I finished writing this post on Wednesday, August 17 – one day before the horrors that unfolded on Las Ramblas. I intended to delete it but have decided to share our experiences of the beautiful city regardless – we’re already planning a return trip soon.
Hola! It’s around 11pm and I’m currently lying in bed under soft cotton sheets in a beautiful, Pinterest-worthy apartment. With bare brick features, a painfully modern white marble kitchen and a breathtaking view of the iconic Sagrada Familia from the bathroom window to boot, I can only dream of owning a home like this one day. Yes, I’m in the stunning capital city of Catalonia, Barcelona.
Sadly, by the time you read this, I’ll most likely be back in the office drinking too much coffee and facing the rainy British weather so I wanted to soak it all up and write my experience down before the memories (and my tan) begin to fade.
This is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this particular city. A few years ago, I vowed to visit at least one new place every year for as long as I physically can. Adam has been to Barcelona on several occasions and was keen to show us around so here we are!
The four of us (me, Adam and the kids) left a cold and miserable Manchester in the early hours of Monday morning and landed in a gloriously sunny Barcelona just in time for breakfast. We faced a few initial hiccups (the email containing the address of our apartment couldn’t be accessed then we quickly discovered that the said address was incorrect, leaving us awkwardly buzzing through to a random apartment) but after a quick phone call, a pit stop for coffee and a change of clothing, we headed straight for Nova Mar Bella beach to take full advantage of the 28 degree weather.
Just a short walk away from the Metro station, we were greeted by a beautiful blue sea on the horizon. Seriously, the water was like something I’d only even seen before in a movie. After several hours of sunbathing, we found a huge supermarket (they had an entire aisle dedicated to freshly baked goods and was then that I decided I could happily live in Barcelona) picked up some burgers for tea and headed back to the apartment for a much-needed sleep.
Before we left the UK, I’d pre-booked open tickets for the local zoo. It was a reasonable size, with animals such as lions, tigers, several monkeys, dolphins and more, and we spent most of the day there. By lunchtime, the weather had taken a pretty grim turn for the worst and rained heavily for an hour or so. You can take the girl out of Manchester…
Located just off Las Ramblas, I soon discovered that the Gothic Quarter (barri gotic) was my personal favourite part of the city. The architecture was absolutely exquisite and the labyrinth of back streets were perfect for exploring. From stalls filled with Morrocan-style trinkets and an old fashioned book shop (swoon) to tapas bars and tattoo parlours, I was truly in my element.
I’d also read about an artisanal confectionery store in the area so that a must-see for me, being an utter sweet tooth! Papabubble make all of their goodies in-house, using ancient artisanal candy making techniques and this humble little shop would be easy to pass by. After watching the staff create colourful lollies and sampling a piece of fresh candy (it was still warm), I caved and spent way too much money on what was essentially a posh jar of rock!
Another surprise for me was the rockabilly/vintage scene. As I wandered from shop to shop, I had to resist the array of swing dresses and court shoes on offer (mainly due to my pitiful bank balance by this point) but have now earmarked them all for our return visit.
Prior to our holiday, we’d made lots of plans to see Tibidabo, visit a local water park, uncover the plethora of museums on offer and so much more. However, I was quickly reminded that my two teenage daughters don’t quite share the same enthusiasm so we decided on an impromptu change of plan for the rest of the week, alternating cultural days out with lazy days on the beach.
To be honest, I’ve never been much of a ‘beach bum’ and hated the idea of wasting so much time simply doing nothing. After the second day on Nova Mar Bella beach, I began to change my mind and thoroughly enjoyed completely switching off. I left my phone behind, read a book and even braved a dip in the warm Mediterranean ocean.
This is actually a pretty big deal for someone who *whispers* can’t actually swim (I know, I know). It would have been even more impressive had I not spent the entire duration clinging to my youngest daughter for support and freaking out every time something touched my foot! Lucie, on the other hand, possibly has some kind of legit mermaid genes as she’s always been happiest in the water and it was awesome to watch her swimming confidently in the waves.
As the week went on, we noticed more and more topless/nude beachgoers and, rather than being uncomfortable, it was liberating to see so many people all of ages, shapes, and sizes relaxing in the sunshine. For the last few days, I decided to release my inner-exhibitionist and ditched my bikini top (Lucie immediately shrieked: “Mum! Put them away!” but soon got over it). Upon our return home, I discovered that there was a good reason for this – that particular section of Nova Mar Bella is a well-known nudist beach! Ah well, when in
Barcelona Rome, huh?
On the ‘non-beach’ days, we’d waste hours eating pistachio ice cream and drinking coffee whilst people watching on Las Ramblas, taking cliched tourist pictures by the beautiful fountains of Plaza de Cataluna and discovering the foodie delights of La Boqueria market. We ate traditional tapas and seafood paella, drank sangria, cocktails and plenty of Estrella whilst embracing our captivating surroundings.
We spent an afternoon at Park Guell, one of Antoni Gaudi’s most famous creations. Named after Count Eusebi Guell, the site is steeped in history and is a visual delight. Along with plenty of gorgeous greenery, the sheer detail of the intricate mosaics was truly breathtaking and I couldn’t quite take it all in at once! Unfortunately, there were renovation works being carried out on our visit so we couldn’t take full advantage of the views but it was still an enchanting place to see regardless.
My only advice would be to book in advance if you plan on going along yourself. There is a charge to enter the park (around 7 euro each) and you’re then given a set time slot. This is to minimise the crowds but we did see several disappointed groups being turned away when they tried to buy tickets on the day as it had already sold out.
Spending quality time together as a family was particularly special as this was potentially our last holiday with my eldest daughter. Megan turns eighteen next year and has already planned her first trip away with the girls to Ibiza (which I’m definitely not freaking out about)
We landed back in Manchester eight days later to find sideways rain and a significant drop in temperature but with plenty of happy memories made in this charming city. Until next time Barcelona <3