For the long Memorial Day weekend, we decided to grab some friends and head to BARCELONA!
Okay, so really we went because the tickets were 9 Euros per person each way. What?! There was no turning that down.
Side note: we all got the platinum card from American Express which includes membership to priority pass lounges in airports. SO worth taking the time to get the card and signing up for all the perks. Active duty military and their spouses can get the annual fee waived so its FREE. The Naples airport has a lounge that was decent-free wine, fresh fruit, some packaged snacks to grab for the plane, and various pastries. They also had a shower and areas to lounge around while we waited for our flight. We stopped in one of the lounges in the Barcelona airport on our return and it was even more fabulous…tons of food, a full bar, coffee, sleep areas, and tons of cushy chairs.
Now to the main event-our time in Barcelona!
The weekend started with a Cabify ride to Las Ramblas. Cabify is pretty much like Uber. You can download the app and request rides from hired drivers and then pay with credit card from your phone. It may even be better than Uber because all the cars are company owned so they are new and nice, there is free wifi inside the cars, and each driver offered us bottled water for our rides. Uber isn’t allowed in Barcelona so it was a wonderfully convenient option when we didn’t want to take the metro a.k.a. we weren't in the mood to fight off pick-pocketers.
Las Ramblas is the main pedestrian street that runs through the center of the city and ends at the port.
It was full of vendors, cafes, tourists, and pick-pocketers! I would still recommend walking it, but keep your bags very tight to your body and always be aware of your surroundings. The thieves are rampant in this city.
At the end of Las Ramblas is Monument a Colom, or the Christopher Columbus monument, which is the start of the port. From there, the beach known as Barceloneta is a short walk. We stopped for lunch at one of the little restaurants near the beach and tasted our first paella. Paella is a Spanish rice and seafood dish. So good. I am mad at myself for only having paella once while in Spain! Until I return, Dear paella. To accompany our meal, we had the obvious drink of choice in Spain: SANGRIA! Not going to lie, our server totally gave us bottled sangria and we were severely disappointed. The only logical way to solve this problem was to immediately stroll over to another beach bar and sample their sangria. Actually, we tried sangria everywhere we went so that we could figure out who served it best. Man, I do such important work sometimes.
Besides the delicious paella, we tried lots of amazing tapas one night at a restaurant called Ultramarinos and ate super authentic Catalan food at a spot near Sagrada Familia called A Angelo Marcelo. Highly recommend both places. Their sangrias were the best by the way.
There is a fairy bar called El Bosc de les Fades that is unlike any place I’ve ever been. Our waiter at Ultramarinos told us it was “full of spooky corners” and he was right. Another awesome spot is called Bobby’s Free and it is actually a speakeasy with the front of a Barber Shop. Apparently, they used to actually cut hair in it, but they had to stop due to not having the license to cut hair and serve drinks at the same time! Regardless, it is pretty cool to walk in and give the password (hint: its on their facebook page, so exclusive) and then see the wall open up in front of you.
The drinks and food in Barcelona were great, but the best part of the city for me was Sagrada Familia.
We got the audio tour + tower tickets and they did not disappoint. This church is just breathtaking and almost brought me to tears. It is so incredibly detailed and every inch is symbolic and has a meaning. The audio tour was absolutely necessary to reveal all of the symbolism around. I wanted to grab a pillow and lie down on the floor to stare up at the ceiling for the rest of the day. It is so, so beautiful. For the tower tour, you get to choose 1 of 2 towers. I chose Passion tower for us just because it was the tallest and I figured taller=better views. You are required to go up in an elevator because it is too many steps to walk up, but the way down is just you and the stairs. Not just any staircase, but a very narrow winding spiral staircase with a view through the middle of the ground far below. There is a warning posted that the tower tour is not suitable for people who get dizzy and this is why (also, not suitable for anyone afraid of heights obvi). Make sure you buy tickets online ahead of time because they DO sell out. Worth every penny!
Other highlights of the city were La Bouqueria market, Park Guell, and the Montjuic Magic Fountain show:
La Bouqueria is a bustling covered space near Ramblas with vendors selling fresh fruit, smoothies, meats, spices, gummy candy, chocolate, cheeses, and more. It is an experience and a must-do in Barcelona. If only for the delicious photos of the gummies.
Park Guell has a free area and a paid area. We visited on a whim so we decided not to buy entrance to the paid area. I can’t say if it is worth it to pay for that section, but it seemed to have more of the Gaudi architecture. We had a great time just walking around the free part, seeing the great views of the city, and being entertained by quirky musicians. It is actually a huge park so wear comfy shoes if you visit and bring a bottle of water. Not a bad idea to have your camera charged so you can document said musicians. See: Meow man. He is on youtube. Don't watch it at work.
Ahhh the fountain show. So amazing! It only plays on certain nights of the week, so plan accordingly. It was very crowded when we went, but if you brave the side of the fountain that blows water on you, you’ll have a front row space to stand. We walked up the many stairs to the top of Montjuic once the show was nearly over and there are lovely views from up there too. So much to do on Montjuic that will have to wait for next time-maybe when Sagrada Familia is finished being built we will return!
We also got free entry to the Picasso museum. Yay for Sundays! You do have to book your time slot online in advance or you will be standing in line for HOURS and may not get any tickets at all. No photos were allowed inside, so you'll just have to use your imagination.
All in all, Barcelona had much to offer and many unique gems.
The pick-pocketers were absolutely everywhere which was a bit stressful, but as long as you keep common sense and are aware of the problem there you will be fine. Make dinner reservations far in advance because the best restaurants book up quickly. Taste the tapas, sangria, jamon, and paella. And last but not least, take a tour of Sagrada Familia!
Ciao Bellas & Bellos xoxo,