After a week in Morocco, I was pretty excited to get back to Europe. Marrakech has an international airport with a decent selection of flights to Europe, including a direct flight to Barcelona four days a week. We flew on Vueling, the Spanish low-cost airline.
We landed at Terminal 1 and we took the airport shuttle to Terminal 2 in order to stop at the RENFE station and purchase a pack of T-10 tickets. T-10 (10 trips, can be shared with multiple people) only costs €10.30, while a single ticket on the standard city trains and buses within the city zone costs €2.15 a piece. Even though we had to go out of our way to buy the T-10 tickets, it was well worth the savings.
We stayed at the newly converted Crowne Plaza Fira Center near Placa d’Espanya for two nights. We had the option of taking the Aerobus for €5.90 per person but we chose to take the 46 bus using our T-10 tickets at just over €1.00 per person. The best part was that the 46’s final stop was just a block away from our hotel. The hotel was modern and clean and was a reasonably priced redemption for 30,000 IHG points per night. I would’ve loved to shell out 5,000 points more per night to stay at the more centrally located Hotel Indigo but I wasn’t able to find availability when we needed it. From Placa d’Espanya, there are two metro lines and numerous buses that connected us to every we wanted to go.
On our first evening in Barcelona, we pulled up Yelp and found Bosque Palermo, a neighborhood restaurant known for its paella. I had hoped that we were going to encounter a hidden gem and was kind of disappointed when we realized a majority of the patrons there were tourists speaking English. We stayed anyway and ordered the famous paella and we were pleasantly surprised by it. It was really really good. We paired it with a huge bottle of house red wine for only €3.50. We were in food heaven!
The next morning, we woke up fairly early to take the metro to Sagrada Familia. We weren’t actually there to see the magnificent cathedral (I had visited it 12 years ago when I studied in Barcelona); we were headed to the Vesping shop just around the corner. We rented a 125cc Vespa for €65 for 6 hours and followed the preset GPS tours for a ride around Barcelona’s sights and neighborhoods.
At first, we were following each of the stops in the tours but as the day went on, we became hungry (what a shocker) and decided to tailor our itinerary to cover food stops.
We headed toward Barceloneta to eat at the famously crowded hole-in-the-wall, Can Paixano. The GPS indicated that we had arrived at the destination but it looked like a construction zone. We ended up circling the streets a couple of times before we finally decided to get off the Vespa and follow the GPS signal on foot. I was second-guessing myself and was thinking about giving up when we finally saw a door with people spilling out of it. Inside was the noisy cozy bar we had been looking for. Henry and I shared a bocadillo, a plate of sausages, and a bottle of refreshingly cheap cava.
We were on the clock with our Vespa rental so we didn’t linger around too long after we finished eating. We climbed back onto the Vespa and I was feeling particularly tipsy because I had consumed a majority of the bottle of cava (I didn’t want a drunk driver). We had so much fun on the Vespa that day and highly recommend it as a means of sightseeing.
Our Vespa rental ended at 4:30pm and we had no time to spare because we had to meet our Taste Barcelona food and wine tour guide, Paul, at 5:00pm. There was only one other couple on the tour that evening and they also happened to be Chinese Americans. Paul took us to 4 different tapas restaurants and taught us interesting tidbits about the history and culture of Barcelona.
When I had initially signed up for the tour, I was somewhat hesitant due to the high price (€95 per person) and length (5:00pm-10:00pm). The time ended up passing by very quickly and enjoyably with good company and the price seems totally justified considering the small group size, the number of dishes we tried, and the fact that we opened a new bottle of wine at every stop. Barcelona is really a lively city that is beautiful during the day and at night.
The next morning, we packed for our departure to our next destination. With a little bit of time to spare, we explored Montjuic and Placa d’Espanya near our hotel. We had lunch (terrible food, by the way) at a mall at Placa d’Espanya that was converted from a bull-fighting ring. Bull-fighting has been outlawed in Catalonia since 2010 so the city explored adaptive reuse options and turned the space into a modern mall.