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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Travel Bar Paella Experience in Barcelona Spain is an Evening of Tapas, Sangria, Food and New Friends

Learn how to make the ultimate seafood paella while savoring traditional Spanish tapas and sangria in a delightful hands-on workshop with the Travel Bar Paella Experience.  Cook with local hosts,  make a traditional recipe, and eat in an intimate setting with new friends. You'll have tapas, sangria, and cooking an awesome paella BUT the best part of the experience is that you will feel like you’re with friends that you’ve known for years.



Cooking may be one of your biggest hobbies, or could it be eating?  Either way, if food is your passion there are many reasons to take a cooking class on your next adventure:
  • Learn about the culture
  • Great food and beverages
  • Experience local markets
  • Learn practical cooking tips
  • Meet other travelers
  • Interact with locals
  • Contribute to a person or family
  • Preserve and support a culture
  • Your souvenir will be how to make a tasty meal!

Of course everyone told us: "Why are you spending money on a paella class? Only tourists do that...". But did we have a fun night and meet new friends? You betcha!


1. Booking



We recommend going directly to TripAdvisor to Book. You can go directly to the Travel Bar website, but we didn't find the price offered to be any better. As we learned from booking shore excursions, sometimes booking directly is not always the best option and you may have better cancellation policies and recourse for failed tours by using a trusted company to book and to see what experiences are offered. Find a direct link to TripAdvisor again at the end of this post! There are several options for a Paella cooking experience in Barcelona, most of which include many things such as alcohol. We chose the experience that cost $43 per person with a 24 hour cancellation available at TripAdvisor. At the travel bar website, the same experience is the same price but you will have the option to pay only a deposit ahead at their website. There are other companies, such as the Paella Club, that have more expensive experiences with Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and wine tasting rather than Sangria. Their tours cost about $108 per person and we felt this wasn't necessary for us since we are not heavy drinkers!

2. Communication


In our opinion, it would have been nice to have some personal communication with Travel Bar about the meeting place and to confirm. None of that was provided. We have received communication from other tour companies immediately after booking with TripAdvisor. We are busy when we travel and it is easy to forget things or get confused in foreign countries. Read on to understand why this would be a nice touch, but hopefully our review will help you if you book this experience! As is typical with TripAdvisor, we were emailed reminders which is another reason to use them rather than booking directly.


3. Meeting


This was definitely the weak point of the entire evening. We left early because we new the streets were crowded and we didn't want to miss our group. In Barcelona, the designated "meeting point" in the Gothic Quarter, was told to be inside Travel Bar. We were able to find the sign for Travel Bar but the overhead door was closed and there was no other entrances that we could find despite walking around the entire block. Since we were early, we decided to walk around the area and returned only to find the door still closed. However, we heard several other Americans talking in a group and we asked if they were part of the tour. Soon we found out that they were not only part of the tour but would be on our upcoming cruise and we had mutual friends in the States! Here is what the Travel Bar Looks like when open and you will see the green sign above the door in case you have the same thing happen to you and it is closed!



RxTIP:  Use T-Mobile for international travel because it provides unlimited data and text in many countries.  We had no contact for this experience, so texting would be useless but Google maps worked very well to get us to the right "area".


RxTIP:

Pickpockets are very common when going to a crowded market in Europe.  We experienced VERY crowded markets in other cities like Barcelona where attempts were made on our secured belongings.  One person in our tour group pictured here had their cell phone stolen in Barcelona.  LTD can't stress enough the importance of antitheft bags and vigilance!  We recommend the Sherpani AT sling bag for men or women.  It is lightweight, comfortable and looks great!  This is especially good for persons with back pain to minimize pressure on the spine.  The anti-theft features include zipper locks, anti slash bottom and strap, chair loop lock system and RFID protection.  Click the photo to learn more at Amazon and support our blog!  Thank you so much!!!

4. Tour


Our guide finally arrived and checked our names off of the list of attendees. We prepaid on TripAdvisor, but there were plenty who paid that evening. If you booked on the site, you had the option to pay the balance in cash that evening, which when you think plans may change is a good idea. If you book directly at the Travel Bar site, you will be required to pay a deposit (for our tour it was 9 euros per person) and the balance will be due on site.




We had about 20 persons in our group of all ages and from several countries. The evening started by following our guide though the streets to the Mercado de La Boqueria where we purchased fresh seafood to use in our paella.



Onto a completely different area of the city (not our meeting place) where we would spend the rest of the evening enjoying ourselves with our new friends. The tables were comfortable and within a few minutes of arriving appetizers and sangria were placed upon the table. The appetizers were explained to us by our guide and we dug in!




Tapas:

  •  Roasted Poblanos
  • Charcuterie tray
  • Toast points with roasted garlic and olive oil
Cooking:

Our group was called up to the cooking area and we were oriented to our guides' personal history, their family traditions for paella and then to the important components of paella: Seafood, vegetables, rice. Our guide was very good at letting us know that there are many variations of paella depending on regions, countries and continents! We were making the traditional paella that she grew up with: Catalonian seafood paella. After this introduction, our group was divided into duties for which we would all receive orientation at some point during the night in front of the entire group so that no one would miss a step even if they weren't actively performing their duty. For example, first we learned how to prepare the seafood properly: Cleaning the prawns or calamari and picking the live mollusks. Remember, we bought these at the market and they were "whole!" The most interesting part was cleaning the calamari and one member of our group had that job. Here is the abbreviated version of our instructions:
  • Grasp the squid's head right below the eyes where it joins the body. Pull gently and steadily pull removing the head and the internal organs.
  • Pinch into the mantle and feel for a hard fingernail like spine-like structure, grab and pull it out. It will resemble a clear long spike.
  • We did not use the ink sak in our recipe and instead our guide demonstrated how it could be used to make a tattoo on our volunteer.
  • Slice the mantle and tentacles if you wish to use them to ready them for the paella.


Next was slicing the vegetables (interestingly the pieces were not to be too small, or else they get mushy).  Our second group did that!

The third cooking group added all of the ingredients, rice and liquids to the large paella pan (you can buy any size paella pan all over Spain!).  And NEVER, NEVER, EVER stir once the rice is added as you can see from this clip of us cooking...





While the paella cooked the rest of our group became the Sangria makers where we had a lesson on what types of liquors are in at least what we were drinking! Let's just say it is a lot of alcohol!!!!



Last thing to do was EAT!  We had a great glimpse of the finished product with our instructor dishing it out for each of us.  She was very careful to make sure those that wanted a particular type or amount of seafood were well taken care of!  The paella was delicious and our chef provided the recipe to us at the end of the evening.




Bottom Line:


If you're looking for an interactive food experience in Barcelona, make sure you book the paella experience class with the Travel Bar! This is such an amazing hands on experience, where you get to immerse yourself in the Spanish culture. The evening starts off meeting at the travel bar which we felt was the only weak spot of the evening.  The Bar was closed and we weren't really given instructions about who and where we would meet.  It would have been best to receive clear instructions ahead as we have with other experiences in Spain!

Our guide took us on a tour of the Boqueria Market, where we purchased the ingredients for our paella. The Boqueria is HUGE, so make sure you stay with the guide and watch your pockets.

Lastly, you will head over to the cooking school where you will be served traditional Spanish tapas and are taught how to make your own sangria. And of course, you can't forget the best part...making the paella!

We recommend going directly to TripAdvisor to book, see reviews and price!.

Overall, we definitely recommend booking this class with Travel Bar.  For around 40 dollars you get so much, and not to mention all of the friends you will make along the way!



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