Having a base in England as well as the U.S, we are extremely lucky to have the ability to check flights on certain websites like Ryanair and Easyjet and find a cheap deal from England to many wonderful European Cities to escape for the weekend, (Although sometimes the service matches the price you pay). One of these random weekend adventures for us was a 2 night stay in the beautiful Spanish city of Barcelona.
It just so happened it was December when we started looking for our next mini adventure. The criteria we wanted to cover was 1. Winter Warmth to escape the cold English December, 2. Still keeping the classic European Christmas market charm, (little sneak peek. Barcelona nailed it).
We dipped into the Purposely Wandering Splurge fund to seek out a beautiful, historic hotel, to ensure after a day of exploring we had a base camp that was relaxing and comfortable. Hotel Colon Barcelona checked every box. Settled in a historic square directly across Barcelona Cathedral, we had balcony views to die for.
We always advise to take day one to drop your bags in your hotel, jump on the bed, walk in the bathroom and say “oOoOooo” (We assume this is standard) then follow your nose, purposely wandering ( 😉 ) away from your accommodation until your energy levels and feet start telling you it’s time to try out some of that local cuisine. For us, that was everything we had heard about the Barcelona charcuterie boards. Fine meats, smooth cheese, washed down with the local Sangria, we are in heaven. Night time in Barcelona gets just that little bit more magical with the stone walls and gothic lighting. We enjoyed this magic on our balcony with a couple more glasses of that Sangria.
Now we are generally not ones for guided tours, or structured days as we believe the beauty of travel comes from the spontaneous discovery of that location, however we do believe they have a time and place. Jackie had been struggling with a bad cold during this trip, so like a trooper and with our google medicine Spanish translator, our second day was a whirl wind tour of Barcelona on the Big Red Bus Hop on-Hop Off .
For around $30US (Feel free to jump on xe.com for your own conversion) you can have a private chauffeur tour you around Barcelona, they just happened to have invited 50 other friends from around the world who are all trying to fight for the magical top deck front seat.
There are many different areas to “Hop on”, look for the classy, double-decker limousines with “Barcelona City Tour” splashed on the side. We started at the beautifully, “modernistic” Gaudi playground near Park Guell. Although with Jackie’s Fine Art background, we enjoyed driving past the creative architecture and were happy with looking at each other and a simple, “That’s different”.
Barcelona has a little bit for everyone, (or a ridiculous amount for architectural enthusiasts) so it’s hard for us to give you a, go here, see this, experience that at 3 pm on a Tuesday, but we certainly will give you our top spots if you’re not going to explore bus style and the areas to wander purposely towards on your feet.
Not to follow every travel guide and trip advisor, but the classic sight of Barcelona’s famous Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is a must see. As grand and beautiful as it is, with all top sights across Europe, it also brings the crowds. After passing the “2 hours to the front of the ride” sign, we feel you will get as much satisfaction from a leisurely stroll around the outside. (As long as you can find the perfect angle to avoid the scaffolding and cranes in your Instagram photo).
After getting away from the crowds, and if it’s the stunning vistas of Barcelona you are looking for, then head up the hill to the National Art Museum of Catalonia. This seems very similar to the Art Museum back in Philadelphia, that people only use the stairs in front of the art museum, to live out their Rocky dreams, without ever going in. The front of the MNAC has one of the most beautiful views across Barcelona, looking down on the Magical, Magic Fountain. (We hear the magic fountain comes alive at night, but our focus had turned to Tapas and Sangria by then).
Barcelona is not known as an out right Beach destination like some other Spanish towns, but it certainly does not disappoint if your looking to get your suntan on. The best stretch of beach in our opinion is the area of Platja de la Nova Icaria. With it’s mixture of peaceful beach to lounge on, and set back is the boardwalk of classy bars and restaurants, you feel a million miles away from the Big red bus tourist traps.
A “Purposely Wandering Must See/Visit” is an evening stroll down the famous Barcelona Rambla. Now this is pretty standard and you’ll see it highlighted on most blogs, however where we would like to direct you is just off the Rambla to Placa Reial. This perfectly Catalonian, brightly colored plaza, takes you to a world of wonderful restaurants and bars, with a little pleasant fountain to set the ambiance. A hidden gem we came across was the Jamboree Bar, perfect if you’re looking for a bit of Spanish cultural entertainment with your Sangria. (The Flamenco Dancing was intimidatingly riveting).
With budget weekend trips, comes budget experiences, sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth. After an amazingly, relaxing few days away, our return journey was one of those rough times that allow you to reflect on the good. What would generally be two hours casually waiting to be called to your gate, followed by a quick flight from Barcelona to Heathrow, turned into a six-hour delay, with limited food options to spend our courtesy food vouchers as the last cafeteria closed 2hrs in. What you find in these times is people from all nationalities, and all ages come together to support each other through the common theme, “When Are We Boarding!!”
We would certainly have done things differently than the Big Red Bus tour of Barcelona, but what we all love about travel is the ever-changing methods that you can use touring a city, and you have to use everything a city has to offer. With us fighting our energy levels for the weekend, we got to enjoy Barcelona and everything it had to offer, the food, the drink, the sights, the people. We shall return at 100% and take the Big Red Purposely Wandering tour of exploration, destination happiness.