Barcelona, Spain: Plaça Reial and Flamenco Dancing

After we walked along Las Ramblas, we turned on one of the side streets, which led us to Plaça Reial. Plaça Reial is a historic square, which translates to “Royal Plaza” from Catalan.

Around 1835, religious buildings were confiscated throughout the city, which was the case of a Capuchin convent where Plaça Royal was later built. At the time, the square was meant to praise King Ferdinand VII with a statue of him in the center of the plaza. When this idea didn’t come to fruition, a beautiful fountain of the Three Graces was built instead, representing beauty, charm, and joy. There are two street lamps beside the fountain, both designed by Antoni Gaudí (http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/en/page/1248/placa-reial.html).

Since this was the last of Gaudi of artwork we would see

After walking around Plaça Reial, it was time for us to enter Los Tarantos, a flamenco show in the plaza. This thirty minute show was absolutely incredible, and it gave us a great appreciation for this beautiful dance. After the show, my sister and I ate dinner in the plaza at a restaurant that serves traditional Spanish food. We ordered croquetas de pollo, or chicken croquets, gazpacho (a cold, tomato-based soup), sangria (of course), paella negra (which is really called arròs negre in Catalan). This meal is made with cuttlefish or squid, which is how it gets its black color. The food was delicious, and it was truly the perfect way to conclude our trip to Barcelona. Now it was time for us to head to the airport and arrive at our final destination—Israel.

Barcelona, Spain: Arc de Triomf

Once we left La Sagrada Familia, my sister and I decided to stop at a local restaurant for traditional tapas. Tapas are small appetizers or snacks that serve the purpose of helping one get through the difficult time before or in between meals (or at least that’s what I view their purpose as).

As we sat down outside—only a few blocks away from La Sagrada Familia—we couldn’t help but enjoy the beautiful weather and take in the incredible sights around us. It also didn’t hurt that we had delicious snacks in front of us to feast on.

Throughout our time in Spain, I found that sitting down to enjoy tapas allows you to put your busy life on hold and take a few moments for yourself. You aren’t necessarily stuffing your face (unless you order multiple items like we did), but you’re stopping the needless worries around you and putting all of that on hold for just a short while. That is exactly what we did, and it helped us better appreciate the fact that you don’t have to be somewhere unique or special to take some time for yourself to unwind. (But then again, this realization was much better seeing as we were in Barcelona).

After our mid-day snack, we walked back to our hotel to get dressed for our evening activities, but on our way, we came across some more fascinating sights. Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition in 1888, and the Arc de Triomf (pictured below),  was built as the main entryway to enter the fair.

 

 

 

Barcelona, Spain: Park Güell

Upon waking up in the morning, my sister and I boarded a hop-on/hop-off bus, and set out for Park Güell. Park Güell, located in the northern part of the city is one of the many iconic sites designed by Antoni Gaudí—a significant name in Barcelona. Construction for the park began in 1900 and was completed by 1914. The original goal was to build a housing development on site, so one of the main features here is a beautifully designed house, which was intended to be the first of many.

Unfortunately, the plan did not work out, but Gaudí moved into the house with his family, and the building is currently home to the Casa Museo Gaudí (Gaudí House Museum). Besides the museum, there is a beautiful municipal garden, an exquisite terrace overlooking the city, and an overall sense of serenity throughout the park. It has been said that nature was Gaudí’s greatest source of inspiration, and this is evident since so much of his work revolves around or includes various aspects of nature.

Seeing Park Güell was a wonderful experience because for the remainder of our trip to Barcelona, we would soon come across plenty of Gaudí’s other notable buildings—each unique in its own way. After exploring the park, my sister found a great vegetarian restaurant called Teresa Carles on a side street close to Plaça de Catalunya (the city’s main plaza). The food was delicious, and it was just what we needed before continuing with our tour of the city.

Enjoying Lisbon, Portugal: Part 4

Once we finished touring Castelo São Jorge, my sister and I had to make our way back to the city center, where we first began our excursion. From there, we would catch a local bus, which would take us back to the airport. As we walked through the Alfama once again, we came across another olden-day cathedral, but our best (and most delicious) find happened to be in the city center. We spotted Confeitaria Nacional—Lisbon’s oldest confectionery, dating back to 1829.

As my sister and I walked into Confeitaria Nacional, we were in awe of the assortment of pastries available on display. We had a difficult time making the decision of what to order, but one of the locals recommend that we try a Pastel de Nata—an egg tart pastry common in Portugal. It exceeded our expectations, and was the perfect treat to conclude our brief trip to Lisbon. As we savored every last crumb, the city bus arrived, and it was time for us to return to the airport and continue on our trip to Barcelona, Spain.

PMA Fresh Summit In Atlanta, Georgia

Just a few weekends ago, I attended the PMA (Produce Marketing Association) Fresh Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. The convention center where it was hosted at was filled with all sorts of exhibitors from within the floral and produce fields. As you can see from the pictures below, the displays from each floral company were beautiful, to say the least, and the samples offered at each produce booth were delicious. Two samples that stuck out in particular were fried grapes (from a grape company) and avocado frozen yogurt from Avocados From Mexico. As strange as these two items may sound, they tasted great, and had us going back for second and third helpings!

Day 1 in Cartagena, Colombia Continued: The Walled City and Iglesia de San Pedro Claver

After seeing Las Bóledas, we drove further into the Walled CIty. One of the first things we noticed was that many houses had little knobs on the corners of their roofs. Years ago, if you were Catholic, you would put these knobs on your roof for witches to fly over your house. If you didn’t have it on your roof, it meant that you were not Catholic and since you were most probably considered a witch, you were taken into the inquisition.

Every year on September 26th, there is a competition to see who has the nicest balcony in the Walled City. For this reason, almost every house we saw had beautiful gardens on their balcony, and the reason being, the winner of the competition doesn’t have to pay taxes for an entire year. If you were to buy a new house in the Walled City, you must restore it or the government can seize it and sell it to someone willing to make the necessary renovations.

The Inquisition took place here in Cartagena during 1610 and lasted for 201 years. If you were not Catholic, you were considered heretic and would be brought to the building pictured below where you would either be tortured or killed. Either way, all women were brought here and were weighed because you could only weigh a certain amount depending on your height. If you were deemed “too skinny,” you were considered to be a witch with the capability of flying. If you were deemed “too fat,” you were considered to have the devil in you. Additionally, if a woman thought her husband was cheating on him, she could go to someone she thought was a witch and ask her to do a prayer for the husband to be faithful. If the husband was in fact faithful, the woman would be brought in and punished by having her breasts removed. If the husband’s behavior didn’t change after the prayer, it was assumed that he was still unfaithful and he would be brought in and punished in the form of having his testicles removed.

As we continued walking, we came across what translates to “Bitterness Street.” This street received its name because during the inquisition, two men were being walked toward their hanging and as they reached the end of the road, one turned to the other and said, “This should be called Bitterness Street.” Apparently, ever since then, the name remained.

The next building we saw was one in which the Spaniards would use as the main building to bring all of their merchandise into the Walled City. The square itself is called Custom Square because this building is where customs once was. Hangings during the Inquisition took place here as well.

The last sight we saw as we walked around was the Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, or the San Pedro Claver Church, started by a Jesuit priest who helped the cause of the African slaves. He was called the Patron Saint of Slaves because he dedicated his life to helping the slaves. This is the only church in Cartagena with indoor balconies, and back in the day, the rich people would sit upstairs and the poor sat downstairs.

As the evening tour of the Walled City concluded, my mother, sister, brother, and I ate dinner in at Porton de San Sebastian, which is a restaurant that has a beautiful story behind it. Before owning her own restaurant, the owner would cook meals and give them to local workers in the city who didn’t have much money as a token of her appreciation. Someone wrote about this quality of this woman’s food and the premise behind what she was doing, and eventually, the writer’s review helped build up enough of a reputation for her to open her own restaurant. When she did open her own restaurant, she continued her tradition by closing her restaurant off one hour each weekday during lunch hours for local workers. The food was incredible and knowing the story behind the restaurant and its owner made the meal that much more enjoyable.