As part two of our whirlwind European tour, we spent two days in Barcelona. Upon our arrival, after 10pm, we learned that we once again missed the memo because the taxis in the city were on strike. If you, like us, thought that strikes because of Uber were over years ago, we are here to tell you that they are apparently not. This meant that the only way to our hotel was via bus then train then cobblestone alleyway. In the dark. Thank the Lord for technology because we literally would have been wondering the city all night had it not been for Google Maps.
When we woke up the next day and were trudging down the street in the frigid rain, we came across the taxis blocking the main street, which was why we couldn’t rent a car to get to our hotel. We tried to make the most of our trip despite having to walk the length of the city in frigid rain. Unfortunately, this was not the only way their strike would impact our trip. We went to Casa Batlo, a Gaudi creation, because it was marginally within walking distance of our hotel. I’ve been here before but was so disappointed this time, both because the entire thing was under construction which is not mentioned until you’ve paid for tickets and are inside but also because there was no cap on number of visitors. Because the only modes of transportation in the building are a narrow elevator or single staircase, it got claustrophobic, quickly. We spent the next several hours hopping from cafe to cafe, staying just long enough to warm up. The saving grace of this day was our upgraded hotel room. Check out the stunning view from our terrace:
This view made it all worth it. We didn’t make it inside the national cathedral until the end of our second day but it was my favorite part of this entire trip. It’s been several years since I’ve been inside a gothic catherdal and man, did this one not disappoint. Additionally, there were very few people inside and bonus, with your entry donation, you get a free elevator ride to the rooftop. This place is not to be missed!
Another new sight for me was the Sagrada Familia. During my last visit, I didn’t have time to go in. It was surreal and unlike anything I had ever seen before. We opted to visit the Nativity facade via elevator but probably wouldn’t choose to do so again because, tourists*. But, we had a lovely time in the main part of the cathedral marveling at the beauty of the interior.
We walked the length of the city several times. The thing I was most looking forward to was showing Felipe the fountain in Cituadella Park. I distinctly remember thinking it was the most beautiful place I had ever visited the last time I was there. See below….
Unfortunately, we ran into the taxi strike again. This time, they were blocking the main entrance to the park and as a result, riot police had barricaded the other entrances. So, after flying all the way back to Spain to visit the park again, we didn’t get to go in. At least we enjoyed sunshine on our second day!
As a native Brazilian, Felipe is an avid soccer/ football fan. For Christmas, I got him tickets to an FC Barcelona game. Like everything else on this trip, it did not go as planned and was rescheduled three times day of due to weather but in the end, we sat in seats and saw the most famous players in the world play (and score). Side note: can anyone please explain to me how in the world you find your seats in a European soccer stadium? This is not the first time I’ve had to admit defeat and just find an empty place to sit. What’s the trick? I’m dying to know!
*I realize we are one of said tourists. However, there are tourists that quietly and respectfully observe and appreciate their surroundings. Then there are tourists that loudly stomp around with selfie sticks while letting their children wreak havoc on priceless artifacts without batting an eyelash. I strive hard to be the former (except for the time I saw Bruce Willis filming on Venice Beach). The people on top of the cathedral were definitely the latter.
If you’re living in the States and haven’t heard of Scott’s Cheap Flights, get on their email list. Now! They basically scan the internet for flash sales and mistake fares that you have to be prepared to purchase immediately. Thanks to SCF, we jumped on tickets to Europe for just over $300 round trip over MLK weekend. Felipe had never been to Europe and we were able to plan a day-long layover in London then two days in Barcelona. I haven’t tried anything so ambitious in a while and my near-thirty year old body didn’t quite bounce back from the time change like it used to but I’m so glad we went!
If you have 6+ hours, it’s definitely enough time to get into the city. Take the Heathrow Express into Paddington Station. Tickets are available online in advance or you can purchase with credit card at the station. We opted to walk after being on a plane overnight but if we were to go again in January, interior transport would definitely be on the agenda because it was COLD. We walked from Paddington Station to Buckingham Palace then to Westminster Abbey, over to Big Ben, up to the National Portrait Gallery, back towards Picadilly Circus, then back to Paddington.
Side note: When did London get so crowded? The last time I visited was in December 2010. I don’t remember having such difficulty just walking down the street. Perhaps the crowds have increased. Perhaps all of the selfie snapping Instagrammers have increased sidewalk traffic jams. Regardless, it was cold and I was shocked to see the sidewalks so crowded!
We missed the memo that Big Ben was/ will be covered in scaffolding until 2021. Take that into account if sightseeing is your thing. That was a big disappointment because Felipe has never seen it. Almost as much of a disappointment as the London Eye being closed on the day of our visit. But, what can you do?
On the bright side, because of those detours, we ended up seeing more of the city than we originally intended!
While planning this trip, I found my old blog from my last trip to Europe with Baylor in London for my teaching practicum. Want to see what I was before “The Traveling Teacher”? Check it out! Lauren’s in London 2010