We started out our European adventure in Barcelona. We went two days before the cruise started to get some extra time in Spain. We had a layover in Philly, then took our 7 hour flight into Barcelona. The flight went really smoothly, I watched Winter’s Tale and Hairspray and ate some not-too-bad pasta for dinner.
We got into Barcelona around 9AM. First, we took the Aerobus to the city center (very convenient and not too expensive. I would highly recommend using it from the airport). We checked into our wonderful hotel, Acta Atrium Palace. It was about 3 blocks from the city center and within walking distance of most places. The staff was also very helpful (and spoke great English) and had free wifi and printing available.
We started with walking to Casa Batllo and La Pedrera.both Gaudi buildings. Casa Batllo was a very interesting building (we didn’t pay to go inside).
However, La Pedrera was covered in scaffolding and getting work done, so it was not nearly as exciting as it should have been.
We then decided we were very hungry and got an early lunch. We stopped at a café and got sandwiches. I also got a cappuccino and Travis got a HUGE beer.
Then, we took some pictures at the city center, Placa de Catalunya. There were pigeons everywhere!
Then we walked down La Rambla, a very busy street that goes from Placa de Catalunya to the Columbus Monument close to the pier. La Rambla is a great place to walk around, but its very crowded. We were on full alert for pickpockets. We got most of our Barcelona souvenirs along here along with tasty snacks. Its a great place to people watch if you’re into that sort of thing.
We also walked around the gothic quarters. This section of the city has those very iconic narrow streets and interesting, old buildings.
We also found the Gothic Church. We saw a lot of churches throughout our trip, and this one was the first! When traveling to Europe, its almost impossible to not step foot into a church and most of them have a dress code. I carried leggings and a light weight cardigan on days when I thought my outfit might not get approved.
I wanted to go to Parc de la Ciutadella, so that’s where we headed next. Unfortunately, we got lost and walked probably an extra mile. We were both getting a little cranky seeing as we didn’t have much sleep and did a lot of walking that first day. However, we did finally make it to the park, which was beautiful.
Travis wanted to rent a row boat and row us around the small lake within the park.
Then, we wandered around the park some.
At this point, it was about 3:30 in the afternoon and we were exhausted. We decided to head back to the hotel and take a nap. We walked back via the Arc de Triomf (not to be confused with the Arc de Triomphe in Paris). Yes, Barcelona has there own Arc.
We took about a three hour nap, then woke up for some dinner. We told ourselves we wouldn’t get tricked into any tourist traps. So of course, we ended up at Hard Rock Café. We ended the night with an evening walk around the city center and a nice soak in the hotel hot tube.
The next day, we woke up, got breakfast at a bakery, and headed to Sagrada Familia. Sagrada Familia is a basilica that was first begun in 1882 and is primarily the work of Gaudi. It has very distinctive architecture and is still under construction today. There’s really nothing like it in the world. It seemed that the hope was to finish it within the next 20 years.
Piece of advice: When you are in Barcelona, reserve tickets for Sagrada Familia online! The line to buy tickets is very long (even at 8:30 in the morning when we got there). It was very easy to get tickets online (minus the fact we had to navigate the computer/website in Spanish) and we got great satisfaction walking in the doors while others where still waiting in a LONG line.
Then we decided to ride the hop-on-hop-off bus around the city for the rest of the day (yes, it does take the whole day to ride both lines).
The first line took us to Park Guell (also a work of Gaudi). Its on the top of a hill with a pretty hefty walk up. We got there and learned you also needed to tickets to get into the park and the wait was 2 1/2 hours. We optioned to walk around the park and not wait in the line to get in. Once again, BUY TICKETS ONLINE FIRST. The view is incredible and worth the money. We are a little sad we didn’t get to go in, but its on our to-do list for the next time.
We stopped for lunch at a place where we could get paella and tortilla espanola. Travis and I also don’t drink pop except for vacations, so we were pretty excited about Fanta.
Here are some other pictures from the bus once we got back on. We rode on the top the entire day. You get headphones to listen to information about everything you pass along the way. I don’t remember what most of this buildings are, but they’re all pretty!
One of my favorite places that we “hopped-off” was the Olympic Park. I am a huge Olympic fan, so seeing the stadium and main grounds of a previous Olympics was really memorable for me. It also offered some great views.
We got some more sandwiches for dinner (Spain has excellent ham!).
And of course, we got our share of gelato. Our favorite flavor was crema Catalonia. It tasted like a vanilla/cinnamon.
We spent the evening walking around the pier, watching a protest (I have a pretty good video on my phone), and buying our souvenirs. Barcelona was a beautiful and friendly city. If we had another day, we would have liked to go to Montserrat, a monastery. 3 days would have been just the right amount of time!
Up next will be our embarkation and our days at sea!