Sunday, August 5, 2012

Barcelona, Spain

Like I said previously - beware of rambling post! If you're not totally bored looking for something to pass the time, no offense taken if you simply pass over this post :)
In May, Todd and I set off for an amazing trip. We left Tuesday May 22, in the early afternoon and flew out of JAX. Our first stop was in ATL where we caught our final flight - destination BCN (Barcelona, Spain). We flew through the night which was great because it didn't seem as if we lost that much {day} time. We left  ATL sometime before 6 and sat uncomfortably on the plane for over 8 hours. With the 6 hours we lost {time change} going over there and the 8+ hour flight we landed in Barcelona around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday May 23 {Our 3 year wedding anniversary}. 

Our gourmet meal. Todd seemed to enjoy it! I on the other hand didn't care much for any of it. It was a good thing I had a slaw dog and onion rings from The Varsity in the ATL airport before we took off! :)
Once we got through security and customs in the BCN airport {took about an hour} we got our luggage and headed towards the taxi line. The taxi ride was our first wonderful language barrier experience of the trip. We {Todd & I and the Taxi driver} shortly realized there was really no need to try and communicate with each other. We showed him our address to the hotel on a piece of paper and sat quietly {making funny faces} the entire trip to our hotel. 

The hotel we stayed in was Hotel Europark. The hotel was wonderfully decorated and ideally located. We were one short block to the Metro and within walking distance to most attractions. I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone planning on visiting Barcelona and shall Todd & I return one day, we would stay here again without second thought. 

Once we checked out our room and changed clothes, against Todd's insistence on taking a nap, we were out to explore! I just wanted to get a baring on where we were and what was around us, so we set out on foot. We headed to Las Ramblas to get some lunch and found a small street side restaurant {perfect spot for people watching}. 
After lunch and walking around we headed back to the hotel to relax a little bit before having to get ready for our first night out in Barcelona. On the way back to our hotel we passed a pastry/coffee shop and there was no way Todd was passing this up!! If you remember from earlier posts I practically had to convince Todd this trip was going to be a good thing through bribing him with all the delicious food so there was no way I could walk past that window and not allow him the satisfaction of indulging!! 
Needless to say after our little snack Todd was a happy camper.

After a little nap we headed out to meet our tour group for a Tasting Barcelona Food & Wine Tour. We thought we had left in enough time to get to our meeting point with time to spare, but apparently we didn't calculate enough time for getting lost twice! Once we finally arrived at our meeting point which was a huge bank in the center of Plaza Catalunya we didn't see anyone standing there with a sign or any indication of a group waiting on 2 stragglers!  After freaking out momentarily, a nice young woman walked up to us and asked if we were the Gillean's. Boy, talk about a relief! Our tour guides name was Nancy, she was from the US and had moved to Barcelona after visiting some friends.

Todd & I in front of Barcelona Cathedral 

Nancy took us through the four main districts of Barcelona - l'Eixample, El Raval, Gothic and Born/Port to non-touristy hot spots for great gourmet tapas and a wide variety of wines from around Spain and Catalunya. Nancy educated us about the wine, food, culture and the history of the city from district to disctrict. In each district we stopped at local favorites and ate some AWESOME tapas.

Our last stop of the night was a wonderful bar overlooking a beautiful plaza where Todd and I were first introduced to Spanish Cava {very similar to champagne}! After toasting to a wonderful trip, we left our group and started our midnight venture back to our hotel. We were miles from our hotel, it was technically the next day, we hadn't slept in over 36 hours, we had no idea where we were going - but that walk home that night was so special!! Todd would say it was special because we stumbled upon an amazing gelateria. I would say it was special because in that moment walking home in a city unfamiliar to both of us, thousands of miles away from home, it was just the two of us IN LOVE and celebrating the best 3 years of our lives :) It's definitely going to be hard to top our 3rd anniversary - But hey, I'm always up for a challenge!! 

The next day we woke up and headed to Sagrada Familia. Our tour guide Nancy from the night before had taken us to a ticket distribution center so we could pre-buy tickets to go inside Sagrada. When we arrived and the line was like a mile long we were so glad we bought the tickets before hand. 

After touring Sagrada Familia, we jumped on the metro and headed back towards Plaza Catalunya and ate a restaurant near the beginning of Las Ramblas. 

Our second night Todd & I headed down to the beach. We walked along the boardwalk on Barceloneta Beach. The iconic W hotel in Barcelona is a sight to be seen, but we waited till my parents joined us the next night to go there. 

We stopped at a little beach hut restaurant on the beach side of the boardwalk for some appetizers and drinks and little more people watching!  
After walking down the boardwalk and enjoying the amazing views of the beach we stopped at a nice restaurant for dinner. We weren't hungry, but since it was technically dinner time and we were on vacation that didn't matter. We indulged and had one of the best meals of the trip. We caught the metro back to the hotel and had a night cap in our restaurant bar and got a good nights sleep. 

We woke up very refreshed and super excited. My parents were flying in this morning and joining us on the rest of the trip!! 

The parentals got to the hotel and their room wasn't ready yet so we put their luggage in our room and we headed out to explore!! We introduced them to public transportation - they loved it! 
We did the on/off double decker bus around the city. Best way to see all the cities attractions in a days time!  

After lunch we headed back to the hotel and let the parents get checked in to their room. They wanted to take a nap, it was their turn to get adjusted to the time change and lack of sleep and since Todd and I weren't tired we headed to a lovely park across town. After enjoying our afternoon strolling through the park  we headed back to the hotel to shower and get ready for our first night out with the parents!   

 Mom knew she wanted us all to go to the top of the W hotel to the Eclipse Bar. So we planned for their first night to go there and then to a restaurant recommended to us from Nancy called Lolita.  

The views of Barcelona from the Eclipse Bar {26 Stories high} were remarkable! And we tried the martinis which were also recommended by Nancy and they were great! After drinks we caught a cab and headed to Lolita a Spanish Taperia.

After dinner we headed towards the Magic Fountains of Montjuic. The fountain shows run from 9 p.m. till 11:30 p.m. every 3o minutes. We made it just in time to grab a great seat and a glass of wine before the last show started. 

Our metro ride home that night was more than memorable!! Todd was trying to be all European and fit in on the metro - he was unsuccessful, but we enjoyed the laughs!! 

The next day, which was our last full day in Barcelona we went on a Wines of Catalonia Day Trip with the same company that we did our first nights tour with. The company we went through for our tour guides was Spanish Trails Adventures and we highly recommend them to anyone headed to Spain. One day when we return, we look forward to doing some of their other tours. 

On our wine tour we went to two different vineyards in the Alt Penedes, which is in the upper part of the Penedes wine region, about 40 miles southwest of Barcelona. Alt Penedes is known for its smaller-batch, more specialized wines. The 2 vineyards we visited were Eudald Massana Noya and Felix. 

This was our lunch at the second vineyard - Felix, which was the family vineyard of our tour guide Alberto. We got special treatment from Felix and his wife who prepared a wonderful lunch spread for us with an amazing view of their vineyards.  

Lucky me, I was selected to make my own bottle of Cava from beginning to end. 

This was our entire tour group after our wonderful day. We headed back to Barcelona. Once Alberto dropped us off I insisted that my parents at least go and see the outside of Sagrada Familia. Who knows how long it'll be before their back in Barcelona, so I really wanted them to see it. After we left there we went back to our hotel and relaxed around the pool and got ready for our last relaxing night in Barcelona before heading out on our 7 day Mediterranean cruise!   


  1. You will be my travel agent for our next European trip? You've got the planning down pat!