Free Barcelona, Spain Travel Guide

It took seven and a half months, but I’ve finally finished the review of our trip to Barcelona and Sitges, Spain in June, 2008. I started it as a review to make remembering our trip easier. As I was writing it up, I decided to make it more of a travel guide to hopefully convince you to go to Barcelona. It was an amazing trip.

There’s a lot of information in here. The guide is broken up into 10 chapters linked below with the highlights of the day for easy reference:
Day 1: Boston to Barcelona: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Barcelona is very beautiful. Parts are dirty and smelly, but those parts are serviced 24/7 by sanitation workers. I was struck by how most of the buildings look like they were from the 50s or 60s and wondered what makes the replacement cycle so much faster in cities like Boston. The city is eminently walkable, and the transportation system adds to the ease in getting around. If you like looking out over cities from heights, you’re in luck. There are at least 6 different tourist destinations that offer great views of the city.

Bottom line?
Where to stay: Hotel Regencia Colon – Perfectly situated and affordably priced.
Must visit landmaks: Santa Maria del Mar, La Boqueria, Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà, Montserrat, Sitges
Must eat: Tapaç 24, Euskal Etxea, Chocolateria Valor
Must shop: Kukuxumusu, Xocoa

For my mom, here’s a slideshow of our trip and a collection of videos from different points.

Also, please play around with this map I made of all the places we went to or should have gone to. I spent days before we went researching restaurants, hotels, landmarks and popping them onto this map to make it easy to figure out what to do in each neighborhood once we got there. The price of this travel guide is worth it just for this free map.

In closing, I hope you’ll go Barcelona because it’s awesome and you going will validate our decision to go. If you do go, I hope you find this Travel Guide helpful because would validate the time I put into it. Because after all, what’s a blog based Travel Guide if not an adventure in navel gazing?

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Free Barcelona, Spain Travel Guide

States I’ve Visited

These are the states I’ve been to or through, almost all of them when we were touring. I posted this link before but didn’t know how to embed my record onto the site or something. Do it yourself. Oklahoma we got across the bridge from while in Fort Smith, AR, and we were pretty close to Idaho and Minnesota on different occasions. Kansas was a total accident on the way to Denver from Omaha. It happens


visited 41 states (82%)

States I’ve Visited

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 10: Montjuic

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

Our last day. A couple days earlier, we had started feeling tired of being on vacation. I know, I know, that problem tops everyone’s list of “Nice Problems to Have”, but still. We had saved Montjuïc for today because it was a Sunday and we didn’t think they’d close an entire mountain. It was sunny and hot, the African Heat J had read about earlier in the week had come. It was about 127 degrees (check my Celsius math) and sunny. Montjuic sits on the water looking over the city and giving the opposite view as Parc Guell and Tibidabo (presumably, we never went).

There’s a fort on the top of the mountain, which has been used several times throughout history to shell the city. Also, the Olympic stadium is up there, which must have made for a nice opening ceremony. There’s a bus that will take you from the bottom of Montjuic to the fort at the top. If you want to avoid a sunburn, please, dear reader, take the bus. I’m speaking from experience here, but, you know, do what you want. Also at the bottom is a fountain that if you go when it’s not a drought (which it was) and at night (which it wasn’t), you’ll see a fantastic light/fountain show. Anyway, we walked up and wished we hadn’t.

After taking some pictures at the Olympic stadium, we walked over to the botanical gardens to consider the high entry cost. It looked very nice and all, but we decided against it to continue our march to the top in the scorching heat (seriously, take the bus).

Castell de Montjuïc is a fairly standard 17th/18th Century Store fort, but what makes it so cool is the crazy port right below it. We thoroughly enjoyed the view, had a lunch of Cornettos, and decided to head down. I’ll take this opportunity to interrupt the travelogue and mention the sun and heat. Again.

As it was the end of the trip, we were trying to manage our Euros in such a way that we got on the plane heading to Boston with exactly no cash left. This had us in a bind when we wanted to take the cable car from the castle to the bottom of Montjuic and the only way to buy tickets was a machine that wasn’t accepting our credit or debit cards. The main problem with 17th/18th century castles, as we saw it, is the lack of ATMs. With only enough cash for one ticket and about 7 useless pieces of plastic between us, we continued marching down in the unrelenting “African Heat”. The reality of our foolishness was beginning to illustrate itself in the form of mild sunburns and I must beseech you, if you visit Montjuic, take the bus up and down.

We took a breather in The Jacint Verdaguer Gardens or “bulbous” gardens, which were not a replacement for the Botanical Gardens so much as lovely park to collapse in the shade and marshal energy for our continued march. A respite from the unrelenting assault of the sun. The park was dried by the drought, but had plenty of children playing and families picnicking.

Just below the bulbous garden was a street with a restaurant, metro buses, and information booths. We knew a funicular was supposed to be somewhere on this hill and thought the information booth would be able to tell us how far. Unfortunately… well, not to mince words, but the girl in the information booth didn’t know anything about the funicular and didn’t know where it was when we showed her the map. The funicular was literally 35 yards across the street. Finally the funicular came and took us off this Godforsaken hill. May we only return under somewhat cloudier conditions. Try not to miss the Fundació Joan Miró, I think we would have loved it if we had planned this morning better.

After alighting from the funicular, we decided to make one more wide loop of this eminently walkable city, hitting the Born and Barri Gotic again for memory, and for the first time exploring the Port area. The Port includes an extension of La Rambla called La Rambla del Mar, which is essentially a funky drawbridge. The drawbridge is a walking path separating the marina and a crazy futuristic mall. They let the boats out of the marina at regular intervals and try not to be stuck on one side or the other. It turns into bedlam as people keep moving towards their destination in that human trait that has them moving forward even as there is nowhere further to go. The mall is out on a mini-island and likely caters to cruise ships, but we were too tired to explore fully. If we had known about it earlier, we might have come here to do any shopping we had intended to do. As it was, we completely struck out on the Barcelona shopping experience. On our way home, we stopped ever so briefly at a Spanish flea market and confirmed that junk is junk no matter what language.

We heroically made it back to the hotel and rested up for dinner while reflecting on our trip. Just kidding. We were so devastated by the heat that I don’t even remember this couple of hours. Wanting to make one last trip to our favorite part of the city, La Placa de Maria del Mar, we decided to try dinner at Taller de Tapas

We got to Taller de Tapas around 9 and illustrated the point beautifully that the reason we hadn’t had waits at restaurants all week was because we were getting there before the late night dinner rush. We waited about 35 minutes, a wait that would have been much more pleasant if we hadn’t decided to wear our cranky pants. I liked this place… We got a pot roasty thing that was awesome, pan y tomate, patatas bravas, green beans that were delicious and then, since it was our last night and we hadn’t yet, gambas al ajillo. These weren’t very good, but overall, Taller de Tapas is a win. Try to sit across from the restaurant in the courtyard so you can be serenaded by the duo of singer and guitar player playing along to a boombox.

After dinner, we did one more spin around the Placa, getting gellato from the good gellato place (the smaller of the two) and happening upon a tiny shop with a TV just as Spain won a Eurocup match against Italy advancing to the quarter finals. All the way back to our hotel, there were shouts of joy, sky rockets and roman candles, and cars honking. It was a cinematic ending to the perfect vacation, just as this would be a cliched ending to the perfect Free Barcelona Travel Guide. If only we hadn’t had to fly home.

Waking up early the next day, we walked to the train station and got to the Barcelona airport a couple hours ahead of our flight. Spain’s amazing propensity for travel lines (as evidenced by customs on our first day) was again displayed in the check-in line I waited in without moving for an hour and fifteen minutes. There was some excitement when luggage was left unattended and someone told a guard. The missing person had been using their luggage to save a place in line. Tsk tsk tsk. We made it through in the nick of time only to land in Madrid and have our Madrid to Boston delayed SIX HOURS! I prefer to think of the above paragraph as the end of our trip and this travel day as the re-entry into the real world. Hope you enjoyed this guide and that you have fun in Barcelona!

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 10: Montjuic

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 8: Sitges

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

It was on this day that the realities of staying at a gay hotel began to set in, but only in that the realities of staying at a gay hotel are that there aren’t any women down at breakfast besides J. Earlier in the week, it was impossible to notice because we were the only ones at breakfast. Today was very hot, so why not spend the morning lounging on the beach reading trashy novels? In any case, that’s what we did until lunch. We had a smoothie at Parrots Terrace and then light sandwiches at Mostaza right next door before, uh, going back to the beach to read trashy novels for the afternoon.

Douglas at Parrots who had steered us so rightly to The Beach House on our first night in Sitges suggested Mezzanine. We weren’t AS thrilled with Mezzanine, but only because of the incredibly high bar set by The Beach House. The atmosphere was lovely, the service charming, and the tempura de gambas had eyes. The food was presented amazingly, but unfortunately, there was something missing from the taste. The chocolate cake for dessert, however, was out of this world.

tempura-de-gambas

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 8: Sitges

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 9: Too Hot to Shop

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

We had caught a headline saying something like “African Heat Headed to Spain”, earlier in the week, and if it hadn’t arrived by yesterday, it was certainly here today. After breakfast, we decided to take one more trip around town and down by the beach. On the boardwalk, we were surprised to find techno music playing and a set up for a spin class. Only in Sitges.

We caught our train back to Barcelona after sadly bidding Sitges adieu. Our hotel, Aparthotel Calabria, was in a different area of Barcelona than we had stayed earlier in the week. While it was fine, I’d suggest staying closer in to the Barri Gothic. This hotel is next door to two grocery stores, incidentally, and features giant rooms with kitchens. The room would definitely be great for a family, especially one that wanted to cook a few meals in. Our hotel looked out onto a courtyard of old buildings that had a very Eastern European feel. We dropped our bags off, cooled down for a bit, and headed out for some more walking around.

Needing lunch, we decided it was a good time to finally go to La Boqueria. La Boqueria, one of the must see attractions in Barcelona, is a large covered market with about 125 different food stands. Fish of all kinds, meats of all kinds, produce of all kinds, snacks, candies, herbs, spices, etc, etc, etc. Really a sight to see. We wanted to try either Pinotxo or El Quim but couldn’t get a seat, let alone a menu at either place and didn’t feel like dealing. J got a plate of different vegetarian foods at a health stand along the back wall. I had been hoping against hope to find the food I had enjoyed so much in Berlin, the Döner kebab, and I had heard rumors that Barcelona had them, too. Well, I found one, and it wasn’t any good. I guess we’ll have to go back to Berlin sometime to get them.

It was too hot to do anything. We had hoped to do some shopping, but couldn’t get it going. We had checked out the Chocolate Museum earlier in the week but hadn’t gone in, deciding to save it for today. It wasn’t too expensive, but it was geared exclusively to children and we should have skipped it. There were some cool chocolate sculptures, but nothing mind altering. Depressed and now needing a chocolate fix, we had to go over to Valor for some more cold chocolate drinks, which were delicious, again.

Unable to do anything else because of the heat, we kind of collapsed in the shade on the stairs of a museum in a forgotten plaza and listened to a woman play Flamenco guitar while we zoned out. Soon, we moved our siesta into the courtyard of the Ministry of Culture. There was fountain there in which we watched a woman put her feet. I don’t know what the fountain was for, but I’m certain it’s not for touristic feet dipping.

We had wanted to check out Comerç 24 but couldn’t get a reservation later than 1:15 in the afternoon so we decided to check out Tapaç 24, the no-reservation, Tapas joint by the same chef, Carlos Abellán. If you had only one day in Barcelona, I’d suggest coming here for lunch and dinner, it was that good. We ate a menu of tapas suggested by the waiter, I’m not sure we would have ordered differently. We ate foie burgers (a specialty), grilled cheese with truffle oil, pan y tomate, patatas bravas, and probably a few other dishes that I’m forgetting in all their glory. Best of all was dessert, something I’m going to bring to America if I have to open a restaurant myself. 4 scoops of chocolate ganache drizzled in olive oil and flavored with a generous portion of sea salt. It doesn’t make sense until you try it, trust me. Go here often in Barcelona.

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 9: Too Hot to Shop

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

About an hour and a half from Barcelona/Sitges is the monastery Santa Maria de Montserrat on top of the mountain/hill Montserrat. We decided to go there one of the days we were in Sitges, and instead of having to take a train back to Barcelona and then one up to Montserrat, we decided to rent a car. For some reason, I had the same irrational fear of driving in Europe that I have of sharks. I wasn’t sure what could go wrong, only that something would, and I’d be less able to deal with it than usual. Renting a car in Sitges was something of a chore. We went into a travel office last night that suggested the Avis down the street. We went into the Avis office and the guy said he might have a car sometime this evening for 80 Euros, but we should check back today. We went into a travel agency at the end of Sin Street (across from the hamburger stand) and they rented us a car for 40 Euros. We picked up the car from a garage this morning and we were off, haphazardly finding our way out of Sitges and onto the highway.

We were cruising along pretty well, following our directions, until suddenly, none of the directions made any sense. (It turned out there were two exits with the same name, though we couldn’t have known that at the time.) This was it, in my mind, and I was ready to take this driving adventure back to the garage and read trashy novels on the beach. But J insisted we persevere so we stopped at a gas station where she acted as interpreter. “Estoy perdida”, she said to the romantic truck driver. “Todos estamos perdidos en la vida”, he responded with a twinkle in his eye, “Sigame, le muestro la carretera.” (“I’m lost.” “In life, we are all lost. Follow me, I’ll show you to the highway.”) The truck driver had us follow him for about 5 miles until he got us back onto the highway we needed to be on and we never strayed again. This interaction was my favorite of the trip.

Montserrat is actually the city below the mountain. Once you get there, you can take a train to the top, or drive up on a steep, windy road that reminded me of some roads in Hawaii. I took it slow as there were folks driving down and also a good number of bikers riding to the top (psychos!). The monastery is beautiful and literally cut right into the side of the mountain. In front of the entrance, there is a circular pattern in the stone where several people were getting their picture taken with their arms out, eyes closed, and shoes off. Everyday at 1, the choir sings, so either try to be there for that, or avoid it because that’s when the most people are there. I’d never heard the term funicular before going to Spain (it’s a type of train that goes up steep inclines), but we took one up to a higher part of the mountain. From there we were able to hike for 20 minutes or so to get to a 500 year old hermitage that that formed a hamlet of sorts with other dwellings carved out of the side of the mountain. The hermitage was a replica, because, interestingly enough, the original had been destroyed about 200 years earlier by marauding French. We went back down to the visitor’s center where we lunched on Cornetto. All in all, Montserrat is great and worth seeing, but I suggest taking the train from Barcelona. It runs every hour and takes you all the way up to the monastery.

On the way home, we took an alternate route that hugged the beautiful coast for a time. I was relaxed enough about driving in Europe at that point that we checked out Spanish radio. This was unfortunate because we happened on to that cursed Umbrella song. By the grace of Sitges, we made our way back to the right part of town and parked the car a short walk from the rental office. We found out later that I had left the lights on, but they didn’t seem to mind. After a brief respite in the hotel, we napped on the beach in the dwindling sunlight.

We couldn’t decide where to go for dinner, which resulted in us wandering aimlessly until we ended up at Restaurante Taiwan across from Al Fresco. I have a thing about trying Chinese food in various locales and tasting their Peking Raviolis. I’d like to say you can tell a lot about a city from the raviolis, but that would be silly. Restaurante Taiwan’s version are called empanadillas and receive passing marks for tastiness.

After dinner we went on a hunt for gelato. In attempting to determine which of the four places to go, we asked the girl behind the counter if they were selling ice cream or gelato. She asked the difference between gelato and ice cream. For the record, gelato has less fat and no air added for a creamier taste.

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 6: Sitges and Beach

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

Sitges is an excellent little city/town. It’s small enough that you can walk all over everywhere and walk by the same streets until they become familiar, but big enough that it’s still interesting to see everything a couple times. Right by our hotel was a block without an official name, Calle del Pecado, or Sin Street, with cafes on either side of the road. The outdoor tables for the cafes are lined up 4 deep to give the maximum amount seats for people watching. This was my favorite part of Sitges, I thought of it as walking the gauntlet. Watching people people watching is more fun than I would have thought.

As I said yesterday, the weather became perfect about as soon as we got to Sitges, so we were excited to head to the beach after slathering on the 800 SPF sun block J had gotten for us. The hotel was a block and half from the beach, so we were basking in the sun reading trashy novels in no time. This being a European beach on the Mediterranean, you should be warned that there are a fair amount of Speedo bathing suits for the fellas, and not all of the ladies wear both parts of their bathing suit.

After about 2 hours of basking and trashy novels among the half-decent Europeans, we walked over to a Creperie on the corner of Sin Street for lunch. Has anyone ever had a bad crepe? I doubt it. By that point, we were exhausted and needed a nap, after which we promptly went back to the beach for several more hours of basking and trashy novels.

After another nap, which admittedly I spent reading trashy novels, we headed out to find some food. Douglas at the hotel had suggested Al Fresco as the 2nd best restaurant in Sitges, but we ended up at their sister restaurant next door, the Al Fresco Cafe. J got the menu del dia which came with vegetable soup, lasagna, and this delicious mango bread for dessert. I can’t remember what I got, but I remember liking this restaurant, so it must have been good.

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 6: Sitges and Beach

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

It was J’s birthday today, which I clearly forgot until the middle of the morning. All week, I had been trying to think of a way to celebrate a birthday while on vacation and then I just forgot. Then again, we’re on vacation, the whole time is a celebration!

We thought we’d do a little shopping in the morning before catching a commuter rail-like train to Sitges. Taking advantage of our close proximity to Barcelona Cathedral, we popped in quickly in the morning and confirmed that it’s not nearly as cool as Santa Maria del Mar. There is this crazy garden in the back of the Cathedral, though, with palm trees and geese. We then headed over to Calle Petritxol to check out Xocoa. On our way, we heard a giant commotion roiling though the alleys. We got to the mouth of Plaça de Sant Jaume, only to be blocked by a giant garbage truck trying to get by 2 riot police vans. (Almost no one drives in the close alleys of The Born and Barri Gothic except for the street sweepers and garbage men and women, who seem to be cleaning nonstop). It took the garbage truck about 5 minutes to get by, which seemed like forever because I REALLY wanted to see what was going on in the square. It was impossible to tell what the people were protesting, but eventually, a group of men were let into the building and everyone cheered.

Xocoa is a chocolate boutique that sells lots of great snacks and gifts and snacks to gift. We picked up a chili chocolate bar and a few truffles that were yummy. There are a few other chocolate stores on this street, making it worth a visit.

We checked out a few more stores and then mistakenly went to 4Gats. I say mistakenly because I had talked about this as a restaurant to avoid and J had only heard me talking about it, not what I said. She thought I wanted to go there and I thought she wanted to go there. There’s a reason people need to communicate and that reason is to avoid restaurants like 4Gats. The restaurant is historic and the building interesting, but if you’re going to go, I’ve heard the coffee and dessert route is the way to go. We got the fixed price lunch menu and a chance to sit up on the balcony looking down on the main dining room. The service was friendly, but the food was awful. I got a creamy pasta starter that was the best of everything we got. J’s fish came with veggies that looked and tasted like they had been boiled for 2 days. We felt snookered, afterward, to realize that the desserts we had ordered were not part of the fixed menu as we had believed. Go here, take a picture, and then go someplace else for lunch.

We went back to our hotel and picked up our bags to go to Sitges. The train ride was about 35 minutes, and while it had been drizzly and cloudy in Barcelona, it was sunny in Sitges. We got off the train not knowing how to get to our hotel. Finding the information booth closed, we walked around Sitges, stumbled upon the Mediterranean Sea, and then lucked into finding our hotel, Parrots. After booking the hotel, I read up on Sitges and found it described as, “The internationally renowned sun-drenched gay mecca of Europe” and, “Gayer than the capital of Gayland”. I saw “Is Sitges too gay?” and, “Too gay for families?” on a couple of message boards, and whatever that means, the answer is no. Yes, there are a plethora of gay men in Sitges. Unless you’re a secretly gay Republican that pretends not to be gay by being virulently homophobic, you will have a lovely time in Sitges. That said, Parrots is a gay hotel with a sauna that just opened and J was the only woman down at breakfast, garnering a few inquisitive, but friendly looks.

We asked Douglas at the front desk where to go for dinner, and he sent us to, what he called, “The third best restaurant in Sitges”, The Beach House. It was amazing and the portions were very generous. J got the watermelon salad and baked tortelini and I got the Cesar and Tuscan chicken. Everything was fabulous and, well, fabulous.

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 4: More Gaudi

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

Not much is open in Barcelona on Sundays, so we decided to complete the Gaudi tour by going up to Park Guell. There’s a bus you can get in Plaza Catalunya that goes all the way to the entrance of the Parc. I’d suggest you take this because the Metro stop is almost a mile away and up a steep hill to boot. On the street leading into the Parc, there is a grocery with a crazy old man in it. I tried to buy a bottle of water from him, but as I was counting out the change, he snatched the bottle and put it back in the cooler. There wasn’t anyone in line and he wasn’t doing anything besides sitting behind the cash register. I’d like to blame this on my USA elitist sense of entitlement, but I literally hadn’t done anything. JR asked him “En serio?” “En SERIO” was his curt reply. I’m not sure what I did to piss him off, but hopefully he goes out of business soon.

Parc Guell is lovely and filled with Gaudi’s signature mosaics. There is a wide open terrace with a tiled bench all the way around, and a great view of the city. About a 10 minute hike further up brings you to the top of the parc and an even better view. We decided to take the metro back, but I wish we had taken the bus. Parc Guell is nice, but maybe skipable if you’re short on time?

We took the Metro to Sagrada Familia and decided to walk around for a bit before going in. We walked around the corner to Alkimia to see about lunch, but along with being woefully underdressed, there is only one seating for lunch and we had missed it by about 2 hours. Walking down the block, you’d never guess that one of the 3 best restaurants in Barcelona was behind one of the doors. We’ll have to check it out the next time we’re in town. We instead lunched at a chain bageteria, which was fine if not twice as expensive as every other bageteria in the city.

Sagrada Família is an amazing site, steeples rising high above the neighboring buildings, it’s visible from every somewhat elevated area of the city. We paid the 8 Euros entrance, admired the large carvings that adorn the outer walls, and went into what is essentially an empty shell of a cathedral with a hole in one entire side. The wait that everyone talks about is to ride an elevator to the top, which costs another 2 Euros. If you’re not going to wait the 30-60 minutes to get to the top, it’s probably not worth going in at all. Wait we did, though, and the view is amazing, both of the city, and the close ups of the different statues, designs, etc on the steeples and outer walls. It’s difficult to explain, so maybe you ought to see it. There’s a museum underneath the Cathedral which we skimmed, but it likely had something interesting. At least I hope so.

We took the Metro back to our hotel but stopped in La Colmena in Placa Angel for a delicious strawberry tort. I would have liked to have tried 7 other items, but that would have been imprudent.

We got back to the hotel and rested for a while before arguing about where to go for dinner. The dilemma was that very few restaurants in Barcelona are open on Sundays, and none that we were super excited to check out. We finally settled on Cuines de Santa Caterina which had the added benefit of being close to our hotel. The restaurant is in one of the much bigger buildings we were in in Spain and the menu was an eclectic mix of 4 different styles – Asian, Mediterranean, Italian and vegetarian. I had a fried rice that was tasty, though I couldn’t tell if the crispy rice texture was on purpose or not and J’s tofu curry was delicious. We had about 7 waiters who were constantly asking if everything was OK, but never returning with requested items (water, dessert, the bill…). A big open kitchen adds to the atmosphere.

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 4: More Gaudi

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 3: Gaudi and Eating

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

Barcelona is filthy with interesting architecture. Random apartment buildings are decked out with flamboyant patterns and colors, and of course, there is Antoni Gaudí. Gaudi’s buildings are fascinatingly unique, featuring a distinct use of colors and shapes. You could go to Barcelona and not visit any of Gaudi’s landmarks, but, then, you’d be kind of worthless.

Passeig de Gracia is a street north of Plaza Catalunya featuring 2 of Gaudi’s buildings. Passeig de Gracia is a wide, charmingly European boulevard with high-end retail on either side. After a short walk you’ll come to Casa Batlló on your left (but be sure to notice the buildings leading up to it, as well, interesting in their own right). We weren’t sure how much Gaudi we needed in one day, so after seeing it was 16 Euros to enter, we took some pictures from the street and skipped it. Further down on the right is Casa Milà taking up about half a block. Seemingly more interesting, and half as expensive than Batlló, we decided to give it a shot. We had to wait in line for about 20 minutes before walking in to the oval shaped courtyard. There are 3 areas to check out at Casa Mila, the apartment furnished as it would have been when the building opened, the attic with its weight bearing brick arches, and most interesting of all, the roof. The roof features several oddly shaped chimneys on multiple levels and a 360 degree view of the city. I could have spent 2 hours on the roof just taking in all of the views.

Instead we journeyed on to La Sagrada Familia. We should have figured out a better way to get there than walking because, by that time in the day, we were drained and it’s about 15 blocks or so, more when you get a bit lost. We got to Sagrada Familia and saw a sign announcing a 60 minute wait for the lift. That did it for us and instead of going in, we looked up at it from a couple different angles and then walked all the way back to our hotel. Again, not that far, but far enough at that point of the day.

And then the eating started. We had plans to meet Crystal and Dan later that evening at, “Her favorite wine bar in Barcelona” – which happened to be right in, “my favorite placa in Barcelona” – at Placa Santa Maria del Mar. We skipped the wine bar and instead went to Heladerias Tomo II for some gellato before dinner, I had brilliant chocolate in a mini tulip cone. The plan was to go to Tapas 24, but it was closed Sundays so we went to the Irish Pub next door for a drink and to figure out what to do next. We decided to head to Port Vell to Luz de Gas for waterfront tapas on a boat. To get there, we took the Metro, getting our first look at Barcelona’s mass transit. And like just every mass transit system I’ve ever been on, it was faster, cleaner, and more convenient than the T.

Now Luz de Gas may play some of the most “lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, f*cked up playing” you’ll ever hear, but it’s an incredibly lovely spot and the food is delicious. We had the octopus, patatas bravas, pan y tomate, chorizo, and some great cava. And now I never have to eat octopus again. Which is nice.

After stuffing our faces with tapas, we decided to head back into The Born for dinner at Origen 99’9%. Dinner after so much tapas? Yes. Origen serves traditional Catalonian dishes with an eclectic flair. Unfortunately, and likely due to the truckers’ strike, many of our first choices were unavailable. We’ll have to try rabbit with chocolate another time. The cheese plate was great, as was the stuffed onion, as was the Crema Catalan. The fish we could have done without. Awesome atmosphere, too. After dinner we went back to Tomo II for more gellato, but they were closed. Sad.

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 3: Gaudi and Eating