An April 2006 trip
to Barcelona by weetoon
Quote: For my 40th birthday I insisted my husband treated me to a holiday in Barcelona. And what a great time we had! I can't wait to go back!
The hotel itself is between the beautiful Barri Gòtic—the old area of Barcelona, teeming with lovely bars, restaurants, and boutiques—and the seafront area, with its beaches and harbour. Within walking distance, you can visit the beautiful Picasso museum, the maritime museum, and the zoo; sit on the beach; take a cable car ride over the harbour; and of course, eat in a variously priced restaurants and shop in all sorts of shops.
All in all, we had a very enjoyable stay at the Hotel Lyon. We found our room clean, with a bathroom with shower (and a fairly small bath). It had a telephone and television. The room and bathroom were cleaned daily and the towels were renewed. The ladies who cleaned the rooms and looked after the reception area during the day were very helpful and patient when it came to giving us directions. The room was kept cool by means of a blind closed all day, which even at Easter was useful. The hotel turned out to be very quiet, no wild parties or anything like that.
When we booked this hotel, we knew it had only one star and were not looking for luxury. We were very pleasantly surprised with what we found and very impressed with what we got for our money, bearing in mind the hotel is situated in a major city.
I have a couple of reservations, however (pun intended!), as the website description is a little misleading in places: we didn't see any sign of air-conditioning, which could be a big disappointment if you were staying at the height of the summer. When we asked about the laundry service, which incidentally was one of the things that we had noted and were interested in, we were given directions to go to a laundrette across the square. Another website mentions the staff being multilingual...I wouldn't dream of assuming that automatically meant they spoke English (they didn't), but as this was an English-language site, you could be forgiven for expecting some help in that direction (incidentally, they didn't speak Catalan or French either). It is also possible that the peaceful atmosphere was only due to the time of year and that a summer sojourn might be different.
It cost £417.59 for 9 nights, including a £5.29 credit card charge and a £10.70 cash-back obtained by going through one of the many cash-back sites available. This put the price of a night at just over £46 for two of us.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 3, 2006
General Castanos 6
Els Quatre Gats, on the narrow and modest Carrer de Montsió, was a regular hangout for Picasso and other Barcelonian artists. This was what attracted us to this place. The restaurant is on the ground floor of the Casa Martí, a Modernista building in a neo-gothic style. Open in 1897, it soon became a meeting place for Catalan Intellectuals and artists. The atmosphere in those days must have been similar to that of a Parisian café-concert as they used to hold poetry readings, concerts, Chinese shadow shows and Picasso held his first individual exhibition there in 1900.When we set foot inside, the thing that struck me was how bright and colourful the bar area was, mostly because of the ceramic tiles and bright yellow walls. When we arrived, we were told we had to wait for up to half an hour. We fully expected that and looked forward to spending this time in the bar, soaking up the atmosphere and perhaps a Cava or two. I went to the toilet (worth a visit on their own merit) and hubby sat down. But the Maître d' soon came back and urged us to 'come, come' through to the dinning-room. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't the rather old-fashioned, refined spectacle that awaited. An army of waiters in full black regalia busily serving customers, a pianist and a violinist playing tunes from another era... The place was full, mainly with tourists.
We were shown to our table, on a gallery above the dining-room. Probably a late addition, to maximize space in order to respond to demand. From this perfect vantage point we sat back and took in the scene. The Maître d' then took our order, recommending a local wine. The rest of the service was left to another waiter who was helpful and attentive throughout the meal but without a hint of obsequiousness. The Maître d' remained vigilant all evening to make sure every diner was looked after. The service was never rushed.
The evening menu is by no means cheap, but in my opinion it is worth every penny. From memory, I think I had Fois-gras mi-cuit with figs and something else, a beautiful fillet of salmon, cooked to perfection, and Catalan cream (a kind of crème brulée). I can't remember what my husband had, but I know he enjoyed it very much indeed. I would describe the kind of food served as Catalan post-nouvelle cuisine (post because the portions are pretty decent). The wine that was recommended was beautiful. The food was outstanding, every dish a perfect balance of flavours. So, do I recommend this restaurant? Most definitely! Okay, it might be a little expensive (but not when you compare it to some of the prices in Britain), but it is most definitely value for money. Everything is combined to provide the perfect dinning experience, from the surroundings, to the food, not forgetting the service. If you find yourself in Barcelona, I urge you, go!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 2, 2006
Els Quatre Gats
Attraction | "Museu Picasso"
What makes this museum special for me is that many of the works on display were donated by Picasso himself, by his wife and one of his friends. Picasso was born in Málaga in 1881, but the family moved to Barcelona when he was 10, and despite having left for Paris in 1904, the Catalan city remained dear to his heart.
The collection charts the progression of Picasso's work, starting with a brilliant set of his early work, very relevant, as most of it was painted in Barcelona. There is a huge variety of works from this period, from portrait to landscape through to newspaper-style caricatures and, touchingly, some of the artist's sketchbooks. It makes you realise just how immense and precocious the genius of the man was. One painting in particular stays in my mind, the man in a beret, painted in 1895. That's right; he painted this when he was only 14 years old! The technical expertise is astounding, but most of all it is such a mature work.
The visit then takes you to works from his blue period, painted during a difficult time in the young man's life. The material difficulties he experienced, far from his family, as well as the suicide of his friend Carles Casagemas, have been seen as the underlying reason to the melancholic quality of his work.
So far, so good, but perhaps a little predictable—until you come to what has to be the real highlight of this museum. In 1957, Picasso donated a series of 58 paintings inspired by the famous Velázquez painting of the same name. A great admirer of Velázquez, Picasso set about interpreting Las Meninas in his own unique manner. The series comprises an extraordinary monochrome painting of the whole scene, as well as smaller paintings of parts of the original. Before you enter the room where these paintings are, you will have the opportunity to watch a short audio-visual presentation comparing Picasso's work with the original. Spend a little time looking at it, as it will help you understand and appreciate Picasso' work.
If you like Picasso and find yourself in Barcelona, you MUST visit this museum. If you are not a big fan, I think you would still enjoy the visit, if only to check out the museum buildings. The works presented here are extremely varied, and you are almost guaranteed to see something you like. You might even be won over by this energetic and joyful collection.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 3, 2006
Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso)
Barcelona, Spain 08003
+34 93 3196310
Attraction | "Barcelona Bus Touristic"
Most people catch the bus on the Plaça de Catalunya. Here you can get onto both the blue and red line. This can lead to lengthy queues to get on the buses, unless you get there early. The buses run between 9/9:30am and 7pm in winter, 8pm in summer. If you start off a little late, my advice is to catch the bus from a different stop. The buses run every 5 minutes in the high season, falling to every 25 minutes in the winter.
On board, each bus has a guide who, as well as selling passes, provides a running commentary in about four languages: Spanish, Catalan, English, and another, either French or German. They also make sure tourists are seated on the top deck, an important safety consideration. The guide's language skills are excellent. The commentary itself is pretty basic and changes from guide to guide.
I am glad we started our stay in Barcelona with this tour, although with the benefit of hindsight, I would probably do things a differently, perhaps do one of the routes the first day, visiting one or two of the places on the way, and the other route the next day. If you had only quite a short stay, I don't think you would want to give more than half a day to sitting on top of a bus.
When on the gallery at the top of the bus, remember to sit down at all times. Not only could you fall overboard, but the bus also goes under a couple of very low tunnels, which you don't see in advance. Remember to be prepared for the weather and have sun cream available, but also a warm top, as when the sun goes down or you are in a shaded avenue, it can get quite chilly.
Go on, be a tourist!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 4, 2006
Barcelona Bus Turistic
Despite its picturesque appeal, this is by no means a market just for tourists. Locals shop here (they don't know how lucky they are to be able to do that on a daily basis), and the city's top chef come here for fresh supplies. Just stroll around and fill your soul with the sights and smells. Some of the more unusual sights I remember were the ostrich and emu eggs (omelette anyone?), the valuable dried wild mushroom and strangely, various dried insects (giant ant-like creatures, beetles, etc) which came in tins or packets.
After having feasted your eyes on all the goodies on display for a while, you will be ready for a spot of lunch. Take a seat at one of the bars, and order your choice of tapas. Although tapas are not strictly a Catalan creation, many of the tapas available here will be typical Catalan dishes, just small portions of them. I really recommend that you do this as it is a cheap and cheerful way of sampling many of the local dishes. If you have company for your meal, try and order different things so you can share. And if you are not too sure how much to order, don't worry, as you can always order more if you are still hungry. They will keep track of what you have ordered behind the bar.
There is also an interesting stall selling cookery books, should you wish to try your hand at Catalan cuisine when you get back. Be warned though… Your trip to the supermarket to try and find the necessary ingredients may feel a little boring and bland.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 12, 2006
La Rambla, 91
Attraction | "Park Guell"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 21, 2006
Park Guell (Parc Güell)
Montana Pelada, Gracia District
Attraction | "Casa Mila (La Pedrera)"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 2, 2006
Casa Mila (La Pedrera de Gaudi)
Passeig De Gracia, 92
Barcelona, Spain 08007
34644 291 481
Attraction | "Fundación Joan Miró"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 5, 2006
Fundació Joan Miró
Parc de Montjuïc
Barcelona, Spain 08038
+34 93 3291908
Argyll & Bute, United Kingdom