Barcelona is a vibrant, buzzing city, but even world-famous party towns need to have some down time and, if Barcelona could ever be said to get quiet, I guess it would be in the public holidays immediately after new years celebrations – just when we were visiting. Even so, there was no shortage of action to be found in the gracious streets of this beautiful city, including my favourite pastime – attending a food tour. Accordingly, 9.30am in the chill of the new year of 2014 found my husband, daughter and me loitering on a very quiet Barcelona street corner waiting to meet up with our guide from Culinary Backstreets for their Barcelona food tour.
Showcasing the staunchly Catalan district (or “barrio”) of Gràcia in Barcelona, our walk is led by Paula, who has lived in the city for over 13 years. Once employed in the advertising field, she now indulges her (and our) passion for food and the Barcelona lifestyle by sharing it with as many visitors as possible. The Gràcia barrio is unmistakably the cradle of Catalan identity in Barcelona – plainly manifested by the Catalan flag which flies from balconies on just about every building in the area. The barrio was an independent town until late in the 19th century and the local community is still very tight, with many of the restaurants and cafes unchanged for generations and catering to locals who refer to themselves as coming from Gràcia rather than Barcelona.
Gràcia is both a trendy neighbourhood, with its funky bars attracting a lot of the arty, bohemian crowd, and also deeply traditional with a large elderly population who prefer to live their lives in this almost totally self-sufficient region.
The Culinary Backstreets walk takes in plenty of either aspect, visiting the covered markets, traditional bakeries, bodegas, cafes and restaurants that abound in the barrio.
Make sure to bring an appetite for this tour which will see you chowing down on churros, cake and some of the more traditional local breakfast dishes, exploring the flavours of Iberian ham, baked goods, cheeses, local lunch treats and sampling the vermouth culture. And, like any great food tour, there are one or two surprises. I’m not giving anything away, but don’t be surprised when you find yourself in an underground car park – that’s all the hinting you’ll get from me!
Lambs’ Ears and Honey was a guest of Culinary Backstreets for this tour in Barcelona, but her family were not.
Culinary Backstreets operate walking food tours in Istanbul, Athens, Barcelona, Rio, Mexico City and Shanghai.
As I was unable to use a camera while my broken arm was in plaster, all of the images on this post were taken by my daughter, Maeve Marryat.