First trip to Spain and not the last!

Old Jun 9th, 2024, 03:21 PM
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First trip to Spain and not the last!

Hello Fodorites! We’ve been back from Spain about 3 weeks now. I’ve been meaning to post a trip report as feedback for the great advice I received from this forum, and also for anybody planning their own trip in the near future. I traveled with my daughter, who is 22. We had 14 days on the ground, not including flights. We visited Barcelona ( 4 nights + 2 nights at end), Valencia ( 3 nights) and Begur in the Costa Brava ( 6 nights). I’ll do my report in 3 parts, starting with Barcelona.

Before I get into specifics, I’ll say that I planned this trip by talking to friends/colleagues who had been to the same places we were planning to visit, by reading a couple of guidebooks, and from reading and asking some questions on this forum. I also booked a few activities through a travel agent based in Spain. My daughter and I decided to book all bed and breakfast type accommodations. I like a 4 or 5 star hotel as much as anybody, but we decided that wasn’t the purpose of this trip, as long as the places were safe, clean and well-located. It proved to be a very good decision.


Day 1: So, Barcelona! We landed about 10 am after an overseas flight from Montreal, during which we did not sleep. I had arranged for a private transfer from El Prat, which was nice, but having taken the Aerobus on for our return flight, I would definitely recommend the Aerobus - clean, cheap and efficient. We were, however, brought directly to our accommodation, the Poblenou Bed and Breakfast, which was convenient. The hotel had already sent me an online check in 2 days before arrival. Our room was spacious, quiet and looked out onto the lovely breakfast terrace. Staff was friendly and helpful. We had to walk up some inside stairs to the second floor where the hotel is located, and the locks are old and a little quirky, but if you don’t mind those inconveniences I would certainly recommend this hotel.

We immediately went out and got a pizza, and brought it to a bench overlooking Bogatell Beach, a 10 minute walk away. We walked around after and explored the neighborhood. A word about Pobenou: While it isn’t the most central neighborhood, it was usually 1 bus or metro ride away from anywhere we wanted to go, and we really enjoyed the authenticity of the area, the good restaurants, shopping, and the fact that it did get quiet at night. We got a T-casual card with 10 trips. The buses were clean and I always felt safe. I admit I was a bit nervous about taking the metro in Barcelona based on stories I’d heard about pickpockets, but we had no problems. I know things happen in BCN, but I found it to be no different from any other big city. Just be aware of your belongings and keep them close to you or hidden, and don’t carry more than you need.

Now, back to our first day in Barcelona. After walking for a few hours, we went to the hotel and got some rest. We had reservations early that evening at Mes De Vi (thank you to Maribel for sharing a list of Poblenou restaurants!), where we had wonderful tapas, and a delicious baked cheese and honey for dessert, all for about 60 euros including a glass of local wine each. Recommended! Then finally some sleep!

Days 2 - 4: The next morning we had a guided tour booked at Sagrada Familia. This is definitely a “must do” while in Barcelona. It was truly awesome and exceeded our expectations in its vastness, beauty, and inclusivity. We took the tour withou
t towers. The area around La Sagrada is very crowded and we got away quickly after. Hospital Sant Pau is not far, but we didn’t feel up to visiting it right after La Sagrada, plus we needed lunch, but I would definitely prioritize this old hospital site another time. Another highlight was the evening concert at Palau de la Musica Catalana - what a special venue! We saw the Barcelona Guitar Trio and Flamenco Show - highly recommended, but I think booking any concert here would be enjoyable! There is also a lovely spot there to have a pre or post concert drink/snack.

The next morning we had a 10 AM entry to the
Picasso Museum. It was interesting to see his early work, and the museum itself is another very pleasing space. We enjoyed exploring the area after, including Basilica Santa Maria del Mar, spent time in the shade gardens at Ciutadella Park, and came across a little Mexican restaurant for lunch. We had a pre-booked bike/tapas tour starting in the Gothic Quarter at 4 pm. I did not enjoy Las Ramblas on this Saturday afternoon - way too crowded! (Fortunately we saw Las Ramblas on a weekday morning at the end of our trip, and that was much more enjoyable). The bike tour itself was certainly informative about Catalan history, and we covered more ground than we would have on foot, but the cycling itself was difficult due to all the pedestrians.

The tour was supposed to end at El 4 Gats but ended at a different restaurant instead. While the tapas there were delicious and the guide helpful, we went immediately to
El 4 Gatsafter because we really wanted to go. Luckily, we were able to get a table in " the front" for more tapas! It was great though - love the look and atmosphere of this bistro. I would definitely reserve for dinner on a return trip to Barcelona!

The next morning, following another great breakfast on our lovely hotel terrace, we had tickets reserved at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. I had reserved early and got to take advantage of free Sundays. It was admittedly a bit of a journey from Poblenou ( about 45 minutes by bus), but it’s an impressive museum and we also enjoyed the views from the terrace. My daughter looked at Gothic Art and I looked at Renaissance, but there’s lots more to see. 10 AM tickets were good because it was relatively quiet on arrival but crowded by the time we left 2 hours later. I hear the restaurant at the museum is very good, but it only opened at 1 and we wanted to get back and enjoy Poblenou a little more and just have a little "chill" time. My daughter went shopping, while I had an aperol spritz at
Blu Bar in Poblenou, and we also went to Bogatell Beach (quieter in May compared to the other Barcelona beaches, based on my observations). We had dinner that night at Restaurant Colom on the Rambas Poblenou ( such a nice street!). We found the paella delicious and the prices reasonable. Then we returned to our hotel to pack our things and get ready to go to Valencia the next day!

I’ll just finish the Barcelona part of my report by mentioning the last 2 days of our trip, when we returned to the city. This time we stayed at the
Casa Bonay. We enjoyed this hotel for the restaurants ( both the main floor lounge and the rooftop terrace), lovely rooms, and great locations near El Gracia and Eixample areas. We were a little tired at this point in the trip and didn’t explore too much, but having had a glimpse of this area I would definitely return.

One thing we did at this point while in Barcelona was attend a Mediterranean Cooking Class. This included a short tour of Boqueria Market and then we went to a typical Barcelona apartment in the Gothic Quarter where the kitchen was and made a seafood paella. The market tour was interesting, and I recommend definitely doing the morning class since the market is much quieter then. The cooking class was fun. Now let’s see if I can repeat the paella at home! We also went to the Barcelona History Museum, which reminded me a lot of our Pointe a Calliere museum in Montreal, with MUCH older exhibits. This was an interesting visit and we spent most of the afternoon there. The only crowd was a school field trip, otherwise fairly quiet on the day we were there. Recommended!

Just a word about returning back to a city for a return flight. I'm glad we got to experience another area of Barcelona, but in hindsight, maybe staying in Sitges, or just an airport hotel the night before, would also have been good. Sometimes there aren't good or bad choices, just different ones.


I’ll try to post the Valencia part of our trip in the next few days.


Poblenou Bed and Breakfast - View from our room

Poblenou Bedcand Breakdast -,Breakfast terrace.

Bogatell Beach at dusk.

Barcelona bike tour near Arc de Triomph.

Restaurant Colom.

Last edited by Moderator1; Jun 9th, 2024 at 08:57 PM. Reason: inserted paragraph breaks
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Old Jun 9th, 2024, 06:32 PM
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Your trip report is super helpful! I got some great insights about Barcelona and Poblenou. Since I am planning to go there this year, I'm really looking forward to your Valencia update!
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Old Jun 9th, 2024, 11:14 PM
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Thank you for posting a trip report. We've visited Barcelona, but not Valencia or the Costa Brava (we got as far as Collioure when in France, but not further south) so look forward to the rest.
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Old Jun 10th, 2024, 05:49 AM
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Me, too!

Hoping to go to Valencia later this year and would love to read your comments, and see photos!!
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Old Jun 11th, 2024, 05:57 PM
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First trip to Spain, but not the last! Part 2: Valencia

Thanks for reading my trip report, and Iím so glad itís helpful! I donít know if I can write with as much color as ekscrunchy, but here is my report of Valencia, where we spent 3 days.

Day 1: My daughter and I caught the high-speed train from Sants to Estacio Joseph Sorolla in Valencia. It was a good ride, but surprisingly, we arrived about 30 minutes late, so 3.5 hours instead of 3, which I believe was unusual. When we were there in early May, arrival into Valencia was a bit uninspiring due to construction going on as you approached the city, and there was work going on around the train station. We walked from the station to our accommodation ( about 20 minutes), fortunately traveling fairly light with 1 carry-on each plus 1 checked bag. Right away, we found the temperature quite a bit warmer in Valencia than in Barcelona. First though, we had to take pictures of the trains in the station, as my husband and sons back at home are train nerds!

We walked past the older and beautiful Estacio du Nord, and through the old town, so we got a good walking tour. We arrived at our accommodation, the
Valencia Arthouse, located in the old town just off the Turia park. At first I wasnít sure I liked the accommodation because we had to walk up a rather dark inner staircase to get to it ( couldnít find the light!). Our hostess, Marguerita, was lovely, but our room had construction going on in the little square just outside. However, that particular afternoon turned out to be the only noisy one with the construction, and I did really like this little hotel. We had a very large, bright room, and a nice terrace looking out onto the little square ( which was quiet at night). We had a private bathroom, and there was a shared kitchen ( fridge, microwave, table and also a back terrace). There was one other room on our floor, but since there wasnít anybody else there, we had the floor to ourselves, and it was like having an apartment. All for a very reasonable 110 euros/night, including breakfast. Marguerita provides a large bottle of water in the room each day ( not to be taken for granted, as we learned) beach towels, sunscreen and she even did our laundry!

Now back to Valencia. We arrived on a Monday afternoon, and since a lot of things were closed, and the weather was lovely, we got ourselves organized and took a taxi to
Malvarrosa Beach. We could have taken a tram or bus but took a taxi to save some time. It was not busy, and the sea was warmer than in Barcelona. We enjoyed swimming and the sun. Took a taxi back to the hotel to shower and change, and find someplace for dinner. Remember I mentioned it was Monday? So a lot of restaurants were also closed. We ended up at an English pub for tapas, where there was a football match playing ( or soccer as we would say in Canada). It was okay, but definitely not our best dining experience in Spain!

Day 2: We had pre-booked a bike tour of Valencia starting at 10 AM with The Bike Guy ( Luke).As another party had canceled last minute, so we had a private tour. Luke was great, giving us quite an in-depth tour of the old town, the river park, the City of Arts and Science, and it ends with a drink and snack at the beach. His tour includes buildings of architectural or historical interest, the Mercat Central, and he makes many recommendations for restaurants, drinks, rooftopsÖ.much more than we could use in the short time we were there. You also get a great map after the tour with all his recommendations to use on a future visit. I loved cycling the Turia park! In Lukeís tour we cycled about half of it, but I would recommend keeping the bikes ( let him know before your tour so he can bring locks) and cycling the whole park, or just rent your own bikes another time to do it.

After the 3.5 hour bike tour, we had lunch. There are many restaurants to choose from in Valencia, but we ate at
Taberna Sants Joanís, which was great. Then we went to The Silk School ( not the museum, which is very small). This gives a very interesting history of the silk trade in Valencia. (If you happen to be there during lunch they have a cafe in quite a nice garden). After the Silk School we went to Horchatario El Siglo, a nice outdoor space in the old town, for ahorchata,the milky beverage you must try while in Valencia.

After this busy day, we returned to the hotel around 7 with the intention of
getting ready to find someplace for dinner, but we decided we were happy to stay where we were. We had some ham, cheese, nuts, olives, bread and wine that we had purchased at the Central Market, and assembled all that and had it on our terrace, watching people walk through. It was lovely!

Day 3: After breakfast with our hostess and other hotel guests, we went to meet our pre-bookedPaella Cooking Class on the steps of San Valero Church. It was a good 30 minute walk but it gave us a chance to see the Rustafa part of the city. The class started with a tour of one of the markets that locals use ( sorry - cannot recall the name). We toured the stalls that the ingredients for our paella would come from. I find the markets fascinating with all the fish, ham, and spices! Then we went to the kitchen location. Immediately we were offered sangria, and were given paella-related tasks. Now I cook a lot at home, but this is the first time I have grated tomatoes! This was a really fun class, highly recommended! If you read my previous report on Barcelona, you know that we also made paella there as well. However, the one in Valencia was the traditional one with meat, while we made a seafood paella in Barcelona, and the experiences were quite different, so we didnít mind making paella twice! And they were both delicious, served with wine of course. It was fun to meet and chat with others in the class.

After all this merriment, and given the lovely Valencian weather, we figured the only thing to do was to go back to the beach, so we did. This time we took the tram, which takes a little longer but is quite direct and can be caught just outside the old town across the Turia park. Sun and s
urf, then back on the tram.

My daughter decided to chill in our room. I had been wanting to get to the
Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia,just a short walk from our hotel, so I decided to catch it an hour before the 8 PM closing time. This collection is excellent, the gallery is not busy, and free! I spent an hour looking at Renaissance art before closing. This is definitely somewhere I would return to in Valencia.

For dinner, given our big lunch, we decided to stay in our room and repeat last nightís dinner on our terrace - lovely! So Iím afraid I canít make too many restaurant recommendations in Valencia. One place I can mention that we didnít have time to go to is the rooftop cafe at El Corte Ingles down near the train stations. Luke ( the Bike Guy) shared that the views are great and the food/drinks very reasonable in price. There is also a 5 * hotel in the old town ( sorry - canít recall the name) that has a rooftop terrace with a great view. You need to pay to go up, and thereís a dress code, but could also be an interesting experience. A couple of final thoughts about Valencia. It was bigger and busier than I expected. The old town is quite walkable, but there are alot of tourists. Itís not as busy as Barcelona, but it isnít quiet either. Itís a beautiful city, full of interesting architecture and night life ( I think!) but itís definitely been discovered. But I will have fond memories of it, and would certainly return if convenient another time. My daughter can communicate a little in Spanish, which was certainly useful. If we had had more time there, there is certainly more to see, such as the
Botanical Garden, touring the Museum of Arts and Science, and, a short ways out, Albufera Park. We would have gone to Albufera, but we were a little early for the rice season, which starts around the end of May. You can still take a boat ride anytime, and evidently there are some good restaurants in El Palmar, a nice beach, and great sunsets. You can go there by taxi, bus, or metro ( tram).

After our ďterraceĒ dinner, we packed and got ready to catch our train to Girona/Costa Brava first thing the next morning. The Costa Brava was truly a highlight! Iíll post about it in the next few days.



View from our terrace at the Valencia Arthouse.

Malvarossa Beach

Bike tour - old town.

Bike tour - Turia Park.

Bike Tour - Pont des Fleurs ( smells wonderful!)

Mercato Central

Taberna Sant Joanís

Garden at the Silk School

Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia

Fish stall at the market in Rustafa

The ingredients for our paella!

Making our paella.

Done!

The trains!

Last edited by JoanYUL; Jun 11th, 2024 at 06:32 PM.
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Old Jun 11th, 2024, 06:00 PM
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Paragraph breaks would make your report much easier to read.
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Old Jun 11th, 2024, 06:22 PM
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Part 2: Valencia

Melnq8, done, thank you.
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Old Jun 11th, 2024, 07:04 PM
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Valencia looks very interesting.
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Old Jun 12th, 2024, 08:31 AM
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Thanks for writing this report. I was in Barcelona and the Costa Brava about the same time last year, so I love "revisiting" through your report - I'm looking forward to your write up on your stay in Begur.

In between all of the other places I want to visit, I've got to find a way to get back to Spain and stay in Valencia!
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Old Jun 13th, 2024, 05:23 PM
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Valencia

Memejs, I read your trip report, which I found very useful, with great pictures! Iín glad you enjoyed my Valencia report. Iím working on my Costa Brava report now. Iíll post it in the next couple of days.
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Old Jun 21st, 2024, 05:07 PM
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Wonderful! Whetting my appetite for a return to Valencia in late fall....lovely photos, too.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2024, 03:11 AM
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Valencia

Enjoy Valencia eks. Iíll look forward to your trip report!
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