Member Postcards

Member Postcard: Brava Barcelona!

Indagare member Kathi Mosbacher and her husband recently returned from Barcelona. Here are her impressions from the trip.

On our first day in Barcelona, somewhere between the grilled gambas and spicy meatballs at Paco Miralgo (Carrer de Muntaner, 171; 34-934-30-90-27), my husband suggested, “Let’s move here.” While there may have been some jetlag and a few glasses of Cava involved in this declaration, our love affair with Barcelona had officially begun. Barcelona’s physical beauty is always undeniable. Framed by the Mediterranean on one side and the Pyrenees on the other, the city features wide boulevards and palm tree–lined streets, and a rich architectural heritage that dates all the way back to the Romans.

Day One: Antoni Gaudí

On our first morning we set out to discover Antoni Gaudí’s preeminent mastery of Catalan Modernism, a style practiced by the best architects of his period and embraced by their increasingly wealthy patrons. It is a flamboyant style heavily inflected with Art Nouveau aspects and characterized by curved lines, asymmetry, exotic motifs and the merging of the functional and the aesthetic—and no one did it with more brio than Gaudí.

His organic, undulating façades contributed greatly to the transformation of Barcelona at the turn of the 20th century. Settling in among the medieval cathedrals and their Gothic neighbors, the master’s phantasmagoric structures continue to inspire modern-day architects. His final creation and magnus opus, La Sagrada Família, was started in 1882 and continues to rise higher above the city (it will not be completed until the mid 2020s). Six of Gaudi’s works in Barcelona have been granted World Heritage status by UNESCO: Park Güell, Casa Milà, Sagrada Família, Casa Vicens and Casa Batlló.

Day Two: Tapas

We began our food tour at the glorious La Boqueria market, where vendors peddle the season’s bounty: razor clams, sea snails, sardines, gambas from Galicia, white asparagus, baby artichokes, exotic melons and local olive oils. In Catalonia, the pig is sacred, and nearly every stall features rows of ruby red jamón ibérico suspended in midair.

While I once considered tapas at worst, a trend, and at best, too little of a good thing, my stay in Barcelona converted me. Our favorite restaurants were Paco Miralgo (, Bar Mut, Cal Pep, Cañete ( and Tickets Bar, the progeny of brothers, Albert and Ferran Adriá. Since Tickets only books online and had no openings until the next calendar year, we just showed up looking like we belonged there at 7:30pm (an hour-and-a-half before anyone in Spain wants to eat), praying that the woman dressed like a circus ringmaster at the door would let us in. She did.

Days 3-5: Museums

The next morning we tackled the Picasso Museum, which is housed in five large townhouses from the late Middle Ages. Of the 4,249 Picasso works in the permanent collection, my favorites included an especially large group from the early Blue Period and the 58 paintings of Las Meninas, which reinterpret the iconic family portrait Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez.

For lunch we wandered half a block away to El Xampanyet ( Carrer de Montcada, 22; 34-933-19-70-03), a tiny spot known for a dish with white asparagus, preserved tuna, clams, octopus and sparkling wine.

The next day we devoted to Salvador Dalí, taking a beautiful drive 70 miles northeast up the Costa Brava to the Dalí Theatre and Museum (Plaça Gala i Salvador Dalí, 5, Figueres, Girona; 34-972-67-75-00) in his hometown of Figueres. The museum has the largest collection of works by the artist, including a spectacular display of surrealist fine jewelry and the Royal Heart, composed of gold and set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds.

On our fifth day, we we went to Montjuïc Hill (near the waterfront) and dedicated a few hours to the museums located there. Artist Joan Miró left over 14,000 pieces to the Fundació Joan Miró. The building, designed by Josep Sert, is the perfect envelope to showcase Miró and his successive heirs. Always innovative, the artist suggested that the museum plan rotating exhibitions devoted to living contemporary artists in addition to himself. Consequently, since it opened in 1975, the organization has become a powerful showcase for new art as well as a tribute to the restless intellectual master.

The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya has relocated several times since the early 19th century and its collections now embrace every period from the early medieval period to the mid-20th century. The Romanesque collection is unmatched in the world and includes many important paintings, carvings and sculptures from churches throughout Catalonia. The wealth and breadth of religious art continues through their Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque collections, providing a historic progression of the rich traditions celebrating Spanish art, faith and community.

Days 6-7: Shopping and Neighborhood Hopping

The shopping scene is, by virtue of Barcelona’s rich architectural heritage, a visual delight inside and out. On Passeig de Grácia, Bel Y Cia ( has been selling fine custom menswear since 1842 (there is also a separate women’s store in the same building). Fashion-forward men should check out the Bel Teba Jacket, a shooting cardigan originally made for King Alfonso XIII, which has since been reproduced by the tailors here.

Since nothing is more classically Catalan than the espadrille, I spent some time investigating my options. Loewe, Spain’s leading luxury purveyor, sells a soft leather version in primary colors with dyed, hand-woven hemp soles. Around the corner is the more affordable Christina Castañer ( We then hopped over to the Bari Gothic, to La Manual Alpargatera ( which been hand-making espadrilles for locals and international celebrities (Pope John Paul II, Diana Vreeland, Salvador Dalí) since 1943.

On our last day we set out to see some hotels and neighborhoods. We stayed at the Majestic, which is located in the glamorous district of Eixample and surrounded by fabulous shops, restaurants and stunning Art Nouveau buildings, including the Block of Discord, where three 20th-century Modernist architects attempted to out-design each other.

Barri Gótic and El Born are the oldest neighborhoods in Barcelona and partially pedestrian-only. El Born is considered the more fashionable with trendy shopping and cafés. Hotel Neri, which must be approached on foot because the street is so narrow, and the Mercer Hotel, a hip sanctuary built around exposed Roman ruins, were two of our favorite properties.

Further south is Barceloneta, which fronts the beach and was magnificently restored for the 1992 Olympics. The Hotel Arts is good for families and those looking for a beach holiday, and many rooms have gorgeous views of the Mediterranean.

While we probably won't move to Barcelona, we will be back. A week wasn't nearly long enough and we left hungry for more. The city is a feast for all the senses, a shining place where eccentricity and creativity have not just been encouraged, but nurtured.

Published onMay 26, 2016

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