What’s your dream vacation destination?

This post is my entry in Fly Thomas Cook’s Valentine’s competition. All travel ideas and declarations of love are my own!

I love dreaming up new getaways, and living in Barcelona means nearly all parts of the EU are accessible. In the last four months, I’ve been to Cadaques, Figueres, Sitges and Tossa de Mar in Spain, and I’ve hopped flights to Istanbul and Paris.

Weather-wise, Barcelona has been acting like a petulant teen lately: warm some days, cold (and windy) others, and fairly unpredictable. It’s got me longing for beach days, sundresses and fruity cocktails. And it’s got me plotting an island excursion.

I’ve always dreamed about visiting Tenerife in the Canary Islands. For one thing, there are miles and miles of coastline and beautiful beaches.

photo by Webber264 on flickr

photo by Webber264 on flickr

For another, there’s Canarian cuisine like pollo al salmorejo (chicken marinated in garlic, pepper, cumin, paprika and white wine) and papas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes).

And there’s Loro Parque, where you can see the world’s biggest collection of parrots.

Above all, it’s home to Pico del Teide, Spain’s tallest peak, an ideal place to hike above the clouds and stargaze. When I saw this timelapse video of Teide by ISO Photography, I was completely sold on Tenerife – and even a little teary-eyed. The beauty is  other worldly.

The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

Fly Thomas Cook is running a Valentine’s-themed travel blogging contest, and I want them to make my beach-combing, cocktail-imbibing, parrot-visiting, star-gazing dreams come true and send me to Tenerife!

youngadventuress

picture from youngadventuress.com

I’ve got a travel blogger/friend crush on Liz from Young Adventuress, and she’d be the perfect hypothetical companion for a Valentine’s weekend in Tenerife.

She takes risks, dreams big and is as obsessed with tortilla de patata as I am.

She also knows how to attract some questionable male attention, so I’m sure we’d be able to get ourselves in trouble and pick up local company for a sexy Valentine’s double date. Sunbathing and skinny dipping, anyone? What happens in Tenerife stays in Tenerife … Actually, that’s not entirely true because I’m sure we’d both blog about it!

Where would you go if you won a trip to the Canary Islands? What’s your dream destination?

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Where to grocery shop in Barcelona: affordable stores & specialty shops

By now you probably know that I talk a lot about food. A good meal is pretty much my love language, and I count eating well right up there with living well. Of course, when I travel, I want to discover local, authentic restaurants and try the dishes of the region.

I’ve lived in Barcelona for four months, and I’ve eaten my fair share of delicious food: tortilla de patatas, pimientos de Padrón, chorizo, patatas bravas and various seafood dishes.

Regrettably, I can’t eat out every meal, and I want to recreate healthier versions of these dishes for myself. I also want to cook up the kinds of foods I miss from the states that I can’t find in abundance here (burritos, fish tacos, huge salads, anything spicy).

Markets (like the Boqueria on Las Ramblas and the Mercat de l’Abaceria in Grácia) and fruterías are the best places for fresh fruits and veggies in Barcelona, but if you want to do all of your shopping in one place – or if you’re looking for international foods – you might prefer to shop in supermarkets.

Here are my picks for the best grocery stores in Barcelona, based on price & inventory …

Best prices

  • Consum: I think this is my favorite everyday grocery store. The prices are great, the selection is good, and it seems they restock with new items regularly.
  • Sorli Discau: The selection is a bit more limited here, but prices are still good.
  • Dia: For some reason, I’m not a huge fan of Dia, but it’s reliable if you need to stop in for something kind of normal (packaged foods, etc).
  • Mercadona: There are lots of Mercadonas around the city, and the big ones have a good inventory of international brands, too.
  • Lidl: Lidl and Mercadona are pretty equal in my eyes.

A bit more expensive, but also a little higher in quality

  • Bon Preu: I especially like the bakery section of Bon Preu.
  • Caprabou: Options are a bit limited in some cases, but they carry a good selection of things like yogurt (lots of Greek flavors), wine and pre-made meals.

For American products and other specialty items

  • Carrefour (at Glories shopping center) and Carrefour Express (La Rambla, 113): The Carrefour in Glories reminds me a bit of a Costco. Lots of items in bulk, including a large bath/beauty section.
  • A Taste of Home (c/ Floridablanca, 78): A good spot for British foods like crisps, chocolate and flapjacks (which aren’t pancakes, as we think of them in the USA, but are more like dense, sticky oat bars)
  • Taste of America (c/ Balmes, 322): This little shop is wildly expensive, but it’s the only place I could find canned pumpkin when I wanted to make a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. It also has Duncan Hines cake mix, Nerds candy, Goldfish crackers & more.
  • Corte Ingles (Plaza Catalunya): I don’t go to Corte Ingles because I don’t like fighting the crowds, and it’s pretty expensive, but if you’re looking for international brands and nearby, it’s worth a visit.

For organic/vegetarian/vegan items

  • Veritas: A good range of healthy stuff like muesli, wheat bread and almond milk, but the prices reflect it.
  • Deli Shop: These small shops carry good beer, pre-made meals and curry sauces.
  • Various Bio shops (RecambBIO, etc): Most of these are local, not chain shops, and they sell quinoa, specialty oats, a wide variety of tea, etc.

For Asian/Indian sauces, noodles & snacks

  • Nearly all of the Basar/Xines shops, but especially Barcelona Store Exotic Thai (c/ Compte D’Urgell, 24)

Where I won’t shop

  • Open Cor: It’s open 24 hours, but it’s crazy expensive.

Love peanut butter as much as I do? This section’s for you …

I’ve been on a comparision-shopping hunt for the best/cheapest peanut butter in town since I arrived. I’m a complete PB snob and prefer the natural kind (two ingredients only: peanuts and salt), and I’ve had a hell of a time finding it here. Actually, I still haven’t found it, but more on that in a second.

The other kind of peanut butter – with sugar and hydrogenated oils – is relatively easy to find. Carrefour carries the Spanish brand, Capitán Mani, at the best price: 3.80€ for a 510g jar. Caprabou also carries it for around the same price. Carrefour carries the same brand for 4.10€, and the Deli Shop carries an American brand (Jiff? Skippy? I don’t remember) for 5.85€ (yikes). Taste of America carries an American brand too, for around the same price.

I’ve been eating this sickly-sweet PB for the last few months (because any peanut butter is better than no peanut butter!), and I about cried tears of joy when a friend from home sent me a Costco-sized jar of the natural stuff from home.

peanutbutter

PEANUT. BUTTER. DANCE.

I am dying to find natural peanut butter in Barcelona. And recently, I got a few promising leads! (I am not being dramatic here. Finding PB is BIG STUFF.):

  1. A local friend said that the Suncoast brand (or Sun-something) is available here, and they make a natural option. I tracked the brand down, but only found a tiny jar that had hydrogenated oils in it. PB fail.
  2. I went to brunch with a friend at Juicy Jones, and they served crackers with natural peanut butter. Holy shit! I asked the waitress where they bought it, and she said she didn’t know because it was her first day, but you better believe I’ll return to Juicy Jones to ask again.
  3. Another local told me that some of the Bio shops have grinders, and you can buy a package of nuts and ask them to grind them for you. If this is true, I will be in heaven. Fresh peanut butter, almond butter and … cashew butter too?!? PINCH ME.

Clearly,  my nut butter search is not over. I shall report back. :)