La Dolce Vita | Barcelona

Courtesy+of+Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

By Pasquale Gianni

BARCELONA — In a nutshell, this city is awesome and beautiful, and the food is symphonic.

A handful of unexplainable phenomena exists on this earth, and the lifestyle of the Spanish is certainly among them. Dinner at 11 p.m. partying until 7 a.m. and somehow everyone seems to be functioning normally during the daytime hours. It is mind-boggling, plain and simple. I, as a world traveler with a thirst for knowledge and the absorption of culture, had to partake in the crazy ways of the Spanish for a few days and loved it. I may be paying for it now in the aftermath with sleep deprivation, but it was worth it.

Barcelona is a magnificently pretty city. The architecture is old, yet with the perfect touch of modern. There are spectacular, wide boulevards lined with trees, shops and cafes. The cathedrals are plentiful and add to the integrity of the city. One in particular, the Segrada Familia, a large Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudi, is a magnificent piece of architectural excellence and serves as one of the main attractions in the city. The parks are charming and boast beautiful fountains and ceramic benches.

The highlight though, was La Boqueria, a large public market in the city center. It is a paradise for the food lover. I would even go as far as to call it an epic display of food porn. There is beauty in food and La Boqueria is for anyone who can appreciate beauty in all of its varying forms. Like all great markets, it boasts fresh shellfish and seafood stands, cured meats, exotic fruits and decadent pastries. But it is the quantity, the variety, the uniqueness and the creative display of these produce and goods that make it worthy of distinction. The shanks of jamon (Spanish ham) were being freshly cut from the bone, the local cheeses and olives were exquisite; and even the selection of brains, intestines, heads and beef tongue could make your mouth water (if you are into that sort of thing).

I was fortunate enough to have a meal at Cerveceria Catalana, a tapas restaurant in the city center, that may have put me in a food coma, but it was well worth it. This is the way to dine if there truly exists one. With seven or eight different small plates as your entree, which are perfectly affordable since they only cost $3 or $4 each, you can try a wide variety of bites so you are not just limited to one main dish.

In one meal, I sampled cheeses, jamon serrano (which, I must say, is a close rival to Italian Prosciutto), shrimp, cuttlefish, anchovies, patatas bravas (a Spanish fried potatoes dish), beef tenderloin skewers and churros for dessert. This meal was accompanied by a delicious pitcher of fresh sangria, another Spanish specialty. If you make it to Barcelona without coming here, you have wasted a trip. Another food highlight during my trip was a seafood paella I had for lunch, which was made with rice, black ink squid, prawns, calamari and mussels.

As the day’s food coma eventually wore off, it was fiesta time! Barcelona is known for its nightclubs, but the best, by far, was Opium: a huge beachfront club frequented by famous movie stars and athletes. Do not show up, though, until about 1:30 or 2 a.m., and I am not exaggerating when I say the capacity will not peak until about 4 or 5 a.m. If you are into the nightlife scene, this is a city for you. Naps, however, are a must.

Barcelona will always have a unique allure for me. And if you think you are someone who derives similar pleasure from the sins of over-indulgences, I am sure it will for you as well.