So this past week has been the first time in a long time that I have actually felt the pinch of the cold autumn air. I have been holding on to the summer or the the thought of it for far too long. I had a great summer, spent time with loved ones and squeezed in a trip or two, the most recent one being a long weekend to Barcelona.
We flew in on Wednesday night with only enough time to grab a quick bite from a nondescript establishment close to the Leonardo Hotel Barcelona Gran Via which was home for the few days. The hotel is perfectly situated in La Nova Esquerra de l’Eixample, a great location between Plaça España and the heart of the vibrant Catalonian Capital. The hotel was ideal as a base for the trip, clean, comfortable with a bit of character and most importantly walking distance to the center. Plus the cost compared to many hotels in the city was kind to the pocket.
What we got up to…
I always find, using the bus tours a great way to get around a new city, particularly when you have limited time. This is exactly what we did, on the BusTuristic, Barcelona’s official sightseeing bus operator. It costs €30 a person for the day, and the good news is you are also given voucher book with €250 worth of discounts for every ticket purchased. It is impossible to take full advantage of the discounts but it can be useful particularly in museums and restaurants.
Traveling from Plaça Catalunya, the first port of call was the Sagrada Familia. The church is the most famous and architecturally impressive masterpiece by the renowned architect Antoni Gaudi. It has been under construction since 1882, with an estimated completion of 2026, meaning it will have taken a whopping 144 years to complete. It is a breathtaking creation, a must see when visiting Barcelona.
Next on the agenda was another of Gaudi’s impressive works, Park Güell.Park Güell is a public park located on Carmel Hill in the La Salu neighbourhood of Barcelona. The tour bus dropped us off at the bottom of the hill and we had to climb up the steep incline to the top under the scorching sun, with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees celsius. I can honestly say that climb was not my favourite part, everybody knows my fitness levels are sketchy at the best of times;-). However, once at the top, the views of the city make the torture of the climb worthwhile. The park is also home to Casa Museu Gaudi, the famous architect Antoni Gaudi lived in the now museum for twenty years in the later stage of his life. As I came to find out, the house contains furniture made by Gaudí himself and other fascinating Gaudí memorabilia. Unfortunately for us it was closed by the time we arrived, luckily the exterior was just as impressive.
On the way back to the hotel we walked down the ever famous Las Ramblas, having been warned about the ‘opportunists’ on that street, the walk down was a bit tense to say the least ;-).It turned into a late night having ventured into the Gothic Quarter bars, so much so I was only fit for a beach visit the next day. It is such a rare treat to be able to swim in the sea on city break. That is part of the great attraction of Barcelona. After taking the cable car from behind the Miramar Hotel up on the hillside of Mont Juic, we arrived in La Barceloneta, known for its glorious sandy beach. It being the height of summer, the beach was a little crowded but we managed to secure a spot and get some much needed R&R.On the way back to base, we passed through Santa Maria del Mar, Cathedral of Barcelona, both architecturally impressive churches in the Gothic Quarter and La Boqueira, the market off Las Ramblas.
Saturday was the last full day of the trip, dedicated to taking in as much of the city as possible. The morning was spent wandering through the Gothic QuarterThe best way of experiencing this area is simply to get lost between it’s narrow meandering streets, while taking in the uniqueness of the old enchanting buildings and alluring squares.Strolling through the wide boulevard of Passeig de Grácia lined with leafy streets and a wide variety of top brand shops, I was most impressed by two of Gaudi’s impressive works on the same street, La Pedrera and Casa Batlló. Both had large groups queuing to enter and so we selected, La Pedrera also known as Casa Mila. The entrance fee is on the steep side at €25 per person which I was told is a contribution to charity, making it a little easier to swallow. The only thing that truly left a bad taste in my mouth is the fact that, you are offered a free photo at the end of the tour, however you are then charged €12 to collect copies. I felt some what cheated on that one.A quick visit to the Picasso Museum was on the cards, the entry fee is €14 per person for the Collection and Temporary exhibition, a steal compared to Gaudi’s houses. The collection shows the evolution of Pablo Picasso, the most influential artist of the twentieth century. It is beyond inspiring, an absolute essential stop when in Barcelona.
Where we ate…
Dinner on the first evening was in the beautiful setting of El Jardin del Edén, where I had the most delicious paella I have had in a long time and quite generous servings too. I am ashamed to say I couldn’t quite finish it. I loved the ambiance and decor , quite a sophisticated and elegant space, but the best part was the staff, from the lady at the door to the servers, all were very welcoming and attentive. I would definitely return, if I ever have the good fortune of visiting the city again.After the long day at the beach on the second evening, I was only too happy to get a recommendation of a restaurant close to the hotel, Villa Emilia with it’s roof terrace Zinc Bar serving remarkable views of the city and some seriously delicious cocktails.Tapas were on the menu for the last supper at Celler dela Ribera, dining al fresco. I have to say these tapas were on a league of their own, ‘muy delicioso’ ; my mouth is watering even thinking about them, if I had to choose I’d say this was probably the best meal of the trip. Highly recommended.
Glad to have ticked Barcelona off the bucket list, it had been on there for way too long 😉
Till next timexoxo…