I have longed to visit Spain ever since I was a teenager learning the Spanish language in school. As a young girl, my grandparents would bring me dolls dressed in native costumes from their travels. The colors in the fabrics of my Spanish flamenco dance doll intrigued me.
We visited Barcelona for a brief, three-night visit post Greek cruise recently. Of our large cruise group (83!), 34 decided to follow Dan and I to this colorful, fascinating city. We returned at the end of September, 2022, and this is our story.
The flight, a 2-hour non-stop from Athens on Vueling, was about 45 minutes late departing. Yes, post covid travel has messed with the airlines. Nearly every company is struggling with not enough staff, fewer pilots, and aging aircraft. I arranged our hotel and our full day tour with Europe Express to package with the air, and that went pretty well. Their internal group support is quite good, and the local companies and guides did a solid job for us overall. I will share that the buses were clean and nice, drivers courteous, and for the most part things went smoothly. The guide who greeted us in the airport had stepped in last minute, and I will share that he must have had something important to do that evening, as he led us to the lobby and high-tailed it outta there pretty quickly!
Dropping us at the curb around the corner from the lobby of the H-10 Marina hotel was a little lame and inconvenient with all our luggage. Of course, we couldn’t know that the bus could have backed up right at the front door as they did for our departure 3 days later. I was also disappointed that no one from Europe Express contacted me to do a briefing after our travels. That is a thumbs down for me.
But I digress, as you are wanting more about this gorgeous city, Barcelona. I loved the location of our hotel, which was built for the Barcelona Olympics (1992) on the outskirts of the village for the athletes. Just down the street is the man-made beach, which is really wonderful. Yummy restaurants line the streets, it is a short walk from the hotel to the station Placa Catalonia. There is also a lovely park nearby. We happened to visit the city during the biggest weekend celebration of the year, the Barcelona patron saint (Sant Jordi) festival. There were fireworks every night at ten to celebrate the festival down by the harbor. Yes, they love their parties.
The H-10 Marina hotel was lovely, staff helpful, and the bar and restaurant were top notch. I seriously don’t think I have ever had such a fantastic, bountiful breakfast buffet included in a hotel stay. It was a large, bright, lovely room on the lower level below the lobby/bar area. The rooms were modern and the beds and bathrooms very comfortable. You can be sure to have a nice stay if you choose this property. It would be a 20-minute walk or so to the historic center of Las Ramblas, and about 15 minutes to la Familia Sagrada. We loved the area up on 8 with a pool and bar, but alas it never had a bar tender. Was fun to gather here with any bottle we bought ourselves during our trip, though. Great views of the Olympic village and the sea in the distance (10-minute walk).
The restaurant around the corner, Cacho, served fresh, healthy food and had a comfortable ambiance. We think you will enjoy if you dine in the area. We had a lot of fun dining at a hip club/restaurant near the beach on a festival weekend. the young ladies came in dressed to the nines that Sunday evening, ready for dancing later. There was a table to about 15 good looking men dining when we arrived, and later they scattered around to speak to the ladies…fascinating to watch that!
On the morning after we arrived, I led a group walking to the nearest train station so we could travel to the Penedes winery region for a biking excursion to an organic winery that is definitely up and coming. We learned the entire region is in the middle of a sort of wine renaissance, having created a “stamp of approval, so to speak, for those wines being crafted organically and sustainably. The science behind their progress was fascinating. The biking company to rent electric-assist bikes for your excursion is Bike Motions, located at the station Lavern-Subirats. The winery we visited was Albet i Noya. Our luncheon was deliciosa, as were all the wines we tasted! Our guide was great at helping those uncomfy with an E-bike to initiating those who had never ridden an E-bike. It is certainly a great way to explore this beautiful area. For timing purposes, plan on the train taking an hour, the excursion about 4-5 hours, depending on the route and efficiency of riders. we did have two opt out to ride in the support vehicle, and three more rode down after drinking some vino. Giggle.
On our final day in Barcelona, we arranged a full-day tour of the city which included a stop at the lovely Gaudi Park Guell. This is a must-see, and best visited with a guide. (Lots of stairs, so it is not particularly friendly for those who are physically challenged). You must also have a timed entry to La Familia Sagrada, the amazing architectural wonder not to be missed. Goodness, this unfinished church leaves you with an inability to describe it adequately. In one sentence? The building is a collection of thousands of pieces of artful eye candy that causes your entire being to smile. It is seriously that mind-blowing. Makes you wonder a little bit what Mr. Gaudi’s drug of choice was. Grin. Scroll down for more photos of this magnificent building.
We had a nice, if a bit expensive, lunch at Els Porxos restaurant across the street after our tour, complete with a bottle of nice wine. We dined early, so no competition from the many tourists around the church that day, which was nice. The afternoon had our guide walking us around a Gothic area of Barcelona. We saw an Italian influence mixed with Baroque, Modernist, Renaissance and Gothic. If architecture interests you, you must put Barcelona on your bucket list, for sure.
Three nights and two days was not enough for me. We will visit again when I plan to explore more of Spain. The north mountains beckon me for hiking, Madrid calls, along with Toledo and south to the island of Majorca. Of course, while there I must go a bit further west to visit Portugal.
My final observation/revelation? Every country I visit causes me to add yet another place on this beautiful earth to explore. While the draw is many times the landscape, I find the people, food and culture to be what intrigues me most in the end. I do wish sometimes for the ability to stay in one country or place long enough to make lasting friendships, you know? Sigh. I continue to work full-time helping others travel the world and create lasting memories. This is my purpose and my joy. I am grateful for the chance to make a difference.
Enjoy this kaleidoscope of images from our brief stay in Barcelona. Visit soon!