In the words of the famed author of my favourite childhood fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson, ‘to travel is to live’. While I whole-heartedly agree with Monsieur Anderson, I’d like to elaborate this quote a bit further and say that while travelling, you should not forget to live. I often find that most people approach their travel experiences in the same manner as they would their day-to-day lives. Daily travel schedules are packed with a momentary stop at the so-called ‘top ten’ sites of a city and food is a means by which you fuel your body in order to run to catch the bus, train or airplane to the next destination. Days are spent scurrying from one location to another, just to make sure you can check items off a pre-determined list. There is often no room for spontaneous exploration or, to use one of my favourite words, “wanderlusting”. While I do believe in exploring as much of a particular city as possible, I believe that it should be accomplished by exploring through intuition and more importantly allow time for self-reflection.
I recently embarked on a vacation to a handful of cities in Spain, including Barcelona, Sevilla and Granada. While I have to admit that my days were relatively hectic and pre-scheduled, I was fortunate to still have the opportunity to travel on my terms. This meant experiencing local cuisines at restaurants that aren’t listed in guidebooks and staying in hotels located on streets that you can’t find on a map. I’m sharing a few of these places in an effort to encourage travelers to charter their own course and seek to live during their travels. Bon voyage!
Caravelle (31 Pintor Fortuny, Barcelona) – I like to start the day with a traditional breakfast and a good latte. Caravelle offers travelers just that – a hearty meal in a quaint little artistic café. Reasonably priced, with friendly staff, Caravelle’s menu offers an English-style brunch infused with Australian and Mediterranean influences. Located in the El Raval neighborhood, this is fantastic spot to enjoy a lengthy breakfast and meet some artsy locals who can guide you on how best to navigate your day.
Le Cucine Mandarosso (4 Carrer de Verdaguer i Callís, Barcelona) – For those who want to take a break from tapas, this charming little Italian restaurant offers amazing homemade pasta, the freshest burrata (melt in your mouth), and savoury antipasto on their menu, which varies daily. The atmosphere is relaxed and feels as if you are sitting in nonna’s kitchen, except you can’t nibble on the delectable Italian tarts lined up at the front counter. The restaurant is located in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, relatively inconspicuously and is approximately the size of my Toronto condo, therefore reservations are highly recommended.
Ovejas Negras (8 Hernandez Colón, Sevilla) – This trendy tapas bar is located mere steps away from the main cathedral and includes a wide variety of options on their menu. You will find the usual tapas favourites, such as patatas bravas (with a twist) but you should considering trying out other options such as the tapas style burgers, octopus and ceviche. Crowded and lively, this bar is packed with locals and is a great option for a night out on the town.
Hotel Pulitzer (8 Carrer Bergara, Barcelona) – Conveniently located in the heart of the city, next to Plaça de Catalunya, Pulitzer is an eco-friendly boutique hotel. Rooms are clean and well maintained, with balconies offering views of the main square. Besides the amazing location, guests also have the opportunity to enjoy the hotel’s rooftop patio bar as well as lobby bar and lounge during their downtime.
Casa del Poeta (Don Carlos Alonso Chaparro, Sevilla) – A tranquil oasis, tucked away deep in the narrow winding streets of the heart of Sevilla but minutes from the main sites, Casa del Poeta is a boutique luxury hotel housed in a restored estate from the 1600’s. The hotel’s rooms open onto a majestic courtyard in the centre of the estate where guests are served refreshments throughout the day and have the opportunity to listen to a traditional Spanish guitarist in the evenings.
Tapas, 24 (269 Carrer de la Diputació, Barcelona) – This artfully decorate and famed tapas restaurant creatively combines staple tapas dishes with fresh ingredients and some surprising pairings. Sandwiches with Iberian ham, truffle oil and brie cheese and sliders with foie gras are just some of the favourite dishes served up. The ceviche is a must!
Aben Humeya (12 Callejón de las Tomasas, Granada) – Stunning views of the Alhambra can be witnessed on the patio for this restaurant located in Albayzín, the historic Arab Quarter. Albeit on the pricier side, the views are worth the extra money spent on the food.
In all, I hope that as you meander through the passages of Sevilla, navigate through the bustling streets of Barcelona and climb to the hilltops of the majestic Alhambra in Granada, you take out the time to reflect on your travels and how these experiences have helped to shape you in to the person you are today – for the better (naturally!).