November 2, 2012

Take a holiday in Spain

Often "short holidays" form around a business or conference trip. There are maybe a few days either side, if one is lucky, to take in the highlights of a "conference" destination.
Well in this case, we had literally ½ a day either side, to take in the beautiful city of Barcelona. It was just not enough time to see the splendour of the entire city. Unlike most big cities, Barcelona has a wonderful clean, calm and beautiful atmosphere. There is literally so much to see, and just not enough time.

So what can one see in just a day in Barcelona? Pedro tells us what he managed to experience and see in such a short time...

What to see?
Barcelona is the heart of “Cataluyna”…  a city… and a mosaic that’s pieced together with history, rebellions and art; perfectly framed between mountain and sea. The roads that once carried fables like Antoni Gaudi and Pablo Picasso are attractions on their own. And one does not need to be an art expert to see the influences and parts of the Catalan city that were part of the Art Nouveau art revolution. Inspiration is still here today, although these days the art is made with a football and masters like Messi and Inesta are world renowned, and worth seeing if the opportunity arises.

Parc Guell, is only a 10 minute drive, or €10 by taxi, trip from the City Centre. This public park is a magical world into Gaudi’s imagination, of gardens, dragons and palaces with echoes of one’s own childhood. A must see for all ages, if all you have is 1 hour. The Gaudi Dragon is a must see! And bring your camera, there are great views of the city from the balconies. This is truly a dream world with a gentle breeze.


La Familia Sagrada is Gaudi’s world famous icon that symbolizes the creed of many Spanish Catholics. Each part of the cathedral is an embellishment of a chapter from the holy scriptures and ascension into heaven, a gateway as such. The popularity of this melting giant does mean that you need to plan ahead as the queues are extremely long around the cathedral. We never got to go in as the queue involved a two hour long wait, and a wait inside of another 40 minutes for the lift to the top of the tower. As we only had a few hours, we were not be able to do this. Definitely a trip back with some time to spare and some better planning. The views from outside were still spectacular though. Will this beautiful masterpiece ever be finished though? The Spanish have advised that they predict all the work to be finished on the cathedral around 2026. Wow, a long time to wait! We will have to plan the next trip then.

Casa Batilo is another of Gaudi's architectural displays of art. A frenzy of colour, texture, curves and reflections from today and the early 1900’s. It’s a show piece of a sculpture that is a house.

Once again, a queue to get into the interior of the house involved about a 30 minute wait, at a cost of EUR25.00 per person.  As we had limited time, we once again marvelled at the outside, which is the main attraction, and skipped the interior, but again have added this to the list for a future visit.

Las Ramblas -  With limited time left, we walked down from Casa Batilo to the main plain of Cataluyna, with its fountains and art sculptures. Also a good place to get onto the hop-on, hop-off bus. We then headed  through the world famous Las Ramblas. What a spectacular avenue! One could get lost here for days. If ever there was an avenue to ramble down on a Sunday afternoon, it is definitely Las Rambles.
Throngs of tourists and locals alike frequent this long road, day in and day out. Coffee shops, street vendors, flower sellers, street performers and art works keep company side by side. Side roads pull you in, with markets and beautiful Gothic style architecture. A truly magical place. Sadly, time ran out all too soon. After that, it was a quick taxi trip back to the airport.


Getting around
The taxi ride from the airport to the city is €21, but can vary if after dark or on special festival days.

Inside the city, there are many ways to travel. And if you are adventurous, and at ±€20 a day, bicycles for hire might just be your ride of choice. The bicycle lanes have been incorporated on the streets and roads and are easy to use and follow.

However if you find this eco-travel too mundane there is the option to join the scooter army around the city and fight your way in the traffic with fellow Barcelonans’.

The other option is taking the Barcelona City Bus, also known as the hop-on, hop-off tours, which takes 3 routes around the city, taking about 2 hours and passing almost all the main attractions. The bus costs around about €25 for an adult.

Taxis and car hire are also available as a transport option around the city.

When in Spain.... do as the Spaniards do: Don't leave without trying out Tapas and that famous Paella.

Barcelona, like many other Latin cities, is besieged with restaurants, tapas and coffee bars. But if you are in Spain and like seafood, then the Seafood paella is a must-try dish, that I can only describe to you once you have tasted it. Definitely the best Paella my wife says she has ever tasted!

All in all, the most beautiful city, even if it was a very short visit. A definite on our list for a return visit, next time with much more time. Things to see next time will be the monastery with the views over Spain from the hill, the cathedral, the beach front... and so much more!
Barcelona, we will be back! Or like Freddie Mercury sang… “and if God is willing, we will meet again someday.”



Pedro Pires. Corporate slave, amateur photographer, dreamer, traveller, animal lover and coffee aficionado, with a passion for travel and abstract photography.
Fond of seeing the hidden treasures within all forms of art. Texture, colour and life all fascinate him. Always looking for the next travel adventure, preferably with his beloved wife and dogs in tow!


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