day 1 :
sunday, 11 september
Once we got off the plane and collected our bags, we took a bus to Plaça Catalunya in the heart of Barcelona, and wandered around until we found Hotel Onix, only a couple blocks away. As luck would have it, they had our room ready, so we checked in at 9AM and slept for a couple hours. We liked the hotel's eco-conscious designs: automatic hallway lights, room-key activated electricity, and water-saving toilets with different flush settings. We later discovered these to be fairly standard features of European hotels.
After waking up, still a bit groggy, we took a stroll on Las Ramblas, which is one of the main streets to see what's going on in Barcelona. The weather was beautiful, as it would be for most of our trip: sunny, and 75-80F. Once we had our bearings on what was where, we found a sidewalk café on Rambla de Catalunya, had lunch, and watched the people walk by.
After walking off our lunch and seeing more of the city, we went back to the room and read up on our trip material to figure out where to go for dinner that night, and what we were going to do in the Costa Brava the next day. Our trip materials included Michelin green guides for Spain and southwest France (Languedoc and Atlantic Coast), Fodor's Barcelona to Bilbao book, various travel articles collected from the Internet and the "Collected Traveler" Northern Spain and Southwest France editions (these were our favorite resources), along with restaurant recommendations from eGullet.org.
As recommended in the "Barcelona to Bilbao" book, we went for tapas at a great place called Cerveseria La Catalana, which features classic Catalan tapas and beers from around the world. Although we've had tapas countless times at The Harvest Vine, our favorite restaurant in Seattle, this was our first experience at a tapas restaurant in Spain, which can be a little daunting the first time you go: there are people everywhere you look, sitting at the long bars, standing behind the people sitting, standing anywhere there's a free space, all vying for a comfortable spot to chat, eat, and drink. We walked up and spent a moment just trying to figure out how to proceed. This particular restaurant had tables in the back that you could put your name in for, or you could mingle with the crowds at the bars. We were tired so took the easy way out and got on the list for tables ("Deseo una mesa para dos, por favor"), and got a table surprisingly quickly. We enjoyed pa amb tomaquet (bread with tomato - so simple, but so good! here's a recipe) pimientos de padrón (little green peppers, fried and sprinkled with very coarse salt), a plate of Idiazabel cheese, boquerones en vinagre (fat white vinegar-preserved anchovies on a plate with a drizzle of olive oil), pulpo (octopus), flauta chorizo jabugo (mini ham sandwiches), crema catalan, and a bottle of Rioja Crianza.