April 17th and 18th
Up early and out of Valencia for our shortest drive of the trip to Barcelona at 353 km (3 and half hours). We had planned on going to Saragoza which would have been an extra 2 hours and as stunning as it looked on google images we were starting to wane and a shorter day sounded very appealing. We did get stuck in some traffic for an hour but with the windows open and the sun pouring in it wasn't too bad.
Arriving in the Catalunya (Catalonia) region we quickly checked in at Ibis Cornella at £56 pn located near the airport. Staying out of the city is good idea as it's easy for parking the car and cheaper than city centre- done this move a few times. We took a 5 minute walk to Almeda metro station which took us to Pl. Espanya (Olympic Park station) for €3.50 one way each, and it took around 20-25 mins. We could have hopped on another metro closer to the action but it was hard to work out the lines (later realised one was like a metro one a subway) and also it gave us an oportunity to walk and see the stunning buildings with flowers (and washing hanging) in the balconies, stopping off at a bakery for a bocarillo pastry and munching as we walked down the asymmetrical avenues.
Arriving at the port with docked cruise ships (like I had arrived on my last time into Barcelona) we then proceeded up the famous 1.2 km long La Rambla ('La Rambla' in Catalan, 'Las Ramblas' as most commonly pronounced is Spanish) stopping to admire the amazing talents of the street performers cloaked in paint and dressed as various characters- such as Gaudi, Medusa and one balancing on a bike. Then it got packed as we weaved between the bustling crowds and people whispering 'coffee and hash' we held our bags close to us/infront of us as we'd heard its a hotspot for pick pockets. We had planned to grab food for dinner from the renowned La Boqueria market 600 metres the way up La Rambla however we were there on Easter Sunday and therefore the market wasn't open! So we carried on up the crowded pedestrian zone filled with street cafes , flower stalls selling beautiful bouquets to naughty shaped chillies, and lined in leafy trees. It quietened down as we reached the top of the street and we found a spot in the fading sun at Pl. Catalonya, where we people watched and grabbed a city map to see what we could explore next, after the sun dipped behind the buildings we went in search of Barri Gòtic, the Gothic Quarter, we passed the striking cathedral and went a look inside an art gallery.
Then took a stroll before passing an enticing burger bar called 'La Central Hamburguesería', having had our fair share of paella, we went in and ordered on a menu card by ticking your choices from a large list, burgers around €11 and local beers from €2, it was up there with the best burgers we've ever had!! Address; Via Laietana, 45, 08003 Barcelona
Woke early to drive into the centre as we were going to La Sagrada Familia. We were very excited about this and had been looking forward to it! Parking at a near by secure car park was under €2 ph . We had pre booked La Sagrada 3 weeks in advance and there was numerous time slots to pick from I wouldn't recommend leaving it any later than this as it does book up. The ticket was £24pp including visiting La Sagrada, audio guide and nativity tower. The building was unreal, we could have admired forever,It was so awe-inspiring!!
Leaving Barcelona Shannon was on the look out for Camp Nou Stadium, which we couldn't spot (have both visited when we were kids) but then we spotted the FC Barcelona training grounds- and there were people playing on the pitches! We couldn't stop as we were flying over the highway, but later we googled it and it was the first time in training!!
Our first rest stop was just 40 minutes away at Montserratt, which has a monastery atop of a mountain which you need a cable car to get to, there is also hikes around the mountain you can complete. We knew we wouldn't have time to go up but we were happy seeing it and took the drone up too. (This is the kind of place we will come back one day with put kids- but shh don't tell Shannon!!)
Then continued out of Catalunya and Españia.....