Last September I went to Europe and you haven’t heard from me since. I’ve been blogging over at my other site The Hyper House but now I’m finally getting around to reviewing this dream trip of mine. You last heard about this trip when I explained why I was using a travel agent to book a vacation. My husband and I dreamed up taking a Mediterranean cruise when we were planning our wedding so for our 5th anniversary we decided to make that dream a reality.
On September 19, I flew out of Missouri and arrived in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona was the city my cruise would be leaving from 2 days later and I planned to arrive early to explore the city and make sure I had enough time on the ground just in case something went wrong. Thankfully nothing did and after 10 hours and 12 minutes in the air and a 2 hour layover we arrived in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona’s airport was very easy to get through and all the taxis outside the airport have to line up and you are directed right into one. They all have to charge standard rates. While there are alternative ways to get to the city and hotel areas, we did opt to pay a little under €30 to get to our hotel. We wanted to be able to relax and not be worried about the right stop for a bus after so much travel. The cab driver didn’t recognize the name of our hotel so I showed him the printout with the address and he got us there quickly.
The H10 Montcada was our hotel (more reviews later) and we knew check-in wasn’t until 3 PM and it was only around 8:45 AM. The hotel took our luggage, gave us a tag and did the paperwork part of the check-in process. They then offered us the chance to buy vouchers for the Hop On Hop Off Barcelona Bus Turistic which saved us a few Euros each. We bought a 2-day pass knowing with our limited time in the city we wanted a chance to see as much as we could.
Barcelona Bus Turistic has three lines and 2 of the lines had a stop about a 2 minute walk from our hotel. The buses come about every 10 minutes and when you get on board you can choose to get on the bottom or the top of this double decker bus. You’ll get a map, a discount book and a set of headphones to plug into the many language jacks on board the bus. There are 44 total stops on the 3 different routes with the blue and red lines being the most popular. When you see a stop you want to get off at you just hop off, explore, and hop on the next bus when you’re ready to travel again. For a first-time traveler this is a great way to see the city but I wouldn’t suggest it on future visits since you can just take the public transit Barcelona offers.
One Day 1 we took the red route. Stop Barri Gòtic was the closest to our hotel so we got on board there. We got off at the second stop, Casa Batlló, to take some photos. Casa Lleó-Morera (see above) was the first building we saw. It’s one of the four big buildings on what is known as the “Block of Discord”. Barcelona is a city full of beautiful architecture and so many buildings are unlike any you will ever see again. Also on this block are Casa Mulleras, Casa Amatller, and Casa Batlló. Casa Batlló was designed by Antoni Gaudí who designed so many beautiful and haunting buildings in Barcelona.
We got off the bus again at the next stop, La Pedrera. This stop is named for another Gaudí creation, also known as Casa Milà. The metalwork on this building was fantastic.
We then got back on board the bus and sat for 7 stops. We were on the top of the bus and just watched the city below us and oriented ourselves in it. The headphones and soundtrack explained some of what we were seeing. We couldn’t help but get off at stop MNAC. The Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) is a gorgeous campus with beautiful views of the city. I wish we’d had more time to explore inside.
We then rode the bus a little longer, zooming past Olympic village, Montjuic, the Christopher Columbus statue, Port Vell, Port Olímpic, Parc de la Ciutadella, and our hotel until we got to Plaça Catalunya, one stop past where we began. We got off the bus and decided to find some lunch. I had researched a place called Merce Vins before we came and had decided it would be a great first meal.
Merce Vins offered menus in both Catalan and English. You order a starter, a main dish, and a dessert for €11.50 though some items may cost extra. My husband and I both had the paella to start (by far the best paella of our trip). My husband had the pork ribs with apple sauce and liked it but the all-star dish was their cod with tomato sauce (an extra €3 but worth it). The staff was very understanding of two tourists looking for a quiet place to grab some warm food. The environment is intimate but welcoming. It felt full of locals on break from work rather than a tourist trap like many spots you might see a few streets away.
We then walked back to our hotel and finished checking in since it was around 3. They gave us each a glass of cava and then led us to our teeny tiny room. I’ll feature this more in a hotel review but our cruise ship room was about double its size.
We then napped from about 3:30 till 8:30. Thankfully, Barcelona is the kind of city that doesn’t seem to really thrive until the evening and we were up early before the real dinner crowd. Wanting something calm we walked down Via Laietana (the street our hotel was on) to a place called La Perla Nera. It was a little pizza place, not as good as lunch, but still filled us up with some cokes and woodfired pizza. I had a seafood pizza and my husband had a ham and egg pizza.
We were exhausted after this day of travel so after dinner we headed right back to bed so we’d be well-rested for day 2.
To see more photos from day 1 view my flickr page!