City Breaking in Barcelona
We decided to grab a quick change of scene and escape the relentless wind and rain that has battered the North Cornish coast this winter. Barcelona was the destination we landed on, so with flights booked we set off with Betsy our youngest and our great friends Richard and Liz and their youngest Josephine.
I always struggle when travelling with exactly where to start, I know I’ve read about brilliant places over the past months but because I’m inherently disorganised I never save or file such articles so have to start a fresh each time I go away. A friend of mine suggested that I Google ‘Where do Blogger’s stay in Barcelona’ which is exactly what I did and came up with this brilliant blog by Andre Arriaza.
We chose our hotel on the back of this and it was a total find, the Casa Bonay, located in the L’Eixample district, this gorgeous small hotel was like a cool oasis of brilliance within this stunning city. They had thought of everything, the rooms were simple but comfortable with a well stocked mini bar and an ice bucket – anyone who knows me well will realise that this is probably one of the most important criterea that I look for in a hotel room and there was an ice machine on the 2nd floor corridor to fill up your ice bucket – genius!
Casa Bonay has a super cool bar and lounge area called Libertine, perfect for sipping Cava and watching the world go by, they have a resident DJ in the evenings playing low key, funky house and disco. They also have a brilliant cafe at the front of the hotel which has it’s own coffee roaster, delicious pots of home made granola, cold pressed juices, toasties and pastries. I think I possibly had the best Americano I’ve ever had on Saturday morning, I made the mistake of having another one which meant I was buzzing ALL day!
What to do in Barcelona? Well it’s just such a beautiful, vibrant and culturally rich city which combines amazing architecture with a cool, bohemian laid back vibe and an abundance of mouth watering bars, tapas bars and restaurants, it’s almost impossible to plan your attack! We walked for miles, through the El Born district, past the central Mercat de Santa Caterina, which is one of the main markets and has laden stalls of meat, cheese, nuts, fish, fruit and vegetables. you can pull up a stool and sit at any one of the many bars for a cold beer and a plate of freshly perpared tapas.
We had our trusty Herb Lester - Barcelona at ease guide with us and made a bee line to Cal Pep for lunch on the first day, we weren’t disappointed! Lively, welcoming and fun staff, sit at the bar if you can, we were too big a party so sat in the restaurant which was also fun, delicious Albarino white wine recommended by the waiter and then they just bought us a number of dishes. I love a restaurant where they make the decisions for you, they chose well and didn’t bring us too much. All washed down with a tiny cup of nutty Espresso and a biscotti, I will defintely return.
We meandered down to the sea front and walked all the way along to the beach, we would have rented bikes but couldn’t work out how to!! There are endless banks of city bikes (like the Boris Bike scheme in London) however the instructions are all in Catalan and you had to download an app, even the youth couldn’t work this out so my advice to you would be rent bikes from one of the many bike rental places and have them for the day, it looks like it’s a great way to get around and there are cycle paths everywhere.
We had to see the two main Gaudi masterpieces -the Park Güell and Segrada Familia and were pleasantly surprised at how keen the teenagers were to do both.
Park Güell is based on Carmel Hill, just above the city and is a labrynth of paths and extraordinary Gaudi architecture, we didn’t pay to go into the main built up area of the park as there was a huge queue, but we wandered around the periphery of the park, it has far reaching views of the city and a series of mad viaducts which weave in and around the hillside all constructed with slight irregular brilliance and topped with huge agaves and palm trees.
The La Segrada Familia is in another level, I’ve never been renderd to tears on entering a building before. It is quite the most incredible feat of architecture, vision and overwhelming human brilliance that I’ve ever experienced, we all stood it total silence for nearly an hour, speechless! The scale and detail is almost futuristic, it’s too amazing to begin to describe but if you go to Barcelona you must visit, it’s worth every Euro of the entry fee and we all left feeling pleased that our small donation was going towards completing this building which is one of the true wonders of the world.
With so many guide books and blogs to read I will leave you to make your own food selections, safe in the knowledge that everywhere we stopped whether planned or simply on a whim was consistently good and welcoming. Simply avoid busy touristy areas and you can’t really go wrong. Barcelona is a wonderful city and we’ll be back again soon, the Casa Bonay has a roof top cocktail bar and a small swimming pool which doesn’t open until May so that’s enough of an excuse to get me planning our next trip!