Barcelona is a wonderful city, with something for everyone. It was recently
voted the best city in the world for a weekend break - what better reason for
my sister and I to go and check it out?!
We got a fairly decent flight/hotel package on the Internet, with good flight
times, staying in a 5* hotel on the splendid Paseo de Gràcia. The only
downside was the 4-hour drive to London Heathrow the night before for our early
1hr 40mins in the air and we landed in Barcelona, where the heat hit us! 33
degrees, and rising. Phew! We couldn't wait to get through passport control,
check-in at the hotel and hit the town!
Now, I need to take a moment here to tell you how fantastic the hotel was!
My sister and I had seen photos on the Internet, but they didn't do it justice!
It's one of those hotels that you drive past and wish you were staying there
that the taxi driver adds an extra 10 euros to the fare just because it's so
one where you're in the centre of every attraction within 5 minutes
where every guest feels like a VIP!
feel slightly reluctant to share my find with you, but I'm in a generous mood
as I write this, so I will! It's the Hotel
This is an exclusive hotel where you'll find the kind of service you can only
get at an establishment that is a symbol of the finest tradition in hospitality,
plus all the conveniences of a modern hotel. And it's all right in the middle
of the Paseo de Gràcia - in the very heart of Barcelona!
|The room we stayed in (Suite) was superb, with
huge balconies providing magnificent views over the city The staff couldn't
do enough for us, with no expectation of a tip. The bar area was smart,
yet relaxed. The breakfast was varied and plentiful. The hotel restaurant
was, like the bar, smart yet relaxed with excellent waiters and excellent
wine! We enjoyed being in our hotel so much that we were reluctant to leave!
But, Barcelona was out there waiting for us, so we just had to explore
|We decided we wanted to see as much of the city
as possible, so hopped onto an on-off, off-on open-top tourist bus: "Barcelona
Bus Turistic". This was a great and inexpensive way to see the sights
- 16 euros each for the whole day - we could get off when we saw something
of interest, and pop back on to the next attraction. If you decide to do
this, try sitting on the top deck, 2nd from the front. This ensures you
don't have any reflections from the glass window at the front and no distracting
headshots in your photos. Another tip; have your camera constantly primed,
as the majority of time the bus doesn't stop at the attraction and you have
to be quick to take the shot on the move, so to speak. I got caught out
quite a few times, which was disappointing.
|Our first stop was a treasure trove of picture-taking
opportunities: The Gothic Quarter - the core of the Medieval City, which
was bounded by walls until the middle of the XIX Century. This district
is the historical and political centre of Barcelona, famous for its historic
monuments, narrow streets and vaguely bohemian atmosphere. Through the maze
of old streets we came to the famous Cathedral - "La Sagrada Familia";
"The Sacred Family" - the origins of which date back to the XIII
Century. Words cannot convey how truly spectacular this is! Its history
is the history of Cataluna, from XX and XXI Centuries, when it will be finished.
Hence the reason why it's under construction until 2025 - there are cranes
everywhere - but this doesn't detract from its magnificence. However, they
do get in the way of taking an unblemished picture, which is a real shame!
It's 8 euros into the cathedral and grounds, and another euro or so to explore
the imposing towers - I highly recommend you do this, as they offer splendid
panoramic views of Barcelona; city, mountains and coast.
|A word of advice; lose the crowds by taking the
stairs instead of the lift. This will leave you free to do your own thing
and take the crowd-free shots you desire. The stairs alone offer a great,
abstract image, almost snail-like. Try both looking down from the top and
looking up from the bottom - just beware of other tourists getting in the
|Entrance to the Cathedral is through the back.
There are some great shots to be had inside the dark interior; look up to
the ceiling for latticed stonework and pillars. Once through the Cathedral
and out the other side, you reach the magnificent frontage. I advise you
go down the stone stairs in front of you, and take your photos from there
as it provides a good angle and enables you to fit most of the cathedral
in the frame. Also, keep a watchful eye out for less obvious photo opportunities,
such as close-up, odd angles of many of the building statues.
There are food and drink machines inside - I recommend you buy water
before you explore the towers - and vendors with seating areas across
the road. We took a well-needed rest here, before popping back on the
We spent the next couple of hours on the top deck of the bus, getting
a nice tan and relaxing whilst seeing the sights. We gave up trying to
figure out where we were on our tourist map, so just sat back and soaked
up the sun.
Tomorrow was going to be a busy day as we had loads planned, and only
one day to fit it all in!
|Next morning, after filling up on breakfast,
we headed off to the legendary, long and lively "La Rambla" to
do a spot of shopping, combined with a spot of people-watching. And what
people there were to watch! Extravagantly dressed street entertainers were
every couple of yards, both sides, along the palm-covered
lane. It was like walking amongst hundreds of mini theatrical plays! They
tend to stand completely still, like statues - goodness knows how in that
heat - so it's fairly easy to take photos of them. I'd advise throwing a
euro or so into their pot, either before or afterwards, just out of courtesy.
The sheer amazement of the spectacle is probably the main reason most tourists
are preyed upon here by pickpockets and the like. My advice would be enjoy
the experience, but be very vigilant about your valuables - not like one
chap I saw who had his Nikon carelessly and loosely hung over one shoulder
by its strap!
|Next stop, naturally leading off La Rambla, was
the harbour and beach. There are some spectacular buildings to photograph
just off the harbour - just be careful of the passing traffic! PHOTO: MARINA
The harbour area was literally buzzing with people; workers, tourists, cyclists,
children. The view of the wavy bridge is quite an interesting image - that's
if you don't mind strangers in your shots, as this area is always busy.
|The bars and restaurants overlook the moored
boats bobbing up and down. Midday is a good time to take photos of the marina,
as the restaurants are only just setting up and it's fairly quiet.
Sailing boats and catamarans took expectant tourists out to sea - cameras
primed at the ready. We promised ourselves we'd try a catamaran if we had
|Thankfully, as the heat soared to 33 degrees,
there were plenty of drink vendors dotted along the promenade. We followed
this round, coming across an unusual statue on a wall, for no particular
reason other than art! The promenade eventually led us to the beach at "La
Barceloneta". Three words: "Swing a cat!" Our hotel concierge
had warned us about this beach, and advised of some beautiful beaches further
up the coast. However, we didn't have time to do this, so opted to visit
the one nearby. Well, I think every Spaniard had decided to visit the beach
that day, because it was so crowded, and dirty! Looking around, the residential
area, immediately behind us, looked like a ghetto. The concierge had warned
us not to venture into this area, and keep to the beach - no danger there!
passing a few amazing sand sculptures - carefully tended by their artist - we
took a seat at a small "beach bar" - I use the term loosely as I don't
want to conjure up images of a straw-roofed hut, with a happy barman serving cocktails
on a white, sandy, deserted beach! Reality: this was a tiny hut, with hot, metal
chairs on decking on the sand, with a waitress who couldn't understand the term
"beer" and unbelievably charged 2 euros for a small, plastic glass of
indescribable lager - still, in the heat, it went down very well!
We downed our drinks in no time, and decided to explore a bit more - maybe
it wouldn't be so busy further on? Maybe there would be some good photo opportunities?
Wrong! Soon after setting off, we came across a small area on the beach where
it seemed drunken tramps and drug-users hung out! I would've liked to take a
photo of these, but was afraid to! We did a sharp u-turn and headed off to our
next port of call; "Telefericos De Barcelona" - The Cable Car.
|We wanted to see the much talked about views
of Barcelona from the castle on top of one of the hills: "Castell De
Montjuic," reached by cable car. So, we each paid our 9 euros return
fare at the 1st tower on the beach, only to find out, to our great annoyance
and dissatisfaction, that we had to get off at the third tower, walk 15
minutes, uphill, in order to buy another ticket for either the train or
cable car to the castle. None of this was explained and caused great confusion
amongst everyone. This, coupled with the fact we could have walked to this
point anyway, and that there were no toilets or other facilities, put a
dampener on the day. By the time we managed to reach the castle, we were
too annoyed to really enjoy it so just took in the panoramic view - which
was stunning - and swiftly hopped back on the return cable car.
On our return journey, we were tired from walking, hungry and thirsty so decided
to find a place to eat late lunch. Back at the harbour, we found a seafront
restaurant and made our way onto the terrace upstairs. It was clean, tidy and
not too busy. We ordered Paella and sat watching Barcelona go by, drinking our
ice-cold beers and giving the blisters on our feet some well-earned rest! All
was well with the world, until the bill came! A word of warning to those like-minded
innocents out there: regardless of the fact that you've not asked for it, if
a restaurant in Barcelona brings appetisers, olives or bread, IT IS NOT FREE!
I found this out to my disgust when we came to pay. I argued with the waiter,
who just shrugged his shoulders and kept emphasising that service wasn't included.
Ha! Needless to say I refused to pay for the bread, and certainly didn't leave
a tip, prior to storming out with the waiter mumbling something in Spanish behind
learnt, we decided to honour the promise we made earlier and end the afternoon
lazily on a catamaran. Neither of us had been on one before, so we were quite
excited. It was fairly empty, so we had a netting area all to ourselves, with
mere inches between us and the sea! This is a great time to get seascape views
of Barcelona, and images you would normally miss. I was very hesitant to use
the camera over the netting, in case it fell, so went to the back of the boat
where it was firmer and steadier. It was a great experience - albeit slightly
chilly at sea - where we let the events of the day sink in, and our Paella and
|After picking up the obligatory souvenir t-shirt
on our ramble back to the hotel, and taking the last few photos before dusk,
we spotted a tapas bar which also served pitchers of Sangria. That was our
evening venue sorted! An hour later, clean and refreshed, we found ourselves
sat outside it, eating plates of tapas, drinking Sangria in the warm evening
air and watching the magic that is Barcelona unfold before our very eyes.
Congratulations to my sister, Sharron, and her fiancé, Mark, on their
I can't wait!
Article by Tracey Johnson using Pentax Optio 550 digital camera.