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Four of us to Barcelona in May!

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May 25th, 2014, 04:56 AM
  #1
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Four of us to Barcelona in May!

My sister (Sis), brother-in-law (BIL) (also collectively as The Rs), husband (DH) and myself went and stayed in Barcelona for the first week in May. Sis and I had been there in 2010 as part of a trip with our older sister and niece and came back raving about it. So husbands wanted to go!

Where we stayed:

I am the travel coordinator- makes sense after all I am a Fodorite!! My Sis and BIL are not advance planners at all so that is another reason. So I did the research for an apartment (for 2 couples traveling together it is a better solution than hotels), sites and restaurants.
Our requirements for an apartment were two bedrooms and two baths. I found the apartment through VRBO with the main selling point being the terrace. I made all the arrangements through the Destination BCN website -http://www.destinationbcn.com/tengujo.php . They were fairly easy to deal with except charged 2% for paying the balance on the credit card. Don’t understand these companies. You arrive on a Saturday and they expect you to pony up the balance in cash. Anyway no biggie.

My Sis & BIL arrived in the AM on a direct flight from Newark while we had to schlep through CDG because Boston has no direct flights to BCN. The people at Destination BCN let them leave their luggage in the office which is on the ground floor of the apartment building. They also directed them to a place for a brunch type meal which they said was very good but don’t remember the name of. The apartment was available at 2PM so The Rs got settled in before we got there.

It was a good apartment. Very centrally located near the Placa Universitat across from the Hotel Jazz which I found was much easier to use in Google Maps than our address. It was the penthouse so on the 6th floor with an elevator (yea, I am going to rent a 6th floor flat without an elevator- not going to happen) that held the four of us tightly. It was a noisy area and we didn’t use the air conditioner at this time so had windows open.

The apartment itself was comfortable. The management gave us a good book with details about the appliances etc and one with restaurant suggestions. I had a couple of issues with our room/bathroom set up. There was no towel rack in the bathroom and the toilet was in a little room in the bedroom (as a closet would be). There was a sliding door for the toilet but no overhead light making it very dark. Those are pretty minor quibbles- we hung our towels on the furniture on the deck and we left the toilet door open. Also one day the shower leaked, we let the office know and someone came and fixed it that day. They were very respectful about asking if we minded them coming in while we are out. All in all it was a good experience. On a personal quibble meter I am very fussy about scents in my clothes, bedding and environment and I found the laundry detergent and the toilet cleaner cubes to be very odorific. The first night I put the shirt I wore on the plane over my pillow. I will have to think about how to deal with this issue in the future.
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May 25th, 2014, 04:58 AM
  #2
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On the first day after settling in we went out for groceries at La Cortes Ingles nearby which has a huge grocery store in the basement. This is where my sister and I fell in love. We are olive fanatics and of course the olive bar would be a first stop. We just happen to choose an olive called abuela and just fell in love with them. In fact we both brought home containers and are doling them out to make them last. IF ANYONE KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT THIS OLIVE AND WHERE WE COULD FIND THEM IN THE US WE WOULD BE MOST APPRECIATIVE!!

We ate jamon everywhere and my DH and BIL plotted how to take one of the big legs that were hanging everywhere home. I think the last idea was a viola case but we were good and left all the jamon in Barcelona. Sitting here writing this I wish we were able to bring some home. I am also dreaming about the crates of artichokes we saw in the markets. They were about the size of my fist (so small) and €.99 per kilo- yum!!

We took the Aerobus from the airport which was €5.90 each and stopped around the corner from the apartment. It was really easy and convenient to our location. The R’s took a cab and we shared one back to the airport for €35. The airport in BCN doubles as a mall so if you have forgotten to buy a gift or are looking to expand your wardrobe you will be able to do so there.
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May 25th, 2014, 04:59 AM
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Things we did:

Picasso Museum- We arranged an English speaking tour for Sunday morning at 11am. This is free with admission to the museum which was free that Sunday. It was a very good tour and explained a lot of the art work in the museum which covers Picasso’s early days in Barcelona

Palau Música Catalana I found a concert that I thought we would enjoy for Monday evening. The concert hall is gorgeous and if I go back to Barcelona I will arrange for a tour. The group playing was La Locomotora Negra which is a New Orleans type jazz band. My BIL loves Satchmo and was thrilled when the second encore was the band leader playing his trumpet and singing “What a Wonderful World” a la Louie Armstrong which is his favorite song. Color me best tour director ever!!

Cable Car to Montjuic – I am not that fond of heights and when the cable car left the station and drops on the line I was really having second thoughts. The views were amazing though and we strolled around the botanical gardens on the lower slopes.

Sagrada Familia- I had booked entrance, a tour and access to the towers online. It was hard to arrange the timing for the tour and the towers. We ended up not going up to the towers because we would have to wait for almost an hour for our time. When we were there in 2010 they were jackhammering in the Basilica-much different now. Most of the stain glass is in and it is gorgeous. The tour was good though and she explained about a lot of the symbolism. Funny though she kept asking questions (like why was 33 an important number) and we two little Jewish girls were the ones with answers.

Park Guell- We took a cab (€10) out to Park Guell for our 11:30 reservations for the monument area. It was still crowded but not as bad as it was when we were there in 2010. We walked the route in reverse since there was a school tour ahead of us. I think they need to put a ticket machine like at the deli counter for in order to get your photo with the dragon.

Boqueria- I am a market person and so love the Boqueria. We were lucky to get seats at the Pinotxo stall for a great lunch. We also picked up stuff for dinner at the apartment- great tuna from the fish stands.

Aquarium- My BIL wanted to go to the Aquarium and see the sharks or penguins fed. We didn’t think it was a great aquarium. Also the sharks weren’t fed when the schedule said.

Maritime Museum- There was a Viking exhibit at the Maritime Museum which was a hoot. At one point there is a computer screen where you dress the Viking. If you give him the clothes in the wrong order or not the masculine version he stomps and has a hissy fit. Pretty funny.

Casa Batlló We hadn’t gone into Casa Batlló on our last trip. I think it was a better overall building tour than Casa Mila. As with all the other sites I purchased the tickets online. For Casa Batlló there was no timed entrance but you could pay an additional €5 per ticket to jump the line. We went late in the day and there was no line. It was a great time to do since there were no school groups or even many people. My DH took so long taking photos that we feared he would be locked in overnight.

Casa Mila (‘La Pedrera’ )– We had booked tickets for Saturday since someone here had recommended it to avoid school trips. We went pretty early in the morning (10AM) and it wasn’t that crowded on the roof or in the apartment. I noticed that across Passeig de Gracia on the top floor there is an apartment with a tripod set up to take photos of the rooftop of Casa Mila. We did like Casa Batlló better than Casa Mila. Also we were a little disappointed that the façade is under renovation so covered up.

I would recommend that you purchase tickets for all the sites you are interested in online in advance. We were there in advance of the tourist season but were told that from mid May to mid Sept there are 40 thousand tourists coming off of cruise ships every weekend.

Also we walked almost everywhere due to the location of the apartment and The R’s preference for walking. We had no problems with pick pockets and didn’t see any one having issues. I would imagine that when the city is crowded with the cruisers it might be another issue. Just be aware of your surroundings and of your possessions. If you are a city dweller you probably are already conscious of personal space and people infringing on it.
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May 25th, 2014, 05:03 AM
  #4
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Where we ate:

Cerveseria Catalana – two visits (Carrer Mallorca 236)
We went here the first evening since I didn’t want to get us booked for a long meal. As it was a Saturday evening the joint was jumping. We put our name in for a table but then got two seats at the bar and the guys stood. We got a pitcher of sangria and just started pointing at the Montaditos on the counter in front of us. The salmon were great as were the one with jamon & padron peppers but the ones with foie and blue cheese were just eh. We also got fried artichoke slices, patatas bravas, some of the jamon, fried squid, grilled cubes of tuna with pomegranate molasses, and another artichoke which had been poached and then grilled. All of that with another half pitcher of sangria was €65.55.

We returned to Cerveseria for lunch on the following Saturday around 1pm and got a table pretty quickly. Another pitcher of sangria (it was just easier to differentiate between the two tapas places we went for dinner by what we drank) of course another order of the artichoke slices, pan tomato as well as plain bread, patatas bravas, cockles, a special of artichokes with jamon, the Montaditos with salmon, skewer of duck breast, duck liver and peaches and a baked scallop dish. With two bottles of water the total was €63.45

Paco Meralgo (Carrer Muntaner 171)

We had visited Paco Meralgo twice on our last visit. It is a great place for Sunday evening. Much calmer than Cerverseria Catalana

We got a bottle of Cava (Rovellats Imperial €20.15). We of course ordered the fried artichokes, an assortment of grilled veggies, a plate of jamon, pan amb tomaquet, razor clams, baked baby scallops, and octopus with carmelized onion (meh). We had to order the Obama croquettes which the waiter described as made with squid in so black like Obama. Also the waiter overheard us talking about tuna and asked if we liked it. When we said yes he told us about a special they had with raw tuna marinated in soy and sesame oil- yum oh boy!! He brought over a slab of the most beautiful tuna and it was good!!! The total for all this including a bottle of water was €91.15.

When we left Paco Meralgo we went across the street to the gelato place we had eyed on our way to dinner. Cremeria Toscana (http://cremeria-toscana.es/) was wonderful. The flavors we had were pear (best ever), lemon, raspberry, Strachattela, banana and dark (and I mean dark!!) chocolate. There is another shop in Barri Gotic (I think) on Calle Princesa. On our last night in Barcelona 3 of us hiked up to get another round of gelato. Since it was about a mile in each direction you know it has to be good gelato!!!

Bar del Pla (Carrer Montcada 2)

With the concert on Monday evening at 7pm we need a place nearby for dinner. I found a mention of Bar del Pla on Chowhound and was able to make a reservation for 10pm. We were early for the reservation which was no problem and were seated in what we referred to as the international room which was no problem. We had a bottle of Cava, pan amb tomaquet, eggplant with honey and lime (meh), seared tuna with cherry sauce, patata brava, a refreshing salad (hey that is what it is listed as on the menu) which had nuts, oranges and cherry tomatoes, their house marinated salmon (very good) and crispy beef with foie gras. It was a very good place to dine after a concert. The bill including a bottle of water was €69.55.

Martini (Montjuic near the cable car station)

This was our vacation so we started lunch with a bottle of cava. The funniest thing we did was order the potato chips and laughed when they brought a bag of potato chips and a bottle of hot sauce. We explained that that wasn’t what we expected. We order patatas which were thin like potato chips and very good. As usual we ordered fried artichokes and a plate of jamon. One English translated menu said fried squid and the other said fried hake which is what it turned out to be. The waitress recommended the ham croquettes which were very good. Not something we are used to so each time we ordered them was due to someone’s recommendation. With a bottle of water the check was €83.00

Cinc Sentis (Carrer Aribau 58)

This is another repeat from our last trip. Since the menu changes a lot I will just mention the highlights.

One of the amuse bouche was their take on the pan am tomaquet which was topped with dried tomato.

An appetizer dish with salsify and wild mushrooms and a porcini mayo

Foie Gras on a thin pastry with caramelized leeks and chives (my BIL wanted to know if he could come back and have 6 courses of just this)

Wild Bonito with smoked eggplant served with a smoked cava!!

The two desserts – one with lemon (cake, cream, rind and sugar) with cava gelato and the second with salted caramel gelato, cookie crumbs, apples and caramel sauce

My DH and I routinely go for multi course wine dinners so didn’t have as much difficulty as my Sis & BIL. By the time we got to the main courses they were flagging. We had gotten a special appetizer of an oyster which none of us like since it came with a foam of sea water which made it kind of low tide tasting. This was our big splurge meal with 2 bottle of water and the wine pairings came to €596.

Pinotxo (Boqueria)

We managed to snag 4 seats at the counter of Pinotxo and felt like we won the lottery. Two very nice ladies from Australia moved over so we could sit together. Small world time- the couple sitting next to Sis was from Brooklyn and the woman had gone to the same high school as my BIL. We ended up ordering things that we saw other eating- it sort of became a wave, the people next to Sis ordered chick peas, so we ordered them and then the Australian ladies ordered them as well. In addition to the chick peas, we got shrimp which were grilled with the head on (fabulous!), cold steamed mussels with marinated vegetable garnish, veal stew, white bean stew with baby squid, balsamic vinegar and squid ink. We had 4 glasses of cava and two bottle of water for a total of €70

Tickets (Carrer Tamarit 74)

I had been reading about Tickets and wanted to go. I managed to snag table for 10PM on Friday night. I figured we should do the full “Barcelona late night” thing at least once. This was a fabulous and fun meal. We were seated in a corner which was a drag for me because I didn’t have a full view of the open kitchen but we could peek through a side door. At one point the chef there opened the blinds and we gave him two thumbs up and all the other kitchen crew waved and smiled.

There are too many dishes to remember (have to look at my camera for photos) but the highlights were two rounds of the liquid olives (amazing especially for olive fanatics like Sis and me), the mini-air bags of Manchego, the cannelloni made with avocado slices filled with crab and surprisingly to me was that my husband adored the orange salad with olive juice.

We had so much fun with the tweezers that we bought ourselves a set as souvenirs. Also the next morning while we were at the gift shop at ‘La Pedrera’ Sis and I bought the cookbook (even though it is written in Spanish) in order to try to recreate some of the dishes.

With two bottles of Cava and water (less the tweezers) the bill was €337. We were about the last table to leave and walked home around 1 AM.
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May 25th, 2014, 05:16 AM
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Loving this. I always avidly read anything Barca related as it's one of my favourite cities. Bonus point for all the grub and booze details- should be mandatory for any trip report. Hoping their might be some photos along the way too...
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May 25th, 2014, 05:52 AM
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That apartment looks fabulous - I'm saving the link for future reference!

Definitely take the Palau de la Musica tour the next time. I did both a concert and a tour (different days) and loved both.

The restaurant recommendations are making me hungry! Sounds like you had a great trip.

On Montjuic, visit the Catalan Museum on your next trip, if you haven't done that before.

I advocate seeing the Gaudi houses on the weekends as the school groups at Casa Batllo drove me crazy.

Interesting about the number 33 - I just googled it for the answer. Our guide did not mention this.
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May 25th, 2014, 07:59 AM
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We came back from Barcelona and SS three days ago.
Had meals in a couple of restaurants mentioned by the OP.
I must say that Tickets was not my favorite place ( or food.)
We had a very good diner( twice) at Loidi ..Martín Berasategui is the chef,
fixed price menu..starting from 28E. Highly recommended.

The new discoveries were Palau Guell ( Gaudi) and Hospital de Sant Pau (
Lluís Domènech i Montaner). Amazing.
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May 25th, 2014, 08:13 AM
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danon - how is the reconstruction going at Hospital de Sant Paul? Last year there was only a small portion open but I enjoyed what I saw.
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May 25th, 2014, 08:26 AM
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It looks great ! A huge difference from my visit last year.
A couple of pavilions are opened, the outside work seems to be completed .

Guided tours are available , but we did not find it necessary.
Only a short walk from SF , it is absolutely " a must". IMO.
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May 25th, 2014, 10:11 AM
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Great report. Our first trip is booked for this October. The trip reports have great info and I'm making lots of notes.Hospital de Saint Pau is on my list. Glad to here it's coming along.
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May 25th, 2014, 10:14 AM
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Immensely helpful, informative TR! Really enjoyed reading for my upcoming trip in October.
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May 25th, 2014, 11:02 AM
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Thanks for the comments.

danon, sorry you didn't like Tickets. We had visited the Hospital de Saint Pau on our last visit and have photos of us with hard hats to prove it. Just didn't make the cut this time. Too much to see and too little time. Palau Guell is also on the list for the next trip.

Those of you who are going in the future and appreciate this trip report may I suggest a small token of your esteem of a kilo of abuela olives?
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May 25th, 2014, 11:13 AM
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As I mentioned, the Hospital is totally different than last year. The pavilions they are still working on
( inside) will be rented to various companies .
What an office space!
BTW, thanks for your report.

We travel quite a bit, I am too lazy to do it.
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May 25th, 2014, 12:35 PM
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I LOVED Tickets when we went last year. Just got back from another 7 days in Costa brava/ Barcelona and FINALLY managed to get lunch at Cal Pep, loved it......
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May 25th, 2014, 05:45 PM
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Really enjoyed this, AGM! Thanks for posting!
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May 25th, 2014, 07:40 PM
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How much was the apartment? We are going with another couple. Thanks for the info.

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May 26th, 2014, 09:47 AM
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Wonderful TR, AGM. The terrace of the flat looked great.

DH and I never had problems in Barcelona either and we took the subway every day as our NH hotel was a bit removed from the centre.
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May 26th, 2014, 03:23 PM
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...dinner not diner
(just noticed)

visited Barcelona eight times , twice alone.
stayed in five different areas of the city- in hotels and apts.
took metro, busses and trains.
I understand there is a problem with pickpockets in Barcelona
but I can only speak for myself:
never had a problem, never felt a bit threatened.
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May 27th, 2014, 05:36 AM
  #19
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Maitaitom- the apartment was 2,728 Euros with an additional 60 euros for cleaning. Silly not to include that in the price. We were very comfortable there. First place I have rented with champagne glasses and they gave us a bottle of Cava when we arrived.

I just remembered this morning that at one of the ATMs when I put my card in it just asked what amount of cash I wanted. No request for password at all which kind of freaked me out. I am sure whoever hacked into that ATM would come along after me and clear out my account!!! So be aware.
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May 27th, 2014, 11:26 AM
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I know you must have written about something besides olives, but somehow I'm stuck there.
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