Tour Daze France Part 3 – Barcelona, Spain

By - November 22, 2006 (Updated: May 30, 2016)

This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series Tour Daze France 2006.
The Segrada Familia

The Segrada Familia

Barcelona is one of my favourite cities. It just feels so alive. It’s hectic and laid-back all at the same time – a knack the Spanish seem to have. It stays up late at night and wakes up whenever it feels like it the next morning. It’s old and new, plain and ornate. It’s over the top without being tacky. It’s a lot of fun.

After our Costa Brava adventure we still had to find our hotel – not an easy feat in the dark. Barcelona is a huge city and is very spread out. The traffic is mad. Andrew and I had to use our combined ‘mad skillz’ to figure out where to go, but eventually we made it. The hotel, The Hesperia Sant Joan Suites was fairly far out but just steps from the tram line. The rooms were big and had a little kitchen and sitting room and the price was right.

Our first stop the next morning was the Fundació Joan Miró, a gallery showcasing the works of Miró. We now know that Andrew will not be hanging any Miró reproductions in our house (I probably won’t be either but thankfully the audio guides, and Bill, helped us out.)

The Sagrada Interior

The Sagrada Interior

The gallery was located on Montjuïc, so after our visit we wandered through some of the park. We saw some of the park’s wild parakeets and the cats that are everywhere in Barcelona, particularly in Montjuïc. Then we headed over to the Palau Nacional (the palace). After checking out the views, we headed down the steps from the palace and made our way to La Rambla, the most famous street in Barcelona.

The Rambla is a main street with two lanes of traffic. These lanes are separated by a wide walkway full of merchants and cafés – and loads of people. We found a restaurant and had some lunch. (I scored my favourite tapas food – Patatas Bravas – roasted potatoes with a spicy sauce.)

After lunch we wandered over to the Barri Gòtic, the Gothic Quarter and oldest part of the city. This area is full of narrow streets, shops and restaurants as well as the huge Gothic Cathedral. From here we wandered over to the Arc de Triomf (the Triumphal arch, which I think is more beautiful than the Parisian version) with it’s red brick and ornate carvings.

Then it was down to the beach where we found some drinks and a spot of boardwalk where we did what Barcelonans do best – sat and watched the world walk by.

The newest facade of the Sagrada Familia

The newest facade of the Sagrada Familia

We got up early the next morning and headed into the city where we caught the hop-on hop-off bus tour, so we would be able to get around and see the sights. I’m not normally a fan of these types of tours but for a city that is as spread out as Barcelona on a limited amount of time, it makes sense.

These are the stairs I had to descend in the Sagrada.

These are the stairs I had to descend in the Sagrada.

After marvelling at some of the Gaudi buildings that we passed along the way, we stopped at the Sagrada Família, Gaudi’s unfinished masterwork.

The construction of this church started in 1883 and is not slated to be completed until sometime after 2022 (Update in 2015, the proposed date is now in 2028). The construction is funded by donations and by the millions of tourists who visit it.

Gaudi is famous for his use of organic shapes, incorporating elements of nature and using recycled materials. You see all of this in the Sagrada. It is something that has to be seen to be believed.

Currently, there are eight spires. Eventually the eight will become twelve, representing the apostles. In the center will be one enormous spire representing Jesus Christ which will be surrounded by a final four spires representing the Evangelists.

Andrew and I noticed quite a bit of progress since we last visited the Sagrada. I hope someday I will be able to witness the finished project.

Detail of the Wavy Bench

Detail of the Wavy Bench

While we were at the Sagrada, Andrew and I decided to climb the towers again (while well worth it for the view of the city and the church itself, it is not for those of us with vertigo and claustrophobia – the lengths I will go to for photography). Helen and Bill decided that they would continue on the bus tour and that we would meet later at Parc Güell.

The Wavy Bench from behind.

The Wavy Bench from behind.

After taking just about all of the twisty staircases I could handle, Andrew and I grabbed some lunch at a nearby café and then caught a bus to the base of the park.

Parc Güell is another Gaudi masterpiece. Originally he had hoped that people would live there and there are several houses that he designed on the site. Apparently they were a tad to radical for the good folks of Barcelona and so the area remained a park.

Here Leezard, Leezard....

Here Leezard, Leezard….

The two crowning achievements of the park are the Lizard Fountain and the Room of a Hundred Columns (which actually has only 84) with its ornately mosaiced ceiling. Above this room is the famous wavy bench (actually created by Josep Jujol), said to be the longest in the world. There are great views of the city here on a clear day.

Once we met up with the in-laws again we decided to find a nice supper spot. We found an interesting candidate in the guidebook and headed back to the Gothic Quarter.

Pla de la Garsa - Not too inviting from the outside...

Pla de la Garsa – Not too inviting from the outside…

When we arrived at our destination we thought the restaurant was closed. From the outside, it didn’t look inviting or promising. Andrew was ready to head on but I figured it was still early by Barcelona standards and we should give it a go.

The staircase in the Pla de la Garsa.

The staircase in the Pla de la Garsa.

Pla De La Garsa was fantastic! Inside, it looked a bit like a barn – with good reason. It was once the stables of a medieval palace. We were seated by a gorgeous spiral staircase that lead upstairs to the washrooms. We were trying to figure out a way to steal the sink, which was original to the stables.

Oh yeah, the food was good too! It was rustic, traditional Catalan fare. I started with a garlicky goat cheese spread that was to die for (and deadly to anyone I breathed on afterwards) and had a delicious lamb stew. Bill and I opted for the sampler desert plate. Yum!

With full bellies we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the following day’s long drive.

Stay tuned for our trip through the Pyrenees.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
It's after Halloween so I can officially share Christmas Markets now right...? 🎄🎅 - 1 week ago


  1. Comment by Di

    Di November 22, 2006 at 19:29

    Reads absolutely lovely 🙂

  2. Comment by dARK sIDE dAD

    dARK sIDE dAD November 23, 2006 at 16:36

    Yo Blogger … This is where an awaking into the “magical” elements begins to emerge, including, of course, everything we’ve seen and done up to this point. Barcelona is grand, simply put. Everything in it and about it says “Come back!” It’s a place where one could wish for a lapse in the awareness of time. This would allow the visitor to soak in the essences of its galleries, its achitecture, its culture, its waterfront and beaches … I could go on. Your storytelling captures it very well, thanks.
    dARK sIDE dAD

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