Saturday, March 17
We had three 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. Since then – all trips have been carryon only!!
We all immediately noticed how nice the Barcelona airport was. Michael said “They get props for their airport”, and Lauren was already anxiously awaiting the shopping, just seeing the stores in the airport.
We decided to take the Aerobus for 3.90 euro each. 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, and 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. I had read in someone else’s trip report that 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 a 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 Stephen and I, 4.50 for Lauren and free for Michael (anyone under 12). La Pedrera is one of the many famous buildings to see in Barcelona designed and built by Antoni Gaudi. 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 Gaudi’s 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, Lauren had an excellent dessert of semi-freddo ice cream and catalan cream. We headed back to the hotel and crashed!!
Day Two – 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 per person.
Our first stop today was to the art market at Place di Pi near the Cathedral in the Barri Gothic – only happens on Saturdays 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 silk 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, and 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 an 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 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 Michael 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. Michael 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 an 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. Michael 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. Lauren and I started out with a large plate of beef carpaccio and parmesan. I had a very large and nice duck breast. Stephen and Lauren 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.
Day Three – Monday March 19
We started off the day taking a taxi to Sagrada Familia. We got there at 10:30am and there was basically no line. We also got the audioguides which were quite good, although the kids stopped listening about 1/2 way through. It was a bit difficult to figure out where you were supposed to be standing when listening to the guide. The building is incredible and going inside is a MUST!!! Don’t listen to people who say it is just a construction site. It is, but there is so much to see! Artisans, craftsmen and builders at work, plaster models, plaster parts, incredible columns.
When we left I told Stephen that some people don’t think it is worth going inside and his exact words were “Are they flipping out of their mind?” He went on to say that this is probably the last great cathedral to ever be built and “Wouldn’t you have wanted to see them building Notre Dame?” Personally, I think it is amazing that they actually let people in. I think it would be a major distraction. Unfortunately, the elevators weren’t working so we were unable to go up any of the towers.
This was our day to see some far flung things. So next we took a taxi to Camp Nou for the tour and museum. For some reason I thought the tour was guided, but it is not. At first I was disappointed at this, but it still turned out to be quite interesting. Amazingly enough, people kept assuming we were Spanish or Italian, and here the guy asked if we spoke Spanish or Italian, when I said no “English” he asked if we were from the UK!! Okay, so we thought that was kind of cool….
The locker rooms are quite simple – nothing compared to an NBA or NFL locker room I’m guessing. The stadium is quite spectacular. We were able to go out and sit on many levels and despite the height you always had a good view. The football museum had a lot of historical items, but the most interesting was the photography exhibit. Excellent pictures of athletes and of people playing soccer around the world. After the tour you end up in a big FC Barcelona store.
Next we took a taxi to the Barri Gothic. We had chosen to eat lunch at El Pintor (Sant Honorat, 7) in the Barri Gothic due to a Fodor recommendation. We had an excellent lunch although a bit expensive. However, the food was wonderful. Lauren and I shared beans catalana for a starter and then I had artichokes with shrimp and clams, Michael had paella and Lauren had Fiduea which she enjoyed. Stephen ordered the salmon dish with apples (recommended by the Fodorite) and he is still talking about how much he loved that salmon!! The restaurant was mostly filled with local businesspeople enjoying their 2 hour lunches.
It had apparently rained a bit while we were eating, but had stopped now (Yea!). We decided to do some shopping in the Barri Gothic and our first stop was at Custo. This is a local Barcelona designer whose signataure items are tops with bright colors, intricate designs and details. It is not super cheap, but not too expensive for buying a fun top!!
Our next stop was La Manual Alpargatera, the famous espadrille store. I was expecting it to be much larger. It was actually a bit small, but the older lady who helped us was extremely patient and helpful. It really doesn’t take that much room to store a ton of espadrilles as they lay flat together (easy for packing home too!) Lauren got a pair of bright pink classic espadrilles for 7 euros, I got some light blue ones with a slight wedge heel and embroidery on the top for 15 Euros. We continued exploring and shopping throughout the Barri Gothic enjoying the narrow windy streets.
We went back to the hotel to rest up a bit. Our original plan was to go to Girona on a daytrip the next day by train. However, the thought of getting up early to catch an early morning train did not appeal to any of us. We had fallen into the Spanish routine of eating late and staying up way past our bedtime. Also, we were truly enjoying Barcelona and thought it would be a good idea to not rush things and just stay in Barcelona. We had already determined that a return trip to Spain would be in order.
We weren’t really hungry for a big dinner due to our big lunch, but decided we needed to eat something, so about 9:15pm we walked to Txapela (Passeig de Gracia, 8-10) in L’Eixample. It is a loud and very busy tapas bar. We waited about 15 minutes for a table. Your placemat is basically your menu with pictures of the tapas, very similar to a placemat in a sushi bar. The tapas servings are very small but also very inexpensive. A good meal for not a lot of money. The desserts were also very small but delicious and the perfect size for me.
Day Four- Tuesday March 20
We started out the morning in the breakfast room again. Then we walked to the Boqueria Market. WOW! This place was incredible and puts the Campo dei Fiori in Rome to shame, We loved walking through there and seeing all the meats, cheeses, nuts, fish, eggs, vegetables and on and on. I would love to be able to grocery shop this way.
Next we decided to go to Castle Montjuic. We had already been to the other part of Montjuic near the Olympic stadium, the day we went to the football game, today our plan was to go to the Castle. We took the metro and then the Montjuic Funicular. From there we had planned to take the tram to go up to the castle, but when we got there the tram was closed for renovations- it looked like it could be closed for awhile. It was a nice day so we decided to walk up there. Suffice it to say, the signage to walk was very confusing. We ended up getting a bit lost, and there were not many people there. A man drove up, parked, and got out with his camera and two dogs. We asked him which way to get up to the castle. After a few minutes of hand signals due to his lack of English and our lack of Spanish, he offered to drive us up there. So we got in the small car with the two dogs.
Unfortunately the entrance from this side was closed so he said he would take us another way. He dropped us off at a location with stunning views of the Mediterranean and the port. He was a painter who went up there to take pictures of the sky. From there we had to walk around the castle walls. It was a bit of a walk and by the time we got there we were pooped! There is a military museum up there, but we didn’t go in. We walked back down the correct way, but it was still a bit of a walk.
My recommendation- if the tram isn’t working don’t bother to go up to the castle. Even the tour buses had to walk up a ways due to all the construction going on. All in all, our least favorite thing we did, although we did have the unique experience of meeting the painter and his dogs, which was fun.
We took the funicular and the metro back. We were all hungry and agreed, going back to Cerversaria Catalan was what we needed for lunch. We got there about 2:20 pm and had to wait about 50 minutes for a table- but we all agreed it would be worth it. We waited inside by the bar and were mesmerized for the next 50 minutes by what could only be described as “ordered chaos” as they served the food out of the bars. We finally got seated and had another wonderful meal there. In our opinion the best tapas we had in Barcelona.
Stpehen headed back to the hotel to rest while Lauren, Michael and I did some shopping down the Passeig de Gracia.
Since Stephen was back at the hotel resting we put him in charge of dinner plans. We got back about 7:45 pm- I was looking for dinner about 9:00 so I would have a chance to rest a bit, but we had an 8:30 reservation.
Leaving dinner up to Stephen meant we would be eating someplace special and we did- Comerc24 located in the El Born. It is a very high end, hip tapas bar run by a chef, Carlos Abellan that used to be at El Bulli. It was kind of fun, as when we returned home there was an article in the current Travel & Leisure about his newest restaurant Tapac24
We could not get a reservation at a table, but they also took reservations at the bar, so the four of us sat at the bar. We ordered The Festival tapas menu. It was seven courses including dessert with multiple tastes in each course. Before they served us he asked if we were allergic to any thing or did not like certain tastes. Michael is allergic to clams and mussels but we said everything else was fair game. Our first course was four tastes many of them Asian. One of them included wasabi ice cream and another seaweed- two tastes I do not care for- but who would have thought I should list those in a Spanish restaurant? No problem – Michael ate my seaweed dish. The fish course was excellent particularly the bacala. The dessert came with an apple celery smoothie (declared the kids favorite taste), passion fruit yogurt dish with fried coconut, pralines -sublime and a small plate with four desserts.
Everything was excellent, and the service spot on. I would highly recommend this place if looking for a higher end tapas experience. As we were getting into the taxi we had the privilege of meeting the chef.
Day Five – Wed. March 21
We decided to first stop at Palau de la Musica Catalyuna and see if we could get tickets for later today or tomorrow. Unfortunately, all the English tours were already out for today and tomorrow. We considered getting tickets for a tour in Spanish for the next day just so we could see inside, but decided against it. Top on our list for the next trip! Feeling sad we missed out on seeing this, Lauren and I popped in to Zara for a little retail therapy!
Next we took the bus to Parc Guell. First, I just want to say, I have never ever seen so many tour buses in one place – and this was a tiny windy street. The bus dropped us off at a side entrance, so at first as we were walking around we weren’t seeing as much, but soon we found the main entrance with all the incredible Gaudi buildings! We enjoyed exploring there and agree with other’s statements that it looks like Quenn Frostine’s castle from Candyland.
From there we took a taxi down to Barcelonetta. We decided to go to a restaurant listed in Maribel’s guide called Can Sole. This is an old restaurant established in 1903. Mostly local business people eating lunch there with older men as the waiters. When we were given the menus our eyes popped! It was very expensive- particularly for lunch! We almost thought about leaving, but did not want to head out into the main street where the waiter’s call you to eat in their restaurant. Stephen said let’s just order the paella and not worry.
Since Michael can not have clams and mussels and they did not speak English here, we were not sure how to ask for that- I really wanted clams and mussels in the paella anyway so Michael just ordered calamari fritti. The menu showed that depending on what you had in the paella it was 30E and you needed a minimum of two people. We just ordered the paella for 3, not specifying what should be in it. I was worried it would be very expensive and we just may end up with rice! The paella came with mussels, clams and large prawns. It was very good! Then the bill, the paella for the 3 of us was 44E’s. I guess the price of 30E was for 2 people, so it was about 15E’s per person.
From there we walked through the neighborhood and along the water. However it was a bit cold and windy out, so we got a taxi and had him take us to Casa Batllo. Since we bought the painting of Casa Batllo and had really enjoyed the other Gaudi buildings we decided we wanted to see this as well. Boy, were we glad we did. We all loved this place!! It was a bit expensive (16E/person, 13E/student). This came with the audio guide which was excellent! As much as we liked La Pedrera, Casa Batllo is even more amazing. The inner courtyard, the main room facing Passeig de Gracia “to see and be seen”, the outer courtyard, and it had an amazing roof top as well. I think this is a must see for anyone in Barcelona, particularly those who are really enjoying the Gaudi architecture. There is also generally no line.
From there the boys went back to rest at the hotel and Lauren and I slowly walked along Las Ramblas Catalyuna.
For dinner tonight we had an 8:30 pm reservation at Cinc Sentits that I had made via e-mail a few weeks before. We walked there from our hotel. We had decided we would all do the tasting menu. It started out with this drink with maple syrup, crème, cava and salt. You were to drink it all in one shot. I was a bit suspect at first, but it was awesome. As we had sat down we saw a waiter come in with an ice chest full of prawns, she said those would be ours for dinner. They had been swimming near Costa Brava just a few hours earlier. They were simply prepared and oh so delicious. The servers were so kind and hospitable! It was a wonderful way to end our last full day in Barcelona.
Day Six- Thursday March 22
We slept in a bit, Lauren and Stephen woke up not feeling 100%. By the time we were done with breakfast, getting ready and packing it was 12:30. We decided to go to the Textile Museum just across from the Picasso Museum in El Born. It really was excellent. If you have any interest in fabrics or fashion I would suggest you go. It is not expensive, we pretty much had the museum to ourselves, and it only takes about an hour. or so to go through.
From there we walked to Cal Pep for lunch. It was about 2:30 and there was not a very long line. However, with four of us, they ended up seating us in the backroom. Actually it was a cool room, and with four of us, I prefer to sit at a table. The food was excellent- right up there with Cerveseria Catalan- although the fried calamari was much better at Cal Pep.
From there we walked to Granja Xocolateria for hot chocolate and churros. Now why did we wait until the last day to come here? Well, maybe that was a good thing! The owner was extremely helpful, though spoke limited English. The churros were not those big thick ones we get at home (which I never eat) but thin crispy, floaty things- excellent!
Stephen was feeling a bit punk. Unfortunately, we had to check out of our room earlier in the day so we had no hotel room for him to stay in, but we went back to the hotel and rested on the lobby couches. Lauren and I went to Sfera- why didn’t we go there before we had packed all our stuff? I would say similar styles and pricing to Zara.
Then I remembered that I needed a tube to carry my silk painting on the plane. I went into one store that I thought might have one. They did not but she did tell me where I could find one. No address, just directions. We went back to the hotel, I got the painting so I would be sure and get the right size tube. Michael came with me and amazingly we found it. Luckily I had Michael with me, as I got turned around trying to find our way back, but of course he knew the way. We also met up with another Michael on our way….
We decided to take a taxi to the airport, it was 16E for the ride and an extra 10E for the bags. Considering the Aerobus is about 12E for us, we thought it was worth it not to deal with at night. Everytime we were by the Aerobus stop on Placa Catalyuna there was a line.
Read about our eight nights in Morocco here: