We are just back home in Daglan after our first venture into the neighbouring country of Spain — which included a fabulous lunch at the world’s No. 1 restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona. (Are you even slightly surprised that we would manage to have a meal there?)
We had expected to have a good time in Spain, and we did. But we also had some wonderful surprises.
First, a quick recap of some things you probably know about the area we visited — the Catalonian region in Spain’s northeast.
The largest city is of course Barcelona, and you probably know it for the astounding cathedral created (in large measure) by Gaudi. Here it is:
And when you think of Spain, you probably think of tapas — even though it’s apparently less common in Catalonia than in other parts of the country. Here’s a sampling of how we began one informal lunch near the home we rented (with four other couples) on the Costa Brava, not quite two hours north of Barcelona:
The local ham is naturally a key part of many meals, and we often began our lunches — or ended our days — with plates like these:
Beautiful coastal areas around the Med are another feature you may imagine, and you’d be right. Like these views from a place where we ate lunch twice, right on the Costa Brava. First, a look to the left from our table:
And here’s a view from our table, looking towards the right:
Now here are some of the (positive) surprises that struck us:
A city that does it well. For all concerned. We knew that Barcelona would be “attractive” and grand and beautiful and interesting. But we weren’t prepared for how smart it would be. Virtually every kind of handicap seems to have been considered, and accounted for. Even a cable car suspended above the city was labelled as wheelchair-accessible. How come? Maybe it was the 1992 Olympics — we really don’t know. But I’ve never been in a city that seemed to care so much for doing things the right way.
Allergies? No problem. Along with looking out for people with physical handicaps, Barcelona seems to have convinced its restaurants to be alert to food allergies. In fact, its restaurants seem to be on the leading edge of being sensitive to people with food allergies — like my wife Jan, who is allergic to gluten. Would you like gluten-free bread? No problem. Are there are “problem” ingredients in this dish? No problem — all potentially troublesome ingredients are listed (for each dish) right on the menu.
Language smarts. I think the French tourist people could learn a lot from a visit to Barcelona. Signs are in multiple languages, and virtually everyone we met in a hospitality setting (hotel, restaurant, bar, tour bus, museum, art gallery) spoke English, and more.
Food, glorious food. Let’s just say that French chefs need to take a hard look at what their counterparts south of the border are doing with food. More on that in later postings, of course.