Where O Where is the first stop for this European traveler? As you may have guessed from the title, Spain seemed like a good pick, right on the cusp of summer. Just an hour and a half flight from Italy it seemed the perfect distance for the 4 day Memorial Weekend.
One of the guys that I met in a Navy class in Newport decided to join me and learning the history of the city was a priority among a few other things… [try paella, drink sangria, party the night away at a beach club], apparently the night scene here is very chic, very fresh.
We flew in on Friday afternoon using Ryan Air. Its the cheapest way to travel around Europe. I used skyscanner.com to find the tickets and for just $220 round trip on short notice, we were in business.
Because Ryan Air is so cheap when flying, they WILL nickel and dime you for almost everything, from picking your seat when you check in (10 euro), to not having your boarding pass printed out before arriving at the airport (70 euro), to a glass of water (3 euro). Prepare for this and you’ll be fine, we managed to evade all of the extra fees. sheesh.
As soon as we arrived in Barcelona we took a taxi to our hotel which was approximately 9 euros away. No matter what you do here, its very likely you will be ripped off. This cost us about 40 euros and I saw him manually add 15 euros at the end. When I tried to question it there was nothing I could do. He pretended not to speak english and we had to pay. We met 2 sisters from Holland who said the same thing.
While in Barcelona I learned quite a few things, 7 of which stood out to me. Originally when I decided on Barcelona 3 days before leaving, I put a few feelers out on twitter for some ideas and was actually met with quite a bit of response. @BCN_help even friended me and I was sent links for the top 10 tapas bars and restaurants. With all of the things we ended up doing, I decided to compile a small list of things that really fascinated me about Barcelona.
1. A Double Decker Bus Tour is the best way to really see the city and hear some interesting facts (most tours have audio in over 12 languages)
This was absolutely the best choice to see the entire city. Barcelona is quite vast, but chalk full of historical and artistic sites. Spread out in all directions, we utilized the red and blue bus lines the tour offered, each line takes about 2 hours, and that’s only get off at a few of the places! Like I said, Barcelona is a BIG city with many historical sites. The tour also offered a green line which was an extra 45 minutes, we just didn’t have time for that one.
We arrived in Barcelona right at the start of the peak season so it was crowded but not overly so. As the summer months arrive, Barcelona will be teaming with tourists from all around the world.
For 27 euro, you can get on and off as many stops as you want the whole day, which is how we enjoyed ourselves, hopping on and off the buses. They run until 2000, so we even used it later to get from our hotel down to the port (would have been a 35 minute walk) and didn’t have to pay for a cab, ;).
While on board the bus we saw museums, cathedrals, the main building for the 1992 olympics, the Gothic Quarter, the Port Olympic, the Football stadium, and we even got off at one of the stops to ride a gondola up and over the city for a birds eye view! Beautiful.
I did not realize until visiting that this was the spot for the 1992 Olympics. As a child the Olympics have always seemed an unreality, a dream, a place where people compete in summer and winter games in a far off land.
It wasn’t until this past year for Sochi 2014 that I brought the idea of the Olympics down to my level and actually tried to go! Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, but seeing all of the buildings for the Olympics in Barcelona was a close second. I must attend events at a future olympics, it just made the bucket list! (My sister and I are thinking of meeting in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics!)
Made to look like a propeller, this is where the eternal flame burned during the 1992 Olympic games.
We were able to see the “American Village” and even all 169 flag poles that they used to hang every country flag on during the games. In today’s world, “American Village” is apartments and the 2 sky scrapers that were built for the games are a hotel and office buildings.
3. La Sagrada Familia IS all its cracked up to be and very worth the visit. (Tickets in advance are a must!)
If you aren’t crazy about art like myself, then you might not know that Gaudi had a HUGE influence in Barcelona back in 1883 when he was at the peak of his creative career. His last project, the Sagrada Familia became his very sustenance for life and it was the project that he threw his heart and soul into until he passed away in 1926, only seeing the church 1/4 of the way completed. This cathedral has been under construction for the past 131 years, the pace of which now relies on the donations of the community and the tourists that come to visit every year. They say it won’t be complete until 2026 a century after Gaudi’s death. It is quite the marvel.
On Sunday after a little R&R we were out and about and this time with a specific area in mind. Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, an area right by Port Olympic that is full to bursting with gothic style buildings, which are very picturesque. At the La Seu cathedral a band was set up and a lively group of men and women joined together for a traditional dance. It was a great atmosphere and I was glad to be a part of it. One day, I aspire to be that lively in my old age.
5. The Beaches & Seafood are to die for.
The dish below is called “La zarzuela”, a mixture of, halibut, monkfish, prawns, squid, and mussels. So delicious, the flavors are impossible to explain.
We ate lunch at the “Port Olympic” and then strolled along the beach having drinks and enjoying the sunshine. I got a lil burned which is nothing new. At night when the restaurants close down, the partygoers take to the streets. On both Saturday and Sunday we started our party at 0100 and didn’t get back to the hotel until around 6 in the mornin. It was exhausting work to party all night but was well worth the late hours for some good old fashioned dancing fun.
On the second night we met some awesome sisters from Holland which reminded me of how much fun I had with my sister in Japan. They were a breath of fresh air, awesome to talk to, and great fun while dancing. I don’t know, a Holland trip seems like it might be right around the corner?!?
6. Paella Paella Paella. Enough Said.
If its your first time visiting Spain, like mine, then you have to try one of the most flavorful and easy to make dishes called Paella. A mixture of rich spices and whatever your heart desires (within reason) (this ones meat) Paella is very affordable and a very appetizing dish.
7. A Gondala ride over the city is the best way to get a GREAT VIEW!
As we rode around the city taking in all of the historical sites we stopped at one spot and saw a gondola making its way up to get a full view of the city. I looked at K and exclaimed, “Let’s!” and he just smiled and then we jumped off the bus at the last minute as it pulled away from the stop. Inside the Gondola you can see out over the entire city and it is a very bold city and quite vast. Hard to get it all in just one picture!
Do you have anything to add? There’s so much to see and do in Barcelona I’m sure I missed 50000000000 things. If you have any other tricks or tips for this city, please share below!
This article appeared first on Dynamic Soarer