A “blast from the past,” can be a shot of adrenalin. After childhood images of beautifully hand-painted Easter eggs popped into my head last winter, I sprang into action this spring to revive enduring memories.
Hubby and I subsequently decided to discover new and beautiful things by joining the Easter Mediterranean cruise of the recently launched MSC Preziosa and the Barcelona Gourmet Walking Tour organized by the Tourist Office. Overall, the “eggs-travaganza” of sights, sounds and tastes we experienced on both occasions perfectly fulfilled my Easter wish; hubby did the photography.
Barcelona Gourmet Walking Tour
Through this tour, the Barcelona Tourist Office aimed to manifest the city’s gastronomic culture with brief stops at historic specialty food and wine shops in the Barri Gothic and La Ribera districts. A walk on La Rambla to access the Boqueria Market was also included. Two tastings were programmed: a refreshing fruit snack at the market and light refreshments in a pub at the end of the tour.
At each stop, our guide proved to be very knowledgeable in providing “eggs-cellent” detailed explanations, besides amusing anecdotes. Additionally, our eyes and minds feasted on magnificent medieval and modernist architecture in the districts visited. To marvel at artistic creations, we paused at intriguing shops specializing in chocolates, cakes and other pastries.
Thereafter, the delicatessen known for fine sausages, oils and cheeses tempted us to linger, and so did the boutique distinguished for the liqueur and other products made by nuns. We were pleased to experience the aroma from roasted coffee and nuts at a historic shop; however, we were sad to merely admire from the outside, international vintages in a vinoteque of the Ribera district, a paradise for wine lovers, our guide said.
Ultimately, the tour adjourned in an atmospheric pub for a taste of Iberian ham, wine and beer. There, our guide also demonstrated the method of drinking from an unusual Spanish wine decanter, which requires skill to use.
Our favorite stop was the Boqueria Market whose name, our guide cited, derives either from the Spanish word, “boca” (mouth) or from its original function on La Rambla as a place for fishmongers and butchers.
Fresh, supple, mouth-watering Mediterranean and tropical produce attracted us just as bees would be to flowers. Vendors competed to be the best exhibitors. Recalling artists with their palettes, sellers meticulously and artistically arranged fruits and vegetables so colors would complement each other.
As well, fish sellers knew how to showcase the freshness of the sea harvest to highlight their bright, bulging eyes and plump bodies.
Noteworthy was the absence of foul odor and insects within the cavernous market although the place was open on the sides and teemed with food and shoppers. Floors were well-swept and bright lights effectively showcased provisions.
As we were departing, we caught a glimpse of the food stands with enticing paella and seafood dishes along with buxom sandwiches and other local delicacies alluring us to return, which we did without hesitation.
To this day, dazzling images of passionate-looking tomatoes shining next to robust dark green cucumbers; bright yellow lemons smiling next to the moody-looking wild mushrooms or the same lemons rubbing elbows with achromatic button mushrooms still remain in our minds. Likewise, we were impressed with the Spanish passion for fresh and tasty food prepared in traditional ways that maintain the flavor and methods of the past.
Further info on the Barcelona Gourmet Walking Tour at http://www.barcelonaturisme.com
From cruise Captain, his crew and staff to itinerary and from the ship’s interior décor, cuisine and service, the latest and largest MSC Fantasia-class ship delivered a beautiful Easter Mediterranean holiday to her guests.
Much like the other ships in its class (Fantasia, Splendida and Divina), the Preziosa’s interior sparkles with Swarovski crystal-encrusted stairways and glows with Venetian chandeliers, arresting sculptures and contemporary furnishings. Among the vessel’s innovations are the Doremi Castle Aqua Park and Vertigo, the longest waterslide on the seas, as well as a 20-hour buffet restaurant. The ship also has a lovely Galaxy Specialty Restaurant, a concept that debuted on its sister ship, MSC Divina.
Learn more about MSC Cruises at http://www.msccruises.com
Galaxy Specialty Restaurant
Located on the top deck with marvelous 180-degree views of the sea and the swimming pool area, the multi-purpose venue functions as a restaurant, a bar and lounge besides a discotheque at designated hours. As a restaurant, it specializes in Mediterranean fusion cuisine.
Manager Diego and server Mihaela welcomed us warmly as we entered the venue for dinner. I immediately liked the contemporary ambiance with its purple and black color scheme and streamlined furnishings against the backdrop of a moonlit starry night and the swimming pool.
Service was fast and soon the dinner menu on an iPad arrived. From recommendation, we ordered Nigiri with Amberjack and Marinated Anchovies as appetizer, which was on par with Japanese sushi that we’ve previously experienced in terms of presentation and taste.
Delicious, we thought.
As sea foodies, Tagliatelle with Guanciale, Onion and Pecorino fit our palates’ bill for a first course. The presentation was so delightful, the dish begged for admiration before its consumption. The pomodorini had just the right sweetness to accentuate the freshness of the seafood in the pasta. Paired with a Nero di Avola, the creation was divine!
Manager Diego encouraged us to experience their popular Angus Beef with Caramelized Endives and Port Wine as our main entrée. To our appreciative surprise, we learned the juicy tenderloin was of U.S. origin. It took no time for our pieces to vanish in our mouths, tasting much richer with our robust red wine.
Our desserts, Supreme a la Vanille Bourbon and Chesse aux Fruit Rouge, made for superb epilogues to our “eggs-quisite” dinner.
Conclusively, should we be on the ship again, the restaurant would definitely be on our top priority list, thanks to Chef Juan David from Mexico.