Trip Report: Barcelona, Spain

Trip Report: Barcelona, Spain

Who: Patricia Magaña, 36, and male travel partner

Where I Went: Barcelona, Spain

When: Late October 2011 

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High Points:  Labyrinthine and a bit confusing, the winding passages of the Gothic Quarter completely captivated me from the very beginning. Can a place be both rustic and grungy and chic and inviting at the same time? It can in the Barri Gotic (as the neighborhood is known in Catalan). It's home to a bountiful food market, a robust number of coffee shops, and bars aplenty—yet steeped with rich Medieval history, too.

Putting away our map and allowing the Barri Gotic to pull us in this direction or down that corridor was easily the most enchanting part of our stay. One day we followed the sights and sounds and soon found ourselves spilling onto Las Ramblas, a busy touristy section of town offering everything from paellas to Big Macs. Another day, we followed the seagulls and were soon strolling a Mediterranean beach.

If I had to choose just one sight to recommend, it would be the awe-inspiring La Sagrada Familia. Not just for the devout, the Roman Catholic basilica is quite the modernist architectural marvel. Designed by regional native Antoni Gaudi, the massive structure has been under construction for 130 years; current plans estimate that completion is at least another 15 years away. Standing inside or even just gazing at the gothic spires and columns, we could almost feel the Holy Spirit move within us.

Also not to be missed: the colorful yet lair-like Parc Guell, the warped Casa Batllo and La Pedrera, and palatial Palau Guell (in the aforementioned Las Ramblas). All are Gaudi architectural sites, too.

Low Points: Food poisoning can claim a victim anywhere, and when it does, you’re pretty much down for the count. On other trips I've fallen prey to Montezuma’s Revenge, so we stayed clear from food vendors of questionable hygienic integrity—but the bug still got hold of my traveling partner anyway. Mental note for next trip: Steer clear from restaurants that are completely vacant (often a tell-sign from the locals). There’s usually a reason the establishment has no patrons.

Savings Strategy: OK, ready for this? We paid just $350 each for our round-trip flights from Boston—a 50 percent discount! And yes, that’s after taxes and fees. Gracias, SmarterTravel fare alerts!

Where I Stayed: I put my Facebook account to good use and began a travel network of sorts. I reached out to my social media friends, told them of my upcoming trip, and within days I had useful travel advice, savings strategies, and all things “not to be missed.” Best of all, my local friends put me in touch with their Barcelona-based friends. My traveling partner and I were able to select from staying in two homes—both at centrally located neighborhoods (one two blocks from the Gothic Quarter and the other beachside in Barceloneta).

If You Go: What better way to end a magical trip than with a promise of return? Take a sip from the Font de Canaletes on La Rambla de Canaletes. Legend has it that doing so will ensure you will forever fall in love with Barcelona and make a return trip.    

A Few Photos from My Trip:

Have a question for Patricia about her trip to Barcelona? Planning a trip yourself and need advice? Want to share your own Barcelona experience? Leave a comment below!

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