
Let's take a look at our spread. First and foremost, we shared a liter of sangria, because that's the way we roll. Throw in some jumbo green olives, and we're off to a good start.
Next we got a basket of bread, a generous plate of Manchego cheese and Andalusian "bread snacks," and Andalusian salad, which I'm not gonna lie, to me it tastes an awful lot like Russian salad without the meat. I feel like it's the same thing. *Shrugs*
The next round of food consisted of patatas bravas (these were basically drowned in sauce, a little overwhelming, it was our least favorite rendition of the dish this week), oxtail stew croquettes (neither of us really loved these, they were ok), and bombas aka deep fried potato ball with minced meat filling (they were quite good although nothing would compare to the bombas we enjoyed earlier this week).
Southern-style marinated chicken skewers followed, and were topped with a drizzle of mild allioli (not too garlicky). These were tender and pretty decent. Nothing life-altering here, but for chicken skewers and a much needed protein component to the meal they fit the bill.
Last but not least, dessert arrived during the show but I'll share it now. This Catalan custard is reminiscent of French crème brûlée, and offers a nice finish to the meal.
Overall we thought the food was mediocre in comparison to the tapas we enjoyed throughout the week at other restaurants. However, we weren't here just for the food. It was all about the entertainment!
What can I say about the entertainment here? It was seriously so mesmerizing and fabulous! This is why we were here on our final night, for this experience. We couldn’t understand the lyrics to the music, but our neighboring table spoke Spanish and told us that they are depressing songs about heartbreak, hence all the drama and angry stomping. What a fantastically fun show! There were 2 singers, a guitarist, 2 female dancers, and a male dancer who each performed separately and then did a finale where they all took turns and occasionally danced together. We loved it! I would highly recommend this place.
|Walking from the Magic Fountain to Plaça Espanya to catch the Metro... oh the crowds!|
|Good night from the Magic Fountain|
Barcelona - October 2018
- Day 1 - Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic)
- Day 2 - Park Güell, La Pedrera (Casa Milà), Las Ramblas
- Day 3 - Montjuïc, Barceloneta, La Pedrera: The Origins
- Day 4 - Arc de Triomf, Ciutadella Park, Santa Caterina & La Boqueria Markets
- Day 5 - Relaxation & Dinner at Viana
- Day 6 - Chocolate Tour, Sagrada Familia, Magic Nights at Casa Batlló
- Day 7 - Montserrat, Oller del Mas, Poble Espanyol, Tablao de Carmen, Magic Fountain
- Days 8 & 9 - Travels & Recap