The second stop on our trip was Barcelona for 5 days, where Brian had his business meetings planned. We arrived after midnight, and when we arrived at the hotel, it was all quiet and locked up with a note on the door to ring the bell. It felt odd to us, but the gentleman knew who we were, handed us our room key, and we had finally arrived for our adventure in Spain.
We weren't quite ready to fall right to sleep when we got there, so we tried some local TV... There were no channels in English, but we happened to find some weird food challenge show that didn't need any words to understand how awful it was!
In the morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed bright and early to start exploring our one full day together in Barcelona. We figured the best way to see as much together as we could, was with another bus tour, and luckily, this one had frequent stops & one was right across the street from our hotel!
The weather could not have been more picture perfect for our entire trip, and made the open air bus rides beautiful while we enjoyed the awesome views and the occasional tree branches...
We started our tour driving by Placa De Espana, the plaza near the center of the city where many of the main roads intersect. It used to be the home of Barcelona's old bullfighting ring, and is now home to museums, fountains, restaurants and shops.
The Mirador de Colom, (Columbus Monument), is on one end of the main road, Las Rambla, and was built in 1888 in honor of Columbus' first voyage to the Americas. Apparently, there is a lift in the center of the statue and you can go up for panoramic views of the city. Too bad we didn't know about it while we were there, but we had MANY opportunities to see the amazing views all over town.
We drove by the site of the 1992 Olympics, and learned just how much an impact these games had on the city of Barcelona!
"The Olympic Games gave Barcelona many large scale projects. As a result, it became the perfect setting for one of the most successful games in history. Here, you'll find all the main facilities that were used for the 1992 Olympic games. The most important of these facilities is the Olympic Stadium. Constructed in 1929 for the International Exposition, it was subject to severe renovations in 1989 just in time to host the 1992 Olympics, the event that put Barcelona on the world map. The Olympic Park features structures such as the Palau Sant Jordi and the sleek Telecommunications Tower, that redefined the Barcelona skyline." LINK
Our first stop off the bus was at Plaza Catalunya, which is Barcelona's central square. From there, we stumbled on the "gothic quarter" and fell in love with it's charm, just like we did in the Alfama neighborhood of Portugal.
"The quarter encompasses the oldest parts of the city of Barcelona, and includes the remains of the city's Roman wall and several notable medieval landmarks. The Barri Gòtic retains a labyrinthine street plan, with many small streets opening out into squares. Despite its name, a number of landmark Gothic buildings in the neighborhood do not date to the Middle Ages. Rather, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the quarter was completely transformed from a sombre neighborhood to a tourist attraction through a massive restoration project, timed to be completed for the 1929 International Exhibition. This allowed the city and the surrounding region of Catalonia to portray itself in a positive light to the world's media. Further restoration of existing buildings and the creation of brand new neo-Gothic structures continued as late as the 1960s." LINK
We found so many little narrow streets with shops and restaurants. Most were quaint, but there were some big stores there too, and of course, Brian had to get a picture at the Dr. Martens store for Emily! In fact we Facetimed her from there to get her moving for school for the day!
I had no idea that the Barcelona Duck Store was such a big thing, but apparently they've made rubber ducks super popular!
My favorite store was the Caganer store we found, and immediately thought of it as the perfect souvenir for Ben, who will be looking for ways to be a part of spreading Christmas magic to people this year! Check out what we learned about these funny figurines from this site... trust me, you'll love the story, and will explain why we will now have a little man pooping in our nativity scene at Christmas time!:
There were literally hundreds of these little pooping figurines on the shelves, in the form of famous people, animated characters, movie stars, presidents, etc... It was crazy!
Brian found an awesome little gem of a restaurant for Spanish tapas in the gothic district, where the walls were made of stone, the furniture was all wooden & the dishes were eclectic. We loved the warm feeling, and the food was awesome!
We picked some winning dishes!
A lot of the rooms felt like something from "Game of Thrones" or "Harry Potter"!
After lunch, we were off to explore some more!
We came across the church, Santa Maria Del Pi, and decided to go in to have a look. It was built beginning in 1319 in the Catalan Gothic style. It still has four original stain glass windows, and the largest rose window in Catalonia.
Back on the bus tour, we passed by the Arc de Triomf which built as the main access gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair.
We passed by the old bullring stadium called, "Sol i Ombra" (which means "sun or shade", which is where you could choose your seats), but has not been in use since bull fighting was banned in 2010.
We passed by some cool architecture on Port Olympic...
We rode by the beautiful streetlights with mosaic tile benches at the base that were designed by Pere Falques i Urpi in 1906, and are found lining the Paseo de Gracia, one of Barcelona's most famous streets.
We also rode by many unique buildings built by the famous Antoni Gaudi...
"This building is called Casa Milà, or commonly known as La Pedrera. It is the largest civil building designed by Antoni Gaudí. The apartment block was constructed between 1906 and 1910. The Casa Milà breaks with traditional architecture by using not a single straight line. The building does not use load-bearing walls, but rests on pillars and arches. On the exterior, the undulating balconies look like a series of waves. The iron-wrought balconies were designed by Josep Maria Jujol, who improvised on the spot (to look like seaweed from the water)." LINK
Casa Batlló is a building in the center of Barcelona. It was designed by Antoni Gaudí, and is considered one of his masterpieces. A remodel of a previously built house, it was redesigned in 1904 by Gaudí and has been refurbished several times after that. LINK
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, is a church in the Example district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, and is currently the largest unfinished Roman Catholic church. Designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, his work on Sagrada Família is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. He began building it in 1882, and it is believed to be completed in 2026. LINK
After a long day of seeing the landmarks that define the city of Barcelona, we came back to get ready to go out for the evening on the waterfront of the Mediterranean Sea.
We had a delicious seafood dinner at the boat harbor, where I got an amazing grouper dish, and Brian had his first authentic Spanish paella. It quickly became my quest to try everyone's paella after that!
We walked from the harbor to Barceloneta Beach, where we took our first steps into Mediterranean Sea...
Brian bought me some roses from a persistent street peddler at dinner, and we brought them back to brighten up our room for the rest of our stay in Barcelona!
Day 2 in Barcelona was my first day exploring alone since Brian started his 3-day conference for work that morning. I set off on my own and took the bus tour to stop at places I saw the day before that I wanted to go check out further. My first stop was at the steps of MNAC (Museo Nacional d'Art). There were other art museums I had in mind to check out, but this stop was about seeing the building, the grounds, and the breathtaking views of the city...
One of my favorite moments was just sitting on the steps, enjoying the view and listening to a street performer sing "Hallelujah"...
Back on the bus tour, my next stop was at the modern art museum (Fundació Joan Miró). Modern art is something I'm not sure I fully appreciate, as I often see it as something I already have in my house from my kids when they were younger, but I do find it interesting, fun to photograph because of many of the bright colors, and mind-boggling when I read the descriptions from the artists...
Enjoy my glimpse into the museum of modern art:
I decided to take a stroll down the hill after my museum stop, and I'm so glad I did, because I found a breathtaking restaurant to stop to sit and have paella and a glass of wine for lunch!
A neighbor of ours back home has a friend who lives in Spain, and she wrote out an itinerary for me of things to see, and I'm so glad she did, or I may not have found this gem of a place to have the best hot churros and chocolate for a mid afternoon snack!
After all my adventures of the day, I headed back to get ready for dinner with Brian... I found another rooftop restaurant with more amazing dishes and beautiful night views of Placa De Espana. It was a beautiful ending to a great day!
Day 3 began with a quick hotel breakfast in bed, while I made a plan to do more exploring and head to the beach for the day!
On my way to the bus stop, I found this group dancing outside of the train station, and it was so fun to stop and watch!
After the bus trip down to the waterfront, I stopped for a mojito and fresh hummus with pita at the harbor marina before heading to the beach for the afternoon.
Barceloneta Beach was beautiful, and the perfect place to spend the afternoon!
I enjoyed my day of relaxing with my feet in the sand, a good book, and fascinating people watching!
As soon as I got to the beach, I noticed gentlemen walking around trying to sell mojitos & sangria, and older women offering beach massages... It was a peddlers paradise there!
There were MANY men trying to tell beach blankets and rent beach umbrellas to beach goers, but everytime a security officer came near the shore, they quickly buried their items and walked away... Apparently, there is no soliciting on the beach without a permit, but that didn't stop from getting right back to it when the officers walked away!
Not everyone evaded the security officers eyes...
After some sun bathing, and in search for a place to have lunch, I found a second Dr Marten store in Barcelona, so I had to take a selfie for Brian and Emily!
I stumbled on a little beachside restaurant where I sat in the sun and enjoyed shrimp tacos for a late lunch!
I loved my beach day!
Day 4 in Barcelona was my last day alone to explore while Brian had to work, before heading to our next destination together. I decided to make the trek to see Antoni Gaudi's famous Park Guell, which everyone says is a must see. When I went to get on the bus tour, I found out the one we had been using was on strike that day, so I found another one to ride... This one had a stop that would have dropped me right in front of the beach yesterday (of course), but had a LONG trip to Park Guell.
After a LONG 2 1/2 hour bus ride and a mile long straight uphill climb to the park, I finally made it with minutes to spare before my ticket was invalid... I was completely exhausted but determined to see the work I'd come so far for... I felt like I was in a "Dr. Seuss" type of world with the architecture around me, but it was beautiful to see!
The park was designed by prominent architect, Antoni Gaudi, and was built between 1900 and 1914.
Lovers Viaduct: Inspired from the idea of roman viaducts, this one, in Park Güell, is called "Viaducto de los Enamorados" (Lover's Viaduct).
Ceiling in the "Salon of the Hundred Columns": The ceiling of the Salon has tiled mosaics with designs on the ceiling.
Dragon Fountain: One of Gaudi's most interesting sculptures is a fountain named "the Dragon", symbol of fire and alchemy. It's located underneath the terrace of Park Güell, and at the top of the major stairs. The distinctive method he uses, known as ‘trencadís’, can be described as joining together bits of broken tiles, dishes and glass to create astonishing art. LINK
Serpentine Bench: On top of the salon is a public square with a very large undulating bench in the form of a sea serpent that has backrests adorned with the broken bits of glazed tile.
After making it back to the hotel and getting ready for our evening out, we took the subway back to Plaza Catalunya and took a stroll through the famous outdoor market on our way to dinner.
"The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, often simply referred to as La Boqueria, is a large public market in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, and one of the city's foremost tourist landmarks, with an entrance from La Rambla, not far from the Liceu, Barcelona's opera house." LINK
There may not be any bull-fighting in Spain anymore, but we found a bull statue to take our picture with!
For dinner, we went to an Amazon hosted family dinner to meet Brian's colleagues at "Palau Requesens". It was a beautiful place, with interesting food, fun company of others for the evening, and great way to end our time in Barcelona!
"It is the biggest residential palace that existed in medieval Barcelona and belonged to Lluís de Requesens (1528-1576), a friend of king Felipe II and general governor of Flanders. The original construction dates back to the 13th century, sheltered by the Roman wall, but the current building comes from a renovation and extension undergone in the 15th century, when it became the general governor of Catalonia´s house, Galceran de Requesens (1400-1468). The Gothic structure and some ajimez windows (window with a vertical divider between window panes) have been preserved from the original building." LINK
We said goodbye to a wonderful time exploring Barcelona, but looked forward to moving on in the morning to making memories Madrid!
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