Hop into Espana

Hop Into Espana
Just over Spain’s border, the city’s of San Sebastian and Barcelona offer visitors two views into a country rich in food, culture, and a spiced up life.

View from Mount Igedo

Bracelona Skyline

Hop over the French border into Spain and at either end of the Mediterranean country you’ll find two starkly different, brilliant examples of what Espana has to offer. On the Western side, lays the sleepy seaside town of San Sebastian, with charming medieval streets lined in tapas bars. The Eastern edge is home to the massive metropolitan of Barcelona, richly painted with the exuberant architecture of Gaudi, bustling with people and energy.With the wines, gastronomy, and culture of Spain rich in both areas, either end of the Northern tip of the country offers a city worth visiting.

San Sebastian is the quiet, seaside village to get carried away in for a lost weekend. The city is divided by the River Urumea, with several beautiful bridges crossing it. Gros on one side is the lesser traveled area and on the other is the historic area of Parte Vieja and the city center. During the day, walk down the famous La Concha Bay beach. Ride the funicular up to the top of Mount Igedo for impressive views of the bay and the city. Or spend a day surfing on Zurriola beach, across the bridge in Gros. Back down in the historic area, tour the Gothic church of San Vicente and the Baroque church of Santa Maria for examples of classic Spanish architecture. Further down, in the city center, you will find the impressive Neogothic Buen Pastor Cathedral. Walk around the shops selling local  of fresh fish, Jamon Iberco, and postcards with beautiful views of the city.

Tapas bars along the historic streets of San Sebastian

San Sebatsian Fish Market

After enjoying the walking sites San Sebastian has to offer, fill your appetite with the specialties of the area, pintxos and sangria. The streets of the historic center are lined with tapas bars. Walk in and order a glass of wine and a few tastings. Being choosy can have it’s benefits; there are many tapas bars and some of the selections are much better than others.  For pintxo typical of the area, prepared well, with moderate prices, Asdelena on Inigo Calle, is a wonderful place to try. Items offered include crispy fried frogs legs topped with fruit chutney and crunchy breads topped with spreads and fish, like tomatoes and anchovies or salty Jamon Iberico.  In the Gros area, Ramontxo is a hidden gem. Creamy risotto with foie gras is perfect, tender, rich and topped with a Parmesan tuille. The pintoxs here are a bit of avant garde in a town of rustic charm. Croquettes flecked with jamon are smooth and melt away in your mouth; you won’t be able to just eat one.

Frogs legs with Fruit ChutneyRisotto

Filled with bustling people, the bright colored architecture of Gaudi and many busy markets, Barcelona is a loud, vibrant world. With so much to do in this metropolitan, you need more than a sleepy weekend to conquer the city. A well chosen foodie agenda makes the city a bit more manageable. A visit to Barcelona isn’t complete without a stop at the famous, and quite loud and pedestrian overrun, Las Ramblas. Start at the pretty fountains at Plaza de Catalunya. Walk along the boisterous avenue, passing by the odd vendors selling live birds, rabbits, and fish, as well as streets performers dressed in vibrant costumes, and the many tourist shops selling postcards and key chains. Keep walking along, moving to the less crowded sidewalks if you can’t manage the masses along the main Avenue, until you reach Mercat Boqueria, one of Barcelona’s large and incredible markets. Inside vendors sell everything from fresh squeezed juices, fresh produce, fish, and meats. Stop and have a bite to eat at the very popular tapas spot, Bar Pinxto,  and relax for a minute amongst the crowds, with the tourists and locals alike.

 Mercat Boqueria

Blood Sausage topped with mushrooms and fried pepper

Leaving the market, head to the trendy Born neighborhood, full of shops, restaurants, and museums. A foodie’s trip to Barcelona must include an hour touring the Museum of Chocolate. Inside you will find a plethora of chocolate information about the history, growth, and taste of chocolate, all while nibbling on your ticket, a chocolate bar. The displays’ inside are incredible, chocolate models of Spanish bullfighter’s, cartoon characters, and famous religious statues. After the museum, walk to the Pesseig del Born, near the Mercat del Born, where a number of restaurants and tapas bars await. Casa Delfin offers a few great tastes, including blood sausage topped with creamy mushrooms and a delicious monkfish stew.

The city of Barcelona is painted bright by artist and architect Antoni Gaudi. The leader of the Spanish Art Nouveau movement, his work provides many of the cities most notable landmarks. A trip to the famous temple of La Sagrada Familia, or Gaudi’s other works such as Casa Mila, the Guell Palace, and  Casa Calvet show the intense depth of the artist. From bright colors, ornate sculpture, and organic structure, his work is unlike any other, and really makes the scenery of Barcelona unique. After a morning of Gaudi’s impressive art, take a stroll along Barcelona’s waterfront neighborhood of Barceloneta. At Salamanca Silvestre enjoy a wonderful meal sitting sea side. Start with a large plate of crispy fried calamari and green peppers, followed by the local specialty of seafood paella, accompanied by a cool white Spanish wine.

Gaudi BarcelonaCalamari and green peppers

Spending a few, well-chosen days in Espana, the city’s of San Sebastian and Barcelona offer visitors a mixture of food, culture and true Spanish life. Each supply a variety of activities, from beautiful beaches, wonderful foods, unique architecture, and lively culture. You’ve barely crossed the Northern border before you’ve hit these two meccas, but they both provide a great view of what Espana has to offer.


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