It’s been almost a year since Sweet Shark and I had a “bucket list” trip: a cruise from Barcelona to Venice. Along the way, we stopped in Provence, Pisa, Rome, the Amalfi coast, Ephesus, Istanbul, and Athens. If you have never been on a cruise, I highly recommend it; there’s no better way to travel, especially when you want to visit several places, many not easily reached by car, bus or train. And, of course, there is the food, service and not having to pack and unpack constantly.
Never having been to Barcelona, we arrived a few days early to savor this Spanish city. We were not disappointed; in fact, it’s now one of my very favorite European cities. At the end of the cruise we decided to stay an extra night in Venice, which is so enchanting. And because our flight back to the states (via Miami) left from Milan, we traveled by train from Venice to Milan.
Just before we left, I bought my iPad ~ Sweet Shark was adamant that I not “drag” my laptop around European ~ so that I could record our trip and post about it. Well, we were almost at the end of the trip before I got used to typing on the iPad and I never figured out how to insert all our photos. Let’s face it. Travelogues without photos just aren’t as interesting. I’ve come a long way since then. So I wanted to update my original travel posts and include our photos.
So I hope you’ll join me in revisiting a few favorite destinations. It’s like looking through a photo album of a treasured trip. The trip starts right here.
How to Visit Beautiful Barcelona
We arrived Friday morning in Barcelona and are blessed with a beautiful sunny day in the mid-70s. We arrive at the Hotel Calderon on Rambla Catalunya. By 10:30 we are checked in stepped out on the street. The first thing you notice in the city are how wide and clean the main streets are. Every main street is a boulevard with wide pedestrian walk ways in the center and car traffic on the outside going each way. Down the center of the walk ways are sidewalk cafes, vendors selling beautiful cut flowers, plants, seeds, art, and trinkets. Very tall trees separate the pedestrian walk way from the traffic, softening and shading shoppers and tourists on La Ramblas, the main boulevard, which starts at the port and continues through the heart of Barcelona. Shops, hotels, restaurants, banks and businesses line the streets.
We decide that our first destination is La Sagrada Familia, the amazing Antonio Gaudi-designed church that has been under construction since 1882. This is the one site not to miss in Barcelona. It’s a long walk, but it gives us a chance to stretch our legs after the long flight and to get a feel for the city. Fifteen blocks later we can see the top of the spires of La Sagrada Familia and the gathering crowd tells us we’re close. Suddenly the church looms over us. It is so much bigger than I’ve imagined. Officially a basilica, not a cathedral, La Sagrada Familia was begun in 1882 and construction still continues, with completion planned for 2026, which is the one hundredth anniversary of Gaudi’s death. It’s architecture is a mix of gothic and modern elements with carvings of saints and animals perched everywhere. Its size is overwhelming.
We quickly dismiss going inside because the line for tickets winds around the block. Spain is known for its tapas and we have been looking forward to our first meal in Barcelona. We backtrack to a sidewalk cafe on La Rambla Catalunya near our hotel, Cachitos. A glass of Cava for me and Chardonnay for Sweet Shark begins our lovely meal. All the waiters are helpful and speak English, and we try to use our Tex-Mex Spanish. We share several tapas, including the traditional bread rubbed with tomato.
After lunch we wander around La Rambla Catalunya and drop by another tapas bar, Cuitat Comtal, that is crowded; it’s easy to see why. The tapas on display are enticing and we decide to come back here for a first course of dinner. Across the street from our hotel we explore the inside restaurant of the outdoor cafe where’d we had our delicious dinner, Cachitos. It’s a beautiful place with multiple floors of bars and dining. Definitely a site for dinner. Back to the hotel for showers and a change of dress and we’re ready to hit the street.
We head first to Cuitat Comtol for tapas. Our first tapa is grilled mushrooms and asparagus, which are delicious.
Then we each have a beef skewer and a boiled prawn. Sounds like we’re having a lot of food, but each order is just a bite. Now we head up La Rambla Catalunya to Chachitos. It’s not quite 8:00 so the restaurant isn’t open. We perch ourselves at one of the downstair bars and share a plate of local olives. Heading upstairs for dinner, we are seated at a bar surrounding a grill to meet Frank, our cook for the evening. Fortunately Frank is from Barcelona and speaks perfect English. He treats us to grilled baby clams that are so small you eat them like popcorn.
We follow that with patatas bravas, another tradional tapa – fried potatoes with an aioli and tomato sauce on top. Really good. The star of the meal is grilled crab claws; the meat is so sweet and tender with a slightly smoky flavor.
We’re tired after the flight from Dallas. We’ve walked all day, had some fabulous food and a few glasses of wine. What a wonderful end to our first day in Barcelona. More tomorrow.