Sunday, October 28, 2007

Potato Week in Barcelona

The tradition of Potato Week or Vacances d'Automne dates back to when children required a week's holiday from school to help out with the harvest. While the demand for child labour has gone the way of the dodo, the week's holiday hasn't. Normally we pass the time in Geneva as the week habitually does not coordinate well with Kirk's work schedule. But this year, with my parents planning a trip to Spain, we decided to 'profitter' and join them.

I had never set foot on Continental Europe prior to moving to Switzerland. Arriving here with two toddlers did little to ignite my desire to travel. Maneuvering strollers over centuries-old cobblestone and tread-worn steps was exhausting. Add to that the innumerable unfenced-yet-oh-so-inviting deathly hazards endemic to European tourist attractions, I was agreeable to day trips, at most. But now that the girls are older I have little excuse. (Apparently being a self-professed homebody doesn't hold water.) So Friday last, Honey was off to the kennel and the following morning we were headed for Spain.

Barcelona is a fabulous city for families having enough to interest both adults and children, often simultaneously. It is the capital of Catalonia, a region of Spain that boasts its own language and culture, much like Canada's Quebec. More than a few times I wished I had a Catalan-English dictionary instead of my inadequate Spanish phrase book. People were friendly and helpful, though, regardless of what language I was butchering.

We visited almost every place on my list of must-see attractions which included the zoo, the aquarium, Parc de Monjuic, La Rambla, Mercat de La Boqueria, and Gaudi's awe-inspiring La Pedrera and Sagrada Familia. We traveled mainly on foot, taking the public metro or the Barcelona Bus Turistic when we wanted to cover a lot of ground quickly. Unfortunately we missed the Palau de la Musica Catalana. Better planning on my part might have had us in the balcony for Mozart's Requiem performed on Tuesday night. Live and learn. But all these attractions aside, Barcelona was about the food.

While there are a few restaurants whose kitchens run non-stop, as a rule dinner is served from 8:30pm onwards. Our girls are normally fast asleep by then, so this required some adjustment on all our parts. The first night Mighty Mouse fell asleep with her head on the table before eating a bite, then almost fell off her chair. The next night she made it until dessert. By Friday we were all accustomed to her after-supper siestas from which she would awake refreshed and ready for the walk home.

As restaurants went, Sinatra,(C/ Heures, 4-10 , Tel. 93 412 52 79) was by far our best find. Tucked down an ignorable little side-street in the Barri Gotic,we would never have found this small Spanish treasure if not for the man handing out flyers at a nearby corner. After a somewhat damp ride atop a double decker bus, we went to Granja M Viader (4 Carrer Xuclà, El Raval. Tel. 93 318 3486) for the most amazing, spoon-coating hot chocolate I've ever had. A few nights later we went to Senyor Parellada (37 Argeneria. Tel. 93 310 50 94) where I savoured L'Arroz Senyor Parellada, their divine version of paella. And as for the sangria, fresh squeezed orange juice and tapas--don't get me started.

Finding food that we thought the girls would like was a bit more challenging. Of course, they were more than willing to live on doughnuts, ice cream and olives had we let them. Unlike Tuscany, menus in Barcelona did not offer kid-friendly pizza or pasta dishes, so we had to experiment, often with success. That said, their favourite restaurant was Trobador where they dined on mounds of pasta bolagnaise. Let's just say their week was a bit lacking in the vegetable department but no one went hungry.

All feasting and frolicking aside, when Saturday morning came I was ready to go home. I missed my book that I'd conveniently forgotten on my bedside table, my well-equipped kitchen and, of course, my dog. It was an incredible week that my taste buds won't soon forget.

Adios amigos!

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