If you are intested, the Spain for Kids post can be found here….. Spain for kids…also see Barcelona post
Photo above from Lonely Planet Kids “The Cities Book – a Journey Through 86 of the World’s Greatest Cities”
Our train journey into Spain from France:
- We had a week in Bordeaux (France)… can you find that French city on the map?
- Followed by a week in Sans Sebastian (Spain)…can you find that Spanish city on the map?
- We ended with a week in Barcelona (Spain)…can you find that Spanish city on the map?
From Barcelona we travelled home to Australia – a flight from Barcelona to Dubai (Middle East); another from Dubai to Singapore (Asia); last flight was from Singapore to Canberra (Capital of Australia). All flights were approximately 7 hours. It is possible to fly direct from Dubai or other Middle Eastern cities to Australia – it takes about 14 hours.
Our impressions of beautiful Barcelona – before and now
We were in Barcelona late last year (2016) as well as a week in 2011. We noticed that there were many more tourists in 2o16 compared to 2011. In 5+ years, Barcelona has become one of the most popular cities in the world with many overseas tourists arriving by train (like us), plane, coach, car, cruise ship etc. Our Australian friends, who live half the year near Barcelona & speak Spanish, tell us that local newspapers often discuss the advantages and disadvantages of tourism. The important thing is that we all need to try to be respectful tourists – try to learn Spanish greetings (at least), remember to put your litter in the bins…there are many in and around Barcelona.
Do you like trying the local food like we do? If so, visit LA BOQUERIA MARKET (photo below)
The Boqueria Market is right near the centre of Barcelona (a 5 min walk from the main boulevard – Las Ramblas – see photo below). It not only provides food and goods for the surrounding neighbourhoods, but it’s a tourist attraction in it’s own right. A visit here provides a wonderful glimpse into the everyday life in the city especially if you get there very early. Try to arrive at the market while most of the tourists are still eating their breakfast! You can have a simple continental style breakfast at the market; for example, a pastry such as a croissant & a drink (good coffee there for adults too) – we did that one morning. Over our 2 weeks in Barcelona we returned to the Markets a few times and tried various “Tapas Bars”…these Bars, with stools for seating along the counters, focus on selling traditional Spanish food although many sell beer and wine for adults in the evenings.
“Tapas” basically means snacks of Spanish cuisine (food of the country). They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried baby squid…we prefer the steamed squid and calamari dishes). In some bars and restaurants in Spain, tapas has evolved into an entire sophisticated cuisines. Most aspiring and ambitious chefs around the world now try to learn more about the various cuisines of Spain. The food varies across the different regions of Spain – in Sans Sebastian (a small Spanish city close to the French border) the food is still distinctly Spanish but you can see & taste the influence of French cuisine…all very interesting for those who love both travel & food like we do! I’ll post more soon about Sans Sebastian and Spanish food – one of our favourite topics!
A traditional/simple local dish to try – Pa amb tomaquet (translation is “bread with tomato”)…photo below
A traditional/simple local dish to try – Pa amb tomaquet (translation is “bread with tomato”):
Image above is an example of the more traditional/authentic version of this recipe – although some Spanish people might disagree with me?
If you look up images of this you’ll see that it’s not ordinary “bread with tomato” but a delicious combination of tomato, olive oil, salt and sometimes garlic (we love garlic!) rubbed over the bread or toast. There are short videos to look up on Net – some with the recipe done the very traditional way (resulting in something like the above photo); some with variations on the traditional. We enjoy trying/tasting both! Often this dish is served accompanied with various types of sausage, ham, cheeses, omelettes, anchovies, prosciutto or other marinated fish or grilled vegetable. These combinations are often found at the hundreds of Tapas Bars around Barcelona. Good idea to check review sites and quality food guides before you go wandering but sometimes if the locals seem to frequently go there it means that the food is often good. If you see an empty tapas bar with lots of food sitting for many hours uneaten, might be a good idea to move on although remember that many Europeans, including Spanish, often don’t eat until late as many have a Siesta (later I will post more info on that tradition) which is basically a long rest in the afternoon.
LAS RAMBLAS – Barcelona’s very famous street…actually streets! (Photo above from our hotel window)
We arrived in Barcelona on the train from a smaller, seaside city in Spain called Sans Sebastian (more about that in another post). It was a pleasant day trip with lots of interesting scenery to look at along the way. We stayed on a huge, wide street/boulevard called La Rambla or Las Ramblas as locals call it. It’s a very famous Main Street in Barcelona, especially over the last 10 years (decade), as it has become so popular with people from all over the world. Many huge cruise ships can also berth within Barcelona harbour although the Government of Barcelona (at time of our visit in Oct 2016 & now ’17) are considering controls on the number of cruise ships that can berth; so things might change in the future. Along Las Ramblas there are flower stands, souvenir sellers, bars and as I mentioned, a constant parade of people from all corners of the globe. The photo above was taken in the early evening – as the night goes on many, many more people come out including street theatre and buskers…it’s a very busy and entertaining place! Some love it but others say it has become too touristy especially with lots of souvenir stalls up and down the street; some also say that what many of these stalls sell is often cheap but the souvenirs are of very low quality and they quickly break – adding to Spain’s (& the world’s) pollution problems. What do you think?
Not many realise that La Rambla is actually made up of 5 streets all joined together. This is why it is also called the plural – Las Ramblas. In the early evening half the city emerges to stroll, eat and hang out on the tree-lined strip. When we were there (in early October) it was very warm – almost warm enough to swim at the beach. We took a bus to the beach one day and enjoyed our swim – there are small kiosks up and down the very long beach where you can buy a drink, an ice cream or even have lunch (see photos below).
There’s a very long beachfront in Barcelona where you can swim, eat (see cafe in background), or play – so many playgrounds which appeal to children and outdoor “gyms” that appeal to older children, teens and adults too.
“Barcelona’s golden beachfront is world famous, but it has only been around since 1992! The city used to have its back turned towards the sea, lining its coast with industrial buildings and factories instead. When Barcelona won its bid to host the Olympic Games, organisers decided to transform the entire area. The old buildings were knocked down; two beaches were improved and 5 brand new ones were created. Now the seaside is an essential part of Barcelona life – a place to play, swim and while away the weekends.” (Lonely Planet Kids ’16).
The famous Architect Antoni Gaudi and one of his most important works…
La Sagrada Familia – a famous and gigantic stone church (2 photos below – close up & from a distance)
This massive church rises from the ground “like a cluster of colossal stalagmites” (Lonely Planet Kids)…”the pillars propping up the vast interior resemble trees and the church will eventually have 18 spires. Currently it only has 8.”
“The first brick was laid in 1882, Gaudi never got to see his vision completed. Over a Century later, La Sagrada Familia is still under construction. Given that the Great Pyramid of Egypt only took 20 years to build using ancient tools, this is quite a delay!” (Lonely Planet 2016)
View from Park Guell looking toward the huge famous stone church – La Sagrada Familia designed by the Architect Antoni Gaudi who has many distinctive buildings and structures throughout Barcelona. 1 of his models can be seen below: