28 May 2012


Much like last year, some friends were going to stop in Barcelona after crossing the Atlantic on a repositioning cruise.  I used that excuse to plan for a first-ever visit to Barcelona.  It was going to be a short visit, but hopefully one where I would still be able to see a lot.  Because of the fare pricing, I took a less direct route -- SFO to London and then Lufthansa to Barcelona via Munich.  I also would be taking the daytime flight to London, which is not ideal for getting sleep and becoming time-adjusted.  This would get me into Barcelona at around 5:30pm the next day.  From that point, I would have about 48 hours on the ground in Barcelona.  I routed through Munich because it's a much easier airport to do a transfer than Frankfurt, even though I could have gotten into Barcelona earlier had I gone through Frankfurt.  The plan was to start slow -- a nice dinner at a pre-booked restaurant on Saturday night, meet my friends on Sunday to do some touring while they are in port, and then some additional sightseeing that evening and more sightseeing on Monday through the early afternoon before taking an evening flight back to London.

Pre-trip research showed that it would be easy to get from the Barcelona Airport into the center of the city.  The airport is not very far from central Barcelona and a RENFE regional train gets you there in about 25 minutes.  I opted to pre-purchase a Barcelona Tourist card for 3-days of use, which covers all transportation (including the RENFE train airport transfer) and some city discounts).  The trick was to get to the train station from my terminal.  On intra-European flights, Terminal 1 is used, but the train station is at Terminal 2.  Fortunately, the trek to the free shuttle bus to Terminal 2 is well-marked. After trading my voucher for a Barcelona Card, I found the bus. The bus was crowded, but I squeezed on for the 10-minute ride to Terminal 2.  At T2, there is a long walkway to the RENFE station.  Fortunately, a train was just getting in and I was able to board the modern and spacious train.  Once I arrived at Sants Station, I transferred to the Metro, which would take me to my hotel.

I chose to stay at the just-renovated Hilton located about 3 Metro stops from Central Barcelona.  It's a modern hotel about 2 blocks from the Metro stop.  It was pretty quiet most of the time.  It has an Executive Lounge that was never crowded during my stay.  The rooms were not large, but were comfortable and well-appointed.

Executive Lounge, located on the 4th floor
Dinner was at a place called Comerç24.  It's a small, modern cuisine place located at the edge of the Barri Gòtic section, near the brick Arc de Triomphe.  It serves Barcelona local-sourced food using modern techniques.  There was an amazing array of seafood included on my Grand Festival Tasting menu.

The next day, I met my friends.  There were only in port for a short while, so we ventured to Sagrada Familia (I had pre-purchased tickets for a time slot.  You have to pay an extra €3 at the gate if you want to go up one of the towers.

Afterwards, we strolled back to La Rambla, had some tapas and then walked around the Barri Gòtic until it was time for them to catch the shuttle bus back to their ship.  After seeing them off, I walked back to tour the inside of Palau Güell, Gaudi's first big commission.  Then, I went back to Sagrada Familia to see Gaudi's crypt, which was located in a different part of the temple (free part in the Crypt Church) and also check out the La Pedrera building from the outside.  After dinner, I went to catch some of the Magical Fountain show.
Palau Guell Reception Room

Palau Guell roof

La Pedrera

Magical Funtain

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Parc Guell
The next day, I secured a late checkout and then was off to see as much as I could see.  I headed to Parc Güell  first, which included a long uphill climb from the Metro station.  Then, it was over to tour the inside and roof of La Pedrera (Casa Mila).  I then to headed to Casa Batllo to tour the inside and roof as well.  Finally, on the way back to the hotel, I stopped off for refreshments at La Boqueria, the big marketplace off of La Rambla.  Then, it was back to the hotel and the trek back to the airport.

Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo roof

Casa Batllo roof

Casa Batllo Attic parabolic arches

La Boqueria

La Pedrera roof

La Pedrera roof

La Pedrera roof
Getting to T1 from the RENFE train was a little simpler than when I arrived.  When I got off the train, there was a bus available that would passengers directly to T1.  Check-in was simple and quick, as was security.  I had plenty of time to tour the terminal.  I discovered that there was no Lufthansa lounge in T1.  Fortunately, my Priority Pass from American Express provided me with free entrance to the non-affiliated lounge.  Internet was not free, but there was a decent assortment of snacks and drinks available.

My flights to London were on time, and I got to the Hilton Heathrow Airport around 10:30 pm or so after a lengthy wait to get through British immigration.  The next day, it was an easy afternoon flight from LHR back to SFO.

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