After several days in Valencia with our friends, we headed for Barcelona.
This three-hour drive on the E7 toll road was an easy trip. Along the way, we stopped in Tarragona, an hour before Barcelona, to see its ruins and enjoy magnificent views of the Mediterranean. The weather was beautiful and the water was a magnificent color of azul/blue. Tarragona is all the hype implied. Parking a few blocks from the ruins, we walked the city streets along the sea – it was mesmerizing. The view of the ruins created more great memories and we enjoyed a lunch of pizza that would make Italy proud. Unfortunately, the time came to leave, as our apartment agent was waiting to deliver our keys in Barcelona.
Another great 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment sourced from Valencia Luxury became our home for three evenings. The location was perfect, at the far end of Avenue of La Rambla – the promenade for many of the restaurants, stores, and attractions.
Because we were unable to secure parking with the apartment rental, we asked our local English/Spanish-speaking, check-in agent to negotiate a parking spot in a nearby lot. At 20€ per day, we felt we got a deal. (We saw parking signs for 1€ per ten minutes in the area.)
On our first day in Barcelona, we explored. We took the metro down to Old Town, walked along Avenue of La Rambla, toured the Barcelona cathedral, devoured an outdoor lunch, and enjoyed the beautiful 75-degree sunny day.
On our second day in Barcelona, we took the train to Montserrat. This is one of the top sites to see around Barcelona and is an hour by train or car from town. Although parking is free in Montserrat, the train is the best way to travel (countryside views and a more local experience).
We purchased a TOT ticket for 47€ per person at the metro station. This price includes the train to Montserrat; access to all parts of the grounds, funiculars, monastery, and museum; and a good lunch (cafeteria style, but tasty fish, chicken, salad bar, and basic desert along with unlimited wine, beer and soda – another good reason to take the train).
Our final day in Barcelona was dedicated to touring the Basilique de la Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi masterpiece.
You must purchase tickets to Sagrada in advance. Ticket selections offer a 30-minute window for entry (don’t be late); you can stay as long as desired. Plan for about two hours. Be sure to use the official Sagrada Familia website, as there are several broker sites that charge a fee. (We purchased tickets at 8 PM the day before, a Wednesday, and the first available entry time was noon, Thursday. We used the receipt on our iPhone as proof to enter. Printed tickets obviously work too.)
We spent an hour circling/walking around the Sagrada Familia, observing the many and amazing biblical story reenactments depicted. Truly incredible.
When it came time to enter, we obtained self-paced tour audio devices for our wives, while Mark and I took the elevator to the top of the Passion tower. (All included in the ticket packages purchased online – around 80€ for four people, senior rate).
The inside is cool looking and full of colored glass windows – the Gaudi touch – but somewhat avant-garde. The walk down the Passion tower allows closer views to the outside sculptures; however all window/portal holes in the tower are covered with fencing that make picture-taking challenging. Our wives said the audio tour is poor; only one of the talks provides interesting information.
This said, seeing the inside of Sagrada is indeed worth the time and cost, but the real memories are outside and free – allow time for both.
Although we ran out of time, another recommended place to see in Barcelona is Goudi Park. (Several friends mentioned this, but frankly, I forgot. One of those senior moments.)
After enjoying lunch nearby, we found our car (in one of those 10€-per-hour lots) and began a speedy trip back to Barcelona. Tip: Unless you’re looking for a fast getaway from town, take the metro to the Sagrada station.
Arriving back in Valencia around 7 PM, we decided to pull an all-nighter, watching a few movies and enjoying some wine. We then dropped our friends at the airport at 4 AM for their flight to Dallas via Madrid. Alicia and I went home to bed.