lundi 4 février 2013

Barcelona: Out and About (Part 1)

Rosemary, of Aussie in France, is off to Barcelona this week and this has prompted me to reflect on our recent trip.

Interesting architecture everywhere
Getting There:
We booked only a few weeks prior to travelling and managed to get flights for about 49€ each way from Paris with EasyJet travelling with cabin baggage only. Twice I have flown EasyJet from Paris to Spain and each time in Paris they have been very strict about applying the one bag rule in the cabin. They forced people to put their handbags in their cabin bags when they boarded the plane (even though passengers then removed them). Spanish Easyjet staff did not apply this rule however. EasyJet now thankfully provides allocated seating. The only problem we had with the flights was our return flight. Due to snow in Paris our plane was late arriving in Barcelona for our return trip. When we finally landed at Charles de Gaulle airport the airbridge could not come close enough to the plane. It appeared that the Aéroport de Paris ground staff had swept up the snow into a pile where the wheels of the airbridge needed to go. We then had to wait for the snow plough to arrive to re-arrange it. The tarmac is marked with the areas that need to remain clear so I really don't understand why this happened.

Sculpture at Sant Sebastià 

With EasyJet, you land at Terminal 2 at Barcelona Airport. We travelled by Aerobús A2 to the centre of Barcelona. There is a stop at Pl. Espanya and then in the city centre at Pl. Catalunya which is essentially located at one end of Las Ramblas. Tickets can be bought from either the driver or staff at the bus stop. One way 5,75€ or return 9,95€ (with 9 day limit to use the return trip). With buses leaving every 10 minutes for each terminal we found this a clean, economical and efficient way to travel to our accommodation. 
Pl  Espanya and former bullring - now shopping centre with great free view from roof top cafés and bars
We chose the Hotel Bagués which is located on La Rambla. The building is old on the outside but very much a modern, boutique hotel on the inside. The service is particularly impressive. I have never come across such pleasant, welcoming and knowledgable staff at any hotel. Every one of their recommendations for dinner and activities were spot on. The hotel has a bar on the roof with a lap pool and wonderful views of La Rambla and the Barcelona skyline. Staff kindly opened it up for us one evening so we could enjoy a drink there. They thought it was too cold for us but we still enjoyed it. There is a hotel in the restaurant but we chose to eat out including for breakfast. With the markets only a one minute walk there are so many options on top of all the other nearby locations. I can highly recommend this hotel for its wonderful staff, location and comfort. The welcome bottle of water and strawberries may only be a little thing, as is the turn down service in the evenings, but it does make you feel special.

Granja Viader - operating  for 125 years makes great place for a quiet breakfast or coffee
Getting Around:
After spending time in Paris I was most impressed by the cleanliness and moderness of the metro service. I often saw people cleaning the stations. The floor, seats, entrances were all very clean. There were escalators that worked! The ticketing machine was multilingual and very easy to use. I bought a T-10 pass (9,80€) for 10 trips in zone 1 which covers most of the sights in Barcelona. The pass can be used by multiple people travelling together. You just pass it back for others to swipe. The pass can be used on buses as well. While the hop-on, hop-off bus makes it easy for tourists who are perhaps a little unsure about navigating public transport, it does come at a significant cost (26€ for 1 day).

Random Observations:
The weather in mid-January was relatively mild with lots of sun. The maximum was 12-15°C. Young women wore shorts with boots and stockings. I must be getting old as I did not find this a very good look. Shorts with bare legs - sure. But boots and stockings - no.

The streets were nealy empty around midday but were full around 5.00pm. It was sales time in the shops but unlike Paris, the shops were not packed. No doubt a reflection of the financial difficulties being experienced in Spain. It was easy to look at things and get into a change room to try items on. Regretfully, service was pretty well non-existent in most shops although there were some exceptions.
Pl. Espagna from the shopping centre roof in former bull-fighting ring

When visiting tourist sites such as Parc Güell there were many hawkers. Unlike those in Paris, such as around the Louvre, they did not approach people to make purchases. I also noticed many amputees who were on the streets with signs requesting money. Again they did not ask for money. I was only approached once for money during the 4 day period. 

Beautiful façade
Online travel forums are full of questions about personal safety when visiting Barcelona. Our hotel provided an information leaflet about safe practices which really are those that you would expect wherever you are travelling as well as at home. At all times I felt safe with the standard precautions.
La Rambla
I saw this sign in a bank window. Even using Google translator for Catalan I am not much wiser. Are they offering a set of knives when opening a bank account? 

A set of knives with that account??

Have you visited Barcelona or other parts of Spain? What were your observations?


Hotel Bagués
La Rambla 105, 08002 Barcelona

Granja Viader 
Xucla, 4 - 6, 08001 Barcelona

Transports Metropolitains de Barcelone

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