Six Days in Barcelona - Trip Report

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Apr 24th, 2005, 10:09 AM
  #1
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Six Days in Barcelona - Trip Report

Just returned from Barcelona a few days ago. My husband and I spent six days in this wonderful city. I received so much information from other Fodorites postings that I decided I had to share my experience here.

Hotel: We stayed at the Hotel Balmes in L'Eixample on Carrer de Mallorca. Very close to the Ramblas and Passeig de Gracia and a few Metro stops. About 120 euros a night, but varied on the weekend/weekday/bookings. Very clean, the rooms had wood floors, which I prefer over hotel carpeting. The staff is friendly and the breakfast was quite good. The hotel has a pool (we didn't use) and great African artwork. We had a room facing the garden and pool which was very quiet. If you book the Balmes make sure to get an outside room. The inside rooms face an airshaft which isn't very nice to look at.

Transportation to hotel: for the first time ever we took a cab, about 20 euros. I'm so glad we did as the streets are not very well marked. Every day we say loads of tourists with thier luggage looking very overwhelmed and vunerable in Placa de Catalunya. We didn't plan well before hand for our transport to the hotel so this saved us from an argument and problems.

A Few Things to Note about Barcelona

Language: Catalan is not a dialect, it is its own language and must be thought of as such not to offend. You can get by with Spanish however, as everyone speaks it. Most people we encountered also spoke English as well. We only had a Spanish dictonary, I thought it would have been helpful to also have a Catalan as well, especially for menus, but my husband thought the Spanish was enough to get by.

Safety: Crime is a problem, and we were fortunate enought not to have any problems. You must really keep your whits about you on the Metro and on the Ramblas. Even the local women keep their purses in front with their hand over the top. I would recommend keeping cameras in bags and out of sight whenever possible as it marks you as a tourist with something to steal. Don't leave cameras on outdoor cafe tables and don't dangle purses on the backs of chairs. The only almost incident we had was when a clown tried to follow us down the Ramblas (this would have institutionalized a friend of mine with a fear of clowns), a firm "No Molesta" and he got the message. Ironically, this was the day we most looked like American tourists wearing fleece and carrying water bottles after a bike ride.

Dress: Most locals dress in a timeless conservative fashion, but with a more stylish flair. Yes, they do wear jeans, but here is where that stylish flair comes in. They tend to be boot cut, or very skinny, with a wide cuff and high boots or tucked into high boots. Boots are high, pointy heeled and toed leather, no Uggs. They do wear gym shoes, never white, (leave your white gym shoes and keds at home) colorful Pumas and Disels. The women also wear oversized sort of wrap around sunglasses. Men seem to wear more button up shirts or teeshirts, not much in the way of golf/polo shirts. When dressed up they tie the knots of their ties wider and looser.
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Apr 24th, 2005, 10:55 AM
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Food: The food is wonderful. You will find the best meals at the best price a few blocks away from the tourist areas where they don't offer menus in English (not true in every case, but we found it to be the best for us) It is a bit more work, but worth it. I'm bad at remembering where I ate, but I'll mention a few memorable ones in the day trip reports.

Day 1 Saturday: Jet lagged and tired, explored Ramblas and area around hotel. Went to the Marcat De la Boqueria, very interesting. Had a wonderful tapas dinner at Cerveseria Catalan in L'Eixample which seemed to be a favorite among the locals (and has English menu).

Day 2 Sunday: La Sagrada Familia is not to be missed. We planned an hour and spent 3 or 4. The audio guide is worth it for the explainations of how they are continuing construction and insight on Gaudi's inspiration, methods and life. A climb to the top of the spires is necessary for an excellent view of the detail of the mosaics on the spires and of course the city. We explored Bari Gothic after siesta. All was in walking distance from the hotel.
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Apr 24th, 2005, 10:57 AM
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We also spent time in Barca in March - had many of the same observations. DH had been there in January and had his backpack stolen in the security line at the airport for departure! We used the tourist bus our first day and then the metro. Found it easy, reliable and cheap. We always kept our eyes open and never stopped to look at maps, decide on the next stop, etc without having our backs against a building wall or with someone from the group standing behind us for safety and security.
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Apr 24th, 2005, 11:11 AM
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Day 3 Monday: Most museums are closed on Monday. We planned to go out to Parc Guell via the Bus Touristic. After finding a huge line at the bus stop we altered our plans and went by Metro. The metro is cheap, very easy to navigate and figure out. The train doors don't automatically open, you have to pull the lever to open them. We took to Green Line 3 to Vallcarca station where you will find signs to the park. This is the back entrance, I recommend getting off at Lesseps for a more dramatic entrance to the park. There is a very steep climb up the hill to the back gate. There are escalators which are being remodeled so we climbed. Halfway up we stopped and picked up a picnic to go (really I just wanted a rest, I'm from the midwest and can't take these hills!) The back of the park is all trees and paths. Once you get down to the main area you will get to the good stuff. This is no ordinary park, the Gaudi buildings and the world's longest park bench make this quite the oasis in the city. There are pavillions throughout the park where very talented musicians are playing within Gaudi's nature inspired columns. The buildings and varity of plants make this a photographer's dream. We of course had to take pictures of ourselves by the famous lizard. There is a Gaudi museum as well which we did not go through.

Afterwards we took the train to Placa d'Espanya and explored Parc Joan Miro. Nowhere near as beautiful as Parc Guell, but and interesting visit. There is more wisteria and palm trees in this parc than I have ever seen. We watched a group of men play a lawn bowling game that I couldn't quite figure out. The park seems to be used quite a bit by the locals and sadly it and the library in it are covered in graffitti which give it an unpleasant feeling.

Afterwards we trudged up Montjuic to the castle (the museums were closed) checked out Olymic Stadium and the gardens.
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Apr 24th, 2005, 11:32 AM
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Day 4 Tuesday: Excursion day to Montserrat. I highly recommend doing Montserrat on your own rather than a tour to give time to explore this beautiful mountain. You can buy tickets at the Placa D'Espanya train station. You can get your train ticket, funicular ticket (the cable car trains up the side of the mountains), and tickets to the museums all right there.

You take the train to Montserrat Cremallera. There you board the funicular to the Monastary. The Monastary is home to the Black Madonna, the patron of Cataluna and the Montserrat Boy's choir. There is an art museum and nature center as well.

We heard the Boy's Choir performance which was beautiful. They only sing two hymns so don't expect an hour long performance. We did not see the Black Madonna which had a huge line or go into the art museum.

We hopped on the St. Joan funicular and headed up to the nature center. There you will find several trails of varying lengths and difficulty which we explored at great length. There are abandoned monestarys which are interesting to explore. It was a beautiful day, but a bit hazy in the distance. Some days you can see as far as the Pyrennes and the sea. You can skip the funicular and walk up too if you are feeling up to the hour hike. This is a national park so you can camp and mountain climb too as well.

Next we took the Santa Cova funicular down to the path that leads to the cove where the Black Madonna was found. Along the path are sculptures/monuments depicting different mysteries of the rosary which are stunning and will leave you trying to figure out how the heck they got them up the side of this mountain! There is a small chapel at the end of the path where the Black Madonna was found. Next to that is a room where people have left offerings to the Madonna which is facinating, and then a little courtyard.

There is a little pastry shop where we got a snack, their pastries rival what I've had in France. You will also find a grocery, cafeteria, gift shop and post office.

Montserrat is a full days visit which is well worth it.
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Apr 24th, 2005, 11:49 AM
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Day Five Wednesday: Headed for Bari Gotic and the Palau de la Musica Catalana The outide of this concert hall is so stunning we had to see the inside. Unfortunately the tours were sold out so we bought tickets for the next day. I highly recommend visiting and plan accordingly as they only have a few tours a day in different languages which sell out quick.

We decided on the teh Museu D' Hisotria de la Ciutat which is in the Palau Reial Major. Here you will see the underground Roman city remains. This was a bit of a disapointment to me and I don't recommend this if you have been to Rome or have even seen ruins on par to the ruins in Mexico and South America. However, it is a fascinating to think that you are in the building where Columbus gave his report of the New World to Isabella. And the Saint Agatha Chapel (the palace chapel) is worth a visit as well.

After a wonderful lunch at a little spot called Living we went on the Fat Tire Bike Tour. The tour took us past some things we had already seen, but it was good to sit for awhile rather than walk! I wish we would have discovered it sooner as it gave a good introduction to the city and helped get a feel for what is where, what you want to explore further and a bit of history on top of it all. The tour is about 4 hours and takes you through Barri Gothic, Sagrada Familia, Parc de la Ciutadella, Olympic Village, the beach and Port Vell. It isn't strenuous and you stop every couple of blocks for sightseeing and photo ops. At the beach you stop at a beach bar for drinks and food. They guide is funny and informative.

That night we had a great dinner at La Vieja Galicia and L'Eixample.
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Apr 24th, 2005, 12:08 PM
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Day 6 Thursday: Last full day, we are exhausted! Spent the morning souvenir shopping. We had tickets to see the Palau de la Musica Catalana. This is not to be missed, and to see a performance would be more spectacular then the tour itself. This is the only concert hall I have ever been to that has natural light. The whole building is a work of art, and words can't describe it. It starts with a short movie that gives a history of the Building. Then you move on to the hall. I won't be able to do justice to the mosaics, sculpture and use of natural light, take my word for it and see it if you are ever in Barcelona.

The afternoon was spent at the Foundation Joan Miro which is interesting and gives and excellent retrospective of the artist's work.

We then climbed up to Montjuic castle and explored that side of the mountain. Then sadly back to the hotel to pack up for our 9:00 am flight. An early (by Spain standards) dinner then off to bed.

A few things I forgot to mention:

On Sunday evening locals gather to partake in dancing the Sardana, the local folk dance. It was banned during Franco's time. The dance is rather somber, the music is good and it is fun seeing all the locals together. The guide books tell you this takes place at LaCatedral, but we saw it at Placa De Sant Jaume.

Casa Batllo: A chance to see the inside of one of Gaudi's masterpieces. Another not to be missed. Includes a trip to the rooftop to see the chimmneys. Much shorter line than Casa Mila.

Barcelona will now be up there as one of my favorite cities. I think I will have to go back for another week to see all that I missed and even then I don't think I'd see it all. I hope that someone finds this report helpful as I have found so many others on this site. Thanks for reading!
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Apr 24th, 2005, 12:32 PM
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I'm so glad you posted this. I was just trying to decide between 3 or 4 nights n Barcelona. I think I'll got for the 4. I am also glad to hear that I need to preplan for the Palau de la Music Catalana. I'm even going to try to see if I can find tickets for a concert while we are there. Did you go anywhere else besides Barcelona, and if so, what did you think?
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Apr 24th, 2005, 12:40 PM
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Hi Julies, Barcelona is the only city in Spain I have ever been too. From what I understand it is more of its own culture as many feel that Catalunya should be separate from Spain. I would like to go back again and see some other cities and Portugal as well. Go for 4 days, you won't regret it!
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Apr 24th, 2005, 04:27 PM
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Enjoyed your report, amor. Thanks for taking the time to post.

Jim
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