Day 72 - Scoping out Barcelona

A nice, relaxing morning, which included a trip to a nearby playground (no pictures this time because there were too many kids around).  All playgrounds we have seen so far here in Barcelona have swings, a welcome sight after a month in France, and they also have sand on the ground.  The sand provides a soft cushion against falls, and it turns the playground into a giant sandbox.  Everyone comes to the playground with their sand toys :)

One of the things I noticed at the playground near us was how many kids had come with their grandparents.  I found this very sweet.  I loved watching the grandparents care for the tiny tots, pushing them on the swing or on their tricycles, or just playing with them in the sandbox.  There is so much patience and love in a grandparent-grandchild relationship.  There were also a few kids there with their nannies/babysitters, and probably less than I could count on one hand who were there with their mom or dad.  

I spoke with a one of the nannies there, who could speak English very well, who told me that the majority of parents in this neighborhood work and most kids in Barcelona don't go to school until after 3.  We had a nice chat about this and that and then she taught me a few words in Catalan :)  I now know how to say goodbye (adeu, not adios!), lunch, and dinner :)  A few days ago, I also learned how to say "check please" when we are ready for the check at a restaurant. 

Spanish Siesta

We also started taking a little siesta in the afternoon as a family.  This is mainly because the restaurants here all open very late for dinner, around 8 or 8:30.  So although we don't eat out very often, we still like to get into a routine that works.  This way the kids are not exhausted and can stay up until about 10 or 10:30.  We are still trying to adjust to this, and also to the period of hunger and crankiness that inevitably sets in around 5-6 PM.

Travel Tip: I should probably point out that restaurants in very touristy areas are open earlier.  They cater to the tourists, so we saw quite a few open around 6 for dinner. But you won't get to eat with the locals.

Barcelona's Metro Ticket

After our siesta, we took a nice stroll and just checked out some of the beautiful sights this city has to offer.  We also familiarized ourselves with the Metro system.

Travel Tip: In Barcelona you should really only buy the T-10 ticket for the subway (unless you literally just need 1 subway trip).  It is the best value for your money and even the locals travel with this ticket.

Once you have a ticket in hand, figuring out the Metro is really not any different than in any big city.  It does seem the metro machines only take chip and pin credit cards, though thankfully they also have ATMs so you can get cash out if needed.

Parc Güell  

Parc Guell is situated on the hill of El Carmel in the Gracia district of Barcelona.  You can arrive to the top of the hill by walking up some very steep streets (San Francisco style), and then taking the conveniently built in escalators, you can also just take the stairs if you are looking for some exercise!  The view of Barcelona from the top is incredible.

 Panoramic view of Barcelona's rooftops with Sagrada Familia rising above.

Panoramic view of Barcelona's rooftops with Sagrada Familia rising above.

We will return another time to check out the Gaudi House Museum and Garden Complex, which requires a ticket. 

Travel Tip: Although you can buy a ticket for the complex and museum at the gate, it is advisable to buy your ticket(s) online.  You can purchase tickets up to 3 months in advance.  When you purchase a ticket, you pick a time slot.  You must arrive for the time slot your ticket was purchased for (your reservation is maintained for you for 30 minutes following the start of your selected time slot).  If you do not have a ticket when you arrive, you will generally have to wait a while (possibly more than 2 hours) before you can get in.  If you purchase online, a confirmation email is sent to you upon completion of purchasing your ticket(s). You only need to show this at the entrance to gain access.  If you cannot access your email or a printer to print your tickets, you only need to provide your name or your reservation number at the entrance to be given access.

Money Saver Tip: Also you get a 1 Euro discount if you buy your ticket online!  Children up to 6 years of age can enter the park for free.

After scoping out the area to our heart's content, we headed back down the hill and started the 2 km walk towards Sagrada Familia, the sight we had heard so much about from friends and acquaintances before arriving in Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia

Wow!  Words would not do this magnificent architectural marvel justice.  Despite it being under construction, with cranes towering above, this cathedral is a majestic sight.  It is expected to be completed in 2026, 100 years after the original architect Antoni Gaudi's death.  We only enjoyed the views from the outside today.  I cannot wait to return and see the inside. 

Travel Tip: Unlike Parc Guell, where you can purchase your tickets at the gate, for Sagrada Familia you must purchase your tickets online and choose a time slot.  Make sure you check out all the options available on this site before purchasing.  You can actually choose to go up one of the towers!  Children under 11 enter for free. 

Playground with a View

The Catalans seem to love children.  There are playgrounds everywhere!  Some are very plain and simple, and some are more exotic.  Although more crowded because of it's location, the playground by Sagrada Familia has a background view few playgrounds in the world can compete with. 

La Cantina Mexicana

Now that we live in a bustling city, we have easy access to a wide variety of foods yet again.  We had been craving Mexican food for a while, so with Yelp's help we found a few well reviewed restaurants near Sagrada Familia.  Of course none of them opened until 8:30 :(.  We walked around for a while and checked out the FC Barcelona's official store (Barcelona's soccer team - for those who don't know).  A few minutes before 8:30, we entered La Cantina Mexicana, and we were greeted warmly, in English, and were seated.  The person who sat us, I am not sure if he was a manager or owner (?), informed us that he has no English menus but will be happy to translate anything if we have any questions. 

We loved the service here.  The food was very delicious. And the prices were fair. We approve!

Yep!  We are still loving Barcelona :)