Barcelona Trip Report

I promised shortly after my return from Barcelona last August to blog about the attractions I visited, but I never got around to it. How unfortunate I have such fond memories from the city. Here is what I remember.
Day One (August 10th)
I take a mid morning flight to Barcelona via British Airway. I then take the train into the city to my hotel, B Hotel. This experience proved somewhat taxing as I failed to get off at the correct stop and ended up having to backtrack, which added another hour to my journey. Not the easiest thing in the world when you don’t speak the language, but I manage.
Anyway, after dropping off my bags at the hotel, I walk up one of the most famous streets in Barcelona, Las Ramblas in search of food. Unfortunately, all of the restaurants I passed were closed for the afternoon siesta, and so ended up eating at McDonalds. I know, I know! Not ideal for a first meal in Barcelona, but it did get rid of the hunger pains.
I then walk around and find myself in La Barceloneta which my AAA tour book describes as “a honeycomb of lively narrow streets lined with fishermen’s houses and low-rise apartments, dotted with little squares and a park.”
From there, I make my way back to Las Ramblas where I have dinner at Restaurante La Poma and then back to hotel for a good nights sleep.
Day Two {August 11th (my birthday)}
Feeling adventurous, I take the metro train to the fashionable Passeig de Gracia. I have a light breakfast at Ital Cafe and then visit Casa Amattler followed by the even more spectacular Casa Mila designed by Antoni Gaudi.
I then walk through Barcelona’s bohemian quarter, Gracia. Here I get my first taste of traditional Spanish food when I stop for lunch at Restaurante El Canario. I could have done with a nap, but I press on and make my way to Parc Güell. I am greeted by hundreds of other people there as well as one of the park’s centerpiece, a beautifully tiled lizard. For the next two hours I walk around admiring the beautiful decorations and intricate park design before paying a visit to Casa Museum Gaudi. I wouldn’t bother with the museum on a second visit, but I could totally spent hours upon hours looking for at all the signs and hidden symbols. Simply enchanting!!
On such a high, I walk back through the Gracia neighborhood, stopping frequently to admire the wonderful architecture of various building. The plan was to make my way back to another Gaudi building, La Sagrada Familia. Unfortunately, by the time I get there, it was too late to go in. So I have dinner at a cute little Italian place, Restaurant Carpe Diem — feeling quite pleased with myself for spending my 35th birthday in Spain.
From there, I make my way back to hotel via the train. After getting off at Espanya, I hear classical music coming from the direction of the Placa d’Espanya. On walking over there, I discover that the daily evening sound-and-light show (La Font Magica) associated the water fountains, is getting ready to start. So I find a place on the lawn and sit to enjoy. It’s almost like they knew it was my birthday. Just marvelous!
Day Three (August 12th)
I start out the day by heading to Museum Picasso after a late breakfast/early lunch at Restaurante-Flamenco-Nervion. From there I visit a Catalan Gothic Church, Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. There I light a candle for my mother and become overcome with emotion.
After pulling myself together, I walk about Bari Gothic neighborhood before making my way to another beautiful gothic church, Catedral de Barcelona. Unfortunately, like La Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral had scaffolding on the outside, so didn’t get to absorb the beauty of the exterior, but the inside did not disappoint.
I then leave the area, with intention of walking to another Gaudi “masterpiece”, Palau Guell, but end up getting lost. So take the train to Vila Olimpica where I have dinner at Marina Moncho’s outside on the terrace overlooking the sea.
Day Four (August 13th)
In that my family is from the Caribbean island of Monsterrat which was discovered by Christopher Columbus, I decided to visit the inspiration for the island name, Monestir de Montserrat 40km northwest of Barcelona.
To get there, I take a FGC train from Placa d’Espanya to Aerie de Montserrat where I take a “stomach-churching” cable-car ride up to the monastery and basilica. I considered it stomach-churching as there were certain points up the mountain which is 4054 ft high when the tracks were inches from the edge.
Once there, I wandered around for a bit before getting in line to walk past the “Black Virgin” of Montserrat, a wooden statue of the Madonna and Child with a smoke-blackened face. According to my tour book, “this statue was believed to have been made by St Luke and mysteriously turned up here in the 12th century.” Whatever the case, this place continues to be a place of pilgrimage, because even on this hot August day, the wait to walk past was well over an hour.
Btw, while waiting in line, we were blessed by the beautiful singing voices of the boy’s choir who apparently can be heard everyday at 1pm in the Basilica free of charge.
After walking around in the monastery’s church, I then spend time in the nearby Museu de Montserrat. Surprisingly, the museum has quite an impressive collection of artwork (including a few by Picasso), many of which were gifts left my pilgrims.
After the museum, I wandered in search of one of the 13 hermitages which apparently dot the mountain. Luckily, the path I choose lead in the direction of St. Michael’s cross which had provided a beautiful vista of the monastery and the valley below.
After a bit more exploring around some of the other paths, I made my way back down the mountain in time to catch the 5:30pm train back to Barcelona.
Day Five (August 15th)
It’s my last day in Barcelona. As such, after checking out of my hotel, I decide to visit the Museu Nacional D’Art De Catalunya (MNAC). I also visited the Paveloo Mies va der Rohe. I wouldn’t recommend paying to visit the latter — particularly when all there is to see, you can see from the outside. But the MNAC I consider a must see in Barcelona. I spent a few hours there looking at both the Romanesque (my favorite) and gothic galleries.
From there, I head back to hotel to collect my bags and then take the shuttle bus back to the Airport.
Summary
So would I go back to Barcelona? Absolutely! Would I recommend over Amsterdam? Absolutely! Barcelona is a first class city with lots of wonderful restaurants, museums, parks, shops and city beaches. So can’t wait to go back and experience the city a second time. Of course, not before visiting a few more European cities. So where next? Perhaps Turin for the 2006 Winter Olympics. But only if I can make the finances work. If not Turin, then Rome or Paris sometime in the Spring.

2 Comments
  1. You missed the aquarium, and tons of other spots nw of ramblas, and the bazaar, but sounds like you had a good time. The little boutiques and craft shops are out of this world.

  2. What a great review. Thanks for sharing this!

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