Otherwise Known As: The Gaudi-est city in the world.
Destination: Barcelona, Spain
Date of Travel: February 2012
Travel By: Flight from London to Barcelona, public transportation via metro around the city
Length of Trip: 6 Days total, 4 full days of sightseeing
Travellers: a Mom, a Dad, an OlderBoy (age 7), a YoungerBoy (age 3)
Itinerary: Sagrada Familia, Park Güelll,Casa Batlló, Picasso Museum, Mercat de La Boqueria, Santa Maria del Mar, Chocolate Museum, Christopher Columbus monument, Montjuïc, Montserrat, Casa Milà, Aquarium
Base Camp: We stayed right in the city of Barcelona. Our apartment was directly in front of the Sagrada Familia, which is also directly in front of a metro stop. I highly recommend the place we stayed: http://www.gaudisnest.com/
This church has been under construction since 1882 and still isn't finished. So now I don't feel so bad about procrastinating either.
Trip Report: Having an apartment in front of the Sagrada Familia was excellent - we had an unobstructed view from the rooftop of the apartment building and all we had to do was cross the street to explore the church. (After stopping at the playground on the way there for the kids; there are playgrounds in both parks in front and behind the church.)
The church - along with many other buildings in the city - was envisioned by Antoni Gaudi. Our Older Boy loved it because we had read about it and other Gaudi architecture in this book. Our younger boy just loved that the church was still under construction and he could see the cranes every day - win for everyone! It really is beautiful and unique, inside and out, and it's still not completed.
After visiting the church, we decided to explore some more of Gaudi's creations: Park Güell and Casa Batlló. The park was a great place for a picnic (we grabbed sandwiches from one of the shops along the way) and to see the famous winding benches and mosaic Geko. We bought tickets to go inside Casa Batlló and listened to an audio-guided tour. Older Boy and I were very interested; husband and YoungerBoy were not. Needless to say, after the house, they had enough of Gaudi and we went in search of a snack.
My husband looked at this creation by Gaudi and wondered if the word "gaudy" originated from him. It actually originates from people who make this exact joke.
The thing to do in Barcelona is to eat churros dipped in hot chocolate. Hot chocolate in Spain is not a drink but more like melted bars of chocolate. Which sounds delicious, but after two sips, you will realize quickly that you cannot sustain drinking it. We embarked on it incorrectly, however: we drank the hot chocolate at one location and ate the churros at another. But you really must dip-and-eat, do not make our mistake!
The day wasn't over for us - we still managed to fit in an evening stroll through the Picasso museum, which was interesting only for the adults. At this museum, you'll see why Picasso really was crazy. He embarked on a 5 month mission to recreate the painting Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez, but did so in a way that you think a 5 year old painted them. In fact, I think my 3 year old could have done better, and he really only likes to draw triangles and circles. Should this deter you? I hope not, it really is entertaining! Plus, you'll get a good range of his work in this museum.
We ended our evening with a delicious tapas meal. I couldn't tell you which restaurant we went into, just picked one that wasn't crowded and looked family-friendly (there were many to choose from). We had a selection of tiny plates brought to the table. This is a great way to eat with the kids - they mostly ate some chicken skewers and bread, but Older Boy had a great time trying everything. And the adults had a great time drinking Sangria.
Little plates of food are just adorable. Actually made me to forget that I don't like squid and tried the squid. Still, no.
Our second day of travel included a walk down La Rambla for a visit to the markets, a chocolate museum where the tickets are actual bars of chocolate, and a cable-car ride up to Montjuïc. There is a castle on Montjuïc that we explored, then we caught a bus down to the MNAC where we settled in to have a great view of the Magic Fountain show. Unfortunately, the show was not actually showing that night, but we still had a nice view of the city.
The highlight of our trip would no doubt be the journey to Montserrat. This mountainous area is about an hour outside of the city (easily reached by the RD5 train via metro), complete with a Benedictine abbey and lots of inclined trains called "funiculars" to get to top of the peaks. The abbey was lovely, but taking the funicular to the top was the treat. There's an easy walk towards a small church perched on the cliff - and if you take the steps that go up into the mountain (instead of continuing up the inclined path), you'll get to see some caves where the monks used to live. A great adventure for the family! (Also quite safe for kids as the path is very wide, but you are walking on the cliffs, so be cautious.)
Pretty sure Montserrat is Spanish for "rocks that are made for cuddling."
Our last day consisted of doing a quick walk-by seeing Casa Milà (could convince no one to go in) and then heading to the marina, where we saw the Christopher Columbus statue, went to the beach (but it was February, so we just played in the sand), indulged in ice cream (but it was February, so we just ate it inside) and then ended up at the Aquarium for the kids. Hey, they put up with Picasso, so we could let them see some fish. There's a nice tunnel that you can walk through to see sharks swimming above your head. There's also a toy submarine near the cafe area, where certain little boys played Battleship while certain parents got sit down and leisurely sip their tea. Worth the admission price.