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March rip report --- Barcelona

Chicago, Il
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March rip report --- Barcelona

It has been 26 years since I have been to Spain and I still love this country. It was my wifes first time in Spain and we will be returning soon I hope.

What a wonderful trip in Spain, having spent a 4 days in Barcelona and 2 in Madrid. First off for those who fly out of Chicago, do not get your Euros at the exchange both at the airport. I was reviewing their exchange rate and I noticed the women in front was exchanging $1000 USD and the exchange rate she was getting was 1.62 not the going rate of 1.41 that was a $200 loss and I said we wait till we arrive in Barcelona and look for a ATM in baggage claim. Our flight connection was only 1 ½ hrs in London but we did make it in plenty of time. We landed in Barcelona and I was shocked that we got off the plane and thru customs in 20 mins. As soon as we got our bags we looked for ATM’s and plenty were to be found. We hopped on the bus and we were off to the Hotel Jazz and arrived about 30mins later with a 2 min walk to the hotel at around 11:30am. Hard to believe we had just got off the plane an hour earlier and we were already unpacking our bags. The rooms are spacious for European hotels. We really loved the room and the service, very modern and sleek. We had a little shower issues but it was fixed in 10mins. Since we were tired we just walked across the street and sat outside at a cafe and ate Iberian ham & cheese sandwiches than back to the room for a short nap.

We had reserved tickets for Sagrada Famillia for 4pm and needed to pick up our tickets at a ServiCaixa. There was a servicaixa machine right around the corner from the hotel so all I did was slip in the credit card I used and print out the tickets plus our tickets we needed for Palau de la Musica. Metro system is very convenient and we were at the church in less than 10mins. The line in the afternoon was not too bad but since we had advance tickets we walk right to the front and also purchased our lift tickets to the top of the church. Wow! Is all I can say. I have been to a lot of cathedrals but this place was so different. We spent two hours there and headed back to the hotel. Since we were still jet lagged we just went around the corner to eat at the Celler de Tapas a recommendation from the hotel. Food was just okay, no wow factor.

Next day we woke up and headed out and low and behold we found a Starbucks down the block of Pella. We headed for the hop on hop off bus at the Plaza de Cataluña and also found a bank with inside ATM’s at the corner of Bergara and Rambla. As far as the tourist buses make sure you are in the right line. The red and blue buses are on different sides of the plaza. We saw the lines and headed back to the Balmes stop the one right before the Plaza We 1st took the blue bus, when got around to the Sagrada Famillia the lines where half way around the church. Book in advance! We did not get off until Placa de Espanya to catch the blue bus, but 1st have lunch. So the wife and I walked around a little looking at shops and places to eat. We saw this nice café called Café Milano on Muntaneer 212, and had a wonderful lunch. Their salad with tuna was terrific. We just hung out for a 1 ½ and watched life go by. Back onto the red bus until we reached the zoo stop when we were getting a little bored of the bus. We used the coupons the bus company gave us and saved us a few Euros. The zoo was okay but not great. Headed back to the hotel for a little rest. That night I had booked tickets at the Palu de la Musica for a concert. Had a nice time eating at the café and look at this wonderful building. Concert was very nice way to end the day.

Next day we went for breakfast at Boqueria and walk all over the gothic quarter, Picasso Museum (loved it) and then went to see the Casa Batllo & Casa Mila. To end the afternoon we took a cab to Parc Guell. After I saw the walk uphill from the bus stop my wife said no way unless we take a taxi up there. Glad we did a lot of uphill walking after you enter the gates. Love this park we ended up sitting at the café drinking sangria watching the street performers entertain the crowds. Left the park and caught a taxi back to the hotel. For dinner we went to Matamala for Paella. What a disappointment this place was the Paella we ordered was very bland and not the traditional red color. First clue this place was not good was there were no locals to be found just tourist.

Our last day we headed over by public bus to the National Museum of Art for a few hours, and then another bus to Poble Espanyol. A little cheesy tourist place, but very nice shops. At one time we had watched Samantha Brown go into this very nice store called Florkanela where this lovely lady makes handcraft shawls. My wife and I sat and talk to this wonderful woman for an hour while she was finishing up a shawl that my wife loved. It is pricey but worth the money to have something hand crafted. I also bought a new leather belt and a few t-shirts. Having been disappointed the night before about the Paella I found a Spanish restaurant called Los Toreros on Xucla 3 in a guide book and made a reservation for 9pm. This is more of a place for a large group, but the Paella was terrific. Be prepared for a large dish of Paella. Headed back to the hotel and packed for a early train to Madrid the next day

I am going to add a little on Madrid and info about the AVE for those who wish to split time up between these two cities. First thing is that it is crazy to take a plane ride. The AVE train takes 2 ½ hrs and is so comfortable. As far as tickets if you have the credit card you used to purchase the tickets go right to the kiosks and insert your card and confirmation number and the tickets print right out. Our train departure was for 7:30am and the train left at 7:30am. We arrived 40 mins early and the security check took 5 mins. In fact because we had the early train we boarded at 7:05 and we were lucky to have room on the small luggage rack on the train. The rack fills up fast and if you have a large suitcase it will be hard to get it on the overhead bins. The AVE has a lounge where you can purchase food and drinks. The train ½ the time goes at speeds of 260 to 300 km/h. We got off the train in Madrid and took a cab over to our hotel on the opposite side of the old city a total time of 3 ½ hrs from check out to check in. Madrid is also a wonderful city, but less English is spoken here so brush up on a little Spanish.

Thank you to all the Barcelona DE’s for your help. If you are worried about pick pockets use precaution. I used a neck pouch to carry credit cards and large sums of cash and the wife had a purse that had a flap that went over the zippers with a clip to protect other pockets and always kept her hand over the purse when on the metro or walking down a busy street. I know its nerdy to wear a neck pouch as a male, and the wife would make fun of me, but she knew that I was always cautious about valuables. I even used small locks on my backpack I used to secure the zippers from being opened behind me, but always had the backpack in front of me on the metro or buses.

Edited: 25 March 2011, 14:15
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1. Re: March rip report --- Barcelona

Nice report and some useful tips and info, beanersts. Glad you had a great time.

West Hollywood...
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2. Re: March rip report --- Barcelona

Gracias.

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3. Re: March rip report --- Barcelona

Thanks for taking the time to write a trip report !

Hopefully you walked past Starbucks and had some real coffee - I much prefer any coffee I've had in Europe over any I've had in the US.

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4. Re: March rip report --- Barcelona

Thanks luckychucky

racegirl - my wife is more of a chai tea person, so my hands are tied there. I agree the coffee is normally better in europe.

Just a item I thought of - Chase bank charges a $5 ATM withdrawn fee. Also I would not trust the ATM's you see right on the street. I did not like the look of them not being very secure and to many people that pass you by as you us them.

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5. Re: March rip report --- Barcelona

Thanks for the post. I'm also from Chicago, and heading to Barcelona in a couple weeks.

Regarding the Palau de Musica, did you feel like you were able to really see the architecture with just a concert, or were you wishing you took the tour also?

Also, you mentioned the line at Sagrada Familia going around the church, what day & time was that? Since I'll be there for nearly a week, and prefer to not be tethered to specific times (and weather) I'm curious if it's busier on certain days and/or times. What were the lines like for Casa Mila & Casa Batlo? Did you go inside either or both?

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6. Re: March rip report --- Barcelona

Great trip report, Beaner! Thanks for sharing.

@ Antuany, I can understand how you would like to stay loose and not make commitments by buying tix in advance. When we visited last year, I didn't know about advance tickets and we waited a bit (not more than 15 min) at the various Gaudi sights but we also started our days early. With the Sagrada Familia, we got there by 8:45 am so the line was very short.

FYI, the tickets for Casa Batllo are not date-specific. If you buy them through the official website of Barcelona Turisme, you also get a discount on the price.

Edited: 25 March 2011, 16:58
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7. Re: March rip report --- Barcelona

Thank you for the kind comments-

We got to the Palau de Musica an hour early before the concert and walked around the outside and inside lobby area. Before the concert we were able to see most of everything except for the glass ceiling which was a little dark. As far as the tour we were not really that interested. We actually went back to the store when it was open to buy a book on the building and pictures. They do not allow any pictures to be taken. If you buy tickets in the upper balcony and it is row 10 + it’s very difficult to see the stage. The concert was nice addtion to our trip, to experence Barcelona not just see it. The singer almost spoke as much as he sang. All the ladies seemed to love this guy, and we did not understand a word he was saying, but we did not care.

We arrived on a Thur. morning and went that day. On the bus we went by around 10am and that is when the line was 1/2 around the church. We went into Casa Batlo and we waited about 20mins. The entrance fees in Barcelona start to add up quick! So we just walk on the outside of Casa Mila I mean the zoo was 32 Euros and we had a 6.60 euro discount. The Parc Guell was our favorite spot just to hang out and relax and drink sangria.

Just a tip, go to a Barnes & Noble (or Amazon) and buy the Barcelona streetwise map and look it over to get accustomed to the metro and sites. I have used them for Paris, Florence, Venice, Rome, Buenos Aires, Jerusalem, Madrid, and Barcelona. They are laminated and I just put it right in my back pocket or backpack to keep us from getting lost or to see if there is something of interest we like to see. My wife calls me Julie the Cruise director because I do a lot of research on places we go to see. I never got lost in this big city and knew which lines to take and transfer. Being lost on vacation adds to much stress.

We did alter our plans to be able to relax, and not be set in a time at a set place. Example: we were going to the zoo Sunday but ended up going Friday because we were tired of the bus. So that cleared our schedule on Sunday to go to Poble Espanyol & the National Museum of Art. We always took a nap in the late afternoon few hours before dinner just to reenergize, it is a vacation.

Edited: 25 March 2011, 18:42
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8. Re: March rip report --- Barcelona

beanersts, thank you for your lovely, detailed trip report. You covered just about everything including the safety tips.

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9. Re: March rip report --- Barcelona

Thanks for all the info. My husband & I are going to Barcelona in May so need all the help we can get! A friend was just there and got pickpocketed on the way from the airport -so we will be careful also. i always use a belt pouch inside my waistband and my nerdy husband uses a neck pouch. hope that is good enough!

How do you get tickets in advance for the sagrada Familia? Unfortunately there is no concert on at Palau for the nights we are there so will have to do a tour.

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Chicago, Il
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10. Re: March rip report --- Barcelona

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