Stumbling around Barcelona

The perfect Gibson and Jamon in the Dry Martini Bar

The roof of the Hotel Barcelona Catedral

Last Friday (13th January) after a very busy but productive conference I felt the need to reboot my brain with a change of scene…and not the old favourites such as Zürich or Manhattan. I needed something within reach to make a 30 hour weekend worthwhile, somewhere warm(ish) and somewhere I had not been to before. That left Barcelona and 8 hours after booking I found myself heading out to LHR on the Saturday morning and then onto Barcelona.

TOPLINE – I had a great time. The only frustration being the sense of overwhelming opportunity for exploration and not enough time.

On the flight over I made the decision to purchase the “Barcelona Card” which, for €29 covered the train ride from and back to the airport, all my travel within the city and a number of free or reduced rate entries. These cards often represent great value for money and this one was no exception. Just be careful you time the train ride between the airport and the city. At the weekend there were long intervals between the service.

For my one night’s accommodation I opted for the Hotel Barcelona Catedral and I am glad that I did. In the heart of the city it was the perfect anchor point for the weekend and offered a very relaxing, clean and efficient place to sleep (and nap !).

After the obligatory visit to the Temple de La Sagrada Famillia, every bit as striking in real life, I headed up to the Castell de Montjuic. It’s required practice when visiting a city for the first time that you attempt to get as high as you can (as in altitude) to get an efficient understanding of the topography and geography.

The rest of Saturday was spent “promenading” on La Ramblas along with the rest of Barcelona finishing up with a couple of cocktails and tapas at the Dry Martini – superb mixology and a great vibe.

Sunday saw me spend an illuminating time in the Picasso Museum and my first use of an audio tour. I’ve always been skeptical but really found the narration helpful. I then ‘stumbled’ upon the DHUB – Disseny Hub Barcelona. A centre for “promoting the knowledge, understanding and good practice of the design world” – they had a good exhibition called “The Senses of Machines” – since it’s being going since June 2011 I was the only visitor so, with no risk of embarrassment, took part in all the interaction exhibits !

To be honest ‘stumbling’ was something you do rather a lot of in Barcelona. Try as I might to stick to a rigid timetable I found that the best thing to do was to let go and enjoy what the City had to offer. This often meant doing something very different from the plan especially when it came to eating and drinking. I would never have found Lilpep had I even known of its existence but I walked past it, continued on for 100 metres or so and then doubled back thinking this was a serendipitous find. It was.

And after that it was time to head back to the airport. 30 hours of bliss – box checked.

PS The only downside appears to be theft. You really must be vigilant at all times and, if possible, minimise carrying anything of value. For example, on Sunday morning whilst having a coffee two young boys were visiting tables clutching what I assume were sponsorship forms mounted on card. Whilst both pleaded with me I noticed that one had laid his card over the table and his other hand was moving my iPhone off the table. Luckily I was able to place my hand firmly over the phone as I told them to go away. Undeterred they did the same manoeuvre on another table with the victim having to jump off her seat to snatch her phone back. I’m sure this is not unique to Barcelona but it does seem to be prevalent. My travel advice here is if you are not conscious you COULD be a victim of crime, you probably ARE a victim of crime.


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