My time in Barcelona

I absolutely loved Barcelona, Spain!  In fact, I love big cities and have visited many over the years.  Here’s my description of Barcelona:

It’s a Spanish speaking (sort-of) New York City with a beautiful beach and palm trees!

Sure…that’s simplistic, but it’s the easiest way to describe it to people who never been there, but have been and love the Big Apple.

We arrived on a Sunday morning in July 2009 to Barcelona.  It was a veerrry long flight with two connections.  I had been advised to that I shouldn’t go to sleep when I arrived, because I’d have a terrible time adjusting my body clock.  It was difficult, but I heeded the advice and it served me well.  That being said, we were in bed by 6:30 p.m. that evening!

We checked in to the Barcelo Atenea Mar.  I had booked using Expedia at a great price and will admit to being nervous of what the place would be like.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a modern property with a pleasing color palette in the lobby, but still wondered what our room would be like.  It turned out we had a great room which included a view of the oceanfront.  The furniture was a modern, clean style with comfortable bedding.  The bathroom included the Eco-friendly flushing system — press 1 for #1 and 2 for #2.  In fact, the electricity in the room wouldn’t work unless your key was inserted in the slot by the door.  The property was definitely socially conscious.

After checking in to the Barcelo, we to the nearby Metro to the Sagrada Familia.  It’s funny because I never found the structure attractive until I was standing in front of it.  Let me give you another simplistic description:

It’s an overly ornate sand castle until you look at the details.

From a distance you may wonder about the hype.  In pictures you may get the idea you want to see it, but when you stand in front of it…it takes your breath away.  …and it’s not even finished!  La Sagrada Familia facade tells stories including the Nativity and the Passion scenes.  There is incredible symbolism all around including its tower, one for each disciple.  Although most famous it seems for the fact it is unfinished, a walk inside has you wondering why.  Even unfinished it is breathtaking.

We left La Sagrada Familia and hit what else…McDonalds.  It was literally across the street.  Of course I wanted authentic Spanish food, but at this point I’d been up a long time and I was starving!  To my surprise, in Spain, McDonalds serves beer!  Yep my value meal cost the same with soda or beer.  Loving Spain already!

After our ‘Gringo’ Brunch we went for a walk.  We truly had no plan, but to see the city and its architecture.  The city served up a tall glass and we drank it up.  On our walk we even visited the Ciutadella and El Arc de Triomf before heading back to our room using the city’s transportation system.

On day two we had to have some authentic Spanish food.  There were several little restaurants by our hotel.  Interestingly, they each had ‘sandwich-style signs’ with pictures of the dishes they offer and the price.  Apparently this became popular during the Olympics and the city has kept this practice.  We were on a tight budget and this practice served us well.  That particular morning my niece started the day with a ‘bikini sandwich’ which consisted of one, maybe two slices of ham, a slice of cheese between two slices of sandwich bread.  I had a ‘Bocadillo’ which I would later learn is what they call their sandwiches served on baguette.  Future meals would include the Spain-famous Serrano Ham and there amazing Spanish omelets which include potatoes.  One amazing meal after another!

After breakfast, we headed to el Park Guell in the northern Barcelona area.  This park was originally intended to be residential development to which Gaudi was commissioned to draw up the plans.  The grounds are outstanding.  A show home built to encourage sales of the eventually failed development.  It was once Gaudi’s home and now serves as a museum to learn more about Gaudi.

After the park, we headed to the center of the city and visited la Casa Mila or La Pedrera.  The tour includes view of an apartment, but the most amazing part to me was the chimney park on the roof.  If you’ve ever wondered where the iconic pictures of Barcelona are taken, this rooftop is one of them (the other is the dragon/lizard at the entrance to el Park Guell).

We ended the day with our first dip in the Mediterranean.  Here’s my rant on that…  The water was clear, it even glistened with a natural glitter to it, but it was dirty.  There was actual garbage floating in the current.  This was very surprising to me.  I didn’t expect it.  One thing I did expect, but honestly had forgotten was the fact women are topless at the beach.  My poor Goddaughter was a little shocked.

The next day we headed to the Museu de la Xocolata.  We learned about the origins of chocolate, got to see some great chocolate sculptures and even learned a little science while we were there.  Odd right?  You would be right, but it worked for us that day because it was a rainy day.

After the Chocolate Museum we headed to the Picasso Museum.  You can hardly say you’ve been to Barcelona and not have seen the Picasso Museum.  Plan to spend several hours and also expect long lines to purchase admission tickets.  After a busy day of museums, we enjoyed the Barri Gotic area.  Lots of wonderful architecture to take in.

Our last full day in Barcelona was spent on Mont Juic.  We visited Olympic Stadium, the Olympic Pools and the Olympic Museum.  We didn’t get an opportunity to visit the Palau Nacional.  Our last evening was spent enjoying Las Ramblas as we had on other evenings.  We also discovered (finally) La Boqueria Mercado de San Jose right off of Las Ramblas.  How we missed it so many times before is difficult to explain.  Unfortunately it was closing when we got there.  Place this on the top of your list when visiting.  The presentation of the fruits and candies is only surpassed by the care they take to put it all away.  It’s a must see!

That evening we walked around El Porto Olympico before heading back to our room.  The next day we would set sail on the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas for the 12 night Mediterranean cruise.


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