Nov 13, 2014

Europe with a Toddler : Barcelona, Spain

Here we are nearly 3 months after our Spain trip and I'm just now getting to share one of my favorite places with you...Barcelona.  I promise, it was worth your wait!

Here are the two other posts on our Spain trip, in case you're interested:

Now for Barcelona - a true gem in the treasure trove that is Europe and a fabulous place to take a little one! We visited Barcelona on the tail end of our Spain trip - we spent a day in Barcelona, left on a Disney Cruise from there, then wrapped up the trip with two more days in Barcelona.

First off, we stayed at the Le Meridien Barcelona just steps from the heart of the action on La Rambla street. It was a great hotel...I gasped with joy when I walked in to our room below.  Hello high-design and city views!

If you visit Barcelona (or any foreign place), I strongly recommend experiencing the city with a private tour guide.  It's well worth the investment as you get to see and hear and taste and smell and enjoy and internalize some much more than you ever would just walking around with a guide book. Our tour guides - Nancy and Teresa of Enchanting Barcelona Day Tours - were phenomenal.  Not only were they true experts on Barcelona's rich culture and history, but they also catered so well to our family and the needs we had in having a toddler in tow.

We started our first tour of the city - called 2,000 Years in a Morning - in the older gothic portion of the city. The first stop was Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, a very old market filled with vendors selling everything from fresh-squeezed juices to the daily catch.

Next we walked through the maze of gothic streets and discovered such pretty settings.

They're big into their "giants" in Barcelona - very tall puppet looking costumes that people wear in parades to celebrate holidays and other major events.  This site was a museum that houses the giants when they aren't out on parade.

We saw the beautiful Music Hall - Palau de la Musica...

The Cathedral of Barcelona...

Placa Nova where this cool mural by Picasso is featured...

The Arc de Triomf (yes, they seem have one in almost every European city I've been to)...

And, the lovely Parc de la Ciutadella...

From castles...

To mammoths...

We saw so much (even more than you saw in these photos) that first day alone!

Because the food is a very important cultural part of any locale, here are a few snap shots of food in Barcelona to make you drool a bit.

Caprese pizza at Luzia

Late night drinks and dessert in the hotel lobby...with a cute toddler

A Barcelona special, Seafood Paella, at Taberna del Cobre

Donuts at Chok Barcelona

I guess we should walk that off now by visiting some more of Barcelona's sites!  Our second tour in Barcelona - called The Great Gaudi and Co. - focused on The Modernists, the artists and architects that set the stage for one of the most artistic and culturally rich cities I've ever experienced.  

For this tour, we started off by walking by Puig Cadafalch's Casa Ametller (below left) and Antoni Gaudi's Casa Batllo (below right).  As you can see, the architecture in Barcelona was breath-taking and so much of it had to do with the Modernist Movement.

Next, we visited Gaudi's perpetual project called the Sagrada Familia.  Construction of this awe-inspiring basilica was started in 1882 and construction of the facility continues until this very day.  Gaudi died in 1926, but several architects fueled by passion and funded by private donations have continued his work since then. The Sagrada Familia is estimated to be completed in 2026. 

The inside of this place is beyond words.  Gaudi's attention to detail and his eccentric design concepts were ahead of his time during his lifetime and continue to be ahead of our time even today. 

Here's the detail on the massive of my favorite features.

After the Sagrada Familia, we walked up to the Hospital Saint Paul - a beautiful facility built by the modernist architect Lluis Montaner.  It was a fully functioning hospital from 1901 to 2009.

Next stop was Park Guell, another well-known Gaudi masterpiece, which was originally designed as a master planned community.  Because it was situated rather far from the city center, it never took off in that way and instead became a public park in the 1920s.

It's most known for it's serpentine mosaic shown off by my favorite little poser.

The splendor of the entire park - even the lower levels - never failed to disappoint.

Can you believe all of this is nearly a century old now??  It still looks "modern" to me!

Following our second tour, we felt confident enough to explore a little more on our own so our last day was spent walking the streets of the gothic Old Town, visiting art galleries and boutique shops.

We grabbed delicious tapas at the Mercat de Santa Caterina - check out the roof!

Took in some awesome sculpture art...

We then finished up our trip with a relaxing stay at the uber hip Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel on the outskirts of town.  Check out these digs, y'all...

The windows in the guest rooms look like palm tree shaped explosions through concrete.

The pool was just a bit swanky, to say the least...

Stark white bathrooms with nice rain shower heads...

Wish I could have brought this chair home with us.

This was a great indoor pool if you opted to avoid the snooty folks at the rooftop pool and splash a little.

City views anyone?

How's that for a way to wrap up a sublime vacation to Spain?  Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

Bottomline, please add Barcelona to your bucket list!  It won't disappoint whether you're young, old, or in-between.


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