All of our instructions were given on Sunday night at our 7 pm orientation. We met at 8:30 am on Monday after a full breakfast provided by the hotel, Barcelona Center. Our coach was bright and yellow, hard to miss. My only disappointment was the bus advertised a ‘wifi zone’, but it never worked. The seats were comfortable and fully reclineable with nice large windows.
We met our local guide, Jose, at the bus and we were on our way to El Parc Guell. This park was not built to be a park. It became a park after the failure of the upscale home development Guell intended. This ended up being a good thing for all of us. Guell had contracted Gaudi and this park is a beautiful place to see his work. Our tour provided very little free time, but I’ve seen this park before. If you go, plan on walking the trails. You will find beautiful spots for pictures and amazing views of Barcelona. Allow yourself two hours to explore. I’ve also seen the Gaudi House on the property. He really lived there and if you want to learn more about him, I would allow at least a half hour for that visit. Vendors and musicians will fill the park as the day goes on. There is no admission fee for entry and you can access it by public bus.
After a break for lunch, we got back together and headed for a vineyard known for their Cava. The Codorniu Family has been creating for over 17 generations. The grounds are beautiful and the tour is definitely entertaining. Our guide Pepe even invite us to a party on the second Friday of September. I wonder if he realizes we are crazy enough to show up! At the vineyards, they grow Macabeo, Xarel-Lo and Parellada grape varieties and are introducing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The tunnels are over 40 km and one can get lost down there, but I’m not sure one would care. Deep in the tunnels you find wine in all levels of aging. It is simply beautiful. The tour provides an explanation of the fermentation process which has modernized with the times, but the short version is… Cava is Champagne, but since it doesn’t come from Champagne, France, it is called Cava. Another great reason to visit is the architecture. Architect Puig I Cadafalch designed the buildings on the grounds and they are now National Monuments.
After Codorniu we had time on our own to explore Barcelona and we used the Metro to get to the Mercat De La Boqueria just off Las Ramblas. It is a market. It isn’t a high-end shopping mall, but the presentation of fruits, nuts, candies and even raw meat is amazing. I’m thinking you aren’t getting a bargain shopping there, but it is beautiful to experience and has easy access from the Metro.
El Port Olimpic was recommended to us for there fantastic choices of restaurants. They looked beautiful, but all were pricey and trendy–not my style. Near there we found a strip of restaurants there were more my pace and had the typical steak, egg and potatoes these Spanish seem to sell everywhere!