Not long ago, we had the fortunate occasion to spend the day in Barcelona, Spain. We were traveling from Orlando, Florida and catching a cruise ship in Barcelona back to Florida. We’ve grown fond of Atlantic crossings in the last couple of years and found a great price on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, the Epic.
The last time we were in Barcelona for just a day we were seeing it from the comfort of a cruise ship shore excursion and decided that if we ever returned, we’d make some time to explore it on our own.
This visit was again a short one, but we were determined to see a bit of the city in the short time we had. We left Orlando on a Thursday afternoon at about 3:00 PM. We flew on a red-eye through Philadelphia, Heathrow, and finally arrived at our hotel in Barcelona at about 8:30 in the evening on Friday.
Our hotel was a classic old building along a popular and busy street called Las Rambles. It’s also known as Rambla de Canaletes, so we’re not sure what the real name is; maybe both. The hotel was the Hotel Continental and we were very pleased with its accommodations. Keep in mind of course that this hotel was not our usual Holiday Inn Express as we’re accustomed to in the States, but it wasn’t trying to be either. Still, it had all the accommodations you could wan including complimentary food 24/7 and free WiFi that actually worked. We were able to make several Skye calls home using the WiFi with no problems in terms of speed and voice quality.
After our night’s sleep we were still somewhat jet lagged, but started out the next morning on our day’s adventure. We knew we had Saturday to see the sights, then catch our ship on Sunday. We started down Las Rambles and almost immediately found a small Cafe for breakfast. No one in the Cafe spoke English, but the menus had pictures so we simply pointed to the food we wanted. Coffee was of course an Espresso, which, is a bit strong for a guy who’s used to mostly decaf coffee, but still good.
After breakfast, we headed once again down Las Rambles, stopping at the shops and taking in the sights in general. At the end of the street, there’s a maritime museum that we wanted to see, but when we got there, we noticed a small boat marina that looked more interesting. The marina had a foot bridge that went over to a shopping mall. It turned out that the foot bridge was also a drawbridge that opened in two places to let boats come and go to the marina.
After wandering around the marina for a short time, we started our way back to the hotel. We had seen several side streets on the way down and wanted to take some time to explore further on the way back. Many of the side streets along Las Rambles made their way down narrow walkways, opening into large squares. The squares were filled with restaurants and shops. We “menu” shopped on our way back to the hotel.
For dinner, we walked north on Las Rambles to the next block and turned on Fontanella where we found a Hard Rock Cafe. Hard to go wrong with a Hard Rock Cafe pretty much anywhere.
After dinner, we again walked down Las Rambles to one of the many small shops selling gelatto, bought ourselves a scoop each and found a bench to sit and watch the people go by while we enjoyed our treats.
At about 7:00 PM, the street lights began to come on and the city began to take on a whole new look from the daylight.
Las Rambles is an interesting street in its design. On the far sides, vehicular traffic moves north and south in one lane. In the middle, and for the majority of the width of the street, pedestrians, vendor stands, and all sorts of tourist activities have the run of the street. It provides a unique and interesting environment that’s fun to be around. Of course, the design probably isn’t for the benefit of Barcelona’s tourism, but rather a remnant of the construction of the underground metro system. The fact that it creates a carnival like, fun environment for the locals and tourists is a fortunate by-product.
Our day in Barcelona wasn’t packed with facts about the city’s history. No one was lecturing us about the past and present Spanish culture, and no structure was provided for our entertainment. It was solely up to us to enjoy ourselves at our own pace. We had just a day to try and get a feeling for the city’s flavor, and we think we came away with a good indication of what it has to offer. Next time we’ll probably pick a different street and neighborhood to explore, and most certainly do a little more homework in advance and of course we’ll spend more time in the city. We think that anyone who has a very limited time to see this great European town should consider spending it in or near the Las Rambles area. You won’t be disappointed.