Just Back from… Barcelona

It was going to be New York for my daughter’s 40th birthday getaway, until we saw the prices, and since we were only going for three days it made more sense to make it closer to home so we didn’t spend two of those days in the air. Yes we were going on another mother and daughter city break! Been a long time since the last one which was also to Spain just before my eldest grandson was born. He is now 14 years old. BA came to the rescue with some very decent European city breaks – hotels and flights for £350 each. We opted for Barcelona, a city neither of us had been to before and which has been well recommended by fellow bloggers. Thank you Restless Jo and Lucid Gypsy for all your help, advice and links.

Placa de Catalunya
Placa de Catalunya

Day One

A very early start meant we were arrived at Barcelona airport by 9 am – we stopped for a coffee before boarding the Aerobus into the city, tickets were prepaid for so no problems whatsoever and the buses are every 5 minutes so no waiting like you have to at Heathrow. A smooth drive with a drop-off close to the hotel where we were able to stash our luggage and head out to explore. First thing though was breakfast. We quickly found a lovely bar where we had coffee, orange juice (the Spanish make the BEST orange juice) and buttery croissants. Then we simply wandered for a few hours until it was time to join a free walking tour of the Gothic Quarter. The architecture in Barcelona is so interesting – I spent most of my time gazing upwards at the windows, carved entrances, wrought-iron balconies – Gothic mansions, Catalan Art Nouveau, and the magnificent imaginative Gaudí and taking far too many photographs.

Natalie who is not even Spanish, but from Poland, is a cheerful university student who told us the history Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya so well. Her long strides led us through the narrow lanes of the Gothic Quarter, stopping several times to talk to us about different aspects of Spain and the Catalan people and their desire for independence. It was very interesting and we hung on until the end which was close to Cap de Barcelona.

pa200235From there we headed down to the beach and a surfer shack called Makamama where you can get excellent burgers and cocktails quite cheaply.

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Blackberry Cocktail

We had both, plus a glass of wine and garlic cheesy fries whilst our aching feet recovered before heading back to the hotel via the Ciutadella Park where we watched a demonstration outside the Parliament Building – everyone carrying the Catalonian flag – and then climbed the Cascade Fountains before leaving along the Arc de Triomf, by which time it was well and truly dark! We finally checked-in to our hotel at 8 pm. And thoroughly enjoyed the glass of Cava presented to us at reception. Feet aching after 6 hours of pounding pavements it wasn’t long before the lights were switched off.

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By the Arc de Triomf
Placa de Catalunya at night
Placa de Catalunya at night

Day Two

Today was Gaudí day. The main reason everyone visits Barcelona today, though it wasn’t always like this. Until the Olympic Games came to Barcelona in 1992 the architecture was badly neglected. People flocked to Spain alright, but to the Costas. We had prepaid and timed tickets for both the Sagrada Familia and Güell Park and made our way by metro to the first and bus to the second. Transport in Barcelona is very easy to use and bus routes simple to follow. We bought a T10 ticket at the first metro for €9.95 which gave us ten single journeys on either bus or train in zone 1. Everything you want to see is in Zone 1 so it is a good buy.

I will write separate posts about the sites as they are so magnificent, but for now here are a few pictures.

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After visiting the Park we took a bus back to Plaça de Catalunya and headed back in to the Gothic Quarter as my daughter wanted to do some shopping.

We spent an hour or so wandering and shopping and visiting the most famous market in Barcelona, La Boqueria (Mercat de Sant Josep) located at La Rambla, with more than 300 stores with local and fresh products.

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Later we took the metro to Plaça Espanya to watch the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc for an hour before heading up to the ARENAS BARCELONA building.

Lots of people head to the Magic Fountain
Lots of people head to the Magic Fountain

(a former bull-ring, The Arenas (Arenes in Catalan) was built between 1889 and 1900 as the Plaça de Toros de les Arenes, the bullring of Barcelona. It was designed by the Catalan architect August Font i Carreras in a Moorish style with a monumental horseshoe shaped entrance decorated with colourful tiles.)

Arenas Barcelona
Arenas Barcelona

A glass elevator €1 takes you to the top floor which not only has a 360° view, but also several restaurants. Choosing one we ordered tapas and paella and a bottle of house red. Only problem was that it was obviously a steak restaurant and as the evening wore on the restaurant became so filled with smoke that our eyes were streaming and our hair and clothes stank of barbecued meat! On leaving at 10:30 pm we couldn’t believe how many people were still queuing to get in to the restaurants, including families with young children. I know the Spanish eat late, but…

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Restaurant on the top

Day Three

A not so early start today as we had nothing booked, just tickets for the Turistic buses so we could be driven around Barcelona and take in the views without any effort on our part. So a late breakfast/brunch set us up for the day, which was a little damp and grey, and we walked to Plaça de Catalunya where we caught a bus on the Blue Route which went to Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell before heading west towards the posher suburbs of Barcelona. The road was closed to the Pedralbes Monastery so we had to get off at Pavellons Güell with the magnificent wrought-iron Dragon Gate by Antoni Gaudí .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeeing a notice we popped into  ‘Tilo’s mercat’ which was nothing like any market we have ever been to! Big guys who looked liked bouncers stood at the gate to what appeared to be someones house, inside the entrance Cava and oysters were for sale – €3 an oyster, €7 a glass of Cava. (We later discovered that Los Tilos is a club and bar) We wandered past stalls of hand-made jewellery into the ‘house’ where there were rows of hangers with very expensive clothing. At that point the power went off and we were plunged into darkness. Giggling we made our way out and headed the 1 km up hill to the monastery. That market was a bit too rich for our pockets!

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The monastery was very quiet, I suppose the road closure was partly to blame, and it sits in a beautiful leafy suburb where parrots reside. So peaceful compared to the hustle and bustle of the city centre.  After a couple of hours we walked back down the hill and caught the next bus to continue our trip, getting off at Plaça de Francesc Macià to change on to the Red Route and have a look at Montjuic and the areas south of the city. By now it was getting cold and windy so we didn’t get off to explore anywhere else, just enjoyed the views.

We finally disembarked at the bottom of Las Ramblas and went wandering again, this time discovering a food market in front of the Cathedral where we listened to some Catalonian traditional drummers and enjoyed a lemon beer followed by a portion of Fideuà which is a traditional Catalan dish – paella with a twist as it is made using short thin noodles rather than rice. We had a squid-ink black fideuà with a dollop of Allioli, which was delicious.

A tub of olives provided our first course and 5 small churros with chocolate sauce the dessert. A lovely snack for under €10. On the way back to the hotel after another hour or two of wandering in the Gothic Quarter we stopped for a rest and a goldfish-bowl sangria (mine with Cava) along La Rambla – probably not the cheapest place to have sangria at €10 each, but it was very good and sheltered from the rain under the umbrellas we had an excellent spot to people watch.

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Day Four

Naturally, it being our last day and having to get to the airport by 4 pm the sun decided to come out today. A lovely warm morning with blue skies beckoned. We checked out of the hotel and left luggage with them before making our way once again on the metro to Sagrada Familia, this time to walk up Avenue de Gaudí towards Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. Reaching it just after opening time (10 am) it was very quiet and we virtually had the entire site to ourselves for a couple of hours. The renovation of this Art Deco hospital site is amazing. Not all the buildings are open to the public yet, but what is makes your jaw drop.

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We returned to the city centre and had a look inside the main cathedral before heading back to the bar where we had that first breakfast eons ago and had a Gruyere cheese and tomato croissant and coffee for lunch. The thing you will see everywhere in Catalonia is Pa amb tomaquèt – bread rubbed with tomato or sometimes garlic and olive oil too. Even the croissant was rubbed with tomato!

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No shocks on this trip, maybe we have finally matured! And I kept well away from the Drambuie this time. Apparently in Catalunya, vermouth is the thing to drink. I kept away from that too…

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and I must admit that I really enjoyed the opportunity to try out some night shots, not something that is possible where I live. I hope you liked them.

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Heyjude

I now live back in the UK, but spent several years travelling the world and then living in South Africa. I look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

82 thoughts on “Just Back from… Barcelona”

  1. Oh my goodness. You sure did cram a lot into those three days. Fantastic pictures and unbelievable architecture, Love it. Love it. At least the weather was dry though gray. Thanks so much for sharing. I o enjoyed this post. 🙂 😛 😀

  2. One of my favourite cities. I have been three times, most recently with Julie, not that long ago. We stayed at the cheap-ish Hotel Gaudi, just off La Rambla. Every trip I made was in the late summer, when it can still be very hot. I always loved to visit Parc Guell, and Mount Tibidabo. My favourite place for drinks and evening meals was around Placa Reial.
    Unfortunately, my Barcelona photos are all on my old laptop, which I have to have repaired, as it won’t turn on! (I know, I should have backed them up…)
    You managed to see some places I have never been, like the Arena, and also take night shots, which I never did either. Lovely post, Jude, great to see it again.
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. I could have gone back in 2008 as OH had a conference there, but it was not long after the mugging in Namibia and I was afraid of being alone in Barcelona. My daughter and I didn’t feel threatened at any time even walking at night as there are so many people around. I’d love to go back as there are places I didn’t have time to see. Love the wide tree-lined boulevards, the little lanes, the architecture, the food!

      1. One of the few places outside the UK I could imagine myself living in. A beach at the end of the street, and a lovely relaxed atmosphere. Pickpockets are rife, apparently, but I didn’t get troubled, as I kept alert.

        1. There seemed to be lots of Spanish people on the streets (or possibly Catalonians) and families out late at night so probably quite a mix.

  3. What a lovely post with absolutely smashing impressions, Jude. A very nice and most appetizing presentation indeed. I have never been to Barcelona and it was not on my list because I had the impression the city is too crowded, but I’m ready to change my mind now. 🙂
    Greetings from Norway,
    Dina x

    1. Some parts are crowded in high season, Dina, but to answer your question, there is always somewhere to go to escape from the tourists, or go outside of the school holidays. x

    2. I must admit I have been put off by reports of scams and thefts but it is no worse than any other major city including London, you just have to be careful. I really enjoyed the buzz of the city and popping into cafés for a coffee and a sit down throughout the day. I suppose in the summer it might be too hot and busy, but certainly in October it was just fine. The architecture (and not just Gaudi) is wonderful.

    1. The public transport is a doddle to use in Barcelona Carol and a week would probably be good, you could then do a couple of trips out of the city on a wine tour or something. Yes, the oysters were €3 each – I think we paid £12 for 6 in Essex last month.

    1. It was great fun only wish we could have had longer and done it a bit slower, but she works as a child-minder so difficult to take time off. We have decided we should do a city break every two years until I am too old to fly!

  4. Somehow, Barcelona has been on my list for years and I’ve never made it there. However, I think I should save this post as a blueprint for a short trip. I’ve also had an amusing time looking back at your other mother-daughter trips. Seems the pair of you are grown ups now! 😉

    1. September might be warmer and I wouldn’t mind seeing it in springtime. Outside the school holidays! Though I have the feeling that this city is never quiet 🙂

  5. Thanks Jude for some marvellous pictures of a wonderful city. We visited several years back, weekend trip in December, so had fairly average weather but the architecture and the buzz of the place made up for it all. Your post is a great visual reminder of our weekend. Can’t wait for your detailed ones!

  6. Amazing how much you fitted into your visit Jude . Loved all the culinary delights as well as the architectural sights 🙂 … lots of traveller tips too ! How little I saw in comparison on our visit with some friends a few years ago , it really must be time for a mini break there again at some point . Wonderful pictures and as you said great to be able to take some night shots out on the town 😉

    1. I must admit I am sorely tired of flying, I just hate the experience, but once I get to a European city I love being there! The different foods appeal to me and it was so nice here just to try little bits out – no fancy wining and dining, just good honest food. And I loved popping into a cafe/bar for a coffee – excellent coffee and not expensive either. And I love the cities with their wide squares and tree-lined roads – so not English!

    1. Ah but you guys can nip over to New Zealand or Singapore or… Perth! OK I know visiting other parts of your own country isn’t quite the same. Same food, same money, same language… no, we are lucky to have so much choice so close by, though next time we are going to try the train!

  7. You DID have a good time. I can feel the excitement. 🙂 So glad you did the Hospital. We didn’t have access when we were there. Not the Palau da Musica though? Or the individual Gaudi houses? I know they were expensive but I just had to. The Arena sounds interesting and I envy you the fountains. My timing was off for them because it had to coincide with my birthday. Thoroughly enjoyed memory lane, Jude. Going back for another browse. 🙂

    1. We decided against going inside the Gaudi houses, expensive and we thought we had probably done enough Gaudi for a short visit, we just never got around to the music hall, but having seen it with you and Gilly I am not so bothered. Got to leave something for next time 🙂

    1. I loved it! Paris is my favourite city, but Barcelona is even better is some regards – and yes, there is lots to do though I wouldn’t want to visit in the summer months. It would be too crowded and too hot.

  8. Wow you did so much, and what a fabulous few days you had despite the grey. Looks amazing, must really visit one of these days . . am though planning a trip to Seville soon so at least I will have visited Spain after a 20odd year gap!
    PS Am also in shock you have a 40 year old daughter. Impossible!!

    1. Haha I like the last sentence there Becky 🙂 Sad thing is I no longer look 40 but she still looks 20!

      Although it was grey in Barcelona it was actually very warm! We walked around in T-shirts and jeans most of the time. Seville is on the list for our next adventure – celebrate my 65th birthday (not for a couple of years!!!!)

  9. Seems like you had a great time! Night shots are always fun, luckily I can do them around where I live and now that it’s dark season (the vikings called it ‘skammdegi’) you don’t have to stay up late to shoot night shots. 😀

    1. We did indeed CG – loved the city, such a buzz in the streets and such fun to try out night shots with my now not so new camera! (but first time for night photography). Not many lights where I live! But maybe I can search out some Christmas lights… 🙂

    1. It was great fun Sue, so nice to have someone to go out with at night and simply wander – the OH would have never lasted with all the walking we did!

  10. Lovely to see Barcelona through your eyes honey, I feel like I’m having a feast 🙂 Paris was once my favourite city but not now, and I’d go to Barca a third time even. Looking forward to more of your photos and adventures. I hope the hotel was okayish for you?

    1. I have to agree! Hotel was in a good location, comfortable and good choice of food at breakfast – and the first time I have had a Bellini cocktail for breakfast in a hotel for free!

  11. What an awesome trip…you are an adventurous spirit! It would have taken me a month to get over the tired feet. The dragon gate was absolutely gorgeous! I look forward to more post of your trip.

    1. Funny – I read a comment on daughter’s FB where she said ‘Mom likes walking!’ And there I was thinking SHE was the one forcing the pace! Maybe next trip we head somewhere quieter 😉

  12. Oh, Jude, I’m so glad you went to Barcelona instead of New York. I adore Barcelona! I love Park Güell and the Gothic quarter and La Boqueria! Barcelona is a much superior city to New York! Thanks for sharing!

        1. It is definitely a city that you could return to – so much to see and do. Though I wouldn’t like it much in the summer months – too hot and too crowded. I think our next Spanish visit should be to Seville and Cordoba.

        2. I’ve been to a lot of Andalucia: Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga and Ronda. I loved them all, and I was there in the unbearable heat in July! It was hot in Barcelona at that time too, as you can imagine. That’s the bad thing about being a teacher, you can only travel in the summer months, or during winter holiday. I’m sure you’ll make it to the south of Spain eventually. I really want to walk the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. If I can’t get a job abroad, then I think I’m going to aim to do it next fall. 🙂

        3. I saw a film about the Camino de Santiago: The Way http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1441912/ which shows some of the wonderful scenery and I also read a book about someone who cycled all the way from Spain to France, but I can’t remember who wrote it and I appear to have given it away when I cleared my bookshelf before we moved.

          That would be quite an achievement.

  13. Wonderful post since I am going to Barcelona in April. Good to know you can get advance tickets to the Cathedral. Did you do it online or was it part of your travel package?

    1. I bought all my entrance tickets online before I went, even the bus from the airport! Made life very easy once we were there. If you have a travel package then your transfer from the airport to hotel may well be included.

  14. I really enjoyed your pictures. We were in Barcelona in April of last year. Your pictures bought back memories of my trip with my sister. I laughed when I saw the buildings I posed in front of and how different they look on your photos. Those olives gave me everything. I didn’t know they could taste so good. I enjoyed quite a few with my pitcher of sangria daily. We went on a 3 countries in a day tour that to us on a bus ride to France. I am headed to Dominican Republic in about 6 days. I hope to capture images better this time than when in Barcelona.

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