9 Wonderful Days in Barcelona

Jun 18th, 2010, 08:51 AM
  #1  
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9 Wonderful Days in Barcelona

We, my partner and I, returned three weeks ago from an incredible 9 days in Barcelona. We spent some time in southern Spain 6 years ago, but this was our first trip to Barcelona. My overall impression: Wow, wonderful, amazing. I am still obsessing about how to return on an annual basis, to spend more time in Barcelona and to explore Catalonia (haven’t quite figured that out, but I’m working on it). Here’s our trip report:
oopsy is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 08:52 AM
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Travel: We flew from Chicago O’Hare to Madrid to Barcelona for an amazing $510 roundtrip with Iberia. We took a taxi from the airport to the general area of our apartment. I thought we would take the train back to the airport and trip’s end, but as I was about to take us down the stairs at the Jaume I stop at 5:30 in the morning, we noticed a lot of taxis on the street and I gave into my partner’s desire to take one back as well. We used the metro a lot, going through most of threeT-10 cards. We never actually made it onto a bus. The train system is very easy to manage and navigate, a great way to get around the city. We also walked, probably 4 to 7 miles a day, exploring different neighborhoods.

Apartment: We stayed at the Born I apartment available through Habitat Apartments. It was a great location for us, on Calle Flassaders (a dangerous few doors down from Hofmann’s Pastry shop). Dealing with Habitat ahead of time was a breeze, and so was check-in. They were waiting for us at the apartment. We had arranged to pay by credit card (for a 4% fee with habitat, but we didn’t want to carry that much cash on a jet lagged day one in the city). I had put a travel alert on my card, but the charge was still rejected at first. The Habitat folk were very patient, offered to have us pay in a few installments our first few days, but I finally managed to get through to my card company (via Skype and the apartment wifi) and got it straightened out. The apartment was fine. The floors could have been a bit cleaner, but everything else was clean. A tiny but manageable bathroom and kitchen. We would stay there again, though I’m also considering staying in a different neighborhood next time.

Language: I do not speak Spanish, other than a few key phrases. My partner speaks a tiny bit. I worked on a few key Catalan phrases before we left, though it then took me a few days to remember to use them. We were able to get by though, even in shopping and ordering food. We had a couple of pages of Catalan phrases and food vocabulary in our guidebook, and we had a Spanish (Castillan)-English dictionary. I will try to learn more Catalan prior to our next trip, but don’t be hesitant to go just because you don’t know the language.

Sites: We saw many of the popular sites: Palau de la Musica Catalona, Casa Batllo, La Pedrera, Picasso Museum, Miro Foundation, Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. All were fantastic. We also strolled around several neighborhoods, and we took a day trip to Montserrat. We did not purchase any tickets ahead of time, tho we did get the Art Ticket when we went to La Pedrera (our first stop included in the Art Ticket).

We went to Palau de la Musica Catalona on Wednesday morning (our first full day) and bought tickets for the next available English tour, the following day at 10:00. I was stunned by the main hall, brought to tears actually. What a masterpiece! On a future trip, we will see a performance there.

We went to Sagrada Familia on a Sunday afternoon, arriving around 1:00 or 1:30. We stood in line for no more than 30 minutes (possibly 20). I am so glad we bought the tickets. The inside is amazing. What a treasure!! The light, the columns, the glass, everything about it is incredible. This was the other site that brought tears to my eyes because of its beauty. Yes, the inside is a construction zone (though not an active one on Sundays) but it is also absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend going inside. We also took the elevator up, but we went to the other side of the cathedral for a much shorter elevator line (I’m so glad this was mentioned to us!). We waited no more than 10 minutes for the lift, and were able to wait inside instead of out in the hot sun.

Parc Guell is magical. It’s just magical. We took the train to the Lesseps stop, rather than the bus. Neither of us found the walk uphill to be too terrible (I’m in pretty decent shape, my partner, eh, not so much), but if you have bad knees I would bus or taxi it so you are dropped off at the top. Definitely get off the main paths a bit, and a bit away from the crowds while you’re there, and enjoy the wonderful views of the city.

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya was incredible. We almost skipped it this trip, but we were strongly encouraged to go by the brother of Katherine who owns Formatgeria La Seu, so we went. I’m so glad we did, and I’m kind of kicking myself for not giving it more time. We went our last day there and I planned on a short visit. Well, we were there for 4 hours, and I wish we had stayed longer. We only saw ¼ to 1/3 of it, and we did not get to the Romanesque section. This will get another full day the next trip we make. I love art museums and am fortunate to be able to go to the Art Institute of Chicago several times a year, so I am not new to great art museums. This one still is impressive. I highly recommend giving it one of your Barcelona days.

We had a lovely day at Montserrat, but mostly because we were able to do a bit of hiking. We took the train to the cable car stop, enjoyed the cable car ride (more so on the way down when we had better views), and also took the Sant Joan funicular. The basilica is impressive but was a bit much for me. I was much more moved by the simplicity and beauty of Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona. Still, we enjoyed hiking for a few hours in the area and will plan on more hiking on our next trip.

We went out for music twice. On a Saturday night we went to Harlem Jazz in Barri Gotic to hear a latin jazz group. They were excellent! The crowd was fairly young (we are in our 40s), having a great time but not being stupid. The only downside was that it was very, very, very smoky. On Tuesday night we went to Jamboree to hear a jazz trio. They were actually quite good musicians, but the club had an off feel to me.

Food: We love good food, but we really didn’t go foodie on this trip. We did eat some good food, and we drank a lot of good wine. We primarily stopped and ate at some café or restaurant, typically outside, when we got hungry, and we made dinner ourselves in the apartment several times. Our favorite find was probably Amelie on Placa de la Villa de Gracia, where we had a nice late lunch one day. Our only bad food was at Bo’s, in the same square, where we had overly oily patatas bravas, soggy pa amb tomaquet, and (for my partner only) tougher than you’d even expect octopus. We strolled through La Bouqueria on the day we walked down La Rambla (something we did not feel the need to repeat), but it was SO crowded with people taking photos and looking lost, that we just did not feel like shopping. We did shop several times at Mercat Santa Caterina, which is a lovely market and near our apartment.

We have two food favorites though. I can’t say enough about Formatgeria La Seu and Bar Zim, neighbors on Carrer Dagueria. We went to La Seu on our first afternoon in Barcelona, and again later in the trip (when we also got to enjoy the amazing, incredible cheese ice creams). We went to Bar Zim on our 2nd night in the city, and again every night we were there and it was open (so six evenings in all). Each night we had some wine and formatge or embotits. Every wine we tried there was wonderful, and the vermouth is also amazing. Katherine (of both La Seu and Bar Zim) is lovely and welcoming, with great knowledge and passion for cheeses and wines. Francesc, partner at Bar Zim and working most evenings we were there, is equally lovely and welcoming, with some interesting stories. We felt very at home there, a nice feeling when you are on vacation. I would not take another trip to Barcelona that did not include stops at these two wonderful places.

Safety: After reading warnings here, we were cautious but not scared. We saw one incident on the train, an unsuccessful attempt to take a tourist’s bag. That was all we saw explicitly. There were a couple of incidents that we wondered about people near us, and we just held our bags a bit more closely at those times. I carried a messenger style bag, in which I held most of our cash for the day (we would have 100 to 200 euros on us at a time), one of our credit cards, my iPhone, my notebook, and my water bottle. My partner had a smaller messenger bag, in which he carried our cheapo camera, a bit of cash, and our travel guide. Both bags had inside zippered pockets where the most precious items went. We held our bags close to us on the train and in other crowded areas. I gave firm but not mean “No” responses the two times women approached me with flowers.

Overall: I can’t wait to go back. I feel we barely scratched the surface in terms of exploring the art, architecture, and neighborhoods. I told my partner that he should expect some more Barcelona/Catalonia focused trips, but he should also expect that if we spend a week in Rome, I’ll want to tack on a long weekend in Barcelona. If we ever make it to Portugal or France or Germany, I’ll want to tack on a long weekend in Barcelona. I would like for it to become a city I know.

I did not post many questions on this board in preparation for our trip because there is already so much information here. I did read the board a LOT though, and I want to thank you all for the advice, trip reports, and wealth of information here. It helped us to have an absolutely amazing holiday
oopsy is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 09:12 AM
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thanks for your report. I visited Barcelona for the first time four years ago and was hooked!
What a fantastic city !
Glad you enjoyed it so much . We have gone every year since and plan to rent an apartment for a 2-3 weeks next year .
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Jun 18th, 2010, 02:14 PM
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yk
 
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Great report! It brings back lots of wonderful memories of my trip last year.
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Jun 18th, 2010, 03:10 PM
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Thanks for this,especially your thoughts on Sagrada Familia.
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Jun 18th, 2010, 03:35 PM
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Great report! Thanks so much for posting.
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Jun 18th, 2010, 07:04 PM
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We are going in November and will be renting through Habitat also. Our apartment is on Rambla de Catalunya. I originally booked one of the Born apartments but switched to the one in Eixample. I also wondered what it was like going up to the top of Sagrada Familia. I try to go up to the top of sights such as Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, etc. but sometimes can't get the nerve to go the heights. If you take the elevator up where does it put you when you get out?
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Jun 19th, 2010, 07:21 AM
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Opalog, I don't know how to describe exactly where you get out. Both elevators take you up one of the towers. We got out of the elevator and were able to walk around and peek out different windows. As you walk down the stairs of the tower there are several places to stop and take photos, some of them small step-outs so that you can get very clear views. It's not terribly high up. One of the people behind us in line was quite scared of heights, but his wife convinced him to go. He seemed to do fine.

I believe that if you take the elevator in front, you can take the elevator back down (I'm not certain though). If you take the elevator on the other side, as we did, you must walk down.
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Jun 19th, 2010, 09:17 AM
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Thanks. I had one "out of body" experience going up Sacre Coeur. If you haven't done it, at one point you go outside and are walking across and down and around narrow walkways and stairs. Walking down you are completely on the outside on small narrow steps that have waist high walls. I thought I might jump! We arrived at the bottom inside the church, which was dark and quiet with the murmur of people praying. All in all an anxiety producer for me. Sagrada Familia sounds doable. Open air heights are kind of tough for me. I am going to attempt the cable car in Barcelona. Did you do that?
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Jun 19th, 2010, 09:40 AM
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Not in Barcelona, but we took the Montserrat cable car and loved it.
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Jun 19th, 2010, 01:32 PM
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I'm enjoying your report, thanks.

Opaldog, hope you like staying on the Rambla de Catalunya. We loved that location.

Nothing to worry about with the cable car unless you have a fear of heights. It is enclosed.
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Jun 19th, 2010, 02:27 PM
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Great report! It is bringing back so many wonderful memories! I've been to many of the sites you mention, but I can see from your enthusiasm, that I definitely should go to Montserrat.

I thought the Palau de la Musica was just fabulous too. What did you think of the Picasso Museum? I'm not a big Picasso fan, so I didn't go there. Am I missing a lot?
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Jun 19th, 2010, 07:44 PM
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oopsy, we won't have time to get to montserrat (5 days) as it is our first visit to Barcelona we will concentrate on the city. I hope you plan to write more. Nikki, I think we will like the location. The apartment looks bright with a good view on the street, which I love.
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Jun 20th, 2010, 06:15 AM
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oopsy,

When you plan your Catalonia trip, include Vic, which has the most beautiful museum of Catalonian art, plus is a wonderfully beautiful town. The clergy of Vic made it their project to rescue and hide a lot of Catalonia treasures during the Franco years. After that was over, they built a wonderful museum in the heart of Vic to display the treasures, and they are fantastic.

Also in the heart of Vic, the unusually large Place Mayor is ringed with buildings spanning 9 centuries. It's one of the prettiest plazas I've seen in Spain. There is also 2,000 year old Roman temple in Vic, and many lovely Modernismo buildings.

You can easily reach Vic by train and bus from Barcelona.

http://www.museuepiscopalvic.com/colPintRom.asp

http://imagenes.foro-ciudad.com/foto...or-vic-bcn.jpg

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/226/4...ede9d5.jpg?v=0
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Jun 20th, 2010, 09:27 AM
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Pegontheroad, we really enjoyed the Picasso museum. We found it quite interesting to trace his devevlopment as an artist. You can see so many stages of style prior to the style many of us think of as Picasso. It was really quite interesting, and it's a great setting.

Zeppole, thank you so much for the recommendations! Vic sounds lovely. I'm adding your links to my planning/dream folder. I'm trying to convince my partner that we should have 2 weeks next year. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
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Jul 5th, 2010, 07:22 AM
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Great report. I have a feeling that you were in the same apartment my husband and I were in just a week ago - Princesa 3? I was very impressed with Habitat.

I missed a couple of the museums that you reported on. I'll catch them when I return next year
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Sep 18th, 2010, 05:22 PM
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MizzEve, no, we were in Born 1 on Flassaders. A lovely, quiet pedestrian street that runs between Princesa and Born (and the same street that is home to Hofmann pastries--lovely!).

We're also returning next year!
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Sep 19th, 2010, 04:58 PM
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Oopsy, enjoyed reading your report. We leave for Barcelona on Oct 8. Can't wait!! I printed out your report to bring with me. Like your restaurant suggestions & am eager to try the cheese ice creams.

Zeppole, thanks for the info on Vic. In addition to Barcelona, we are renting a care for 3 nights/4 days, & going to Costa Brava & northern Catalonia. We are staying one night in Cadaques & 2 nights in Girona, so hopefully we will have time to visit Vic. Perhaps on our way back to Barcelona.
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Sep 19th, 2010, 05:54 PM
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Kwoo, have a great trip! I'll look forward to your trip report. We are planning a return next May and hope to spend 3 or 4 days in Costa Brava.
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