Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When to Not Visit Barcelona

Now that I have finally found time to write about the final stop on my Contiki tour--Barcelona, Spain--the first and most important thing I can think of to say is that if you will only have one full day in the city (as we did)...make sure it isn't a Sunday.

That's right, we had the misfortune of visiting a seriously Catholic city in Spain...on a Sunday. And while yes, there were some gelato cafes and shops and restaurants open, many things were closed. Including one sight I really longed to see--La Boqueria.

We also didn't get the chance to go inside La Sagrada Familia, another small disappointment. That said, however, I really enjoyed my short time in Barcelona and would absolutely go back.

Playing drinking games at the Sangria bar (which is apparently a no-no)
After a long drive (due more than anything to traffic), we arrived in Barcelona around dinnertime on a Saturday evening and stayed on a hotel that sat just beyond what we Americans would call "downtown" Barcelona. This was definitely the nicest hotel of our trip--and the newest. It even had a pool! Our included dinner that evening was one of the better included meals of the tour, and when we were finished our guide took us to this hole-in-the-wall sangria bar about a block and a half off Las Ramblas. Drinks were cheap--a big pitcher of Sangria was only 10 euro--but the bar itself was in this dodgy little alley, and apparently they're really wary of tourists, so the people who worked there were a little, well, rude. Not exactly my type of place. They had music playing, but you could barely hear it, and when a bunch of us started playing drinking games, trying to liven things up, we got yelled at! Needless to say, between the atmosphere (quiet and hot) and the Sangria, I was practically falling asleep, so we called it an early night and caught a fairly inexpensive taxi back to the hotel.

Sagrada Familia...still under construction!
The next morning, we were up early to catch the Contiki bus into the city. We made a quick photo stop at the Sagrada Familia, and were then dropped off at the Placa de Catalunya. Our tour group (those of us up early enough to catch the bus) broke off into a bunch of smaller groups, and my sister and I and our Australian buddies Natalie and Gordana wandered off into the Gothic Quarter. We stopped for some Gelato and even did a bit of shopping, then made our way back to Las Ramblas to see the little tents where locals sell jewelry and what not and to walk down to the Columbus monument. Again, most of the stores were closed, so after lunch at a tapas place (which was pretty good! I don't remember the name but it was just of Las Ramblas, closer to the Placa de Catalunya) we took a taxi back to the hotel and lazed by the pool for the rest of the afternoon.

Me, Christy, Natalie, Gordana, Sheridan at the Fountain
That night, our last night of the tour, we went to a Flamenco show. It was interesting--not quite as fun as the cabaret in Paris, but the food was pretty good...they had Sangria there, but I could only stomach 2 glasses of it before switching to beer. Estrella Damm, for anyone who has heard of it, and it wasn't very good.

Once dinner and the show were over, our guide took us to The Magic Fountain of Montjuic at the Olympic Village. We all watched it for a while, but to be quite honest I wasn't completely impressed...more so because I worked at Disney for so long and I'm used to stuff like that ;)

A final picture with our favorite Australian ladies!
Our final night ended with a trip to club Baja at Port Olympia. For a Sunday night, this place was pretty fun! Many of us stayed until after 2 AM, and with the thought of having to drag ourselves out of bed and to the airport the next morning finally forced ourselves to return to the hotel.

A final note: we had called a cab to pick us up at the hotel. We arrived outside five minutes before the cab should have been there--but he was already there waiting, had been waiting, and had his meter running. I was honestly to tired and hungover to argue with him, but this added a good 8 Euro to a cab ride that would already run us 20 Euro...so in the future, my suggestion would be to be ready early and call the cab when you're ready to go. You will surely wait a few minutes but it will save you money in the long run.


  1. Hey Tara, it is very cool to read your reviews of the Contiki Amsterdam to Barcelona tour now - I just got back from that tour about a month ago! I completely agree with you about being in Barcelona on a Sunday! I really feel like I didn't have time to properly see the city (not to mention I was exhausted after traveling for 2 weeks in Europe) and didn't do it justice, so I need to go back at some point. If I had known that Barcelona would be so dead on Sunday I probably would have added an extra night at the end of the tour.

    Unfortunately the hotel we stayed in this time was not as nice as the one you described - it was in an area so far out of town it wasn't even on the map that Contiki provided! It was called Catalonia Park Puxtet. The whole hotel reeked of years of built-up cigarette smoke. I didn't use the metro, but I think the nearest stop was a good 15-20 minute walk away. The area was urban but a bit more residential and there was a ton of construction going on in the area, so it was hard just to cross the street! There also wasn't much to see in the area - but fortunately there was a very cool/offbeat tapas bar not far from the hotel where I hung out with some friends from the tour.

  2. Wow! That sucks that they changed the Barcelona hotel. The one we stayed at was really new and nice, had a pool and everything! And it was close to Barcelona center (as I think I mentioned in this entry). However, when we stayed there Contiki had JUST started using this hotel and it doesn't surprise me that they don't anymore...the hotel staff did not seem very pleased to be hosting our group. And we weren't even one of the more rowdy Contiki groups!