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Review: Barcelona



Barcelona has the X factor.

  • By SilverTraveller Martin-Dove

    148 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • Sep 2009
  • Adult family

112 people found this review helpful

Sunday 13 Sep

The four of us got a taxi from Rob’s house to Luton Airport. The mad Muslim taxi driver got into a fight with another driver, after crashing into the back of another vehicle at a busy airport roundabout! There were also long queues at the check in desk, and although we thought we had allowed plenty of time, we ended up having to run to catch the plane. We flew to Barcelona, and got the Aerobus to Placa de Catalunya, where we walked to The Montecarlo Hotel on La Rambla. We had lunch at The Hard Rock café, and then we strolled down La Rambla and experienced the sights and sounds of one of the World’s most famous streets. We saw living statues, caged birds, flower sellers, con men, artists, bars and cafes on this iconic Spanish walkway. Spanish poet Federico García Lorca once said that La Rambla was "the only street in the world which I wish would never end". We reached the harbour at the end of La Rambla and took a boat trip round the coast and the port, on one of the famous golondrinas. A very warm evening, and a perfect way to relax after all the travelling. Enjoyed a cold beer on the top deck and enjoyed the view. Marvellous! After the boat trip we looked round the Maremagnum, a huge covered entertainment and shopping complex. We walked back through the Barri Gotic area, and enjoyed dinner sitting outside at Ambos Mumdos on La Placa Reial, a sunny porticoed square, just off La Rambla. We went for a nightcap to an Irish bar, with a bizarre Arabian theme, where Rob and I lounged on a mass of cushions in our own private boudoir!

Monday 14 Sep

After a Jacuzzi at the hotel, we met up with Rob and Kate, and the four of us walked down to Barri Gotic, and enjoyed a simple Spanish breakfast in a traditional street café. After breakfast we explored the Barri Gotic area, then headed to the Gran teatre del Liceu for a guided tour. Barcelona’s Opera House is one of the most modern theatre facilities in Europe, and the tour was very impressive. After coffee and cake at the theatre, we set off to explore Barcelona’s seedy side, and wandered into El Raval, also known as Chinatown. This area is historically infamous for it’s nightlife and cabarets, as well as prostitution and crime. We enjoyed a couple of beers in El Raval, soaked up the atmosphere, and watched the characters go by. After a siesta back at the hotel, we walked up to Casa Mila, Antoni Gaudi’s last and most famous secular building. We had to queue for thirty minutes before we could enter, but this masterpiece was well worth the wait. Most impressive was the roof terrace with it’s strangely shaped chimneys. Unfortunately, Katy fell over inside the Casa Mila, and hurt her knee, which continued to give her pain, throughout the week. After the delightful Casa Mila, we took a taxi to Placa d’ Espanya to see The Magic Fountain. Unfortunately it does not operate on a Monday night, so we got another taxi back to La Rambla, where we enjoyed a fabulous tapas meal, followed by divine puddings, all washed down with fine wine. After dinner we strolled down La Rambla, and drank margaritas and mojitos at the Patagonia bar. We walked back to the hotel for more drinks, and a game of pass the pigs in the deserted hotel bar.

Tuesday 15 Sep

We all walked to the Gaudi market near to the Cathedral to look around the colourful and exotic fruit and vegetables on display. We tucked into a market style Spanish breakfast, and then went to look around the Cathedral. Barcelona’s great cathedral is not only one of the most celebrated examples of Catalan Gothic style, but also one of the finest cathedrals in Spain. After seeing this impressive building, we headed off the Palau de la Musica Catalana to buy tickets for a concert on Wednesday night. We then went to the Museu Picasso, a fascinating museum that traces the career of the most acclaimed artist of modern times. The Picasso Museum is the city’s biggest tourist attraction, and contains one of the world’s most important collections of Picasso’s work. We enjoyed a very pleasant lunch in a small traditional Spanish café, tucked away down one of Barcelona’s many alleyways. After a late lunch, we headed back to the hotel to rest up, and prepare for the evening’s entertainment. At night we walked down to the harbour and visited The Aquarium. This attraction was truly awesome, with huge fish tanks, an underwater tunnel, and an oceanarium. This unique marine centre boasts 11,000 animals, and 450 different species and has been visited by over 14 million people since opening in 1995.

Wednesday 16 Sep

Katy’s 60th birthday! After breakfast in a café on La Rambla, we took a taxi to La Sagrada Familia, one of the great architectural wonders of the world. The sight of this magnificent cathedral, as we stepped out the taxi was simply breath taking. Started in 1882 this colossal building, is unfinished, and is, in fact, still under construction, such is the scale of the project. Various completion dates are given from 2026 to 2087, but in reality this masterpiece may never be more than a shell. We looked round this incredible monument and were blown away by its vast scale and idiosyncratic features. To complete our Gaudi day, we took a taxi to Parc Guell, a hilltop park that is considered to be a unique piece of landscape design. The sight of this incredible park’s entrance was another awe-inspiring moment. Two eccentric pavilions mark the entrance. A grand stairway, ornamented by a dragon fountain, leads to a massive cavernous space, originally intended as a marketplace. It’s forest of pillars supports a rooftop plaza bordered by a row of curved benches, covered in multicoloured broken ceramics. The weather was warm and sunny and we sat outside for lunch and a jug of sangria. We strolled round the park, listening to various musical entertainers, and watched the monk parakeets flying overhead. We even saw the house where Gaudi lived for many years. We went back to the city centre, where Katy and Kate went shopping, and Rob and I went for a drink at Schilling, a popular gay bar, which oozes understated elegance. In the evening we went back to Cervecerjas restaurant for Katy’s birthday tapas dinner, and then on to the Palau de la Musica Catalana, for a flamenco guitar concert by Pedro Javier Gonzalez. The concert hall alone was worth the visit, and the local musician was popular with the locals, and was a virtuoso guitarist. The four of us went back to Schilling after the concert for a nightcap. This was a fabulous end to a truly magical day.

Thursday 17 Sep

Katy and I went back to the Gothic Cathedral in the morning, for another look around. We also went to the Museu Diocesa de Barcelona, a very interesting museum with a mix of old and new architecture. The collections included more than twenty centuries of art and history, including the only scale model of the first church of Gaudi. In the afternoon the four of took a taxi to Montjuic. We took the cable car to the 700ft peak of this local hill, and enjoyed an al fresco lunch. After looking at the castle, standing on the bluff, we made our way back down the hill, pausing to admire the views. Along the way were gardens, waterfalls, and sculptures, all set in an oasis of natural calm. We rested for a while on the steps of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, and listened to a guitarist playing Spanish flamenco music in the afternoon sun. We carried on walking till we arrived at Poble Espanyol, which is Barcelona’s “Spanish Village”, a remarkable showcase of regional architectural styles. The 115 life-sizes reproductions of buildings, clustered around 6 squares and 5 miles of streets, form an authentic village, with bars, restaurants, shops, museums and entertainment. Rob and I listened to commentary of Rob’s horse, Good Effect, running at Wolverhampton, on his mobile phone. Unfortunately, it finished last. We enjoyed a fine meal at one of the village’s many restaurants, before making our way back to the Placa de la Font Magica. This Magic Fountain is a spectacular display of colour, light, motion, music and water acrobatics, and is truly magical. Without doubt, one of the biggest and best highlights of the week.

Friday 18 Sep

Katy & I strolled around Barri Gotic after breakfast at an out of the way café. We were looking for the Museu Frederic Mares. We kept walking round in circles, and almost gave up, but eventually we found it tucked away down an alleyway, near to the Cathedral. The museum was worth the wait, and was a veritable treasure trove of familiar and unusual objects. The highlight was the great collection of collections, with items such as fans, pipes, watches, jewellery, toys, keys, pharmacy bottles, cigarette cards, and much more. The museum was very quiet and was a fascinating place to while away the morning. As well as the Mares collections, there was also a fabulous exhibition of sculptures by the Spanish artist Antoni Sola. After a sandwich we walked to the Parc de la Ciutadella, a delightful walled park, close to the waterfront. The park was a haven of shade and tranquillity, and was a great place to rest and relax on a hot Spanish afternoon. The main showpiece of the park is the Font Monumental, a huge neoclassical-style fountain, smothered in allegorical sculptures. Workers were setting up a stage for a live concert that evening, and we sat in the sunshine, and listened to an African tribal band rehearsing their set. After leaving the park, we made our way to the old port, where Katy looked round the shops in the Maremagnum. While Katy was shopping I sat outside on the marina, and enjoyed ice-cold sangria. In the evening the four of us took a taxi to northern Barcelona, as Rob wanted to treat us all to a special last night meal. The taxi driver got lost, and had to ring the restaurant for directions. After several wrong turns we arrived at Can Travi Nou, an ancient rambling farmhouse clad in bougainvillea and perched high above the city. The dining room was wonderfully rustic, and looked out on a bosky candlelit garden. The food was traditional Catalan, and along with our puddings, we were given a porron of muscatel. A porron is a glass jug with a drinking spout, and we had great fun pouring the sweet wine into each other’s mouths. A great evening, but the best was yet to come. As we were preparing to leave, we heard music coming from the far end of the garden. We went to explore and discovered that Ruth Lorenzo was about to perform. Ruth came fifth in the 2008 X Factor. We stayed for the concert, and were totally blown away by the power of Ruth’s voice. This proved to be one of the week’s highlights, and a fabulous end to our last night in Barcelona.

Saturday 19 Sep

After checking out of the hotel, we went to the market on La Rambla for breakfast. We then went to see Palau Guell, a World Cultural Heritage site, and Antoni Gaudi’s first major architectural project. Although most of the building was closed for renovation, we were able to go down to the basement stables, constructed with bare-brick columns and arches. After a drink at The Old Vic, we strolled down to the harbour. The weather was blazing hot, so we decided to go on a catamaran jazz cruise. We enjoyed a bottle of wine, and a glass of sangria, along with our tapas, whilst listening to a cool saxophonist. There was a party atmosphere on the boat, and this proved to be a great way to spend our final day in Barcelona. After the cruise we enjoyed dinner at a harbour side restaurant. We ambled back up La Rambla, and collected our luggage from the hotel, and headed off to the Placa de Catalunya to catch the Aerobus back to the airport. We flew back to Luton airport, and were back at Rob’s house before midnight.

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