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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.)
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…
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 .
Seeing 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!
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.