Saturday, September 21, 2013

Traveling to Barcelona, Spain

I didn't see what all the hubbub was about while we were in Barcelona.  I could not count the number of people that have told me that Spain, Barcelona in particular, has been their favorite European stop. However, I did see many youths there drinking and partying so if that's your scene, it will probably be a great fit.  My husband and I however, are old people and can't stay up past 8 o'clock.

Here are the places we stopped by while our stay in Barcelona and my personal take on them.

La Sagrada Familia

The church is very impressive and unique from the outside. Although, you'll have to see the vision of the church through scaffolds as it is an ongoing construction project estimated to be finished in 2026. Unfortunately, we weren't able to go inside.   We were cautious and booked tickets in advances as per the advice of everyone I know.  The problem?  Our flight was delayed.  Upon booking your ticket, you must reserve a time block.  The time block is good for one hour and if you miss that time block, you are outta luck.  The staff was fairly rude in telling us that, no, we cannot go in and no, we cannot be refunded or rescheduled for another time.  Our flight was 45 minutes late landing and then took a good 40 minutes to get our bags and make it to the train station.  When originally planning our visit we considered the fact that our hotel was only 2 blocks away from the church and thought that we would have plenty of time... Guess not.  It was a 30 euro mistake and since the line is almost always around the block, we didn't have a chance to go in at another time.  So book ahead and give yourself plenty of time to get there.

Picasso Museum

Probably one of the smaller gems of Barcelona but definitely worth making the stop.   When we went to Amsterdam I felt terrible because my husband wanted nothing more than to see the Van Gogh museum but we got there 15 minutes after the last entry.  So we made the Picasso Museum a priority and booked our tickets in advance.   Unlike the Sagrada Familia, we made the museum on time and were able to see the inside.  I thoroughly enjoyed this art museum and it's one of my favorite experiences from Barcelona.  We used the Rick Steve's travel guide which included information at some of the more prominent pieces of work in the museum, but if you don't get a travel guide, invest in an audio guide so you get more out of the trip.

Las Ramblas
Entrance to the market
This is known as the pick-pocket central.  We were definitely on high alert during our strolling which may have sucked some of the fun out of the trip but at least we walked away with our wallets in tact.  The street is packed with street performers and vendors along with those annoying guys trying to sell cheap whistles and other crap.  There are plenty of restaurants and shops along the way and would be the perfect place to stop and do some people watching a warning though, expect to pay higher prices for low quality food and drinks .  There is a market near the northern end of the street that is definitely worth the stop if you are there around lunch or breakfast time.  There are tons of fresh fruit and smoothie stands along with breads and meats.  Peak in if you have a chance and if you are staying in a hotel nearby make it a point to grab some fresh food and make a picnic.  If you want a bit more of a low-key area, check out some of the older districts.

Park Guell

All throughout Barcelona, you will see influence from the famous architect, Antoni Guell and this park is no different.  The park was originally built to be a housing area but the idea flopped and became a park instead.  You'll be able to see the famous architect's home and catch some extensive views of the city as the park overlooks it.  A bit of forewarning, if you are walking on a hot summer day, be prepared.  It is a hike and it is all uphill to get to the park.  There is a bus line that drops you off nearby or you can take a taxi to save some sweat but if you walk, wear comfortable walking shoes.  Also, catch the park early in the day if you can.  It gets crowded quickly (around 11) and the street vendors come out in force (man those guys are annoying...).

One last thought, don't go to the "restaurant" that is on the upper part of the park near the mosaic benches.  The food prices are nearly extortion and the quality is equal to that of TV dinners.  To top it off, we stopped there for a quick snack before our trek down the hill and despite my husband paying 15 euro for a tiny freezer pizza and a mini ice cream, the man that was stalking the seating area (employee of the "restaurant") was hell bent on preventing me from putting my water bottle on the table in front of me because I didn't purchase it from their extortion stop.  I've never had this problem before at any of the places I've traveled to.

If you have more time
If you have a couple of days of just lounging around, check out the beaches and the boardwalks.  We walked past them but did not have time to linger and catch a tan.

Getting Around
Barcelona's underground system is great and cheap.  If you don't feel like walking, give it a try.  It reminds me a lot of Paris' metro system in it's ease of use and cost.  One bit of advice, at many entrances to the the metro, the entrance turnstile appear "backwards".  Pay attention to which way the arrow points in regards to which side of the turnstile you walk through, some point to the left and others point to the right.  You'll look awfully silly if you try to force your way through the wrong turnstile.

How to get to port for Cruise Ships

Wherever you're coming in at, whether it's the airport, a hotel, or some other location, the first step is to make your way to the Columbus Monument.  If you're standing at the monument, look towards the water and cross the street.  While there, look to the right and you will see a building and a street behind it that runs parallel with the water.  You'll find a bus stop right there and it is a shuttle service that goes to all of the different ports.  My husband and I originally thought about walking, but being at port D it was a good 15 minute bus ride and would have been easily an hour's walk.  Not worth it, especially while hauling heavy luggage.  As a side note, the cost has increased since Rick Steve's most recent edition of Mediterranean Cruise Ports, not by much but some.  I think it was 3 euro?

1 comment:

  1. Hi- love your blog!! Quick question what did you do with your dog while you travelled to other countries? I love that we can take our dog pretty much everywhere in Germany, but I was curious about when you went to other countries. Thank you


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