Friends & Family in Barcelona | 04-081018

Love in Barcelona. From late Thursday night to late Monday morning, we get to spend quality time with four of my old friends from London, my parents, a group of Sanoop’s best friends and the couple whose nuptials we’re in Europe to celebrate, just as we get to enjoy ample great food and wine and experience several wonderful aspects of the beautiful Mediterranean setting – humming this tune on repeat throughout the long weekend, haha. None of it feels rushed – we just seem to float our way from one lovely encounter to the next.

Exiample. ‘Wanna join us for dinner in an hour?’ – the final sentence of the sweet welcome message I receive from my Spanish friend Lara when we land at 9:30pm on Thursday. Far from hungry, we can’t help but smile at the notion of the deliciously exotic late dining culture in this part of the world – and of course we accept gratefully: who wouldn’t want to go out for some delicious Catalan dishes and drops with local friends the second they touch down in Barcelona? Also, if we had chosen to just go straight to bed when reaching our friends’ house, where we’re crashing for the weekend, we’d probably fall asleep right away and wake up way too early on the Friday, the first day of the 4-day wedding, and that would be a shame. Also, our friends, Lara and Edu, are leaving for Nepal on Saturday – they’re going to explore Kathmandu and climb parts of Everest – so this is one of our only opportunities to catch up with them properly.  The two of them know their culinary way around every centimetre of the country, and as such the food and wine at a small, newly opened tapas bar in Exiample, their neighbourhood, is of course sublime. The ambiance as well. And the conversation – which continues over an early morning coffee the following morning, at Morrow. I know the couple from London, where Lara and I worked together at TripAdvisor, walking & talking from East London to Soho on many a sunny, crisp, chilly, rainy and/or stormy morning, clutching coffee from Shoreditch Grind in our, often times, frozen or wet hands while gliding in and out of Spanish and English as we discussed everything and nothing. Laughing a lot. Happy days! And these are even happier, haha! Sanoop has met them once before – when we were in Barcelona last summer (see here and here) – and gets along with them swimmingly as well.

Friends in Gràcia. After the Friday morning coffee in Exiample, Sanoop and I head over to the charming area of Gràcia, where a couple of our friends from Copenhagen recently moved into a small top-floor apartment with their toddler. Their plan is to live in Barcelona for at least six months, exploring the city together as a family, frequenting its many awesome playgrounds with their son, working on creative projects from a nearby co-working space, enjoying a relaxed, healthy, sunny Mediterranean lifestyle… very cool! We hang out on their roof terrace, which has a gorgeous view of other charming rooftops  and, in the not-too-far distance, La Sagrada Família, have lunch in a nearby sushi joint (with a curiously authentically feeling Japanese and Spanish vibe) and go for a long walk in their vibrant neighbourhood… it’s lovely to get a sense of their new life – they’re clearly thriving and loving it.

Wedding. The groom, American, is one of Sanoop’s best friends from his 8 years in Hong Kong (he lived there before moving to Singapore 4 years ago), and the bride is Chinese. They got engaged on a holiday in Spain, and are now celebrating the ‘Western’ part of their wedding here – after already having completed the traditional Chinese part in Hong Kong earlier in the week. When we got the invite and read the part about the four days, we thought it was going to be a pretty intense experience, but it turns out to be just perfect: enough events for the guests who have travelled in from halfway across the world (i.e. everyone) to acclimatise and feel well-entertained, get to know each other, mingle, have fun, enjoy a varied Spanish experience, but not exhaustingly packed. Casual drinks at a fun bar in El Born on Friday. Swanky rehearsal dinner at One Ocean Club on Saturday. Romantic, rustic vibes for the late-afternoon ceremony followed by reception, dinner and dance at the romantic country estate Masia Ribas, just south of the city on Sunday, complete with a huge enchanted garden decked out with glowing lanterns and gorgeous flower arrangements, Spanish guitar players and a string quartet taking care of the soundtrack, leather apron-cald waiters offering freshly made lemonade and sangria as well as cava and beautifully arranged tapas from wooden stalls and trays … classic, beautiful ceremony in the lush garden, lavish reception on the elegant limestone terrace… incredibly tasty and nicely presented dinner with expensive champagne and wines in the fairytale-like orangerie, whose ceiling is covered in a thick blanket of fragrant ivy and eucalyptus creepers… sweet speeches and a sweet first dance… energetic dancing to tunes played by a fun live jazz band until 3am, when trays loaded with freshly made paella and churros arrive minutes before coaches take us back to the city. Monday – casually fancy brunch at the Mandarin Oriental. Perfectly chilled and spicy Bloody Marys, fresh fruit, dim sum, paella, coffee… and lots of laughter and stories about last night and the next century and hungover vibes. Great end to a lovely celebration of love. Great start to Sanoop’s and my holiday – a week in Menorca!

My Parents. When a few months ago I told my mum that we would be in Barcelona this weekend, it didn’t take her and my dad long to decide to pop down and meet us here. Even when I said that our reason for going was the wedding and that we’d probably only have time to meet them for a brief Saturday breakfast, they were keen – making it clear that they weren’t gonna cause us any stress but just would be happy to see us … and Barcelona. They booked two nights at their favourite hotel, Alma, a pretty great boutique hotel, perfectly balancing charm, calm, cosiness and class, surrounded by Gaudí masterpieces right between Gràcia and El Born, and my mum and I counted down the days until we’d see each other, haha. I just love their can-do-attitude and enthusiasm. As our wedding schedule turned out to be way less full-on than I’d anticipated, we have lots of time with my parents. On Saturday morning, Lara walks with us over to the hotel, telling us that its her business meeting venue of choice, as its stylish patio is a great spot to meet partners from out of town for a glass of wine and a friendly chat. Also, she adds, they do the best breakfast in all of Barcelona. Big words from a passionate and talented foodie! None of us remembers if she and my parents have ever met in real life before; it feels like they must have – they know each other pretty well, haha, through Instagram and me, by means of their shared interest in everything sweet about Spanish culture. When we get to the cool, dark, elegant lobby, my mum and dad greet her with a smile and a hug as warm and eager as the one with which they greet us, haha. Lara was right about the breakfast – it may even be the best breakfast I’ve ever had anywhere! Eating it surrounded by four of my favourite people, who are enjoying each other’s company as well, of course does add to the pleasure. After all of the delicious sourdough bread, fresh fruit, Spanish potato omelettes (tortillas) and excellent coffee, we say goodbye to Lara and wander southwards, my mum and I lost in one conversation and my dad and Sanoop in another, as we stroll down the gaudy (pun very much intended🙈), expensive Passeig de Gràcia, cross Plaça de Catalunya and continue down La Rambla to get to the Macba, where we have a cup of coffee before meeting Sanoop’s two friends. The three of them do a round of the museum and head out to the beach for paella, while my parents and I meander towards the Gothic Quarter – to get lost in the charming, winding streets, to check out the stunning Basílica Santa Maria del Mar, which my mum has been wanting to experience after reading Ildefonso Falcones’ book, and to have lunch at Bar del Pla, recommended by Lara, a dark and cosy little place, where we sit shoulder by shoulder at the bar counter and eat the loveliest tapas. Yum. Lunch with my sweet, joyful parents. What a treat! From there, we meander over to Gràcia to drink vermut on a plaza with happy people and dogs of all ages hanging out and listening to live music playing… In the late afternoon, I grab a cab to go back home for a nap, while my parents head back to the hotel for a relaxed evening in. The next morning, we meet for Alma brekkie again, the four of us, and then we aim for the Picasso Museum, Parc de la Ciutadella and another leisurely meander around El Born/the Gothic Quarter, soaking up the charming energy. Every few minutes on the way, I stop and hug one of them, taking a moment to dwell on the sheer wonder of this: weekend in an European capital on a beautiful autumn morning with the three people who love me the most in the world. I am very grateful. Late clean lunch at Flax and Kale (great alternative to the heavier Spanish fare). Meander back to Alma, from where we watch my parents leave for the airport – ‘byeeee, thanks for coming, see you at Christmas, love you!‘ 

Wonderful Coffee: all the way from London Fields, introduced by a local guy, @nomadcoffee, whose beans fill the machines in most of the other good cafes –@sabioinfante – @morrowcoffee – @bermontcoffee – @roastclubcafe – @cafecometa

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