SUMMER DESTINATION- BARCELONA, SPAIN
by Sonal Kulshrestha
With a 14 year old daughter and a 10 year old son, destination Barcelona turned out to be an excellent choice to squeeze in a four day trip in Europe on way to India. The kids were old enough to walk long distances that is so typical of a European trip and young enough to want to hang around and explore with parents. Most importantly that’s the age when they’re old enough to remember the trip and relate places to what they might have read or seen or heard about. So yes, we pretty much walked and boarded buses and trains and trams as we explored Barcelona in four days. And if you're headed that way this summer, here's what we recommend.
The Must-See places to cover in four days:
Day 1: Ride a train to La Rambla. It's a long stretch of street that is lively with people, street vendors, human statutes, ice cream shops, eateries, etc. It is one of the most famous boulevards in the world. You would enjoy looking at the people's attire apart from the general ambience of the place. The focus seems to be comfort and style- not just style. Almost all the women were in stylish clothing with really comfortable shoes- flats. There's the beautiful Plaza Reial. Hang around there for a while. Carry on down La Rambla. It ends in a mall across the bridge close to Port Vell (near the cruise port terminal). This is another happening hang out spot. You could eat dinner in one of the water facing restaurants or return to Plaza Riel for your meal. Definitely try the waffle or a new flavor of ice cream. There are plenty to choose from, and all good. Due to jet lag, we had started the day really late, around 2:00 pm and we were back around 9:00 pm.
Day 2: Start the day with a trip to Sagrada Familia. It means the Sacred Family. The church is a must- see because the church has been under construction for the past 100 years and the construction will likely go on for another 100 years. Gaudí's architecture is certainly to marvel at. There's an entrance fee and long line to enter the main part and then again the tower (you could skip the tower and save on ticket). Its’ 11€ without the tower fee and 16 with it- for adults.
Grab lunch in a one of the many restaurants close-by, you were probably handed many flyers for those while waiting in the long line.
Next, take a train to Plaza Espanya. Enjoy a beautiful stroll all the way to the Museum of Art at the very end. If you're not into museums, turn around and stroll back. After sun set, you may even get to see the fountains come alive with music and lights. End the journey in the mall by the train station. Again, enjoy the awesome ice creams and cappuccinos at the lower level.
Jet lag had again caused us to start the day late- around 2:00 pm, but we returned back around 11:00 since we felt more comfortable with finding our way around.
Day 3: Take a tram to the Barceloneta beach. In June, the water is warm and inviting. Stroll around the beach, take a dip in the water and have lunch in one of the many bar restaurants that line the beach. You’ll find lot of variety. Later in the afternoon, take a tram followed by a train and then a ride in the cable car to the top of mount Montjuïic where you can visit the Castle Montjuïic.
Both the cable car ride and the castle offers excellent view of the entire city- very worth it, especially if you skipped the visit to the tower at Sagrada Familia.
Day 4: Take a train to the biggest stadium in Europe that can seat around 100,000 spectators. If you grew up in the 1980s, memories of Maradona's game will motivate you to make the trip. The Camp Nou has been the FC Barcelona stadium since it’s inauguration in 24th of September 1957. It’s tour is rather expensive, 23 Euros per person, but this self-guided tour covers the visitor's team changing room, the famous tunnel from where the players walk onto the pitch, TV Room, Press Room, the Presidential Box, etc.
MUST EATS- WHAT AND WHERE
While there are lot of good places to eat, the must try items in Barcelona, Spain that my kids loved were Chicken Croquettes and Paella rice-with Chicken curry or Lobster- it comes with various different meat at different places.
Our favorite of all the restaurants that we tried during our four day stay was- Hotel DO restaurant in Plaza Rieal at La Rambla. In our opinion, it is a must-eat-at restaurant in Barcelona, Spain. The outdoor seating is truly an experience to soak in what Barcelona is all about. And what to order there? Some of good must-trys are-
- Potato Bravas (Veg)
- Ham croquettes (if you like Ham)
- Chicken Cannelloni (filled with excellent ground chicken)
- Lobster Paella – special rice item of Spain
Also, Cappuccino coffee is excellent and so is the hot cocoa chocolate for kids.
- Travelling to Barcelona during the summer months is of course the best. We went in June, the weather was perfect. We wore shorts during the day and only needed an extra shrug for the slightly cooler nights. An added bonus for us was being there for the festival of Sant Joan, June 23rd-24th. It is a public holiday and celebrations include fireworks in the streets much like Diwali in India. The sky is constantly lit up by fireworks similar to July 4th celebrations in USA. The festival marks the shortest night of the year, Summer Solstice.
- Sleep in as much as you and your kids need to in order to get over the jet lag. We found that even though we started the day late- as late as 2:00 pm the first two days, we were fine because in June, the days were long and warm enough to stay out late.
- As long as you’re careful with your camera, iPhones and wallets, it should be a safe experience for you and your family. Once we were confident about taking the trains, trams and buses we were fine being out as late as 11:00 pm even. See your comfort level and use your judgment, nonetheless.
- Buy bottled water at the local grocery stores, you’ll find they are much cheaper than in the restaurants.
Enjoy your trip!