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Trip Report Brief visit to Barcelona

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Here we are in Barcelona in the middle of September - in a very chic apartment right in the middle of the old town area. The building is quite old, but once inside all is very up to date and sparkling. Our living room and bedroom look out over a narrow street that has a continual parade of people walking through. We rented the El Born 3 bedroom apartment through likelivingthere dot com – Ron is an excellent communicator who handles rentals for apartments in Barcelona and Paris. After our experience, I would happily recommend him.

We were happy to be living right in the midst of the narrow streets, restaurants, interesting shops and historic buildings. We generally walked everywhere, with the exception of one day of taxi rides to more far-flung areas of the city.
We managed to avoid any nasty experiences with pick-pockets etc; perhaps not using the metro helped in this regard.
We didn’t eat at all in restaurants, so can’t offer any advice there. One of the reasons we rent apartments is because of my food allergies – much safer for me to cook and know exactly what I’m eating. An apartment also gives us so much more space, as well as laundry facilities, and is as close as we are likely to get to actually living in far flung places.
We looked into using the ho-on-hop-off buses to get around, but are very pleased that we rejected that option. They run about every 5 minutes, but even so we walked past one stop near the Gaudi houses that had a queue snaking around the pavement - we estimated that it would have taken at least three full bus loads for the last person in the line to get on. Remembering that the buses pulling up weren't empty, we were very happy that we didn’t need to join them. Barcelona is fairly flat and easy to negotiate (with the help of the tourism map)

Taxis are very plentiful here, with frequent taxi ranks where you can pick them up. If you consider the 27 euros you pay per adult (don't remember child fare) for the hoho bus, then that's a lot of taxi miles you can buy with your money!

You can check the price for a taxi from A to B at the website worldtaximeter dot com

Barcelona is a lovely city, with much more to do than we will manage in our three days!
In most spots we've managed to avoid the masses of tourists - mostly by getting to the popular sites first thing when they open. We’ve learned over the years to pick out our most important ‘must see’ places, and put them first on our day’s agenda, then move on to see other sites as the day develops.
Day one was time to stock up on some essentials from the markets, and generally get our bearings.
Covered Markets:
Best one we came across is on Les Rambles – walking towards the water it’s on the right hand side about half way down the section that has the pedestrian walkway in the centre of the road. Fabulous food selections!
There’s another at Santa Catarina Markets, Ave Francesc Cambo; worth seeing for the architecture of rippling roof construction, but food wasn’t nearly as fresh as the first market.

In the evening we wandered down to Santa Maria del Mar church –a beautiful little church open to the public daily at no charge. Address: Placa de Santa Maria in El Born.
On the front doors are figures of the workers who donated their time to build the church. It is fully funded by the maritime community, not a religious group.
This was just down the street from our apartment; most evenings there were musicians playing in the courtyard outside.
Day two was our ‘taxi’ day, with first stop being Park Guell. If you are planning to visit Park Guell, and if you can all get out of bed early enough, I can recommend getting there first thing.
It opens at 8am this time of year, and our taxi dropped us off around 8:15. There were a couple of other people around, but that was all. So no problem to walk up for tickets, and best part of all - we could see all the magnificent mosaic and sculptures without dodging around crowds. We were also offered ‘seniors’ rate (9.80 euro), which I hadn’t noticed being available on the park’s website.
By the time we were leaving around 9:30, the crowds were arriving by the busload. Another advantage of taxi; we were dropped right at the ticket gate. Whereas those from the hoho bus had a 15 minute up hill climb before they were even at the gates. Escalators part way, but one of the three wasn't working.

After our visit we walked down the hill to the main road, and hailed a taxi to Hospital Sant Pau, just took a look at the beautiful Art Nouveau exterior here. Then a pleasant walk down a boulevard lined with trees and eateries (Avia de Gaudi). In around 10 minutes we were at the Sagrada. Familia . . . and that's where the crowds really overtook us!!!
I've never seen so many tourists in the one place at the same time. We had only planned to view the outside, anyone queuing for tickets would have been lining up for an interminable time. So if you want to see the interior, you are wise to book ahead. The exterior of the Basilica is currently almost completely covered with construction materials – there’s a push on to have the building completed for the anniversary in 2025. But enough remains visible to give you an idea of just how spectacular it is. We happened to be there on the hour and were treated to a magnificent pealing of bells.

From there we took a taxi back to our apartment in El Born, and were back in time for a leisurely lunch. All up taxi fares were around 25 euros - great value and a great time saver as well.
In the afternoon we set off to see some of the local sites:
Barcelona Cathedral in the medieval quarter. Free entry before 12:45 Mon – Sat; Sun before 13:45 & daily after 17:15, no tour buses at these times. Make sure you have shoulder covering (scarf if not sleeves). Interesting cloister Address: Pla de la Seu, Barcelona On Sundays there are castellers (human castles) or folk dancing.
Often musicians busking outside the side entrance in the evenings.
Day 3 began with a guided tour of Palau de Musica; once again we were lined up 15 minutes before the ticket office opened at 9:30, and had no trouble getting tickets for the first tour of the day. The ticket office is located in the newer section of the complex, to the side of the main street frontage. Tours last 1 hour, and run every 30 minutes throughout the day.
Even if you have booked tickets for a performance, I would recommend doing a tour as well. The architecture and art works of the building tie closely to many local traditions, and you are taken up close to all the artwork both upstairs and on the stalls level.
Next we walked up to La Pedrera this was also covered in scaffolding; we only went into the gift shop . . . fantastic items in there alone!

Passeig de Gracia between Carrer d’Arago – 3 buildings by Modernista architects. #43 Casa Batllo, #41 Casa Amatler & #35 Casa Lleo Morera. This is a beautiful tree-lined boulevard, with lovely residences, restaurants, bars, and stores for window shopping. We even happened upon a photo shoot for Chanel . . . all looked extremely glamorous, until we saw the elegant model from behind, with large safety pins crimping the outfit in tightly to show off her poses. No wonder the rest of us never look quite like those pictures!
There were also elegant street lamps with decorative ironwork, and tiled benches at the base for us weary tourists to rest on.

We did take a walk down Les Rambles but for us it was just too touristy – we aren’t large crowd people, I guess!

Most evenings after dinner we just went walking in a different direction each time – there’s so much to see, and so many people around we never felt uncomfortable or unsafe. Of course, we stayed in well-lit areas, and kept our belongings tucked away securely.

Barcelona is a really lovely city, with so much stunning architecture. We have enjoyed all the colourful quirky work by Gaudi and others. This is definitely a city worth more than one short visit.

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