Barcelona – Day 1

I spent the weekend in Barcelona celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday.

Five of us flew out on Friday morning on Easyjet from Gatwick. I was expecting it to be chaotic (it is Easyjet after all) but everything went smoothly – check-in took 5 minutes, security took 5 minutes and that was it. We even managed to all sit together on the flight as it wasn’t that full. The flight landed on time and we took the train to Passeig de Gracia – which also happened to be the nearest Metro stop to our hotel. And we didn’t even plan that! (Tip: Buy a T10 ticket at the RENFE station at the airport – this will give you 10 journeys on public transport and you can also use it on the RENFE train from/to the airport.)

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The train journey took about half an hour and we were in the centre of Barcelona. We found the hotel (thank you, Google Maps!) – we stayed at the HCC St Moritz on Carrer de Disputacio. I have to say the location was perfect for us. It was just off the main street Passeig de Gracia (where the designer shops are) and 10 minutes away from the Gothic Quarter.

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The reception area was nicer than I imaged for a 4-star hotel and (most of) the staff were very helpful.
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Three of us took one room and two took another. The rooms were spacious and modern – plasma TV, mini bar – we weren’t tripping over each other. The bathroom was spacious too – and the shower was lovely, especially after a long day!
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After unpacking and freshening up, we walked towards the Gothic Quarter.

I’d read that Barcelona Cathedral (or La Seu) has a lift that takes you up to the roof of the cathedral and that the views from up there are incredible. It was the first place I wanted to go. It was a shame that the front of the cathedral was being renovated and covered in scaffolding.

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And it was closed. For another hour. So we walked around for a while, enjoying the shade in the narrow streets of the old city.

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Souvenir shop after souvenir shop – T-shirts with rude slogans, dolls with the scariest expressions I’ve ever seen, and these little figures of men with their trousers down:

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I don’t know who would buy them, but I’d never seen anything like them before!

There were as many little cafes serving Spanish delights as there were souvenir shops:

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We decided to find a tapas place where we could sit outdoors and enjoy some food and wine – we still had some time to kill before the cathedral re-opened. We eventually found a quiet place in a square where we could relax. We thought we’d order a few light things but before we knew it there was a feast in front of us – and most of it was croquetas and ham! We finished it all and headed back to the cathedral.

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By this time it was about 45 minutes before the cathedral closed for the day and the lift had (apparently) closed. The person I spoke to didn’t seem too sure about what time it opened, or even where it was in the cathedral! A lot of the inside of the cathedral was also covered in scaffolding, which was annoying.

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So we walked back to our hotel and decided to relax before heading out later that night.

We had a few recommendations for some tapas places close by and started walking. We passed Gaudi’s Casa Batlló (which I didn’t get to see properly – nor did I get to see La Pedrera) which was lit up at night:

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There seemed to be huge amounts of roadworks going on in Barcelona, reminding me of London!

We decided to start at La Vinoteca Torres on Passeig de Gracia.

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We sat outdoors, ordered more ham and a bottle of rosé wine. I can’t get over how cheap the local wine is. The bottle of rosé we ordered was only 10 Euros and it was lovely! When we were done with the food and wine, we were feeling too lazy to move on so we ordered another bottle of wine. At 11pm the waiter told us that we had to move into the restaurant as they had to close the outside – so we decided we’d head to one of the places the hotel had recommended.

We managed to find Cerveceria Catalana on Carrer de Mallorca but were told we’d have a 40-minute wait for a table. It was already 11.15 and nobody felt like looking around for somewhere else so we put our names on the list for a table and ordered another bottle of rosé at the bar! I’m so glad we stayed because the food was amazing. Yes, there was more ham. And ‘chipirones’. And croquetas. And other things too. There was even more food than we’d had earlier that evening. Our whole meal, including the wine, added up to 75 Euros – 15 Euros per head – which I thought was such good value for money! We were the last to leave the restaurant and strolled back to our hotel…

I had to speak Spanish a few times throughout the day – and it was weird after so long. I used to be almost fluent, but hadn’t been to Spain in almost 8 years. In fact, the last time I went it was to Barcelona in September 2003 but I was just there for a day and night for work and I didn’t see much of the city. I still feel like that and will definitely have to go back again!

Read about our second and third days in Barcelona…

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