The Barcleona City Break - A few of my favourite things. Top Tips.

Europe’s answer to Cape Town, without the obscene stabbing stats, Barcelona heralds beaches, boutiques and extreme architecture all within a rapid metro ride of one another. We took our two tiny people, survived the painfully long two hour flight and had a total blast for five gloriously hot September days. We devoured daily ice creams, gorged on Spanish ham had enough culture to carry us through to Summer 2016.

Just in case you were deciding on Barcelona as a destination, in the style of Julie Andrews, here are, ‘a few of my favourite things’.


El Born is home to a comfortable mix of tourists checking out the superb Picasso Museum and fitting in some boutique shopping, together with arty locals going about their business, slowly. Try picking up a coffee at Federel (http://www.federalcafe.es), before heading to the Passeig del Born in the evening to capture the lively buzz of Barcelona’s barflies sticking into their cañas.


My highlight. An enormous, inspiring, incredible space covering the history of science from the Big Bang to the computer age. It is one of Europe's most modern museums Three must-sees are the inspired interactive tour of Earth's geological history, a planetarium, and an incredible recreation of the Amazonian rainforest which comes complete with a Camen Crocodile.


Catch the train north out of Barclona, along the coast, leaving the metropolis behind you and get off the train when you spot a piece of beach you fancy. We opted for Ocata; a huge beach that is much quieter than the city. We ate terrible tapas but it didn’t matter, the sun shined.


Look like a real torist and use your Rough Guide to walk from to the Arch de Triomp. You’ll find an enormous bustling city park with a lovely mix of students drinking beer, bright green parrots and an obligatory lake with paddleboats. Soak in the Spanish vibe.


The find of our holiday. With dusk fast approaching and any Gina Ford bedtime left for dust, we followed our little metro maps to Mundet and followed our noses. The maze was the most wonderful pure, ridiculous fun and I’d go back tomorrow if there an hour’s flight involved.


The Shoreditch of Barcleona? Origionally an independent town but has since been swallowed up by it’s big brother. Gracia has vibrant plazas, independent boutiques, stacks of café’s and most importantly in 2015, some cracking Air b’n’b places.


Just ridiculous doughnuts, rows and rows of them. For those moments when you need a sweet fix.  http://www.chokbarcelona.com


The Spanish espadrille the way it was supposed to be experienced, with personal attention and with care, the same way they've been doing it since the '40s. Be prepared to queue but trust me, the shoes are of beautiful quality.


MACBA...showcases contemporary artists and has plenty to love, hate and debate. While outside, dodging the skateboarders and dogs belonging to the perroflautas (literrally 'dog-flutes', the city's semi-political punk-hippies) is also a 'cultural' experience. (http://www.macba.cat/en/)


The harrods food hall of the city. Regardless of whether you are looking for the infamous Spanish ham or seafood, beautiful looking fruit, vegetables, enormous sweets, spices, oils or cheese. Immerse yourself in an ocean of tastes and smells and enjoy eating on the trot as you walk the market.  


A masterpiece of architecture, The Sagrada Familia, evolved into Gaudí's life work and he was dedicated to this expiatory church until he died in 1926. Since then, the extraordinary building is continued to be built by several architects following Gaudís original ideas and is expected to be completed in 2026.


My final tip was something that we happened upon, something that was outrageously cool, cheap and perfect food theatre. Kakigori is a Japanese shaved ice dessert - snow like, delicate ice shavings are carved into a bowl and topped with intense sugar syrups and a fake pineapple. Guilt free ice cream or a decadent drink? I’m not sure.


Hot Lemon Water - The way to start your day.

For most of the population, nights are spent asleep, dreaming, re-energising (or claiming back fuel) for the following day. No, not mine. Mine can vary dramatically but as a general rule, two wake up calls disturb precious slumber and I stir the following day, by the soft padding of my three year old, in a relatively dull, clouded disposition. 

Coffee is good, but spoilt as I am by the Brighton hipster shops, I now feel totally unable to make a respectable version at home, so am left with lemon water. This is somewhat of a tradition now; my switch of caffeine for early citrus and the tone for my day is set. It takes minutes, seconds. Just boil the kettle, add a slice or two of lemon to your cup and pour over water. (I actually did just tell you how to make this?!)

Have I mentioned lemons have power? Combined with warm water (not too hot and not too cold) to assimilate to the temperature of your body is best and very detoxifying. Lemon water is a natural diuretic and this effect will help to flush out the nasties as well keeping your body and skin hydrated. And, if you sip 10-15 minutes before you eat, it will also help to kick start enzyme production in your gut and aid digestion come breakfast time. Who needs to diet? 

Another good fact - when ingested, lemons are actually alkaline which can really help to balance your pH levels, making your body more alkaline, which is how it functions best.

Ok, one last fact… lemons are also high in vitamin C, with each lemon giving you about half your required daily intake and a great boost to your immune system and cold-fighting abilities. 

Because it’s so very simple, one can make it in a sluggish state though if you’re feeling awake/creative try adding spices like ginger, turmeric, cayenne and cinnamon or honey to sweeten. If even juicing the lemon seems like too much effort (really?) you could ready them in batches at the start of the week and freeze in ice cubes so all you have to do is add a lemon cube to warm water.

Surely beginning with a healthy intention is a positive first step? It’s probably the simplest, best value option to starting each day, the right way. Go on, try.


Wholemeal, Cardamom Waffles with berries, yoghurt and syrup

We are currently in the midst of moving house and tying to consolidate, organise and de clutter. Any piece of kitchen paraphernalia that isn’t given quite enough attention risks appearing at the local charity shop or given to one of those friends that likes to hoard.

We’ve all got one of those items. If an aunt has been particularly generous in the John Lewis wedding gift list, it’s a food processor but for me, the waffle machine had to prove its shelf space.

I embarked down the waffle road with little expectation or memory of how good they are. A subtle, healthy base for many a sweet or savory top. The batter is made quickly, with simple ingredients that I’d describe as ‘corner shop’ ones and the topping could be anything – berries, poached fruit or savoury with salty bacon.

This time, a wholemeal, cardamom waffle was piled with fresh berries, seeds and a heap of natural yoghurt.  

Wholemeal Cardamom Waffles with Berries

Makes 6 x 7in (18cm) round waffles

5 large eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cardamom (or cinnamon)
50g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
250ml semi skimmed milk
225g wholemeal flour
A little olive oil for brushing
150g Greek yoghurt
200g Strawberries
200g blackberries
A sprinkling of pumpkin seeds
6 tbsp Agave syrup to serve

You will also need a 7in (18cm) round waffle maker

1 Place the egg yolks, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon. Stir in the melted butter. Slowly beat in the milk until fully incorporated. Gradually add the flour until you have a thick batter.

2 In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks and gently fold them into the batter. Leave the batter to rest for at least an hour but preferably overnight.

3 Heat the waffle maker according to manufactures instructions. Brush with a little oil and spoon mixture onto the waffle iron. Cook for 4-5 minutes and serve topped with a dollop of yoghurt, strawberries, blackberries, seeds and a squeeze of agave syrup.

Tip – keep the waffles warm, under foil, in a medium oven until you are ready to serve.