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Trip Report: Family4travels to Barcelona and Morocco: tapas, Gaudi, tents & tangines

Trip Report: Family4travels to Barcelona and Morocco: tapas, Gaudi, tents & tangines

Apr 2nd, 2007, 08:26 AM
  #1  
jgg
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 2,683
Trip Report: Family4travels to Barcelona and Morocco: tapas, Gaudi, tents & tangines

Just returned this weekend from 2 weeks in Barcelona and Morocco. We had a wonderful time on our trip. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Barcelona and would go back in a heartbeat. I definitely want to explore more of Spain on another trip. The food was fabulous and all the Gaudi architecture was fascinating to see. A very easy city to get around in. We had a great hotel in a fabulous location.
Morocco was INCREDIBLE! Not just the sights, but the sounds and the smells. Zaid, our driver, was great - we really enjoyed him. The camel ride and night in the Berber tent were fantastic. You just sort of sit on the back of this camel thinking - Wow! I am actually riding a camel in the Sahara desert right now. Tons of great shopping in Marakkech and Fez - the medinas are like nothing you have ever seen.

Before I start writing my detailed report I thought I would give a quick background. We are a family of 4, my husband (DH) and I are in our early 40’s, daughter (DD) is 14.5 and a freshman in highschool, son(DS) is 11.5 and in 5th grade. For many years we spent spring break in Arizona, DisneyWorld or Hawaii. Then in March of 2005 I decided it was time to start seeing the world! In March 2005 we went to Italy for 2 weeks (Rome, Venice, Florence). It was such a success in March 2006 our family spent a week each in London and Paris and brought my parents along. Then in June 2006, to celebrate our 20th anniversary we went with the kids to Italy again for 3 weeks (Piedmonte, Ligurian Coast, Tuscany and Rome). As you can see I have officially become a Fodorite travel junkie!!

The most often asked question of us before we left was why are you going to Morocco?? It was a good question, as when we started thinking about where to go for spring break, it certainly wasn’t on my list of places to go. However, our trip to London/Paris last March was quite cold and windy. We were hoping for someplace a bit warmer – it didn’t have to be hot beach weather – just someplace where we didn’t need coat, hat, gloves and scarf every moment. DH had a friend who was in Morocco at the same time we were in London/Paris and came home raving about it – DH’s ears particularly perked up at the above 70 degree weather every day. My first thought was Morocco – are you crazy?? We had never been to a non-Western, Muslim country, nor anything quite that exotic. But as I started to research it, I began to learn that while not as many American tourists go as Europeans, it is a major European holiday destination, and it is extremely safe. I did decide that I wasn’t quite ready to spend our whole 2 weeks there (although I knew that we could) but decided to start in Barcelona for 5 nights, which for us, was an excellent idea.

I did most of my research on Fodors and Trip Advisor with a few guide books thrown in. I planned Barcelona and Marakkech on our own, but used Blue Men of Morocco for our private trip to the desert and Fez (great organization – more details to follow). Thanks in particular to laclaire whose comments about the desert trip got me committed and to laartista whose excellent trip report got me counting down the days to our own trip. I was excited and no longer worried, until the Monday before we were to leave on Friday, I read on Trip Advisor that there was a suicide bombing in Casablanca – YIKES! Here is a link to a brief story about it:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6440661.stm.

I told my husband about it, and we just decided to continue monitoring it, we would be spending our first 5 nights in Barcelona and if things ratcheted up we could just stay in Spain. Well, the next day they made a wave of arrests and after that there was apparently very little additional info. on the story. Morocco does have a reputation for swiftly dealing with terrorists as they did after the 2003 Casablanca bombings. We figured we could have been in London during the tube bombings or Madrid during the night club bombings…..so we decided to keep with our plans. We are very glad we did. We felt very safe and welcome the whole time we were there and I would not hestitate to return.

A detailed trip report is coming.
jgg is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 08:53 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Dear jgg:

Looking forward to your report!! Missypie reported back. I knew you would be reporting soon, since you two were travelling about the same time to Barcelona. How do your kid's get off so much time for spring break??

Can't wait to hear more.

MY
MichelleY is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 09:04 AM
  #3  
 
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I've been waiting for your report, so we could compare notes. If you search "Missypie Barcelona" you'll find my report. We also loved Barcelona.
missypie is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 09:55 AM
  #4  
jgg
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Michelle - my daughter is in a private school, they start the school year a week earlier than the public school but get 2 weeks at spring break - which we LOVE. My son is in the public school, so doesn't get the two weeks, but we just take him out of school for a week. It has not been a problem so far, and next year he will be at the same school as my daughter (yea!!)

Missypie - I read your report on my blackberry while we were in Barcelona, and used your tip for the Textile Museum - it was great - I don't know how I missed that in all my research, as my daughter LOVES fashion. I was glad we were able to fit it in after reading your report.
jgg is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 10:16 AM
  #5  
 
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This promises to be a really interesting trip report. Can't wait to read more!
Meredith is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 10:26 AM
  #6  
 
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jgg,

Can't wait to read more!! I've been wanting to go to Morocco for some time since I love the food so much. More about the tagines, please!!
Weadles is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 10:31 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
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Someday when you have more time, you'll have to tell me how you were able to access this board on your Blackberry. I have a Blackberry phone, and the utility of the browser feature is close to useless. I've never been able to access this board from there.
missypie is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 01:26 PM
  #8  
 
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Great Jgg! I can't wait to hear your report and am so glad to hear that you had a great time.

We are in Seville now enjoying Semana Santa ( WILD!) but they have wifi here so I will check in as I have time in the evenings.

I am excited and nervous about Morocco.
WTnow is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 08:48 PM
  #9  
jgg
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missypie - I wish I knew enough about my blackberry to actual explain technicallyhow I am able to get on it, but I don't. Basically I just go to www.fodors.com/community/ The site comes up and I am able to scroll down to pick "Europe". Click on that, then I get a page that states "topFrame" "topicFrame" "msgFrame". Click on "topicFrame". From there all the Europe posts come up. I am not able to add any posts nor am I able to sort by country under say Europe or US (although my husbands newest model can do that).

WTnow - I know exactly what you mean about being excited and nervous, I felt the same way. Once I arrived in Morocco, however, I completely forgot about feeling nervous - there is nothing to be worried about.

Saturday, March 17

We had 3 flights to get to Barcelona and they were all on time with no delays. Our only glitch was that it took over an hour for our luggage to come out. Particularly annoying as our past 2 overseas trips we did only carryon, but changed for this trip as we were expecting to need more space for stuff we would be buying.

We all immediately noticed how nice the Barcelona airport was. DS said �They get props for their airport�, and DD was already anxiously awaiting the shopping, just seeing the stores in the airport.

We decided to take the Aerobus for 3.90 euro. It drops you off right at Placa Catalyuna. Very convenient to our hotel, although would have been even more convenient if we had known to just cross the Placa, but we were a bit disoriented so walked a bit further with our luggage then we needed to.

We were staying at the Hotel Pulitzer on Via Bergara just off the Placa Catalyuna. It was a nice quiet street and a very nice modern hotel. There were a few glitches with our reservation at first, but I had copies of all the e-mails and everything was taken care of to my satisfaction. The staff was very nice and extremely helpful throughout our stay.

We were lucky enough never to be pickpocketed or have anything stolen, but on our arrival we did learn the lesson to always be vigilant. As we were checking in, another couple came in with their luggage. As the husband was checking in the wife was waiting with the luggage. She apparently stepped away for a moment, when she came back she said �It�s gone! My bag (purse) was right here and now it is gone!� No one saw anything, although the hotel said they had a running tape of the lobby and they could watch it. I saw the lady the next morning at breakfast and asked what happened. She said they watched the tape and saw a man come in take her purse and then crouch down and leave. We were all standing right there in the lobby, but no one noticed. They went to the police to file a report, but they were pretty sure nothing could be done. Well, we learned our lesson NEVER to look away from your stuff.

We went upstairs unpacked, showered, etc. We had booked a superior room for ourselves and a regular room for the kids. We booked the superior because on Trip Advisor many people loved the hotel but said the rooms were a bit small, so we decided to book one superior room. Our room was larger with a couch and our bathroom was a bit bigger than the kid�s bathroom as well. It was nice to have the extra space as the kids would often come into our room as we were getting ready, but I wouldn�t hesitate to get a regular room either.

By this time it was about 3:30pm and we were starving. I had decided our first meal would be at Cerverseria Catalana (Calle Mallorca, 236) in the L�Eixample. Nikki had said in her trip report they ate there twice so seemed like a good recommendation. She did not steer us wrong!! It was a tapas bar and everything we had was excellent, but we didn�t want to eat too much as we were still hoping to eat dinner, so we made note that we would definitely want to return there. This restaurant does not close down for the midday but remains open, so I good spot to go whenever you are hungry.

We walked over to Le Pedrera and waited in about a 20 minute line. Entry fees were 8 euro for DH and I, 4.50 for DD and free for DS (anyone under 12). It was incredible. It is always great to see something you have read so much about and seen so many pictures of. The small museum on the top floor was also quite interesting with some of his furniture as well as objects from nature that inspired him. The terrace, of course, is a must see and quite amazing. There was that exciting moment when I saw the Sagrada Familia right through one of the arches. He truly thought through every detail.

We had originally planned on eating someplace that didn�t open until 8:30, but at about 7:30 we were fading fast and thought we better eat before then. So, I checked my list of restaurants and we decided on La Tramoia Rambla Catalyuna, 15 in the L�Eixample and near our hotel. It was good, but we all agreed not as good as our lunch place. However, DD had an excellent dessert of semi-freddo ice cream and catalan cream. We headed back to the hotel and crashed!!

jgg is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 08:52 PM
  #10  
jgg
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I forgot to post the link to pictures. This is the first time I have tried this, so I hope it works. Please let me know! http://family4travels.shutterfly.com/action/
jgg is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 09:22 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
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I am sooo glad you had a great time and Loved Morocco! Isn;t it awesome? Great first day report and pix, am psyched to follow along and the Barcelons report will get me pumped up for the big move. Welcome back.
laartista is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 02:31 AM
  #12  
 
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Enjoying your report so far - thanks for sharing (and for posting the link on the Africa board)...
Kavey is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 02:45 AM
  #13  
 
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Glad I didn't steer you wrong. Looking forward to the rest of your trip.
Nikki is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 03:59 AM
  #14  
 
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Posts: 1,034
Welcome Back, jgg! As you know, I have been very busy and not on the boards as much (I hope to be back as a regular after May 1 ).

Thanks for sending the link to your report. I already love your trip and am wondering when I can follow in your footsteps with my family.

fun4all4 is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 04:13 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
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You want to explore more of Spain? Then do "el Camino de Santiago" (St.James Way) and get the essence of Spain. More info:
www.mundicamino.com
www.spain.info/TourSpain
Revulgo is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 06:34 AM
  #16  
 
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Thanks! I don't know how you figured out what frame to pick, but it worked! I guess we did overlap by one day....just as you were hitting the town, we were getting in early to pack.
missypie is offline  
Apr 4th, 2007, 06:03 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 411
I am hoping you post back about the Morocco portion of your trip - the good, the bad, and what your kids preferred. My husband has thus far filed Morocco into the "not a chance in hell" category. However, he too is looking for somewhere warmer in March to go to. Maybe your trip report will convince him. Please continue!
poutine is offline  
Apr 4th, 2007, 06:49 AM
  #18  
jgg
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Yes, yes, I promise more is coming, including all the details of Morocco. Unfortunately, real life is getting in the way, not to mention still doing laundry...
jgg is offline  
Apr 4th, 2007, 07:29 AM
  #19  
 
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Hey, forget the laundry- People are waiting here! LOL
laartista is offline  
Apr 4th, 2007, 07:49 AM
  #20  
jgg
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Ha! Ha! Don't you wish you had a few extra days of vacation just to complete your Fodor's trip report!! It is of course, the funnest part of returning home.

Okay, here goes, next installment:

Sunday, March 18

We got up and had breakfast in the hotel. Definitely one of the nicest breakfast rooms we have ever been in. Large, tons of light and windows and nicely decorated. The food was very good with a nice selection of scrambled eggs, frittata, bacon, sausage, potatoes, cereal, museli, fruit, cheese and a nice selection of pastries. Our breakfast was included in our room rate which is a good deal as it is 15 euro pp.

Our first stop today was to the art market at Place di Pi near the Cathedral in the Barri Gothic on Sat. and Sundays. I love buying art from the places I visit. It wasn’t really that large of a market but there was one particular artist who had the whimsical, colorful style that I love. We all agreed our favorite one was a painting she had done of Casa Batllo and bought that one. There was also a nice food market nearby with cheese, nuts, etc.

We walked over to the Cathedral, and could already tell how much we liked the Barri Gothic. We explored the side gardens of the church and went inside. There was a Mass going on so we couldn’t go to the front of the church but we enjoyed it.

It was Sunday, so most of the stores were closed so we decided to walk to the El Born and go to the Picasso Museum. We had to wait about 15-20 minutes in the line. It was very well done and interesting museum, even if many of his more famous pieces are not displayed here. It was very interesting to see his early work and learn about his life and the progression of his art. Definitely, the most interesting exhibit was the “Las Mananitos” exhibit, as he did his own interpretation of this famous painting. Watch the video before entering this exhibit as it will help you understand it better. Even the kids enjoyed this portion of the Picasso Museum.

After this we were hungry and headed back to Teller de Tapas, near the art market we had been to earlier that day, recommended in Maribel’s guide. It was very good tapas (but Cerverseria Catalana was still #1).

We had decided that this trip we were going to make it a priority to see a Football game. Unfortunately, FC Baracelona was not playing while we were there, but there was an Espanyol game at the Olympic stadium. The game was at 5:00pm. We returned to the hotel to freshen up and then took a taxi to the Olympic stadium. It was nice to be up in that area and see all the Olympic buildings and monuments. It was fun to finally see a European game in person. The fans are really crazy and while the stadium wasn’t full we happened to get seats right near the major fan club. They are wild and had three guards stationed down at the bottom just to watch them. A few heated moments on the field made it exciting, but in the end it was a 1-1 tie.

We were not exactly sure how to get back to our hotel as the taxis could not come up as far as the stadium and we hadn’t really checked out the metro or buses yet. We just started following the crowds who led us down near the art museum and the Magic Fountains to Placa Espanyol. From there it was easy to get a taxi.

For dinner that night we had chosen La Rita on Carrer Arago, 279 just off Passieg de Gracia. They do not take reservations and open at 8:30pm. We arrived about 8:15pm and there was already a small line. As we were waiting outside DS asked if this was an Asian restaurant as the entire wait staff inside appeared to be Filipino, which makes sense since the Philippines was a territory of Spain for hundreds of years. Interesting how colonialism affected so many countries of the world, particularly the French influence we saw in Morocco. DD wasn’t too interested in the geopolitical lecture that could have come from this observation –he just loves Asian food, and I think he was hoping we were at a Asian restaurant. We were seated shortly. At first we weren’t too impressed with the menu, but once we ordered and the food started to come we realized what a fantastic restaurant it was and very inexpensive as well. DS had the fried calamari to start with. It had a wonderful spiced breading. Turned out to be the best fried calamari on the trip (and we ought to know since he ordered some at almost every restaurant!!). He also had a very nice hamburger, although it didn’t come with a bun. DD and I started out with a large plate of beef carpaccio and parmesan. I had a very large and nice duck breast. DH and DD each had the steak with peppercorns. We all had wonderful desserts as well. Our bill came to 84 euros which also included sparkling water, 1/2 bottle of wine, cappuccino and two cups of tea.

Link to pictures - open Barcelona Day twounday, March 18

We got up and had breakfast in the hotel. Definitely one of the nicest breakfast rooms we have ever been in. Large, tons of light and windows and nicely decorated. The food was very good with a nice selection of scrambled eggs, frittata, bacon, sausage, potatoes, cereal, museli, fruit, cheese and a nice selection of pastries. Our breakfast was included in our room rate which is a good deal as it is 15 euro pp.

Our first stop today was to the art market at Place di Pi near the Cathedral in the Barri Gothic on Sat. and Sundays. I love buying art from the places I visit. It wasn’t really that large of a market but there was one particular artist who had the whimsical, colorful style that I love. We all agreed our favorite one was a painting she had done of Casa Batllo and bought that one. There was also a nice food market nearby with cheese, nuts, etc.

We walked over to the Cathedral, and could already tell how much we liked the Barri Gothic. We explored the side gardens of the church and went inside. There was a Mass going on so we couldn’t go to the front of the church but we enjoyed it.

It was Sunday, so most of the stores were closed so we decided to walk to the El Born and go to the Picasso Museum. We had to wait about 15-20 minutes in the line. It was very well done and interesting museum, even if many of his more famous pieces are not displayed here. It was very interesting to see his early work and learn about his life and the progression of his art. Definitely, the most interesting exhibit was the “Las Mananitos” exhibit, as he did his own interpretation of this famous painting. Watch the video before entering this exhibit as it will help you understand it better. Even the kids enjoyed this portion of the Picasso Museum.

After this we were hungry and headed back to Teller de Tapas, near the art market we had been to earlier that day, recommended in Maribel’s guide. It was very good tapas (but Cerverseria Catalana was still #1).

We had decided that this trip we were going to make it a priority to see a Football game. Unfortunately, FC Baracelona was not playing while we were there, but there was an Espanyol game at the Olympic stadium. The game was at 5:00pm. We returned to the hotel to freshen up and then took a taxi to the Olympic stadium. It was nice to be up in that area and see all the Olympic buildings and monuments. It was fun to finally see a European game in person. The fans are really crazy and while the stadium wasn’t full we happened to get seats right near the major fan club. They are wild and had three guards stationed down at the bottom just to watch them. A few heated moments on the field made it exciting, but in the end it was a 1-1 tie.

We were not exactly sure how to get back to our hotel as the taxis could not come up as far as the stadium and we hadn’t really checked out the metro or buses yet. We just started following the crowds who led us down near the art museum and the Magic Fountains to Placa Espanyol. From there it was easy to get a taxi.

For dinner that night we had chosen La Rita on Carrer Arago, 279 just off Passieg de Gracia. They do not take reservations and open at 8:30pm. We arrived about 8:15pm and there was already a small line. As we were waiting outside DS asked if this was an Asian restaurant as the entire wait staff inside appeared to be Filipino, which makes sense since the Philippines was a territory of Spain for hundreds of years. Interesting how colonialism affected so many countries of the world, particularly the French influence we saw in Morocco. DD wasn’t too interested in the geopolitical lecture that could have come from this observation –he just loves Asian food, and I think he was hoping we were at a Asian restaurant. We were seated shortly. At first we weren’t too impressed with the menu, but once we ordered and the food started to come we realized what a fantastic restaurant it was and very inexpensive as well. DS had the fried calamari to start with. It had a wonderful spiced breading. Turned out to be the best fried calamari on the trip (and we ought to know since he ordered some at almost every restaurant!!). He also had a very nice hamburger, although it didn’t come with a bun. DD and I started out with a large plate of beef carpaccio and parmesan. I had a very large and nice duck breast. DH and DD each had the steak with peppercorns. We all had wonderful desserts as well. Our bill came to 84 euros which also included sparkling water, 1/2 bottle of wine, cappuccino and two cups of tea.
jgg is offline  

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