After one and half year having me moved to Florence, at the end of October 2016 finally my parents came to Italy, for the 3rd time in their life, to visit.
Staying in a Florentine apartment in cozy Borgo San Frediano, playing with their grandson in the morning, shuffling in the city like a local, after 3 weeks, they got familiar with the Florentine life and asked to go for a trip out.
Considering this was the first time me being a “tour leader” for a senior group, we decided to choose a city, where is connected with a direct flight from Florence. After screening and comparing, Barcelona was chosen as our final destination.
After booking a 3-night (2-day) stay, the Wang family headed to the airport on a Thursday evening, started our slow-pace tour in this modern and artistic city of Spain.
Day 1: La Sagrada Familia & Park Guell
After a good night sleep following by a big breakfast as a morning call, we stepped out for our first tourist stop, the one of a kind church La Sagrada Familia.
No one would skip this place while visiting Barcelona, even though it is always full of tourists, full of crowds, and surrounded by construction sites. This architecture of Gaudi, similar to many Cathedrals in major Italian cities, is like the face of Barcelona and attracts people from all over the world to visit.
To me, the beauty of La Sagrada Familia is that it is unfinished. The construction started in 1882 and is anticipated to be completed in 2026. Standing in front of it, I was amazed by the detailed status on the facade, and was shocked by the time that project like this request! Living in Florence, it is easy to take it for granted, because our Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore) has been built up centuries ago (started in 1294). The fact that it started and finished way earlier made me neglectful of the time and efforts consumed for building it. The under-construction church of La Sagrada Familia reminded me about this point, and gave me a second appreciation to my own city.
After almost 2 hours of shower in this Gaudi’s holy art piece, we went for a quick lunch before the next tourist stop of the day!
Teleferic, a non-touristic restaurant where we found and ate many plates of tapas.
I planned to reach Park Guell by first taking the metro, then the escalator to climb up. But because the paella was so good, and we spent longer time eating and chatting, when we head out from the restaurant, we noticed that there was only 30 minutes left before our entrance time! At the end, we took a taxi in order to arrive to the park on time.
It was again a place of fairy tail scenery that made us lost our mind. We didn’t take the guided tour, and now I feel it was a pity. However we did pay a full visit in the park. After touring the main area of the park, we continued to walk up to the hills and came down from the other side. My father likes to be active and he enjoyed walking up and down the steps and taking photos around. My mom was less sporty and at certain point, she was “complaining” about all the climbing work requested. But at the end, she also managed to reach the end, and she even had extra efforts to visit the gift shop opposite to the park entrance. LOL
Day 2: Casa Batllo & Montjuic
Our entrance time to Casa Batllo was 10:30am. We arrived 15 minutes early, and already found crowds downstairs of the building. Thanks to the Fast Pass tickets, we were allowed to skip all the queue and enter directly.
Casa Batllo is another great architecture by Gaudi. In the end of 19 century, many rich families chose to buy properties along the Passeig de Gracia, the most expensive and bustling road in Barcelona, so as to showcase their social statues. Casa Batllo was constructed for the Batllo family in 1877, and today it is still privately owned rather than a government funded museum.
Street view out of the window of Casa Batllo.
Colorful mosaic paved wall, irregular streamlines shaped windows and ceilings, etc. It felt like we were in Gaudi’s mind, and every object was playable, and all the rules were to be broke.
Afternoon, a quick visit to the Montjuic Park for a bird’s-eye view of the city.
We went back to the hotel for a little rest and refreshing before heading out for dinner. We walked to La Rambla area, one of the most popular streets where locates tons of shops and restaurants. With all the locals and tourists on a Saturday night, this restless street seemed even more exciting! Turning into a small lane, we found VIANA, a tapas restaurant, for a Spanish treatment to our taste buds.
VIANA hides off the main street of La Rambla, is a bar-style restaurant, cozy and casual. From the outside, you won’t immediately associate it with a place with chic dishes, however the food there was an unexpected surprise.
There are around 4 small tables (2 seats), 2 big ones (3-4 seats), and several bar seats in total. Customers kept coming in and out, which made it a popular and lively dining spot. We ordered 3 tapas and 2 main courses (a suckling pig and a fish), and spent a great family time together.
Part of our orders. My favorite was the shrimp and vegetable spring roll, a tapas with an Asian twist.
Even though my parents were open-minded enough and willing to try Spanish cuisine during these two days, they had asked for “pasta” many times. They thought that “noodles” must also play an important role in the Spanish cuisine, given the fact that Spain is neighboring country to Italy.
I managed to let them hold the urge to eat noodles, but still right before taking the flight back, we ended in a local Chinese restaurant for a taste of Asian. Well, at least we didn’t stay in the hotel room and devoured boxes of instant noodles.
Search our commute efficiently: using GoEuro
Taking this trip was kind of last minute decision. I was proposing my parents to go around somewhere on Monday, and we chose Barcelona and took off on Thursday evening. I didn’t spent (neither didn’t have) too much time in researching and observing all the deals on every travel platforms. Instead of searching tickets on different airline companies websites, I used GoEuro.
GoEuro is multiple mode travel search engine, which allows me to search and screen all the transportation options in one-go. By input the original place and the destination, it can list all the means and options available for my trip.
What I like about GoEuro is that:
- Florence is not a place with many direct flights to other cities. With GoEuro, I am able to see which is the most convenient method to travel to my destination. For this trip to Barcelona, we found a direct flight from Florence with Vueling. However for destination, where is connected to Florence with direct flights, GoEuro’s search results can show me which is the most convenient city that I can eventually take a direct flight from.
- I actually use GoEuro much more in searching for train tickets. It is able to list all possible routes from different train companies, which saves me from searching among different train operators’ websites. Also it is great that I can gain points in loyalty programs (e.g. CartaFreccia) even when I purchase tickets through GoEuro!
- For those who lives in Italy, you know how reluctant it can be to talk to the local customer service people. With all the problems we may have, the customer services in Italy can give you a bigger headache by not solving your problems, and not speaking English very well. GoEuro has the English CS available in 6 European countries (including Italy) where they operates. I hope I would never contact them for this reason, but in case of emergence, I could feel more relaxed as talking with people who can understand perfectly English.
To sum-up, it is one of my favorite App to use when it comes to traveling.
Where did we stayed: Hotel Room Mate Carla
When taking my parents or accompanying senior people to a trip, I much prefer staying in the city center, and having an easy way home after all day walking around. We stayed in Room Mate Carla Hotel, which is 10-minute away by walk to La Sagrada Familia, and 5-minutes to Passeig De Gracia and metro station.
Purchase tickets in advance:
All the famous scenic spots in Barcelona regulate the entrance time, and the ticket counters are constantly packed with people. In order to save the time and energy for queuing, an easy and convenient thing to do in advance is to purchasing the tickets online. If you are like me, who wants to take full control of time, it is a MUST!
La Sagrada Familia: http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/
Park Guell: http://www.parkguell.cat/en/
Casa Batllo: https://tickets.casabatllo.es/site/CasaBatllo/
Bring a map of Barcelona Metro system with you:
Barcelona is a big city, and if you plan to travel around all by yourself and try to avoid taking taxi, it is highly recommended to have a map of the metro system on hand. You can download the Barcelona 2016 Metro Map here, and make the trip easier.
Our footprints in Barcelona: