Feels like home to me

I was lucky enough to have a friend visiting this past weekend so I had the perfect excuse to not travel. There is nothing better than being in your own city. As much as I love all of the trips that I take, it’s so nice to sit back and relax once and a while and enjoy all the amazing things to do in Barcelona.

Here are some recommendations of a few of my favorite places to eat, drink, see, and shop.

11013304_10152655536391451_1302699970131770375_nFood Coma: If you are looking for a yummy breakfast, Milk has delicious eggs Florentine! 10492582_10152655536431451_1510510191979502131_nIt’s a small place so make sure to give yourself a little bit of time incase the place is at full capacity when you plan on eating. Brunch & Cake is another “must.” They also have a sister restaurant with the exact same menu a few blocks away called Travel & Cake which seems to not be as popular for some reason but I still can’t understand why when they serve the same food. If you are looking for something a little more quant, Mama’s Café is a cute place in Gracia that serves brunch all day long. So if you sleep in late and are looking for somewhere yummy to eat, my advice is getting to Gracia. Be My Bagel is a little bagel shop that has different toppings you can add like eggs, cream cheese, salmon it’s also in Gracia but I would only go there if you are craving a breakfast sandwich or need something that’s a bit faster.

10906083_10152582303666451_8322476539555078907_nFor lunch, I once went to a cute place Elsa y Fred that was a little hard to find but was worth the hunt. If you make it there, check out the tuna tar tar, it has almost a raspberry taste-YUM! Bo de B is another “must go” but I never really was able to understand why…if you ask me it’s super overrated. Flax & Kale is a little bit more on the healthy side but there salmon sliders are pretty good and I personally loved the pink buns that they came on. Still on the healthy side, Quinoa Bar is located in Gracia and is a small place but great if you need something light to eat, and don’t let the name confuse you…they have more than just quinoa.


Dinner is my favorite meal of the day, so I am saving the best for last. La Luna is a romantic delicious restaurant in the Gothic area and I suggest you try the salmon carpaccio, goat cheese salad, nachos, and ravioli with spinach. I went two times this week if that can convince anyone to go. Da Greco is another “must.” This Italian restaurant is fine dining and offers you a taste of every pasta dish that each person you go with has. You will be falling off your chair with a food baby by the time you leave. I can’t even recommend anything in specific because every single thing is exquisite. However, if you are not a truffle lover try to stay clear of those dishes because they are really heavy and strong. Café Camelia is a cute café that turns into a restaurant only Thursday-Saturday. So if you have a weekend free and are willing to go to Gracia, get the quinoa burger and goat cheese salad. A Gianni is another Italian restaurant that I go to at least once a week. It’s a nice place to order a glass of wine, have some risotto and call it a night. If you are looking for fresh sushi, Monster Sushi is a little bit pricey but will most likely have what you are looking for. My favorite tapas bar is Timeline. Make sure to ask for extra cheese if you get the nachos, the waiter will most likely smile at you and know that I recommended you to go.

10928190_10152606870836451_7577801331898434741_nPlaces to Pregame: I’ve learned since I’ve been here that “pregaming” is an American term and places in Europe not only do not do this in their homes but they think we are crazy for thinking that is acceptable. After most students studying abroad here were threatened to get evicted from their apartments, people started to discover places outside of their homes to pregame before heading to nightclubs. Pippermint is one of the most popular; they serve extremely large drinks, which is great for girls who always love to share. Chupitos is a very interesting shot bar that offers so many varieties of fun shots that all have very sugary tastes, some of which light on fire. Shôko sometimes offers free sushi dinners if anyone likes sushi, furthermore a lot of people like going here to pregame because it’s right on the beach and a five step walk to Opium. Dow Jones is another place, one of which I haven’t had the chance to go to yet but I heard that their shot prices fluctuate depending on how the stock market is doing…pretty cool if you ask me.


Party: But what to do with yourself after you pregame? Even though pregaming starts at a ridiculous time here in Barcelona, that still gives you no excuse to call it a night. Barcelona is known for its insane nightlife, some of which I’ve had the chance to go to since I’ve been here. I went to the bar/lounge in the W hotel; Eclipse for the first time this past weekend when I was staying there. It’s a very cool atmosphere-definitely a little bit of an older, more sophisticated crowd. Its on the 26th floor of the building and offers a panoramic view of the city. If you are more interested in being on the beach lower down, Opium, Pacha, and CDLC is the perfect spot. Sutton and Bling Bling are not on the beach but in a great location, which is the upper area on Carrer Tuset. Otto Zutz is a fun place that is not far from Gracia, which is great for those who are in walking distance.

Shop till you drop: If you take the metro to Jaume 1 you will be right outside of the Gothic area. This area consists of a church as your center marker and they have so many cute boutiques and stores in this neighborhood. Sometimes I just walk around and window-shop and get a delicious nutella crepe at one of the gelato places. If you are looking for something a little more upscale, Passeig de Gracia is almost like 5th avenue in New York City. It’s a huge street of high-end stores and is a beautiful place to walk around even if you aren’t planning on buying anything. Gracia also has more authentic Spanish shopping if you are looking for something funky. My favorite store is on Verdi Street, Clink. Make sure to check it out if you have any free time.


Activities: As you know, Catalans love their football. If you are visiting Barcelona I highly suggest checking out the game schedule and seeing a Barca game. Just make sure to get some drinks before you go into the stadium because they do not serve alcohol in there. Las Ramblas is another place that is always popping throughout all hours of the day. Watch your belongings because it’s a little bit of a tourist trap. On Las Ramblas you will see a market called “La Boqueria.” It is a huge food market that has delicious fresh fruit, meat, fish, candy and could be a great place to pick up for lunch.


The Port is also a very beautiful area. It is not far from the beach and just walking along the “boardwalk” is relaxing. I recently visited the Aquarium, which is in that same region. If you have some extra time it’s a good place to see some beautiful ocean creatures. Last but certainly not least, Gaudí’s works of art are all around the city. Park Güell, La Segrada Família, La Pedrera, and Casa Batlló are all exquisite Spanish sites.

Hopefully this gives you a little peak inside my everyday life and some recommendations if you ever get the chance to come to this amazing city!


You had me at Merlot

Parés Baltà is a family owned winery in the Penedès region dating back to 1790.  There, they produce wines and Spanish cavas from the grapes that grow in their own vineyards.  Since the 2004 harvest, the vineyards have been certified as ecological and organic.  The winery is located in Pacs del Penedès, which is approximately 55 kilometers south of Barcelona.  It is a great place to visit to learn how they make their wines, take guided tours to the vineyards and winery and learn more about organic soil and aging that is an important part of the organic wine making process.

There is a third generation of the family that is active in running the winery.  The person who founded their empire is the grandmother who is 97 years old.  The name of the vineyard, Parés Baltà, comes from the grandfather’s name and the wife’s name, Balta.  They have a custom of naming all of their wines after the ladies in the family because the two granddaughters work as chemists, and they make the blends and determine when to the pick the grapes.  IMG_7820Now they are beginning to actually produce enough wine so that they can export to the United States.  They are already in several states including, Massachusetts, New York City, Pennsylvania, Texas and Connecticut.  They are only selling a select number of wines in these states but hope to expand within the next two years.  This vineyard along with the other two that they own, produce almost 300,000 bottles per year. enology-ParesBalta-MElenaJimenez

In the Penedès region alone, there are different types of earth that make up each vineyard that this family owns.  The first is the non-eco system part which is just earth and there they use pesticides.  The second is in the mountains where the earth is made up of a lot of red clay, which creates a different type of grape to be grown.  The third is on their Parés Baltà vineyard farm, which is made up mostly of dirt with a lot of slate, and that slate adds certain chemicals and flavors to the wine.

The vineyards of the Parés Baltà estates extend to a variety of soils with different climates.  The climates are defined by different areas of sun exposure, rain fall, altitude etc.  These climates and soils favor the grapes differently which effects the development and growth of the wine and how it will taste.  This estate is situated on altitudes ranging from 170 to almost 800 meters and is only 10 kilometers from the sea.  In their vineyard, they have a wide range of calcareous soil, clay, areas with important quantities of marine fossils—all of which play an active role and influence on the wines they produce.

The soil is not the only key ingredient but the grapes are also treasured at Parés Baltà.  Some indigenous grapes like the Garnatxa, the Xarel.lo, the Macabeo and the Parellada are very valuable.  With diverse soil and climate, this vineyard also has Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraimer, Pinot Noir, Mencía and Merlot, which are kept, on higher altitude grounds with cooler temperatures.  With warmer temperatures, lower down on the vineyards are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Tempranillo, Muscat, Petit Verdot, and Touriga Nacional.

Pares-Balta-2This winery cultivates the vineyard in an ecological way without use of any pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizer.  Their fertilizing process involves 300 sheep that come down from the mountains and eat the natural grass that is in the fields where other vineyards only use dirt rather than grass.  After this process, they create their excrement or sheep droppings and that goes into the soil as fertilizer. They also use bees for pollination during the flowering season.  No artificial irrigation is done; the only water that the vines will receive comes from natural rain or is taken from the roots.


Another way Parés Baltà maintains an organic vineyard is they take the dung from cows and fill them in 450 cow horns which they burry into the ground for about 3-6 months.  After the time has reached, they empty the cow horns into a pile and use that as fertilizer.  They mix this waste with water and spray it over the fields.  The reason why they use the cow horns is because the horns contain calcium, and that is one of the things needed to grow strong plants.  The horns are only used about 3-4 times before they start to loose most of their calcium so they grind up the horns or they give them away.  A very interesting thing about the horn is that each one has rings around it and each ring represents the birth of a baby cow.

A final way that the vineyard makes their wines organic is by taking the excrement from the sheep, mixing it with some of the native plants and putting it into barrels that are buried inside the ground.  This process decomposes the excrement in the barrels for about 6 months.  After the time is up, they mix it with water to a very fine mist and they use it to spray on the leaves once the grapes are growing.   This is the same process I described above with the cow waste.

Inside the vineyard, the cellars are 40 feet underground and are in the shape of the Castilian cross and have four chambers, north, south, east, and west.  When visiting the winery, about three of the chambers were filled with cava, a special Spanish sparkling wine that is special to the region and can sit there from 6-30 months.   The cellar has a historical importance because during the Spanish Civil War people were able to hide there from Franco’s army.  The other interesting thing the cellar has is an old fashioned elevator that is over 100 years old.  This is used to lift the barrels.  Our guide explained that because there are no parts available for this old elevator if it breaks, there is nothing they can do to fix it short of replacing the entire system.

The barrels that Parés Baltà use are made of oak and most of which are built in France.  However, the wood that some of them have can actually come from America.  One of the ways that they add a distinct flavor to their wine is they purchase barrels that have been burnt on the inside.  The burnt flavor of the oak affects the taste of the wine.  However, you can only use the same barrel for a few years because longer than that, the oak  loses its potency.  Contrary to other growers, this vineyard does not sell its grapes and bottles, they only sell their wine on the farm.  If taking a tour you will be able to see the various tools used to mix the grapes including steel rods.  Not only do they use oak barrels but they also use some stainless steel silos.

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Cava wines from this particular vineyard and from other wines from this region are equal in ranking by the international authorities as those from the French champagne region.  Parés Baltà, always keeping a high quality as its goal, aims to produce some of the best and most interesting wines in the world with the unique personality that many grapes bring.


Parés Baltà is a very special place that offers vineyard tours, wine tastings, and interesting secrets to their underground cellars full of cava.  Through their use of organic soil and grape blends, they are able to create some of the finest wine collections in the Penedès region. If ever in the area, stop by for a beautiful afternoon and enjoy my favorite, the Honeymoon white wine.

Fam Squad

Having my family in Barcelona over this past week made Spain feel a little more like home. I was able to take them to all my favorite places. It was also nice to go to a lot of new places that I haven’t had the opportunity to go to yet. Some of those places included a wine vineyard, Montjuïc, The W Hotel, and some restaurants like Monster Sushi, La Luna, Cerveceria Catalana, Eyecream & Friends, and CDLC.

Thursday after I finished my last midterm, I met my family at the W hotel on the beach. It was a relaxing way to celebrate the end of my exams with drinks and a beautiful day. Afterwards, we walked along the beach and stopped at an ice cream place that I have wanted to go to for a while now. Eyecream & Friends is a really clever idea. They have you a pick a flavor of ice cream and two toppings. They add two eyeballs on your ice cream scoop to give your ice cream more character. We sat on a bench enjoying our snack and watched all the pedestrians walking along the street.

Friday morning we took a train from Barcelona to Vilafranca del penedes. This was about an hour south from the city. We arrived in the wine region where we spent the entire morning touring the Parés Baltà vineyard and learning more about cava, the Spanish wine. The only other winery I have been to was in Israel last summer, which did not even compare to this one. Our guide, Jemma did a great job showing us around the vineyard and educating us more on the process. After testing about ten of the wines, my whole family was practically on the floor. It was an exciting activity that I enjoyed a lot because I don’t have the chance to do that everyday.

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We were able to take the cable cars up to the top of Montjuïc on Saturday and strolled around the castle for a good hour. There was a view of the port and you could even spot the W hotel from all the way up there. We didn’t end up going into the castle but it was still worthwhile to take the ride up just to capture the scenery. However, it is definitely not a “must do” if you are just visiting the city for just a short amount of time.


Not only did we do new things but also I was so happy to take my family to my favorite shops and restaurants. My mom and sister loved the Gracia area of Barcelona just as much as I do. We shopped around during the evenings from 7-8:00 pm when all the street venders are out and there is a lot of action going on in the streets. I took them to my favorite boutique “Clink” across from my apartment on Verdi. They sell women’s clothing and accessories. I also took my family to the Gothic area where they have a candy place “Happy Pills” that I know my sister wanted to go to. It’s a cute shop that organizes the candy by color. They give you a pill bottle in various sizes that you stuff with candy. Then they stick on labels with cute sayings. My sister got a bottle that said “Sweet Kisses from Barcelona.” It’s a great souvenir that you can keep for medications after you finish the candy.

By the time Sunday came around, it was time for my family to fly back to the States. I had such a great time showing them around my city and enjoying this incredible experience with them.



I may just be one of the luckiest girls in all of the world because on Friday morning of last week, my parents and both siblings were able to take off from their work and travel to Barcelona to visit me for 10 days.  I met them at the airport in Barcelona so that we could all travel to Lisbon, Portugal together.  We arrived in Lisbon late afternoon and after getting situated in our hotel, we walked around the city to get a feel of what it was like.  We walked to the pier and it reminded me a little of Barcelona because of the water and beautiful sandy beaches.

IMG_7741Saturday was a day full of activities.  My parents hired a driver to take us around to the smaller towns outside of the city.  The first place we visited was a city called Sintra.  There, we visited the Palace Pena.  It was a beautiful castle that was on the very top of a huge mountain.  There was so much fog in the air that it was almost impossible to see the full palace.  I truthfully thought the outside was even more impressive than the inside.  Because I have seen so many royal palaces from traveling, the inside seemed extremely outdated and did not have gold trimmings along the ceilings and walls like other places I have seen before.  However, the outside looked like it came from a fairy tale book.  This is definitely a place I would recommend for someone to visit if they were taking a trip to Lisbon.

After walking through the entire castle, we stopped in the town of Sintra to shop, walk around the narrow and beautiful cobble stone streets, and get a quick café.  Even though we made a quick stop,  it was still enjoyable to walk around and spend time with my family.

Our next activity was going to Cabo da Roca, which is the western most point facing America.  It was a really windy out by the water but it was still really beautiful to see the crashing waves and smell the fresh air.  Our tour guide told us a frightening story of two parents that got to close to the edge to find their child and fell off.  After that, my paranoid parents were in a hurry to get back in the car and hit the road again.

After working up an appetite from running around the city all day we went to a delicious, authentic fish restaurant in Cascais.  I was so pleased to have fish because I keep a kosher diet and while I have been abroad the only protein I am getting has been from cheese.  I got a scrumptious grilled salmon and enjoyed trying a place I have never been before.  After lunch we walked around the fishing village and my siblings and I walked down to the harbor to get some pictures and take in the scenery.


The rest of the afternoon consisted of going to the Tower of Belem, Vasco de Gama and Parque Eduardo VII.  All of which were more sites to see closer to where we were staying in the city opposed to the smaller towns outside of Lisbon.

Each site was nice to see but by the end of the day I was completely exhausted and needed a break.  Our driver took us to this fantastic famous bakery Pastéis de Belém to end such a beautiful day.



The line was all the way out the door and I could smell the baked goods all the way from across the sidewalk.  I tried a new dessert for the first time that were the famous custard pastries.  I made sure to shove a few down before my dad would convince me to give him the box!


Sunday was our last day and was more relaxing because we only had a brief amount of time before our flight to Barcelona.  After what seemed like a long journey home, my family and I arrived back in Spain where I welcomed them to what has been my home for the past two months.  They plan to stay here for the next week and hopefully on my breaks I can see them and have this last weekend to spend together in Barcelona!


This weekend I had the chance to go to Germany for the second time.   I have visited Munich before on a family vacation with my parents and siblings, and this time my friends and I decided to go to Berlin for a weekend.   The second I stepped off the plane, I felt like I had turned into an ice cube.  There were snow flurries falling and a soft sheet of white powder covering the tops of trees and the ground.  I knew Berlin would be colder than Barcelona, but I had forgoten how cold winter is because for the past three years I have been at school in the southern part of Miami where the temperature rarely gets below 65 degrees Farenheit.

Upon our arrival, we went straight to our hostel where we would be staying for the weekend. The hostel was an interesting experience for me and this was the first time I have ever stayed in a hotel that had a bathroom located in a separate room next door.  I tried to stay positive about the experience since it is always important to be flexible, especially while traveling with a group. Our first day felt a little dark and gloomy. However, we decided to go to the Reichstag Dome as a way to stay warm.  We walked up and down the steps inside and were able to see a great view of the city.  Later that night we experienced a Pub Crawl, which was one of the highlights of my trip.  The man who was coordinating the evening took us to four different bars in the City, and it was fun to see how different the nightlife is in Berlin as compared to that of Barcelona.  I also bumped into a few friends from my college who were traveling to Berlin the same weekend.  What a small world!

The second day seemed to go a little smoother.  We started the day off by going to the Berlin Wall and visiting the gallery with large graffiti art walls.  I had a great time taking pictures and learning more about the background of the wall and how the city was divided into East and West Germany.  After taking pictures and enjoying each other’s company, we decided to do an afternoon walking tour.  This tour was another highlight to my trip.  Even though it was so cold outside and I could barely feel any circulation in my toes, I thought the tour guide was fantastic and had wonderful things to say about Berlin.

The guide was from England and had moved to Berlin five years ago when he came to visit the City as a journalist.  He fell in love with Berlin and all it had to offer.  He had a very interesting way of explaining Germans and their view on WWII.  I also liked how unbiased he was.  Before coming to Berlin, I had misconceptions about what it may have been like to grow up there.  He explained that growing up German, you learn from mistakes and never forget your past.  Even now, I can’t help but think of how depressing that must be.  I know in America, we have such pride for our country and our nation.  I suppose because of the events of World War II and the Cold War, Berlin contains a lot of depressing history that lies within its city.  Even though I did enjoy visiting, I would never live or wish to be born in a place like that.

The tour also allowed us to visit various sites around the city.  Some that will be most memorable were the Brandenburg Gate, The Holocaust Memorial, and Hitler’s Führerbunker, where he committed suicide.  To continue to warm ourselves up, I remembered one of my favorite places which I have been to before called Hofbrauhaus (a beer garden)  I took my friends there and we had a great time relaxing and drinking some German beer.

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Our last day we visited the Holocaust museum.  Even though I do appreciate each visit to the Jewish sites, since I have such a strong Jewish background, I was a little disappointed in the museum.  I felt like there was a lot of information missing and it did not contain anything other than pictures and videos.  I have visited both the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC and Yad Vashem (in Israel) and they both have many displays and other forms of artifacts.


This trip was extremely educational and I learned more about my Jewish roots.  Even though I am constantly connected to Jewish education, I always manage to learn more each time I visit a new city or country.  I wish I felt a deeper connection to Germany since my father was born in Munich.  It is just hard for me to be so comfortable in a place that was once a place that was so unaccepting and cruel to my loved ones.  I hope that one day I can put the past behind me and feel something different for the country.  I guess for now some German chocolates will have to do.