Go Back  Fodor's Forum > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page > yk's Trip Report: Barcelona Modernisme + Montserrat daytrip - Nov 09

yk's Trip Report: Barcelona Modernisme + Montserrat daytrip - Nov 09


Nov 18th, 2009, 12:54 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 23,646
yk's Trip Report: Barcelona Modernisme + Montserrat daytrip - Nov 09

Hi everyone - I just got back yesterday after one full week in Barcelona. Thank you to all of you who have responded to all my questions and those who have posted trip reports in the past. And special thanks to CAPH52 who has been so helpful with her information regarding the apartment we rented.

Me: mid-30s; and sister-in-law (husband's sister) who is a few years older and fluent in Spanish. I will address sis-in-law as "N" in this trip report.

Some of you may recall that DH & I have just returned from a trip to Berlin last month. I had no intention at that time to go on another European trip so soon, and certainly not to Barcelona since I was just there in Feb 2008 (trip report here: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...rip-report.cfm )

Anyway, this was N's idea. Originally, she was planning to go to Mexico around Veteran's Day holiday. However, it didn't work out logistically, so she thought about Barcelona instead since she's never been (she's been to other parts of Spain). When she mentioned it - this was early October - I naturally invited myself. While I don't love Spain like many people here do, I did enjoy Barcelona very much on my last trip and wouldn't mind going back. N didn't mind having me on the trip with her - in fact she prefers traveling with a companion over traveling solo.

So, this trip was planned a little under 1 month in advance. I was able to find a reasonable airfare on AA ($588 all-in r/t BOS/BCN), which also will help me keep my platinum elite status for 2010.

My Interests
I like art and architecture; but specifically, I really enjoy Art Nouveau / Jugendstil / Secession period. So, Barcelona is perfect with all its Modernisme architecture.

Our budget and travel style
We are budget-minded, but I don't have a set budget. We only used public transportation (no taxis, no HOHO, no private shuttles); we rented an apartment and ate some meals in the apt.

Our itinerary
We had 7 full days, of which I spent 6 days IN Barcelona. On our last day, we took a day trip to Montserrat.

Since I was in Barcelona less than 2 years earlier and have visited many tourist sites (Barri Gotic/Cathedral, Casa Mila, Casa Battlo, Sagrada Familia, Palau de la Musica Catalana, La Rambla, Hospital de Sant Pau), N and I spent about half of our time together and half separate, so that she can visit the sights that I've previously been to.

Pre-trip booking
The only thing I had booked in advance was our apartment, through Habitat Apartments.

Books & Movies
I asked for suggestions here: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-barcelona.cfm and here: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ar-with-it.cfm

In the end, I didn't get around to follow most of the suggestions. I did watch the film Antonio Gaudi by Hiroshi Teshigahara. I rented the 2-DVD set, where the 2nd disc has other documentaries. I also started reading Robert Hughes's Barcelona but haven't finished it - but I will.

For planning; I took out a number of guidebooks from the library:
Fodors See It Barcelona 2008
Blue Guide's Art/Shop/Eat Barcelona 2008
Blue Guide's Visible Cities Barcelona 2004
TimeOut Barcelona 2009
Lonely Planet Barcelona 2008

I like the LP and Fodors See it. I am a huge fan of the Blue Guides series, but I find the Art/Shop/Eat too brief; and while the Visible Cities is good, it's dated (newest edition is 2004).

I only took the LP Barcelona 2008 with me on the trip; esp since I was planning to buy the Ruta del Modernisme guidebook once I arrive. I like LP's guidebooks - they have excellent maps, and I find the proportion of sight description to food/shopping etc just right *for me*.

I checked the websites for all the attractions I planned to visit - to verify opening days and times. Other websites I consulted included the Ruta del Modernisme website: http://www.rutadelmodernisme.com/default.aspx?idioma=en and also TMB for public transport in Barcelona.

General Info

Temperature was mostly in the 60s during our stay (high 50s at night). The first 4-5 days were partly sunny and cooler; the last few days was very sunny and quite warm. No rain.

N used a moneybelt the whole time. I brought mine but didn't use it. Our apartment has a safe, so each day I only took enough cash with me for the day. I left my passport, credit cards and ATM cards back in the safe in the apt. During the entire week, I did not visualize any pickpocket activity at all, nor did I felt that I was a target at any point in time.

Getting Around
Since our apartment is in the Old City, we were able to walk to many sights. We each used up a T-10 pass (excellent deal at €7,70) and had to buy one extra single ride each.

Apart from using the Metro, we also used the local bus, plus suburban trains and funiculars. Overall, it was very easy to navigate. Buses were a bit more complicated, but many bus stops have a bus system route map so I was able to check if there is a bus alternative to metro. (I prefer riding buses over metro.)

Next: apartment review; then actual trip report with photo links.
yk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 18th, 2009, 01:22 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4,248
Wow - a trip report already! I'm impressed. Can't wait for the rest - Barcelona has long been on my List.
jent103 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 18th, 2009, 01:38 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 12,932
looking forward to your report....
danon is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 18th, 2009, 01:53 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 23,646
Apartment Review
Sots3 apartment in Barri Gotic (1BR)


Our Rate: €85/n for 2 people; but since we booked for 7 nights, we got a 10% discount. Our final cost for 7 nights was €535,50 (€76,50/n)

I decided to go with Habitat Apartments since they get decent reviews here. Because our trip was fairly last-minute, there were only 2 apartments that fit our dates and budget and location. N prefers to stay in the Old City (instead of Eixample). We had to choose between Sots3 and Princesa8 (see this thread: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...apartments.cfm )

The Princesa apartments get good reviews, but I didn't want Princesa8 because it does not have an outside window in the living room. It's already depressingly dark in Boston which is where we live, so we didn't want to stay in a dark apartment while in Barcelona!

CAPH52 stayed in Sots3 a few months ago, and she thought it was acceptable - which was good enough for me.

- Habitat Apts is easy to deal with: from booking to reservation to check-in & out to payment.
- The agent who met me at the apartment was very thorough and explained how to operate everything
- 2 sets of keys given
- elevator in building
- fully equipped kitchen with full-sized refrigerator, 4-burner stove with oven, microwave, water kettle, coffee maker, toaster, and your standard Ikea cooking utensils.
- a safe in the apartment
- sofabed (which I slept on the whole week) was actually comfortable!

- no extra amenities such as cooking staple (salt/sugar/oil etc). In fact, there was NO toilet paper when we arrived; but the agent lady was nice enough to run to the store and bought a 4-pack
- street noise: the street it's on is mostly pedestrian traffic, but the street is narrow so sound travels upward. If people talk on the street, we can hear every word (with windows closed tight). There are a few bars and restaurants around the corner, so when the patrons leave and talk loudly, we can hear it. Also, a dump truck comes by twice a week at 2:30am and makes lots of noise. So, if you're not used to city noise, bring ear plugs (which we did).
- very small bathroom with not enough towel racks

- The apt has a washing machine but no dryer. There is a clothes drying rack out in the balcony, but since Barcelona is quite humid, it took 2 days for our clothes to dry. So make sure you bring enough spare clothing while you wait for the clean ones to dry
- The bathroom is an ensuite bathroom. It's not an issue for couples staying here, but for us, it is less convenient since I have to go through N's bedroom every time I need to use the bathroom
- Very small bathtub for those who like to take a bath and soak

Great location for sightseeing, esp in Barri Gotic
- 3-min walk to Jaume I metro stop
- 3-min walk to waterfront
- 10-min walk to La Ramblas
- 12-min walk to Placa Catalunya

Food Shopping
- small convenience store type supermarket in El Born
- Manhattan-sized supermarket inside Santa Catarina Market
- Very Large supermarket in the basement of El Corte Ingles in Placa Catalunya

Do I recommend this apartment? Yes, with the above reservations.

Will I stay here again? No - not so much because of the apartment, but I think I'd rather stay in Eixample next time for more open space and more green space.

Photos of the apartment:
Living Room/Sofa bed http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4695.jpg
Living room http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4697.jpg
Dining area and kitchen http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4698.jpg
Bedroom http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4700.jpg
Balcony http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4701.jpg
Bathroom http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4702.jpg
yk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 18th, 2009, 03:05 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 50,286
annhig is online now  
Reply With Quote
Nov 18th, 2009, 04:27 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 23,646
Day 1 - Getting there and settling in; followed by a l-o-n-g walk

Even though we both live near Boston, N & I ended up flying different airlines (long complicated story). I flew AA BOS/JFK/BCN; N flew KLM BOS/AMS/BCN.

My trip over was uneventful - except for a really noisy toddler just across the aisle from me. He was screaming from time to time (just when I dozed off) for 80% of the flight from JFK to BCN. Because of strong tail winds, we actually arrived at BCN an HOUR early at 8am instead of 9am.

Since the earliest check-in time for the apt is 11am, I knew I had plenty of time to kill. I even checked my luggage, even though it's a small 19" suitcase.

With the extra time, I decided to take the Aerobus (€5) to Plaça Catalunya so that I can check out the Visitors Information Center and kill some time there. The Aerobus trip took 30 minutes.

At the visitors center, I picked up a few brochures, including information regarding daytrip logistics for Montserrat (more about that later in the TR). I also wanted to buy the Ruta del Modernisme guidebook, but the counter for that (counter #1) doesn't open until 10am.

At 10am, I bought my guidebook (€12). I highly recommend this - I think it's really a great deal because the book comes with a discount voucher booklet which offers discounts to many sights, including Casa Mila, Casa Battlo, Sagrada Familia, MNAC... http://www.rutadelmodernisme.com/default.aspx?idioma=en (see the column on the R side of the page)

After buying the guidebook, I immediately used a voucher to book the Modernisme walking tour offered by the tourist center. http://bcnshop.barcelonaturisme.com/...wjmBy4iHT-xzYQ The tour is normally €12 but the voucher offers 20% off for €9,60.

Since it's still early, I decided to walk from Plaça Catalunya to the apartment. With luggage in tow, it took about 15 minutes.

N arrived at the apartment around 1pm. After we freshened up, we went out for lunch. Even though I came armed with a long list of restaurant recommendations - most of these places are just a tad more than what we'd like to spend. So for most of our meals, we just ate at whichever place looks good that's within our budget.

In any case, we had lunch at Bliss at Plaça Sant Just 4, very close to the apartment. It offers lunch deals starting at €9 - entree + drink. I had the pasta of the day - can't quite recall the details but it was very tasty.

After lunch, we went food-shopping. Our first stop was Santa Caterina Market. Unfortunately, most stalls were closing by 3pm (it stays open late until 8:30pm Thu/Sat); so we went in search of a supermarket in El Born - recommended by the Habitat Apt lady. What we found instead, was more like a convenience store. It has limited choices but we managed - we mostly got breakfast items such as milk, yogurt, cereal, juice etc. A few days later, we found out that there is a larger supermarket inside Santa Caterina market. Somehow we missed it completely in our jet-lagged state today.

N does NOT believe in naps on arrival day, so we went out for a walk. From my personal experience, I do fairly well on arrival day as long as I’m outside wandering and not have to think much. Since our apt is only a 3-min walk from Passeig de Colon & Roy Lichtenstein's Barcelona Head, http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4727.jpg

we walked along the waterfront: We started at the Museum of Catalonian History & marina http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4705.jpg , cut across Barceloneta to the beaches, all the way to the edge of Port Olimpic where Gehry’s Fish sculpture is.

Along the way, the view of the beach and the Mediterranean sea was quite beautiful, as it was late afternoon. It reminds me of a Whistler painting. http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4708.jpg

We turned around once we reached Gehry’s fish http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4719.jpg

We walked about 3 miles total.

Dinner that evening was at a tapas restaurant in El Born. I suggested Taller de Tapas, but N didn't want to eat at a chain restaurant. So instead, we went to Tapas del Born at C/ Argenteria 45, just a few store fronts from Taller de Tapas (C/ Argenteria 51). Food was pretty good there - we shared 5 dishes:
Octopus; Galician clams; grilled asparagus; cod fritters, and sauteed mushrooms. In addition, we had Pan con Tomate. N had a glass on Sangria as well. (I don't drink, so at almost all my meals, I had agua con gas.) Our dinner came out to €36.
yk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 18th, 2009, 05:35 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 3,037
Back so soon! Welcome home yk, I'm looking forward to reading this.
Apres_Londee is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 05:52 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 3,704
Really nice, complete report. Your detail is amazing and will be very helpful. Barcelona is one of my top 5 favorite cities.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 07:39 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 9,736
Off to an excellent start as always, yk!

I'm glad the apartment worked out ok for you. I was somewhat surprised to read about the noise you encountered. We'd actually been impressed with how quiet it was! But it was warmer when we were there and we had the air on constantly. I'm wondering whether that didn't make a difference.

Looking forward to more!
CAPH52 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 07:53 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 12,932
I agree with you about Eixample - my favorite part of one of my favorite cities.
We are going to Barcelona in the spring (for the fourth time),
I am looking forward to some of your suggestions.
danon is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 08:40 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 23,646
Thanks for all your comments - and danon - also a special thanks to your input to my trip-planning questions.

CAPH52 - I wonder if you are more used to city noise? I live in a suburb and it's very quiet here, and I'm a light sleeper too. Also, the street noise was worse on the weekend (Fri/Sat esp); were you there during a weekend too?
yk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 09:20 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 9,736
Hi, yk. We're in a 'burb too and on a quiet street. Though, during the night, we do hear some noise from nearby busier streets. But I suspect you're right in thinking that the fact that we weren't there on a weekend is what made the difference. We were there Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
CAPH52 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 09:27 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 23,646
One thing I forgot to mention about the Sots3 apartment:

Habitat Apts does not offer wifi or any internet connection at the Sots3 apartment. However, CAPH52 told me that her son was able to get on the internet when they were staying there. So I did bring my netbook along and was able to get on the net via someone else's wifi network.

OTOH, the Princesa apartments do offer free wifi.
yk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 09:38 AM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 352
Bookmarking. Thanks for such a detailed report yk! Looking forward to the rest of it. We are going to Barcelona in April and I can tell this will be very helpful when it's time for me to get into full-scale planning mode.
bniemand is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 10:09 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 9,362
Thanks for all the detail & the pictures in your TR -- very helpful. Looking forward to the rest.
yestravel is online now  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 10:53 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12,471
Great report! You have a gift for writing precise, intersting comments!
lincasanova is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 12:17 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 12,932
OTOH, the Princesa apartments do offer free wifi."

You are right. I stayed there in March, my girlfriend was able to e-mail from her blackberry.
danon is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 01:34 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 23,646
Day 2 - Montjuïc

I didn't get a chance to visit Montjuïc on my previous trip, so I was a bit confused about the layout and transport options of Montjuïc. Well, it turns out to be very straightforward...

We took the metro to Paral.lel stop (the Catalan language is quite curious; with a period within some words); then transfer to the funicular. The transfer is FREE - just follow the sign for the funicular.

Once we get off the funicular, there are plenty of signs for directions. It is a short walk to Fundació Joan Miró (Joan Miro Foundation). http://fundaciomiro-bcn.org/

Entrance fee is €8, and I paid another €4 for the audioguide. Most guidebooks I read recommend the audiogude - and I think it was very worthwhile.

The layout of the museum/foundation is chronological, and explains his life and works pretty well. Before my visit, I do like some of his works but I never "understood" his squiggly line paintings. After this visit, I do feel I have a better understanding and appreciation. While N likes his later works, I prefer his earlier works, esp his Dream paintings and his Constellation paintings.

No photography is allowed inside the building, but it is allowed outside. The roof terrace has multiple sculptures; and a nice view of the city.

Apart from the collection, I find the building interesting. It was designed by Josep Lluís Sert, who was also co-founder of the GATCPAC. The building reminds me of the Bauhaus-Archiv building in Berlin, designed by Walter Gropius. Therefore, it wasn't too surprising when I later found out Josep Lluís Sert succeeded Walter Gropius as dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design in the 1950s-60s.

We spent 90 minutes in the galleries, and when we finished, it was lunchtime and we ate at the Cafe at the museum. http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4739.jpg

The cafe only serves sandwiches and drinks. There is also a nicer restaurant next to the cafe. I had a panini with cheese and turkey for €4. While 4 euro doesn't sound like much, it was quite a pricey sandwich considering it is simply 1 slice of turkey, 1 slice of cheese, and 2 slices of white bread.

From Fundació Joan Miró, we headed towards MNAC via a slight detour to Jardins de Laribal (Laribal Garden). Within the garden is the Font del Gat building designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, now a restaurant. http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4742.jpg

[Puig i Cadafalch, Domènech i Montaner, and Antoni Gaudi are the big 3 architects in Barcelona responsible for the Modernisme style. You will see me refer to them a lot in this TR.]

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC for short) http://www.mnac.cat/index.jsp?lan=003 sits on Montjuïc facing Plaça Espanya down below. It's a great vista spot. http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4744.jpg

N & I split ways here, as I wanted to see the museum and she's had enough museums for the day. Entrance fee is €8,50 but with my Ruta del Modernisme voucher, I paid €5,95. The ticket is valid for 2 days.

MNAC's collection is split into 4 sections. The most famous section is its Romanesque collection of Catalonia frescoes, rescued from churches near the Pyrennes. http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4746.jpg

I went through the next 2 sections rather quickly - Gothic and Baroque. The last section - Modern Art - has some of my favorite items, such as furniture set from Casa Lleó-Morera, and decorative objects designed by Gaudi.

I also enjoyed the paintings in that section - seeing the Catalan equivalent of French Impressionists and post-impressionists. Ramon Casas is now my favorite Catalan artist, and I also like the works by Camarasa who has a style similar to Klimt.

There are also several galleries dedicated to the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection.

The MNAC building used to be the National Palace - it's enormous with a painted dome. Just below the dome are plenty of super-comfortable couches, where I took a power nap during my museum visit. http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4753.jpg

I spent about 2 hours at MNAC; then made my way slowly down the hill towards the Magic Fountain. http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4773.jpg

My next and final stop of the day is the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, located just west of the Magic Fountain. The Pavilion is open daily, but guided tours are only available from 5-7pm on Wed/Fri. http://www.miesbcn.com/en/pavilion.html

I don't know much about this building, which turns out to have a facinating history. It was built for the 1929 World Exhibition in Barcelona as the German Pavilion. However, it was dismantled after the exhibition was over. Decades later, people began to realize the significance of this modern architecture. It was rebuilt in the 1980s based on incomplete blueprints and B/W photos.

You may find it strange that while I like Art Nouveau buildings with all the over-the-top ornamentation, I also like modern architecture as well. It's a different kind of beauty - a kind of clean and streamlined beauty.

Admission fee is €4,50; no extra charge for the tour. I arrived at 5pm, but the one-and-only guide has to do a Spanish tour first, so I had to wait for half an hour before she conducts the English tour. I was the only person on the English tour.

The building is simply brilliant. So simple yet so elegant, with use of horizontal and vertical lines, and different materials for the walls (4 types of glass, different types of marble, plus onyx). None of the walls are weightbearing; the roof is supported solely by 8 steel pillars. I highly recommend visiting this place - and if you're not familiar with this building, I definitely recommend the guided tour.

Before sunset: http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_4776.jpg
After sunset:

From Plaça Espanya, I figured out the bus map and took a bus back to the apartment. That evening, we had dinner at El Gran Cafe at C/ Avinyó, 9; just off the main tourist drag of Carrer Ferran. http://www.grupcacheiro.com/restaurantes2.asp?id=8 This restaurant is mentioned in Maribel's guide.

I had a Fisherman's soup to start (tastes like Bouillabaisse), and a rocket/mozzarella salad as entree. N had a salad then a risotto. Food is pretty good. Our bill was €36.
yk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 02:32 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 3,704
I'd always though the Mies Van der Rohe pavilion was primarily something to see for the exterior. Thanks to your info, I'll check inside next time I'm in BCN. Looking forward to more.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 19th, 2009, 02:35 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 13,855
What a wonderful report, yk. I am right beside you. Tell us more.
cmcfong is online now  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:41 PM.