It All Started With A Quiche in Barcelona
Can you fall in love with a city over a leek quiche? One of my favorite cities in the world is Barcelona. When my soon-to-be-husband, Savas, and I speak about our future plans to live and travel in Europe, I am always tossing Barcelona out as a possibility for our home base. It’s a toss-up between Barcelona and Athens (he is originally from Greece where there are wonderful friends and family). I have written many posts about giving and now that spring is here and the travel season is about to begin in earnest, I want to also write about my other passion, travel. Not your typical travel articles, but more about the spirit of a city or place. And, for those who follow me because I have focused my work on giving, I have a little surprise for you at the end of this essay.
Good food, good wine, good living and giving back are who Savas is as a person. At this moment in Barcelona, Savas was a foodie. And, of course, on our first day in Barcelona, he wanted to find the good food. And we did. We stumbled upon a restaurant called La Rita on Carrer d’Aragó, 279. I wanted a nice glass of wine. He wanted food and I remember the first thing we tasted was a leek quiche. Now, you have to understand, Savas is the foodie in the family. I am not. Essentially, I eat to survive and if I happen to have a great meal, that is wonderful, but not necessary. The quiche was absolutely spectacular and that set the tone for the rest of our meals, wine and service at La Rita – and Barcelona.
My memory has never been good and I am one of those people who have trouble remembering what I did earlier in the day. If it is not written down, it probably does not exist in my life. I cannot forget La Rita. I have dined in some of the best restaurants in the world in London, Paris and, of course, my hometown of New York. La Rita remains one of the few restaurants I remember and it is a place I recommend for anyone to visit who is visiting the city of Barcelona. And, by the way, it offers a great value.
So, that quiche on the first day of our visit definitely made an impression, as well as the rest of the meal. And the fun just continued from there during our stay. I have been to hundreds and hundreds of churches through Europe and the States. The most amazing one I have ever seen (aside from St. Paul’s Cathedral at the Vatican) is Sagrada Familia. Antoni Gaudí is another reason for my love of Barcelona.
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It is said that the word “gaudy” was derived from the genius that was Gaudí. I do not know whether or not this is true. Despite his fame, some looked at him as a madman. If you visit the masterpiece that is Sagrada Familia, you will see his genius in architecture, carpentry, engineering, ceramics and stained glass. This uncompleted Gothic basilica is a jewel unlike any you will ever see probably anywhere in the world. With its towering spires, symbolic facades and brilliantly conceived aisles and center nave that soar into the sky and make you feel as if you are somewhere inside of Gaudí’s soul, one could probably spend a week there and still not grasp every facet of this creation. The feeling of fascination is an understatement.
Gaudí’s work, which was organic, fluid and inspired by forms found in nature are sprinkled throughout the city. You see it at Casa Batlló or the magnificent, Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera) which is an incredible sensory journey into the dreaming mind of a genius – just as Sagrada Familia.
And, finally, my love of Barcelona is also affirmed with the people. As I mentioned, Savas is a foodie. During our stay, he sought the perfect “gambas al ajillo” – garlic shrimp. When we were strolling through La Boqueria Market, taking in all of the incredible displays of color and food, we came to Restaurant La Gardunya and decided to take a seat for lunch.
Savas ordered wine. When the wine arrived, it was not to his liking and he asked me, since I speak Spanish fluently, to please inform the waitress that he did not like it and to request another glass. She asked him a question or two, I translated and she soon returned with another glass of wine. Again, the wine was not to his liking and he, again, asked me to request another glass. Soon, the owner, Antonio, arrived. He was wonderful with an easy manner, which helped quell a little of the embarrassment growing inside of me. A few other questions about Savas’ preference in wine and Antonio gestured that he had the perfect bottle stashed somewhere in his wine collection. He would return with it. I shot Savas a look and mumbled under my breath that he “better like” the next glass of wine because I was no longer translating.
A long story short, the glass of wine (actually, the bottle) was a perfect Rioja. Antonio spent the rest of our time personally checking in on us and when Savas asked him if he could try any gambas al ajillo, which was not on the menu, Antonio explained that he did not have it on the menu, but he wanted to personally make it for us at his other bar/restaurant if we went later in the day. Needless to say, we visited Antonio at his other establishment that evening and Antonio personally cooked the gambas al ajillo and we relied on his expertise to taste wonderful tapas made by his cook.
I am always impressed with people who go the extra mile for others. I treasure it when it is something that is done for me, and I never forget it (despite my poor memory). Barcelona is full of generous, warm and kind people like Antonio who care about people loving their city. They appreciate the tourism and business. Those are my memories of Barcelona. It breathes an artistic, vibrant and generous vibe and if you are receptive, it is similar to Paris – only less formal – a place you never forget.
Finally, for my loyal followers who care about giving and paying it forward… La Rita Restaurant is part of a chain of restaurants, hotels and franchises called Grup Andilana. The parent company has established the Andilana Foundation. The foundation, focusing its collaboration with the Philippines (La Rita’s team are of Philippine descent) was “created to help improve the education of children” and “groups with risk of social exclusion”. In Barcelona, it works with Casal dels Infants del Raval de Barcelona, with the social cooperative program Impulsem and the program Incorpora of the Fundació La Caixa. It is yet another example of corporate social responsibility and companies partnering with charitable organizations for #socialgood.