Grady and I took our first mother/daughter trip a few weeks ago to Spain. I know, a little crazy since it was also the first time I’d be alone with her one on one for more than a day. But it was a very special occasion! One of my best girlfriends and her 19 month son were flying over from New York to visit us and Paris. Since I met Sarah (you can read more about her garlic soup here), ten years ago in Barcelona – we were random roommates – we knew we could not give up the chance to travel back to our old “stomping ground” of a decade ago.
A lot had changed in those ten years. For starters, the trip was an entirely different experience. Instead of staying in the lush Gracia neighborhood where our apartment was in 2005, we rented an AirBnb right off Las Ramblas to be within easy walking distance to both the Raval and Born districts. Instead of going out at 11pm, we were in bed by 11pm. Dancing at discos until 7am was replaced with waking up and nursing at the same time. Flirting with boys was now playing with our babies. And it was perfect. We would not and could not have imagined it any other way. In fact, I think returning to Spain with Sarah at this stage in our lives was even better than if we’d returned a few years earlier. Being the ever nostalgic person, I most likely would have had too much expectation to make a second trip too much like our four-month stay so many years ago.
My relationship with food was much different in 2005. I was in the middle of my junior year at Penn State and didn’t have access in my dorm to cook my own food and frankly, did not have much interest in cooking my own food. I was at the mercy of what was provided at the dining hall, which resulted in a lot of bagel sandwiches and popcorn. I didn’t really eat any meat and Sarah came to Spain from Austin, Texas eating a strict vegan diet. I think the first thing we bonded over that first jet-lagged, exhausted night in our home-stay was that our Señora served pizza as a first course and then pasta as a second course with chicken wings on top. She then went on to tell us that fish was not a protein. We ate our dinners in as they were part of the home-stay and grew to love most of the meals our Señora would cook for us (the chicken wings never did make another appearance).
As for lunches, we searched and searched for more vegetable friendly options but not much came up. Granted, no one had a smartphone or Yelp or Trip Advisor or even a laptop so our internet access was limited. We came up with two places. Juicy Jones, a cavernous spot that served avocado and pistachio smoothies and sandwiches with a lot of sprouts and the Hare Krishna, where we knew we would have a healthy meal with both vegetables and beans. Aside from that it was a lot of tapas and pan con tomate, which to this day I still love.
It did not take long to realize that it was not just me and Sarah that changed a lot over the past ten years but Barcelona too. Barceloneta beach was cleaned up with bathrooms, trash-free beaches and umbrellas to rent, Juicy Jones had moved locations, we found craft coffee and there is… kale!
Not being a part of Spanish cuisine, kale is a hard to find green in the country, which is strange considering that the south of Spain is a producer of the green for the rest of Europe. Bagged kale sold in the UK is frequently from Spain and when the season runs out in France, many wholesalers at Rungis now look to Spain for both conventional and organic options.
I made sure to check out both Flax & Kale part of the Teresa Carles empire (I equate her to the Marc Grossman of Barcelona) and Mother BCN, the first cold-pressed juice bar, founded by two Americans. Both are located not far from Plaza Catalunya, so easy to find for a newcomer to the city. I was pleased to learn that both companies brought back kale seeds from New York and are growing their kale with local producers located right outside of Barcelona. Flax & Kale even had their kale for sale!
Mother BNC is a small spot and their juice was refreshing. Flax & Kale was a lot larger than I expected with a lot of tables and a large menu including various superfoods and many tempting vegetarian options. Teresa Carles has been doing veggie food in Barcelona for years but I blame my lack of Google searching skills for not finding her back in 2005. She also has a juice bar connected to Flax & Kale. The kale salad was a welcome addition to a week of Spanish tapas. Grady agreed and we both loved the air conditioning to get out of the 95/35 degree heat and sun.
Due to the babes, we were not able to check out as many of the new spots Barcelona has to offer that we would have liked, but these were a good start. Sarah and I joked we should do another Barcelona trip in another ten years but this time without our kids. It will be interesting to see how the city evolves after another ten years.
Flax & Kale
Carrer dels Tallers, 74, 08001
Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 26, 08001
Satan’s Coffee Corner
Carrer de l’Arc de Sant Ramon del Call, 11, 08002
Carrer de l’Hospital, 74, 08001
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