Sunday, 22 May 2016

Nina Travels - BCN | Part 1

Hola Barcelona, we meet again

As part of Fiona's early 25 birthday celebrations we threw our summer clothes into our suitcases, temporarily said goodbye to the Welsh rain and a 2 hour flight later found ourselves in warmer climates.

The last time in was in Barcelona was on my year abroad and it was a flying visit in the freezing cold so I was pretty excited to head back and explore Barcelona a little bit more in depth. I fell in love last time I was here and this time it was no different.

I dragged Fiona out of the hotel early on our first morning to head up to Parc Güell. An easy metro ride from our hotel and a slight uphill incline later and we were there. The sun had its hat on and I worked up a bit of a sweat in my trench coat.

Since my last visit this place has changed a lot. I was a bit annoyed to find out that you had to have a ticket to enter certain parts of the park now, including the famous platform with the beautiful mosaic benches which I had been able to visit for free last time.

So a word to the wise, if you want to get the full experience buy your tickets online before you get to Barcelona. There is a cap on how many people can enter for each specific time slot so choose your time slot wisely. We joined to queue for tickets at around 11:30 and were told that the next bunch of tickets would get us in for 7pm. So yeah, buy your tickets before you get there!

So despite 'ticket gate' I enjoyed the Parc just as much as when I first went. It is HUGE and although very busy it didn't feel crowded or overwhelming as these kinds of attractions can get.

If you visit Barcelona I would recommend that this be one of your first stops, it's amazing to get a full view of the city before you head downtown and explore everything you saw from above.

So we did just that. 

Taking the metro back into town (we bought the 4 days BCN pass which was worth its weight in gold) we stopped by the famous Sagrada Familia which is still not finished! We arrived at peak tourist time so it was heaving and a little stressful as the church is slap bang in the middle of a block with several busy roads. We saw many almost deaths where people were standing on the road to get the perfect picture.

We took a few minutes break here sitting in a park behind the 'Gaudi side', being surrounded by so many people was stressful especially when they're all armed with selfie sticks and you narrowly miss being clobbered by one.

The architecture and human effort out into making Sagrada Familia blows my mind every time I see the church. Apparently the church is entering the final stages of construction, only about 100 years since the first foundations were built. It's due to be finished in 2026 (when I'll be 35...) which is the year that also marks the centenary of Gaudi's death.

Next stop was La Boqueria. Also heaving with tourists and selfie sticks but a fascinating visit.

I'm not convinced if this is where the locals shop, if they do they come here the second the market opens in the morning to avoid all the fuss. We picked up a fresh juice to quench our thirst. I went for strawberry and coconut and it was so delicious.

For lunch we went to Bacoa on Av. del Marquès de l'Argentera. At this point I was so hungry (or hangry if you ask Fiona) that I didn't snap a proper photo of my food. But trust me when I say it was an amazing burger. The meat they use is from local farms in Catalonia and they use recycled cups and napkins. Plus they also make their own variety of ketchup. It's super yum and super easy to order - you fill out a form (which is also mercifully in English) and take it to the counter. Prices are also pretty decent. 

There are lots of Bacoas dotted around BCN so check out to see which branch fits best with your schedule.

One of the things I enjoy the most on holidays is just walking around and soaking up all of the atmosphere. This is pretty easy to do in Barcelona, especially when the weather is as lovely as it was on our trip. Warm enough to be without a coat but not roasting hot so that we struggled. 

Everything looks better under a blue sky anyway doesn't it?

So what better way to round of a churro-ific day than with some churros and a piping hot coffee? Never underestimate the power of a good coffee, this is something Fiona learnt very quickly with me. Not enough food or caffeine gets me a little grumpy so this was just what the doctor had ordered.

I left the food options in the very capable hands of Fiona who had a hit list of all the must go food places and this was at the very top.

Granja M Viader first opened its doors in 1870 and has been run by the same family for four generations. Rather unassuming from the outside we were their first customers of the late afternoon. But by the time we settled up it was getting pretty full. Inside it's not very fancy either, but I've found that the best places spend little on their decor and more on their food. So I was very excited about getting stuck in.

You can always tell how good a place is by whether the locals go there too. This is very much the case here. A group of elderly Catalonians were there for what appeared to be one their usual coffee, churros and catch up meetings.

Now I have had many a churro in my 25 years and these were hands down the best. Served to us piping hot with just the right amount of sugar and with a deep cup of hot dark chocolate this was the perfect afternoon snack. Often with churros it's the chocolate that lets you down, it's either too sweet or runny. Not the case here. The chocolate was a little bit tart which offsets the sweet churros nicely.

Sufficiently strengthened by a coffee and on a sugar high Fiona and me did some quick shopping (Spanish brands are so much more interesting and fun than British brands), then a quick stop off at La Pedrera Casa Milà before heading back to the hotel and enjoying a bottle of bubbly on our roof top pool.

Also, if you're looking for somewhere to have amazing tapas you NEED to go to Bardot Barcelona. After resting at the pool we decided to head there for dinner. Fiona and me ordered all the potatoes, all the cheese and all the meat (see evidence here), washed down with a bottle of Catalonian red wine. Needless to say I slept like a baby. 

More BCN photos coming soon!

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  1. God, I miss La Boqueria! Barcelona is such a vibrant city^^

  2. Yess Barcelona is so beautiful! I hadn't realised the ticketing for Parc Guell is a new thing. I think I ate at a Bacoa, I seem to remember ordering via a checkbox form at some burger place at least.

  3. What a beautiful place! I would love to go someday! Love from a fellow welshie :D xx


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