Taking a break from her busy career, The Night Listener's Sandra Oh went to Spain and "learned to do nothing."


"I was introduced to Barcelona by an old, dear ­theater-school friend, Andrew Tarbet, who lives there with his girlfriend," says Sandra Oh, who came to Barcelona on a rare break from her increasingly hectic career. "I found myself with a few weeks to spare last year - and have always had an open invitation - so I decided to take the trip. It was the place where I learned to sleep. Learned to do nothing, to commune with the sun and the sand and to enjoy watching the people go by." She was on hiatus from her Golden Globe-winning role as Dr. Cristina Yang on the hit ABC series Grey's Anatomy and still reeling from the acclaim of her star turn in the on-the-road wine movie Sideways. She was going to spend her off-season working on an independent film in Korea. "But the funding fell through, so I had nothing planned," she says. She looked down at the blanks in her calendar and thought, Barcelona!

Born and raised in Ottawa, Oh was already in ballet lessons at age four and in her first play at age 10. She beat out more than 1,000 hopefuls for a Canadian Broadcasting Company television film, and since then, her vacations have been increasingly rare. This month, she stars with Robin Williams, Rory Culkin, and Toni Collette in the psychological thriller The Night Listener, based on the best-selling­ book by San Francisco writer Armistead Maupin. She also returned to the stage in the dramatic play Satellites, which just completed its run last month at the Public Theater in New York City. But in a moment of rare repose, here's Sandra Oh in Barcelona … before she went back to work.

What's the first thing you did in Barcelona?
I got there, and Andrew picked me up from the airport. We went into Barceloneta, to his tiny, tiny, tiny one-bedroom apartment with his girlfriend and just had an impromptu dinner and had a couple of friends over. I was really ready to relax. After shooting a show for that long, you are kind of looking for a nice place to be relaxed.

Where did you stay?
The hotel I stayed at was called Peru Playa on Calle del Mar. It is a place without pretension, and it's reasonably priced at 55 euros a night. There is another hotel that is great - a little more expensive but right in the middle of Raval, one of the neighborhoods of Barcelona's Ciutat Vella ["old city"]. It is called Hotel España - very beautiful interior with rooms overlooking the interior patio.

Wow, 55 euros? You definitely weren't going the superstar route …
I wasn't staying at a fancy hotel. I was going there in a much more Lonely Planet kind of way. These are hotels that are tiny little rooms that have just a bed or two. Barcelona is such a live city; it doesn't necessarily have a lot of amenities. But the place I stayed, the nicest people ran it. They have a bar underneath it, and it was phenomenal. It also helped that my friends lived right near there, and they knew the owner and I was able to get a place to stay. It's in the area where there are a lot of young people who are there from all over Europe.

Did you eat cheaply as well?
There are lots of places to go everywhere in Barcelona for, like, 25 bucks - a variety of food. Low-key places. I just didn't spend a lot of time at the more chic restaurants. The food there, wherever you go, is great. Jamón! Think prosciutto and multiply that by a million. You get it anywhere, any restaurant; the better the restaurant, the better the jamón. It's like the presentation appetizer plate. You just eat it with bread and oil, sometimes with a little tomato rubbed into the bread. There's something very specific about Serrano ham that you can only get in Spain. It's just so delicious, and you have it with everything.