Best Single Moment: For Scott, this was when he ordered a G&T at an awesome market-meets-restaurant and the server brought a glass of such proportions that I could not pick it up with one hand. To wit:
The glass arrived empty. The server then added ice and proceeded to advise Scott to "say when" as he poured what seemed like half a bottle of gin into the glass. We've never been anywhere that the strength of the drink was the patron's call - especially when the glass was like a tumbler on steroids. It cost 11 euros (amazingly the MOST money we spent on a drink the entire time we were away), but that's what it costs to have a watered down G&T in TO.
For me, the best moment was probably when we walked into the apartment in Barcelona. I was enthralled by its elegance, by its authenticity. It was beautiful, functional, perfectly-appointed and the location could not have been better. I felt like I'd hit the jackpot and that my risk (not staying in hotels) had paid off in spades.
Worst Moment: Well that deserves it's own post... To our credit, we bounced back within 12 hours (though the bouncing was harder for the guy who'd puked his guts up all night...)
Best Meal: It's a toss up between the (not gorgeous but life-altering) hole-in-the-wall pizza in Monpellier (sacrilege, I realize) or the paella at another hole-in-the-wall in Barcelona:
Best Dining Experience: The first meal at Garriga (we ate there a few times since it was 2 doors from our apartment). The service was awesome. We had potato omelets with the best local wine. The cortado after the meal was the most sublime coffee I've ever had in Europe. Sorry peeps, but I think coffee in France is almost as bad as coffee in NYC.
Worst Resto / Worst Food: Gotta say this place in Arles with lots of attitude and nothing to back it up. An American couple sitting a few tables over had a (reserved) melt-down over the woman's meal (which she felt was raw though she'd ordered it medium). The servers couldn't communicate adequately (or perhaps chose not to) and kept her waiting another 30 minutes for a new steak. We got off lucky (and Scott ate the largest duck breast either of us have ever seen), but they were out of everything I tried to order (at 7:30???) and there was very little flow to go with the ambiance. Also, the mosquitoes were out.
Natch, the open-air market chicken was technically the worst food...
Oddest Occurrence: We spent NO time in a hotel of any sort - not even to drink or dine.
Best Surprise: The weather was the best I've ever experienced in my life, and I'm not exaggerating. Southern France / northern Spain were having a cool spell so temps were a mere 25C (aka nature's perfect temp) with NO humidity of any sort and constant sun. Like not a cloud in the sky weather. It was a salve for my very winter-beaten soul. It wasn't only the perfection of the weather that thrilled me (did I mention the Mediterranean breeze?) - but the duration of that perfection. The weather was unceasingly beautiful.
Second Best Surprise: Other than mosquitoes (the after effects of which are still visible), I didn't see one bug the entire time I was away.
Scariest Moment: It's a toss up between the cable car and the tower of the Sagrada Familia. I'm going with the tower... At least the cable car experience had a view that was (almost) worth dying for.
Most Surprising Things:
- I was unaware of the deleterious impacts of poverty of southern France until I came upon them. The culture was palpably weary. The graffiti was out of control (though sometimes interesting).
- The light in southern France, similarly weary, was nonetheless spectacular. It's inexplicable (though many paintings and books try to do it justice).
- Arles was more like Spain than Spain.
- Barcelona is one of the most friendly places I've ever visited. And one of the most beautiful.
- Coming upon Camarguaise bull-fighting, like, on a little walk...
- Staying in people's homes (while they aren't there, and if those homes are chic) is WAY more fun than staying in a hotel.
- Montpellier is a university town. I mean, I knew there was a prominent university there. I just didn't think it was the only industry.
- Swallows are seriously loud and very stealthy little birds. But they eat bugs so they can have at it.
Place To Skip: Montpellier. When your (tax-funded) Botanical Gardens are looking more unkempt than my backyard after a 3 week vacation, you need to up your game.
Best Pastry: Arles. That flan was spectacular...
Best Shopping: Barcelona must win because of its size and scope. (Furthermore, its offerings are suitable to my shape.) But Montpellier is nothing to shake a stick at. The shoe options were extensive.
But now to open up those lines fellow-travelers: Have you been to Arles? Montpellier? Barcelona? What was your best and/or worst? Let's talk!