Barcelona has been on my bucket list for a while. I’m sure I saw images of the stunning Gaudi buildings when I was doing art at school. For the last 3 months, I have been based in Spain. So I thought I would make the most of my location and do some exploring before heading home.
On Friday 19th April I planned to meet my parents in the city of Barcelona for a weeks holiday. Here is how the week went.
Friday 19th April
I woke up for my last morning in Javea. I had plenty of time but still got up early so I could have a good breakfast. I packed up the last of my stuff said my goodbyes to Lea, my landlady. Outside Andy and Deborah met me to take me to the station. Deborah and her daughter Lizzie planned to travel to Valencia with me. They were going to have a nice weekend away as well. Andy dropped us off and said goodbye before we boarded a coach to Valencia. The weather was not great when we left but it did not get better on the hour or so journey north.
When we arrived in Valencia the weather was still rubbish. It was pissing it down with rain as I lugged my suitcase to the train station across the road. When we got inside the station there was a rather large and unorganised queue. With only about 20 minutes between arriving and the train due to leave I was panicking about getting there on time. When I got through security I ran to the carriage, which seemed to be the furthest away from where I was. Unfortunately, I lost some belongings from the top of my poorly packed bag in the rush to get on the train.
The train was comfortable and I had quite a relaxing journey for a few hours up to Barcelona. There were some great views as I travelled along the east coast very close to the sea at times. Luckily the further I travelled from Valencia the better the weather got and by the time I got to Barcelona it was dry and the sun was peering through the clouds.
Outside the train station, it was very easy to find the taxi stop and get a taxi to the hotel. I had the address written down on a bit of paper. Always prepared! But the taxi driver seemed to drop me outside any old hotel on the right street. So with a really heavy suitcase, backpack and handbag I traipsed up and down the street looking for the hotel. When finally I found it, it didn’t look like much. There was scaffolding around the door and I was a bit anxious about going in. So I found a bench across the road and waited on the arrival of my parents. I didn’t have my kindle out for long before mum and dad turned up in a taxi behind me.
It was great to see them both and have a hug and start catching up on the last 3 months. Mum had codes to get into the hotel but with no lift, it was a struggle up the stairs. The inside of the hotel was quite beautiful, high ceilings, modern and tastefully decorated. After a quick check-in, we got into our room. It was lovely and clean and modern with a wall of sliding patio doors out onto a shared balcony.
We made the most of a short rest in the hotel and unpacking a little before heading out to explore the city and find food. Not far from the hotel was the Sagrada Familia. On our route to find food we stopped for a good look around. We made sure we got some pictures here.
Heading north we found a bar/restaurant offering a mixture of traditional Spanish food with some Mexican thrown in. The decor was a bit odd mostly Egyptian style decoration with a mummy in the corner. The waiter was polite and the food was good. We had a couple of paellas between us which were quite filling but just what we needed.
After a long day of travelling for all of us, we were all tired so had an early night.
Saturday 20th April
We did not have bed and breast with our hotel booking so we ventured out to find food quite early in the morning. Unfortunately, not a lot was open at the time we wanted breakfast so we had a bit of a wait. Breakfast was basic but what we needed. Our plan for today was to see as much of the city as possible. We signed up for a hop on hop off bus tour of the city.
The company we chose offered two routes both taking about 2 hours. We started on the Green route which took us south to the coast and in a loop around the East of the city. We saw sights such as Port Vale, the local beach and the old Olympic village. We only hopped off at one of the stops on the route which was Park Guell.
This is the location of the famous mosaic wall and Gaudi’s house. It was quite an uphill trek from the bus drop off spot. When we reached the park we were reluctant to pay anything for entrance. We ended up walking around the parks free areas getting some stunning views of the city rather than going into the area with the mosaic wall. As we passed some of the ticket areas we realised the tickets were sold out for the paid areas anyway. So we had a good look around and then headed back to the bus.
Our next stop was back at the central plaza where we caught the bus and we then went on the hunt for food. Not far from the centre we found a nice looking organic restaurant which seemed to go back forever. I had a really nice salmon burger with guacamole it was really good and mum and dad enjoyed theirs too.
The weather had not been great so far, it was cold and windy with the odd shower and it didn’t get much better as the day went on. But we still hopped on the top deck of the orange route bus to see the western side of the city, including the Olympic stadium and some of the more modern areas of the city.
Having been out in the cold, wind and rain all day we decided we needed a warming curry for dinner. We used google maps to find a local curry house. Our criteria was good reviews, open now and not too far away. It didn’t look like much from the outside but the food was delicious and just what we needed to warm up.
Sunday 21st April
This morning we wanted to try somewhere different for breakfast so went to a brunch place just around the corner. The menu was what I would call pretentious food and nothing stood out as being what I would really fancy. I was more about finding something I could tolerate than choosing the tastiest dish. I went for a smoothie bowl, with bananas, goji berries, peanut butter and homemade granola. It sounded alright.
When the meal came out it was massive, a huge bowl of blue mush with a plop of peanut butter on the side and a fan of banana slices. It tasted quite nice and fruity for the first 20 or so mouth full’s, but it was so huge the flavour started to get boring and in the end, I had to leave a lot of the bowel uneaten. I hate wasting food so this was not a good start to the day.
After a quick freshen up at the hotel we set off on another day of walking around the city. We pretty much walked the entire green route we had travelled the day before on the bus. Seeing some of the sites in a bit more detail was cool. By dinner time we were absolutely starving having walked over 30,000 steps. We decided on a steak restaurant so dad found one with some good reviews and we walked a bit further to find it.
It was delicious. Service was good and the quality of the steak was very good. Mum is not really a steak lover, having had some bad steak experiences as a child, but I think even she liked this one. By the time we got back to the hotel my feet were killing, I was ready for a good nights sleep.
Monday 22nd April
This morning we had a normal breakfast, no massive fruit messes. After a day of walking yesterday we decided we wanted more. This time we basically walked the orange route we had been on the bus a couple of days before.
We walked past the bull ring that had been converted into a shopping centre. Continuing along to the MNAC and around all the Olympic stadiums and diving pools etc. We took a cable car up the mountain to a castle which had some lovely views out over a different part of the coast which we had not previously seen. As the holiday progress, the weather got better so we did manage to see a bit more of our surroundings than we had at the start.
For lunch we ate in Udon at the shopping centre. Udon is kind of like Wagamama’s, the restaurant is laid out in a similar way with the long tables, the seats were not the most comfortable and dad got injured on one of them, but service was fast and the food, as in Wagga’s, was delicious. After lunch, we continued walking around seeing sights we had briefly seen on the bus.
Dinner this evening I think was dads choice, he was after a Thai, so again we search on google for the best rated and followed the map. We were quite tired from all the walking we had been doing so we start looking for food quite early on. The restaurant we were aiming for didn’t open until 8 pm which for us to eat is quite late. We ended up arriving about 5 minutes before and standing outside waiting like losers. When we were let in the floors were freshly mopped. Lucky as we entered there was another couple (English) who came in as well so we felt a bit better about being early.
We went for the set menu option as it was reasonably priced and there were things on the menu that looked alright. I am not a massive fan of Thai food, I don’t mind it, but I would have Indian every day of the week over Thai. For me, it’s quite similar to Chinese which I do not like. As it turned out I quite enjoyed the meal. Dad, ironically, didn’t reckon much on it. I think he would have preferred to not have had the set menu so he could have chosen more dishes. He will normally have a couple of mains and side dishes when we have wagamamas and Chinese etc.
Tuesday 23rd April
Today we walked to Tibidabo. We set off from the hotel in the pissing rain, it was not ideal and after a few days of walking already I really wasn’t in the mood to do more. But as we climbed higher up the mountain out of the city the weather got a lot better and we were soon stripped down to t-shirts, having left with multiple layers and raincoats. Tibidabo is a mountain just on the outskirts of Barcelona, with apparently some great views and a theme park. Theme parks are not our thing but we could see a big church and thought the views might be worth a look.
We walked for miles up the side of the mountain and then arrived at a funicular railway which took us the rest of the way up to the theme park. There were some lovely views which we were able to see some of in the still slightly cloudy misty weather. The theme park was odd and kinda creepy. I think it was out of season so there were not many people there but there were still people using some of the rides. We did not participate. There was a big basilica which we had a bit of a nose around before setting off back down the mountain on the cable car. We then walked back down the rest of the mountain, through the city almost to the centre again for a tapas lunch. Having almost lived off tapas for the last three months I had been avoiding it a bit, but this one was really yummy. The weather had really improved as well and it was now really warm.
We decided to enjoy the warm weather and head back down to the port. Mum’s back was hurting and my feet were hurting from all the walking so we sat on a bench to watch the world go by. I fell asleep. I hate having an afternoon nap. I always seem to need them after eating a lot at lunch but the feeling of waking up from them is disgusting and it takes a while for me to get back to normal. We were not quite sure what to do next, we had seen and done most of the city now and we still had a few more days to go. Taking it slow we continued walking around the port and marina area. The streets were filled with people illegally selling knock off crap on sheets, everywhere you looked they were filling the pavements with their rubbish.
As we walked around the port we came across another sunny comfy looking place to sit down on a wall so we stopped to chill there for a while. We all quite enjoy people watching so this was a good place to sit. After I had completely scorched my face in the sun we walked around some more before finding dinner. A cute little Italian style restaurant. A lot of the menu’s in the area were the same, the same tapas dishes, this one had the same dishes with the addition of some pasta. So I had spaghetti and meatballs even though I wasn’t that hungry I ate the lot.
Dad tried a white Sangria in the steak restaurant as he had seen one being made and really liked it so he had a couple more tonight. This lead to a quiet tiddled dad navigating us back to the hotel.
Wednesday 24th April
It was another quite nice day today, we had booked the wine tour for tomorrow as it looked like the rest of the week was going to be rubbish and that would be the best day, but the forecast kept changing. So again we went out for another day of walking around the city. Today we walked the opposite direction to what we have done before, heading away from the gothic quarter to the more modern part of the city. We went via the old bullring, which seems to be unused but it quite a cool building to look at.
We thought we would go into one of the big shopping centres for a wander around. This was my suggestion as there was not a lot else of Barcelona that we hadn’t seen yet. Mum and I went on a shopping spree while dad sat in Starbucks and played on his phone. Around lunchtime, we returned to dad empty-handed. This is usually how our shopping trips go, but we had enjoyed having a look around.
Starbucks happened to be right next door to an Udon. I thought that if we left the shopping centre looking for food I would get hangry walking around for ages so we ate in the Udon. We then walked it off on a blustery stroll along the beach. We had ended up at the beach a couple of times on previous days but today we pretty much walked the entire length of the coast that you can see from the port. So we walked past the modern buildings back towards the port. By the time we reached the boats my feet were absolutely killing, I did not want to walk another step so we stopped in another great people watching spot to chill.
For dinner, we walked back into the gothic quarter with no real aim or cuisine in mind and came across a nice looking fish restaurant. it was absolutely dead inside so we were not sure what we were going to get, but it turned out to be one of the best meals of the holiday. I had a tuna fish steak with vegetables and it was cooked to perfection. Mum really enjoyed her meal too, Dad wasn’t so sure I think would have enjoyed it more had he gone for something different. But he ended up having two puddings so he seemed happy enough. The service was excellent, the staff were so helpful even bringing out a tray with all the deserts on for dad to see and pick what he wanted.
Throughout today I was dipping in and out of listening to various podcasts. I listen mainly to Australian Entrepreneurs like Erin May Henry and Ruby Lee, talking all things business, mindset and personal branding. I also listened to a few Gary Vee episodes. They are really quite inspiring some of the people they get to talk to are really cool. So I started to feel a lot more inspired and pumped up about the prospect of working whilst in Australia and the idea of going freelance or starting my own business.
Thursday 25th April
Today was a day we had been looking forward to all week, the Montserrat Basilica & Wine Tasting Tour. Unfortunately, as expected when we woke up the weather was crap, overcast and drizzling with rain. We had to get up pretty early to meet the tour leaders in the central area of Barcelona. We stood outside the Hard Rock Cafe waiting for our guides to show themselves by lifting the pink umbrella. There were quite a few people around by the time the umbrella was lifted, we were then sorted into smaller teams, introduced to our guide and headed onto a coach.
The coach was nice, clean and comfy. As we set off one of the guides stood up and introduced himself. the coach contained a few of the smaller groups along with their guides. He explained how the day was going to pan out, we were off to the monastery first for a guided tour followed by some free time to explore. Then we would be getting back on the coach to be taking to the vineyard for wine tasting. The journey out of the city would be taking about an hour and for the first part of it, the tour guide told us the history of the city.
It was a very interesting story told really well. I’m not that fussed on history but the guide made it fun and before we knew it his story was over and we were left to chill for the rest of the journey. I got stuck into another podcast series. Having listened to a guest interview on one of Erin’s podcasts with Sam Laura Brown I realised I was a perfectionist and lot of what she was saying resonated with me so I subscribed to her podcast as well and started listening to them on this trip.
As we got out of the city and headed further into the mountains the weather got progressively worse. As we got closer to the top, more of our view was obscured by clouds. Our tour guide started talking again to tells us stories about the mountain and the legend of the black Madonna. Again more interesting stuff told well.
When we arrived at the monastery we were literally in a big cloud. it was also pretty chilly. We were guided from the bus along a walkway and as we passed through it the cloud started to break and we got a glimpse of what could be a stunning view on a clear day. We then got a guided tour of the area surrounding the monastery and were allowed inside the basilica. It was all pretty grand. Our tour guide Xavia was excellent. We learnt so much about the history and traditions of the monastery and of Catalonia.
After our tour we were free to explore on our own, there were museum type areas with digital displays showing more of the history or we could walk up to a cross which had stunning views out over the valley. So as the weather was still drizzly and freezing cold we decided we would do the hike up the cross and freeze even more.
It was about a 20-minute walk so not too far really, and the cloud did start to lift so we could still see some of the views which I bet really are stunning on a good day. After two minutes taking pictures of clouds, we headed back down the hill to find some food as we were not sure how much we would be getting with the wine later on.
The tour group gathered and headed back to the coach for another journey onto the vineyard. It wasn’t as far, about half an hour from the monastery. With some nice view. As the day was progressing the weather was getting better. We could see as we drove away from the mountain why it was named Montserrat (serrated mountain) with the jagged rock formation.
Arriving at the vineyard we split off into our groups again for the food and wine followed by a tour of the castle. I think it was a little castle, It was very pretty. The vineyard is a family owned private vineyard that has been in the family for generations. We learned all about how they grow the grapes etc as we sat down for our food and wine. We were able to try 3 wines, one white and two red. I learned a lot about wine which I didn’t already know and tried red that I thought was actually ok.
Normally I am not that keen on red, but after having one glass of white I was up for trying anything. Mum really enjoyed this bit as she works on a vineyard as a gardener, although she doesn’t work with the wine she has to learn about it anyway, so she had a lot to discuss with our guide.
After food, we had a tour where we were told more about the vineyard and how it all operates and how the wine is made. As we were heading back to the coach for the journey back to Barcelona the sun came out and we were able to defrost a bit. It was a shame the weather had not been great, but the tour was excellent. The guides were really good, funny and really informative. The wine and food were good too.
We arrived back in Barcelona mid-afternoon and headed back to the hotel to pack our cases ready for the next day. Dad wanted to see the market in action so we walked through La Rambla to the have a look at that, I didn’t really like it. Too many people crammed in a small space, dad bought a few bits though. We opted for Indian again tonight. Easy choice nice and filling after quite a small although yummy lunch.
We went on the hunt for some ice cream after dinner. There was a place along La Rambla we found that had really delicious looking ice cream, so I had classic vanilla and strawberry. Dad opted for a bubble waffle with all kinds of delights inside. These bubble waffles were something, mum, dad and Jess had discovered on a holiday to Hong Kong and they hadn’t seen them anywhere else. Until now!
Friday 26th April
Today we got up a similar time to yesterday. A little bit earlier than usual. We had bought some fruit at the market yesterday so we had something to keep us going until we got to the airport. At the airport, we were sustained by Pringles and Kitkats.
Overall despite the weather, we had a good time in Barcelona. There is quite a lot to see and if you like walking you can do most of it on foot. I think doing the bus tour on day one was a good idea as we were able to get our bearings and make sure we saw the important things. I would love to go back one day in the sun, for a more chilled holiday. Maybe I could arrive on one of the posh boats we saw in the marina. A girl can dream right!