For the long weekend, I decided to travel to Barcelona to meet up with my girlfriend, Jaime, who is currently studying abroad in Rome. We had an amazing couple of days as we explored the city together. We walked absolutely everywhere, from the summit of Montjüic to the beaches of Barceloneta. Averaging about ten miles a day can really work up an appetite, but considering that we’re both more or less broke, eating out at a restaurant every time we wanted a meal was off the table. Luckily for me, Jaime is an amazing chef, and luckily for her, I also know how to cook! However, neither of us really knew what we were doing when trying to navigate the markets of Barcelona. Nevertheless, it was truly a great experience and one that I believe is worth sharing.
Our Airbnb was conveniently located right around the corner from Mercat de Sant Antoni, a market that would put Reading Terminal to shame not for its size, but rather for the sheer mass of both food and people packed into it. The market is laid out like an X relative to the block making it difficult to navigate at first; however, it was more or less organized by product making it a bit easier to find things. That is to say, all the butchers were in one area, all the delicatessens in another, all the produce in yet another, and so on.
When we first arrived to the market, we stumbled into the produce section. With about twenty different stands each selling the same things, I was a bit nervous of which one to approach. After all, as Jaime doesn’t speak any Spanish it was completely on me to communicate everything we needed. Needless to say, I had to rely on my Spanish dictionary app a lot! I mean, I didn’t even know some of the foods in English let alone Spanish! We eventually picked out a stand and waited in line. And we waited… And we waited… And then I finally realized that it was deli style and we had to take a number. Thankfully, it was a pretty quick wait and we were able to get everything we needed without looking too clueless.
Our cluelessness definitely made us appear foreign, although most people had trouble figuring out where we were from. For example, when we went into the deli section to get cold cuts, the man behind the counter kept responding to me with French. Over the course of the entire trip, he was one of four people who thought that we were French and not American. One cashier even questioned my choice to charge my credit card in US dollars rather than Euros! I’m not sure if I should take it as a compliment that we came across as French over American, but considering that when asking for restaurant recommendations I’ve been pointed in the direction of McDonald’s if I say I’m American, I’m going to say it is!
That night, Jaime and I prepared a stir-fry with the fresh ingredients we got from the market. It was absolutely delicious, and was just as good as anything we could’ve ordered from a restaurant for only a fraction of the price! Food is always a big part of travel, but that doesn’t mean that you have to drop a fortune in a restaurant. Going grocery shopping, learning how to work with local cuisine, and preparing your own meals can be just as rewarding if not more so than dining out.