20 Reviews

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November, 2015

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My 60th birthday present from my partner turned out to be a lovely surprise, a four-day trip to Barcelona.

Not only did we swap the UK’s chilly November weather for blue sky and sunshine, we also discovered a buzzing yet laid-back city, with friendly natives, fantastic public transport and so much to see and do.

Terry, my partner, had booked us an apartment in the Old Town, which turned out to be perfect: corner shops and the massive Mercado de Santa Caterina were on the doorstep, the harbour but a short stroll away to the south, and the middle of the city the same to the north. The only downside was the 71 very steep and narrow steps to our ‘home’ – but that simply meant we weren’t nipping out to the shops every 10 minutes.

We were thoroughly spoilt for choice. One reason for going to Barcelona was to see Gaudi’s architecture so our first call was to the Tourist Information office in Placa de Catalunya to book tickets and buy transport passes (we got the three-day pass for buses and the Metro which turned out to be great value and very useful).

First stop was the Sagrada Familia, the iconic cathedral designed by Gaudi and still being built. Neither of us are remotely religious but this was simply stunning – what a cathedral should be. It was full of light and colour, amazing considering its foundation stone was laid over 100 years ago, and an absolute inspiration. Buy a ticket to beat the queues and enjoy an incredible experience.

We then hopped on a bus to the Park Guell, home to modernist buildings and Gaudi’s famous salamander. Again, buying tickets in advance beat the queues and we were able to wander and enjoy fantastic views at our leisure.

I’m not sure that I’d recommend the Castell de Montjuic, although the journey (you have a choice of bus, cable car or walking) there was spectacular – rather spend your time wandering the city and its markets (the Christmas market, the Fira de Santa Lucia, was in full swing, full of life, very noisy, great fun). We were out at all times of the day and night, and never felt anything less than welcome, and we quickly discovered that there are just too many museums and ancient buildings to take in: a return visit is a must!

Eating in restaurants in the centre was pricey, but there were plenty of stalls and small shops selling snacks to keep us going. And our best meal was on my birthday, when we discovered a tiny Argentinian restaurant on a side street near the harbour: the menu was steak with chips, steak with mashed potato and steak with salad, but it was absolute perfection.

All in all, a wonderful city, amazing sights, and a lovely climate. I shall return!

Jane Leigh

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