I was lucky enough to be able to visit both Madrid and Barcelona during my vocation vacation away from the friars. Barcelona is one of my favorite cities and, despite having been to the city three times in three years, I really wanted to savor it this time around. This wasn’t easy since I had developed a nasty chest and sinus infection in Madrid, which was made worse by the cooler weather in Barcelona. However, the city still offered many chances for relaxation, new discoveries, and wonderful experiences.

One of my favorite things about Barcelona is that it is truly a gastronomical city – the food here is amazing and, unlike Paris or London, one does not have to spend a lot of money to get food that is excellent in quality and creativity. In this sense, Barcelona is similar to New York, because in both cities one can eat quite well without a lot of money, if one knows where to find these hidden gems. Foodies will be blown away by the extreme diversity in dishes and the multicultural cuisine available in Barcelona. Of course, there is the paella that tourists enjoy in the Barceloneta district, the food stalls in the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, and the many restaurants that are scattered along the city’s tree-lined avenues and side streets. I enjoyed some of the best Chinese dishes I ever had in Barcelona (photos below).

Another aspect I adore about Barcelona is its accessibility. This city is international and cosmopolitan in every sense of the word and for monolinguals (i.e. only-English speaking Americans), getting around the city and communicating with locals will be a breeze.

Having already visited Barcelona several times, I made a resolution to not fall into the sight-seeing trap – meaning that I wanted to enjoy the city on its own terms and not feel obligated or compelled to see every monument every day. And so my time in Barcelona involved a lot of waking up at a leisurely time, a lot of walking around to parts of the city that may not be on every tourist’s to-do list, and a lot of eating.

The highlight of my time in Barcelona was the gala concert in honor of the great baritone Juan Pons at the Gran Teatre del Liceu. In a felicitous stroke of luck, during my last trip to Barcelona in July of 2013, I had the (unplanned) chance to see Juan Pons in his final operatic performance, as Amonastro in Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida. What is amazing is that this time around, I had the pleasure of enjoying this terrific artist yet again in a gala performance honoring his career and his special contribution to the Gran Teatre del Liceu. This was truly a blessing and I am so grateful to have seen this sublime artist at the end of his career.

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