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Barcelona & Surrounds in 5 Exhausting Days

Barcelona & Surrounds in 5 Exhausting Days

Mar 8th, 2019, 03:18 AM
  #1  
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Barcelona & Surrounds in 5 Exhausting Days

For the past fifteen years, I’ve worked at a festival in Belfast in early March. Since we travel such a long way, we always add an additional vacation destination. This year, Barcelona was the winner! It rose to the top of my list when I found a ridiculously low fare on United: $210 (one-way; basic economy) from Kauai to Barcelona. It required 6 hours to SFO, an overnight in SF, followed by a non-stop (11:30 hours) to BCN. Apparently, this is a route United is testing. They are only doing the non-stop SFO to BCN twice a month. We added seat selection and a checked bag and our tix were $284 each.

Hotel: Hotel Continental on La Rambla. I understand why some avoid La Rambla, while others are drawn to it. I liked the energy and excitement. I like Times Square in NYC; others avoid it like the plague.

We chose this 3-star hotel largely because it had a fridge and microwave in the room. I have dietary issues and liked knowing that if necessary, I could buy things in a store and eat my boring, healthy food. The hotel has a 24-hour buffet that has breakfast items in the morning. This is not fine dining, but we are not foodies, and it was convenient for us. We don’t drink alcohol, but many patrons enjoyed the free wine and beer. I appreciated the coffees, teas, and fresh fruits; DH liked the frozen yogurt. The breads looked nice. All the food items (including omelets, fried eggs, potatoes, meatballs, etc...) are served cold and you heat them in the microwaves. After the breakfast items are cleared, they are replaced with salad, rice, very good potatoes, I found it a little odd that cold cuts and cheeses are only served at breakfast. Each evening, either meatballs or chicken was served, in addition to canned vegetables. As I said, this is not Michelin-starred dining or for anyone seeking “fine dining.” But when we were rushing around, it was great to grab something quick and easy then eat it on the little balcony overlooking La Rambla.

The rooms were quiet, clean, and not cramped, and the shower was good. The location was convenient to many attractions, and the staff were helpful, pleasant and personable. The only negative: the furnishings, wallpaper, and decorating was more “Bohemian-funky” than tasteful or pleasant. But not important to me.

We arrived the first day of Carnaval—Feb. 28th—Fat Thursday. We saw the opening parade that evening and it was fun. Throughout the week, we saw several other smaller parades.

We took a taxi to the hotel and arrived at noon. Thankfully, our room was ready. After a short rest, we hit ground running, walking to the Barcelona Cathedral and the Museum of the History of Barcelona. Both were terrific. I confess that I’d had no idea of the extent of the ancient Roman ruins that remain in Barcelona, and we really enjoyed seeing some of them in and around the museum.

Next, a walk down bustling La Rambla to Mercado Boqueria. WOW. The displays and food choices were overwhelming. We sampled some empanadas. After barely sleeping for more than 36 hours, we were pleased to stay awake until 9 pm.

The next morning, the weather was surprisingly warm, with blue skies, sunshine, and highs around 70. It stayed that way every day! That was an added bonus and contributed to some beautiful photographs. We had pre-booked an early tour of Hospital de San Pau Recinte Modernisme. We decided to walk there to get a sense of the city. It was a little more than an hour and wwe enjoyed seeing the beautiful buildings in L’Eixample. This tour would not have been on my list if it were not for the advice by KJA and others on this forum. THANK YOU! Wow!!! The buildings were fantastic—far better than I imagined—and the guide’s explanations added to the experience. This was a highlight.

Afterwards, we walked back to our hotel on La Rambla. For those keeping track, this means we have now walked about 2-1/2 hours. After a quick bite at the hotel and a 30-minute siesta, we walked to the Sagrada Familia, where we had booked a tour. The Sagrada Familia was mind-boggling. It was hard to soak it all in. Just phenomenal.

We were crazy enough to walk back to our hotel and I’m guessing we walked 10 – 12 miles that day. I was getting over a foot injury and had been unable to walk for nine weeks. I was finally “heeled” (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) and I guess I was making up for all the walking I’d missed! We had a short time to rest before heading to our pre-booked dinner and Flamenco show at Tablao Cordobles. Again, this was booked upon the recommendations of those on this forum.

I had read mixed reviews of the buffet dinner. The comments ranged from terrible, to mediocre, to very good. There were also varying opinions about whether it was worth booking the dinner to get preferred seating. We went with the dinner option and were SO glad we did. We are not into “fine dining” so keep that in mind. But we thought the food was terrific. The presentation was beautiful and we liked every item we tried—and we loved several of them. It was a great way to sample so many different local foods, including paella. The dinner & show option cost $91 and that included unlimited sangria, beer, or wine. We don’t drink alcohol, but it would be a great deal for diners who do. In the showroom there was also complimentary champagne.

We were seated on the second row, center, and I was SO glad to be able to such a perfect view of the intricate steps. I’m no expert, but we thought the dancers were FANTASTIC. The athleticism and grace were breathtaking. The live music was wonderful, and we left thinking, this would be the highlight of our visit. I can’t say enough about how much we enjoyed it.

BUT... we were exhausted. We were not only dealing with jet lag, but we had an 11-hour time change, which is brutal. In retrospect, we wished we had only booked one of the tours (La Sagrada OR Hospital San Pau) on that day – and that we hadn’t walked so much. We collapsed, happy, but feeling like we’d been hit by a truck!

To be continued...
Songdoc is offline  
Mar 8th, 2019, 06:06 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,765
I will follow along with you! Did you get a sense that Barcelona was inundated with foreign tourists when you were there? I must admit I am a little scared off about returning (I've been a number of times) due to the reports I've read about the masses that are pouring into the city..

I also thought the Hospital de San Pau tour was marvelous..good for you on all the walking, too!!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Mar 8th, 2019, 06:59 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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great start, Songdoc and I hope that you recovered enough from all that walking to enjoy the rest of your trip.

Like Eck I've been reluctant to return to Barcelona because of all the tourists that were there when we made our first and only visit about 10 years ago, but that was in a very warm September which might have made a difference. And who am I to talk about avoiding tourists when I keep visiting Venice which can be tourist central at virtually any time of year?

Please keep it coming!
annhig is offline  
Mar 8th, 2019, 07:09 AM
  #4  
 
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Thanks for reporting back. Sounds like you had a great time.

I thought Barcelona was seriously crowded in late 2015, although I was able to work around a lot of the crush.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 8th, 2019, 05:50 PM
  #5  
kja
 
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I'm glad you saw the Recinto Modernista de Sant Pau and enjoyed it! It's a special place, isn't it?
kja is offline  
Mar 8th, 2019, 07:16 PM
  #6  
 
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Eks,I was in Barcelona in October and didn’t feel smothered by tourists.
I have been to Barcelona many times so, except for SF , I didn’t
visit tourist “ attractions”. I stayed mostly in Eixamle close to
Rambla de Cataluya , E. Granados ., Diagonal (..and side streets near by).
Paseo de García was busy but not impossibly crowded.
I suspect other areas of the city may be a different story...


danon is offline  
Mar 8th, 2019, 07:22 PM
  #7  
kja
 
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P.S. I'm glad you opted for the dinner at Tablao Cordobes -- no matter what the food, it is, IMO, critically important to be able to see the dancers' feet!
kja is offline  
Mar 9th, 2019, 04:42 AM
  #8  
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Thank you all for your comments. I'm working CRAZY hours in Belfast. I'll respond and continue the report when I come up for air!
Songdoc is offline  
Mar 15th, 2019, 12:54 PM
  #9  
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Since my last post, I worked CRAZY hours, but managed to see some stunning scenery on N. Ireland’s Antrim Coast. I’ve just finished working in Oslo and will work on the next installment. To respond to those who have concerns about the crowds... I arrived Feb. 28thand I assume this is a very low season for tourism, although there might have been an uptick for Carnaval. That said, La Rambla was very crowded, as were all the main attractions. But it wasn’t a problem for me. It was not as crowded as Prague, where I stayed the first week in March, the previous year.

We booked an all-day, “Small Group Medieval Villages Day Trip” ($103 pp) https://www.viator.com/tours/Barcelo...142BCNMEDIEVAL
We had a fantastic time. They weren’t kidding about it being “small.” There was only one additional person besides DH and me. Our first stop was Besalu. The initial views were SO fantastic, I could have gone home right then and there and been thrilled.


Our tour guide showed us the main sights then gave us plenty of time to wander on our own. The guide was knowledgeable and personable, but his accent was hard to understand. There were very few people when we arrived and I was glad we had an opportunity to experience the town and get a sense of what it was like hundreds of years ago. An hour later, the hordes arrived and the shopkeepers were dressed in their silly medieval costumes. Still, I absolutely loved this visit, and I couldn’t imagine anything else topping it. Unfortunately, I was right.

The drive to our next stop was beautiful, and felt more like Tuscany than Spain. En route to our next town we stopped at a very old church that offered views of the Pyrenees and a drinking fountain that promised good health for those who drank from it. I drank and am feeling pretty good. ;-) Rupit was our next village. It was pretty and had some lovely views, but it was no Besalu. But then again, not much could be!

The mountain and farm views continued to be beautiful as we drove to Tavertet, our final stop. The old buildings have been replaced by new ones that used the old materials. It didn’t feel like a medieval village, but it was still quite pretty. Our first stop was a very special, very old church. From there came an unexpected highlight: stunning views of the Pyrenees. We walked from one overlook to the next, giving my camera a workout. I was so thrilled to get to see this scenery that I thought I wouldn’t get to see. I loved the trip. It was a long day (around 11 hours), but I was SO happy we decided to do it. Dinner was a light bite at the hotel followed by collapse.

To be continued ...
Songdoc is offline  
Mar 15th, 2019, 12:59 PM
  #10  
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You can see why Besalu felt so special ...


The first views of Besalu.




Besalu




Besalu




Besalu





Cheese merchant in Besalu.
Songdoc is offline  
Mar 15th, 2019, 01:19 PM
  #11  
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More pix from the "Medieval Villages" Tour...


Rupit




Rupit




Views from Tavertet




Views from Tavertet



Views from Tavertet
Songdoc is offline  
Mar 15th, 2019, 02:10 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
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Great pics! Looking forward to more of your TR.
joannyc is offline  
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