Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Barcelona & Paris Trip Ideas. Any Suggestions? Here Are Mine

I am two weeks away from my European return to my absolute favorite city in the world.  I love beautiful, historic locations but no city has ever emotionally moved me as much as Barcelona.  From the architecture to the food to simply the smell, Barcelona is such a unique, colorful city.

When Woody Allen shot Vicky Christina Barcelona there, I thought there would be a surge in tourism (in sort of a bad way).  There really wasn't.  Barcelona is always widely regarded and publicized by travel pros but doesn't seem to get the true tourist attention as a Paris or Rome.

I'm also hitting Paris for a few days.  I know my way around Barcelona pretty well but have only done a few day trips to Paris.  Please share your favorite museums, restaurants and sites.

I happened to run into a Parisian couple recently who recommended I check out a plaque in the Place Vendome that cites the fact France was the first country to recognize Texas' independence.  Stuff that only locals know!  I love that.

In the spirit of sharing, here are few of my Catalan faves.  This is a cut and paste of an old Trip Advisor post I did after a Spanish trip a few years ago.   Jump for more.

Fair Warning: this is a bit of a rambler but it's got some good tips.

The architecture is beautiful, organic and unlike anything you would expect.  Modernist architect Antoni Gaudi was revolutionary in his designs that married nature, religion and exceptional design.   I've done all his buildings: La Pedrera, Casa Batllo, Sagrada Familia and can't wait to check them out again.

The food is freaking amazing.  Cal Pep was one of my favorites.  I've sent some friends there who have waited in the line that forms an hour before the place opens.  I was there by myself and the owner, Pep, was so cool.  He chatted with me at the crowded bar while I devoured clams, a variety of seafood, lightly fried artichoke hearts and the absolute best tuna tartar I have ever had. It was one of those memorable meals that I will remember 20 years from now.

Every morning I hit La Boqueria on Las Ramblas for coffee and fruit.

Tuesday I started using my Barcelona card for the Metros and started at Park Guell. This was my first time there and it stunned me. It's just so remarkable. from the mosaic tile, to the buildings, to the views - just amazing. Spent a long time there - packed with kids.

From there I Metro'd it to the Palace at Piedrasalbas, this was really cool. It's probably not for everyone because inside there was the ceramics and decorative arts museums, I am into that. There was no one there. I was so amazed that here I am in this magnificent palace, in these cool museums and no one was there. I really enjoyed it.

Took the Metro to Montjuic and just walked around. There was a soccer game that night between England and Andorra at the Olympic Stadium, so there was a little buzz in the area. 1 bummer - the cable car to the top of Montjuic was broken. I planned to go up there by foot, but just never made it.
Dinner that night was at El Senyor Parellada, very good.

Wednesday I walked around the beach. I was SO windy and quite chilly. I walked over to the Hotel Arts just to check it out. It's very cool, very stylish.

I went back to Montjuic to go to the National Museum at the Palace. It was nice. It's highly regarded, but I think at that point I was a little museum-ed out.  It takes a LONG time to go through there. It started raining terribly on the way back to my next stop, so I hung out in El Cortes Ingles at Placa Catalunya for a while. When it subsided, I walked back through the Gothic Quarter (did a lot of walking thru there the entire time, just taking photos, etc.)

Dinner was at Set Portes in Barceloneta. Excellent. Service wasn't so great, but the food was fabulous.

Thursday I took the train to Montserrat. It was awesome. Go. It is worth the train ride. If you can, do some hiking to get to Santa Cova. It's just such a beautiful, special place. You feel close to heaven.

I spent the whole day there.

Just had tapas at Taller de Tapas there for dinner and went back to hotel to and relaxed.

It was a great trip. I used the Barcelona card for only 2 days. It starts when you use the Metro, so I still got the discounts at museums and stuff despite it no longer being valid on the Metro. It was a decent value.

As for the pickpocket issue, I never felt unsafe.  Ever. Just about everyone spoke English and they were so wonderfully accommodating of my terrible Spanish.