This Tuesday Tea turned into Next Thursday Tea which turned into skip a Tuesday haha.
To end the near year, we finally took off and left Italy for a few days. We set off to Barcelona, Spain for a three day weekend and loved every second of it. Here’s a guide to how we got around, where we stayed, and the landmarks we visited.
Tea of the day: Yogi Herbal Detox
Color: This detox tea has a sort of golden brown color.
Taste: Even though it was steeped for over five minutes (recommended 3-5 minutes), the taste is rather light considering the complexity of flavors that are included. The stronger flavors come out at the very end. Normally, I’ve experienced teas with licorice or licorice root to be strong in that flavor but this one is not. I’m more aware of the cinnamon and pepper in the aftertaste of a sip.
Ideas for next time I have this: I may add some honey to complement the light flavor of dandelion and honeysuckle, and cut some of the spice in the after taste.
Easyjet – Naples to Barcelona
Easyjet is definitely a no frills, no thrills airline. They had the lowest price just a few weeks out and we paid the extra 5 euro to have choose seats to insure we sat next to each other. Talk about the quickest flight ever! We were in the air for barely an hour before arriving at our destination.
Because Easyjet is a budget airline, we flew with just our backpacks. We would have had to pay extra just to bring more luggage on board. This isn’t Southwest. No carry-on AND personal item, just personal item unless you want to pony up so extra cash. This was a new experience for me and I’m glad to say that I got through successfully! A few tips!
- Select accommodations that offer a hair dryer so you don’t need to travel with one.
- If your accommodations also include personal care items in the room, leave your travel size stuff at home.
- Plan ahead to bring ONE pair of shoes. (We don’t go clubbing or anything so walking/running shoes were perfect, and I wore them on the plane.)
- Another perk of planning ahead, I knew the weather and chose what I would wear each day so I didn’t overpack. Who really needs options for three days?
- If you’re wearing a jacket, place smaller items in the jacket pockets so get that tiny bit of extra space in your backpack.
We utilized the Barcelona Metro system (and our feet) to get around Barcelona. It was 10 euro each to get from the airport to the station nearest our hotel. We also opted for a 48 hour pass (14.50 euro each and includes airport transport fees) to use Saturday/Sunday and get back to the airport. The 48 hour time frame starts as soon as you validate it, not at time of purchase.
If you’re familiar with other metro systems, it is very similar and easy to navigate. Grab a map from an information booth that shows where popular destinations are to make it easier to know where to hop on/off.
We stayed at Hotel Catalonia Square and it ended up being the perfect location. It is located in the Gothic Quarter and near the Catalunya Metro station. Don’t let the understated exterior fool you, this hotel has class once you walk inside and see the colorful staircase that leads to the main lobby area after checking in.
We ended up getting upgraded to a Junior Suite (Merry Christmas to us!) and it was incredible. Hello waterfall shower!! The hotel offers breakfast (for an additional cost or with certain reservation types) each morning and a free buffet from 2:00 PM to 11:00 PM that includes pre-made salads, yogurt drinks, sandwiches, fruit, and other small snacks. It wasn’t extraordinary but was perfect for that little treat on your way in or out during those times.
We arrived a few hours before check-in time. They happily held our backpacks for us while the room was finished getting prepared and we ventured out for some tapas. They also watched over our backpacks after we checked out since our flight home was later in the evening.
Tapas at Bo de Gracia
We meant to eat at a tapas restaurant a staff member of the hotel recommended, but ended up eating next door at Bo de Gracia. It is delicious! We ordered a few tapas and split them between the two of us. Every single one is incredible. Our waiter was superb and I was able to use some of the Spanish I know with him. I wish I had taken pictures of the food. 😦 We ordered six different tapas, but I can only remember four of them now. Like in Rome, the menu included several different languages, so don’t be afraid if you’re not fluent in Spanish.
- Salmon on Toast (my favorite!)
- Chicken wings (the sauce was great!)
- Hummus with meat
- Shrimp scampi
Fun Fact! Castilian Spanish is spoken in Barcelona, but most know “normal” Spanish also.
We walked through La Boqueria as most of the shops were closing, then continued down La Rambla to see what was around. We got hungry and turned our sites to finding a place to eat. I had a mission to have paella so we looked for a close by restaurant that offered paella. We had our pick but one stood out for no particular reason, Restaurant Amaya.
We arrived after a few minute walk back toward the hotel and got a table for two. We saw they offered a lobster paella so we splurged on that along with glasses of the house red wine and some croquettes. The wine was good and croquettes a delicious snack to tide us over until our meal came. Now, this lobster paella had instructions that it must be ordered for two people. We soon saw why.
A huge, deep plate came to our table. The smell was mesmerizing. You could see the lobster, still in its shell, among all the rice. We were served our first portions, each getting half of the lobster tail. Oh… my… gosh. This is exactly what I had hoped paella would be. All the spices used in the rice were incredible and the lobster was perfectly succulent to complement the rice.
We finished the meal with Crema Catalana. It’s very similar to creme brûlée, but much lighter and had a slight citrus taste to the creme. It paired very nicely with the heavier meal we had just eaten. I’ll definitely be stopping here again whenever I’m in Barcelona next.
The next morning we stopped by McDonald’s for breakfast. Yes,.. we went to McDonald’s in Spain. That’s kind of one of our traditions for breakfast on trips, haha. Then we hopped on the metro from Catalunya to Vallcarca to get to Park Güell, Antoni Gaudi’s landscape architecture masterpiece.
What comes after the metro is not for the faint of heart. You’ll walk about one block from the station, make a left, then journey uphill for almost one mile. And I mean UPhill. There are stairs and if you haven’t worked out yet that day, it’s a good glute workout. Getting to the park is worth it. There are well curated and kept paths throughout the park without some lookout points. Our first stop showed the expansive city of Barcelona with westward and southward facing views. It’s a great first glimpse to see truly how extravagant and large the Basilica de Sagrada Familia is compared to other city buildings.
We entered the Monumental Area (only accessible with a ticket starting at 7 euro). This is where you can see Gaudi’s colorful style with amazing tile work embedded into this area of the park. My favorite part was a bench that lined the entire border of a patio area that overlooked the area. Half of the patio area was under construction, so only have the bench was accessible to view. The color changing throughout the bench is exciting to walk along and no two areas are alike. Colors may repeat but the design and tiles used in that scheme are not.
After we walked through Park Güell, did a little shopping, dropped out loot off at the hotel, and had lunch at Hard Rock Cafe (another tradition Matt and I have for traveling). I won’t say much about our lunch, other than it is located in the Gothic Quarter on the opposite side of the square that is over the Catalunya stop.
After filling up, we got back on the Metro and headed to the Sagrada Familia stop. We had to switch trains for this trip, but we’re pros. 😉
Now… you may have already looked at one of the pictures I took from Park Güell and saw how it towers over the rest of that part of the city. “Towers over” might be an understatement. So, when we walked out of the metro station and turned around, I think that’s the smallest I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I was ready to see something big, but I wasn’t prepared for something this big!
The interior and exterior are both beautiful. So much detail is stretched out to every corner of each of the two facades that have been constructed so far. I chose to go up the Nativity Facade so that I could get better pictures with the sun setting behind us, against the Passion Facade. You get a closer look at the top of some towers part of the Nativity Facade and you can see Gaudi’s signature colorful style in the fruits that sit atop each tower. While descending, I had an opportunity to take a classic spiral staircase picture… minus not realizing my shoe was in the shot.
We took an elevator up and the stairs back down the facade. I was a little confused because that is different than several websites stated when researching which facade to go up.
Once we descended, we took a look at the inside glory. Multiple columns hold up the ceilings and light shines in from all sides. The stained glass windows are set in a way that cool colors and warm colors are on opposite sides. A sign inside stated that Gaudi’s design was inspired by a forest with the columns being like trees and the light coming in the stained glass windows resembling sunlight coming in through the trees.
In the center of the staging area is Christ on the cross. That image of suffering and love amongst the colorful stained glass is the most beautiful representation of Christ on the cross that I’ve ever seen. Even in suffering and pain, there can be beauty and love in the same moment. Despite your religious affiliation, you can’t deny it’s gorgeous.
Our last stop of the day was the Palacio de Flamenco. I found a groupon that includes dinner and the show, so we decided to be entertained with some classic southern Spanish dance. We arrived early to view a video about the history of Flamenco and receive a short lesson on how hands are used as percussion for the style of dance.
The dancing is so beautiful! And the singing is very different than anything I’ve heard before. I wish I knew more Spanish so that I could understand the stories they are stinging about. Imaging a whale singing but a deeper voice. That is the best I can describe the singing that accompanies Flamenco dance, and that’s not even a good representation because it really is so cool to watch.
Matt used his map skills to find our first place to venture to on our final morning in Barcelona. We decided to enjoy breakfast at the hotel, then hopped on the metro and headed for the Arc de Triompf stop. These stop names really make it quite easy to navigate the city! Haha.
The Arc de Triomf is stunning. It opens onto a large walkway where local artist show off their creations or perform. It was Christmas Eve, so not many were out that morning. There was a man with two poles attached with a string that had loops he used to make bubbles. There were a few children around and they enjoyed popping the bubbles he made.
That walkway goes straight until the Pard de la Cuitadella. So much greenery is in this park. The many walkway is dirt and very well kept. Another bubble maker was in the park and several others were enjoying a morning stroll like we were. The zoo is nearby and a local university sits along one of the edges of the park.
We stumbled upon the most beautiful fountain I have ever seen. There were horses and gold that adorned the fountain. Several ducks and geese were swimming in its waters. It really is a spectacle. I’m so glad that it is so accessible for park goers to see.
Our true last bit of site seeing was to another area of the Gothic Quarter. I quickly spotted the restaurant that must have been named for me, Mi Burrito y Yo. We walked down a couple alleyways to see the Catedral de Barcelona. I had to use the panoramic view on my phone to get the entire front of the cathedral in one pictures. We decided to eat at Mi Burrito y Yo, and the only disappointing thing about it is there aren’t any burritos on the menu. We chose kebabs of lamb meat with vegetables and that definitely hit the spot.
That rounds off this post. Much longer than usual, so congrats if you made it this far! We are heading to Belgium soon so you can keep an eye out for a similar post after that trip. Bravo Barcelona, bravo!