Barcelona with the Brays!

For those of you who know my parents, you will not be surprised to see a couple of guest posts coming your way later this week regaling our readers with the many stories from our time together in Spain.  But until the co-authors of the Brayzette, the family Christmas newsletter that has graced homes across America for over three decades, debut their first international edition, you will have to put up with me for another post…

You see, growing up, our Bray family vacations were of the standard middle class America variety. We road tripped, we camped, and we were forced to picnic on the never-ending supply of sandwiches my Mom would pull out of the cooler; always hoping for the moment when they would run out and we could stop at McDonald’s! The pinnacle of our childhood adventures was a tour of Disney World that conveniently coincided with a national baton twirling competition; our dedication to the “sport” likely robbing us of the budget to travel on more occasions! Needless to say, European travel was a bit of a foreign idea (pun intended) and when we presented my parents with an invitation to join us abroad, it took a little negotiating before those mug shots were en route to printing out their brand new passports! But boy are we glad they could be convinced!

My parents beat us to the Barcelona airport on Thursday evening and it was fun to see my Mom anxiously waiting for us with the throngs of other locals welcoming their friends and family (Dave was at the bar telling anyone who’d listen he was a Packer fan from Wisconsin…proof of his dedication in the picture above).  From there, we made our way to our AMAZING apartment that we are renting in the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona; just a terrace’s view away from the city’s own Arc de Triomph!  Upon a recommendation from our kind local host, that evening we visited our first Spanish tapas bar (one of many to be sure!) and dined on some adventurous local specialties: foie gras, duck carpacchio, mushroom croquettes, and the ever popular patatas bravas. My Mom, an avid fish-avoider, even tried salmon tartare in an endive salad! All of us left very full and even more impressed with our first taste of Catalonian cuisine.

Dad and his new buddy, our tour guide, Andrés

Dad and his new buddy, our tour guide, Andrés

On Friday, we found ourselves with the rest of the tourists in the Old City at the mercy of a freelance tour guide named Andrés Jennings; the only Barelona ex-pat from New Mexico that also happens to be a Packers fan!  Seriously, what are the odds?!  With an obvious new friendship solidified, we enjoyed the winding streets and learned about the stunning views of the 4th most visited city in Europe. Our favorite part was learning the history of this region of the country and it’s storied past; another glaring oversight of our American world history education. I’ll be sure to include a few of our favorite snaps at the end!

After a much needed siesta, we set off to meet our guide for a “food lover’s tapas tour” where we walked through the city and stopped at multiple restaurants to sample some of Barcelona’s finest delicacies.  On the menu? Snails, anchovies, smoked sardines, ox tail, local sausages, and quite a few other things we would have never ordered on our own!  Comfort zones and bellies equally stretched, the beauty of this event was credited to our local guide, Mattieu, who put together the menus, paired each course with a local spirit or wine, and shared the history of their food culture in time with every bite.

The unveiling of freshly smoked sardines; surprisingly tasted delicious!

The unveiling of freshly smoked sardines; surprisingly tasted delicious!

And before the evening’s end, we witnessed our first “Dave Bray Happened Abroad” moment when my Dad threw away 20€ in exchange for a bouquet of flowers he delivered individually to all the ladies dining and working in the restaurant; Dan’s desire to always blend in with the local scenery officially becoming a futile effort…

Our cool stop for a drink!

Our cool stop for a drink!

Saturday was an open day for exploring, but since it was also graced with rain and fog, we took to a slower pace than the previous one.  My Mom got to dip her toes in the Mediterranean, we happened upon an ice bar where we could don parkas and enjoy a cocktail out of a glass made of ice (so cool!), and we waited for my Dad as he found himself lost inside a Spanish casino.  With his 9€ winnings in hand, he treated us to a cab home and we stocked up on Spanish ham and cheese before starting our own euchre tournament (deservedly won by the ladies in the house) to end an amazing second day. And with perfect luck and timing, we were connected to wifi in time to receive a FaceTime call from my sister, Amy, who had just found her wedding dress while shopping in Chicago; proving just how easy it is to stay connected to loved ones regardless of distance!

Sunday’s agenda is dedicated to a visit to La Sagrada Familia and since it will definitely deserve it’s own post, I’ll leave you today with some of our favorite photos so far:

My Mom and I posed on our terrace.

My Mom and I posed on our terrace.

My Dad's innovative method for making coffee upon realizing there's no American coffee pot...

My Dad’s innovative method for making coffee with no coffee pot…

The commanding facade of a gothic cathedral

The commanding facade of a gothic cathedral

A shot of one of the many Ramblas, or plazas, of Barcelona.

A shot of one of the many Ramblas, or plazas, of Barcelona.

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My attempt at capturing the view of the narrow streets in the Old City.

Enjoying our food tour

Enjoying our food tour

The snails!

The snails!

Trying snails for the first time!  They tasted like mushrooms, but unfortunately, still looked like snails...

Trying snails for the first time! They tasted like mushrooms, but unfortunately, still looked like snails…

The vast meat selection at the local charcuterie

The vast meat selection at the local charcuterie

Dinner on the go!

Freshly sliced Iberico ham!

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