by Eric Ginsburg
My grandmother, who I see every other year if I’m lucky, was generous enough to take my sister and me to Spain at the end of May. We spent most of our nine-day excursion in Barcelona and Madrid, and I’m sure as time passes and I forget more of the trip’s specifics, I’ll remember the unprecedented time with my grandma and the strong camaraderie with my sister.
We found a tiny grocery and wine store in Barcelona that moonlights as a restaurant. Two long tables in the back room were filled with people. We slipped our way into seats between strangers, consulting their advice on what to order (which is how I wound up with a suckling pig entrée). It turns out two fellow diners were creativity consultants and have long hoped to visit the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro.
3. Two churches
I’ve never seen a church as ornate as the dominating structure in Toledo, a small town pretty close to Madrid. I mean just gold on gold on gold. There was even an unusual hole in the ceiling that represented ascent to heaven. It was enough to make my Catholic grandmother question her faith. And then there’s la Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s perpetually unfinished masterpiece that I could’ve sat inside of all day.
Oh, the food. It’s everything you’ve been told and more. The quality of the ham. The tapas. Catalan cream. The seafood. I can’t remember everything we ate, even though we tried to take pictures of most of it. A market in Madrid, la bomba de Barceloneta meatball and a few specific restaurants stand out.
5. Walking tour
If you go to Barcelona, take Nick Lloyd’s walking tour about the history of the Spanish Civil War. Everyone seems to agree that these tours are accessible. A smashed-up church, bomb damage, an anarchist headquarters and the plaza for the unknown militant are all part of the mix. You just gotta go.
6. The culture
A Nirvana-themed bar in Barcelona called “Nevermind” — complete with a skate ramp and ’90s music videos projected on a screen — stands out, as does an incredible flamenco performance and dinner we attended in Madrid, the dancers mere feet from our table.
The champion’s league soccer match fell on our last night in Spain and featured Real Madrid vs. Atlético Madrid. We watched at a bougie bar, a crappy hole in the wall and through the front window of a restaurant in Madrid with a group of paramedics. Quite an experience, and the revelry hadn’t completely subsided when we left for the airport at 7 a.m.