This Christmas was to be the great escape. No overspending, or running around the country to see people that you could see at any time of the year and most importantly, no ceremonious over consumption of food and alcohol; the remanence of which would leave you sweating in the depths of a cold dark gym in January wondering why yet again you had succumbed to this modern notion of Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Scrooge. I love the build up to Christmas just not the bizarre pressure to over consume and self-flagellate for months after.
This year we thought “let’s not hang around let’s rebel and break tradition, save some cash and get a tan!” So, we booked a week’s holiday in Fuertaventura in the Canary Islands, leaving on December 23rd. Guaranteed warmth, lovely hotel with kids club and golf to entertain the man-child. Oh what bliss!…
Or at least it would have been had my well-meaning father-in-law (perhaps a little bored during a recent hospital stay) not forwarded an article from the Daily Mail stating that a cluster of Zika Virus carrying mosquitos had been found on the island. Dan cannot abide creepy crawlies, let alone ones potentially carrying such diseases and so the holiday was cancelled (and yes, we should known better than read it in the first place!).
We were very lucky to be able to join my family at the last minute in France for Christmas day and boxing day which was wonderful, but with Christmas coughs and colds lingering we were still left longing for some sunshine. With another week of school holidays after Christmas to entertain the children this year, we scoured the worlds weather and saw a very welcoming 20c degrees and sunshine in Barcelona. We managed to find very reasonable flights for £29 each (return with Ryanair from East Midlands Airport), booked a family room and off we went. And how glad I am that we did. We had a fantastic time.
Travellers: Dan (Dad), Teddie (6), Chela (12), and myself (mum)
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Transport: Aeroplane (East Midlands UK to Barcelona, with Ryanair)
Hotel: Hotel Arts, Carrer de la Marina, Barcelona (booked direct/online )
Room: Executive suite, sea view (could fit 1 x king, plus 2 single beds)
Dates: Tuesday 2nd Jan to Friday 5th Jan 2018.
Weather: Average between 19 to 21c, sunny with a little wind
WHAT DID WE DO?
Beach: Playa de la Barceloneta
Arriving late on the Tuesday after a days travel, we immediately went for a walk along the amazing sea front in Barcelona. Our hotel was right next to the Playa de la Barceloneta, the main beach next to the city. It’s one of the many things I love about Barcelona. It has a beach right next to the city and it’s a pretty nice beach. There are so may runners and people doing fitness, yoga or even swimming (in Jan) that it just a has a great energy.
Late lunch: Barraca
It is always difficult finding food when you first arrive somewhere but were lucky to stumble across Barraca just opposite the beach and enjoyed some wonderful tapas including fresh garlic prawns and seafood paella.
We returned to the hotel showered relaxed, enjoyed the amazing view of Barcelona from the 28th floor and then went on our first cultural escapade to:
Sight Seeing: Casa Batillio
This is the beautiful house on the Passeig de Gracia, remastered by the renowned Spanish architect Gaudi in 1904. With its beautiful curves and unconventional appearance, it is a wondrous sight to behold. The digital audio guide provided on arrival helped provide enough information, to keep us entertained for over an hour; fuelling the imagination of even our youngest aged 6. I would thoroughly recommend.
Entrance to the Casa Batillo was 24.5 Euro’s per adult, 21.5 Euro’s for the 12 year old, and the 6 year old was free. We bought the tickets online at https://www.casabatllo.es/en/. This is well worth doing to avoid the queues of people waiting to buy tickets at the door.
Night cap/ evening tapas: El Nacional
Set back from the main Las Ramblas strip is El Nacional. This is a beautiful venue, with multiple food offerings ranging from tapas to fresh fish. It has a really nice atmosphere, and is quite casual so if you have just finished shopping with the kids as we had, or are on a night out it’s a cool spot to visit. I devoured one of the most amazing Pisco Sours ever – whilst Dan duped me by drinking Mockito’s (non–alcohol Mojitos) as he had decided to pursue dry Jan- in secret. He confessed two days later. I thought we were a team…
We then went back to the hotel to check out the amazing view from out window on the 28th floor:
Exploring: by electric bike
We knew that it would be sunny but breezy, so a great for some sight-seeing. Barcelona is a great place to explore on bikes as has great cycling lanes, but cycling also allows you to see and explore so much more than you would on foot or in a taxi. Ordinarily Dan would savour any opportunity to squeeze in some extra physical exercise, so I had every expectation that we would be coming away from the bike hire shop with regular push pedal bikes, but to my surprise (and relief..) He went for the electric bikes! My goodness, they were such good fun! With just 3 pedal pushes, we were off like lightening! Teddie rode in a child seat on Dan’s bike and the rest of us each had our own.
There are bike hire shops all over Barcelona, but we hired ours from http://www.esrent.es/ which is just on a side road of the Playa de la Barceloneta. We paid 50 Euros for the day, for all the bikes, which was good value considering the ground we covered.
Sightseeing: What did we see?
- Sagrada Familia: Described as ‘the largest unfinished Catholic church in the world’, this is another one of Gaudi’s design masterpieces. With its extraordinary gothic façade, the outside alone is worth taking time to explore with your eyes. The level of intricacies and design details are quite overwhelming. You can take a tour of the inside, but having done this on a previous visit to Barcelona, I knew better than to take it on with a 6-year-old! (lots of stair climbs).
Park Güell: This is Gaudi’s famous park composed of a system of beautiful buildings and gardens, designed by him on behalf of Eusebi Guell. Definitely worth a visit, the park sits on the hillside of El Carmel and few minutes out of the centre so you would ordinarily take a bus or taxi, but our electric bikes were able to get us there quite easily. You can pay to see the full park and extent of Gaudi’s work there, but there is also public access to parts of the park which we explored for free.
- Shopping: The shopping in Barcelona is fantastic. The is every major high St. and premium brand retail store that you can imagine. We just headed to one of the main, and well known streets Las Ramblas. This street is well-known for its retail and pick-pocketing so keep an eye out, although we didn’t experience any issues when there. We made the most of the January sales and headed back to the hotel for a quick change before heading out to dinner.
Dinner: El Nacional
See day 1. Yes, a bit lazy to return the same place but we were at the hangry* stage for Dan and Chela post shopping, and right outside so it was a win-win.
* Hangry is a combination of hungry and angry, and an adjective that describes being irritable due to hunger
After a much-needed lie in for all, our final full day was spent on the beach. It wasn’t exactly bikini weather, but in true British style we donned our shorts and t-shirts whilst the well-dressed Italian’s and Spanish around us marveled at our insanity whilst wearing their head to toe winter wardrobes. Regardless, we continued in our pursuit of sunshine and vitamin D and had a wonderful 2 to 3 hours of relaxing and paddling in the sea (which was colder than the Arctic).
We enjoyed some wonderful and unexpected entertainment for the kids in the form of a couple who brilliantly stripped naked, danced in the sun, and wallowed in the sea. They seemed to rejoice in every inch of nature which was refreshing to see, and the kids thought it hilarious – until I threatened to join them.
There was also some entertainment for adults on the beach in the form of a workout area, with different levels of bars to play on doing pull-ups, balances and so on. Each day It seemed to attract a group of rather sporty, topless young men who performed various tricks. Dan was bursting to have a go and show off his athletic prowess whilst I had to stand by and take pictures (of Dan of course). It was a tough gig.
At lunch, I should have I known better but before we had time to gather thoughts, hunger had taken hold and before you know it we were already being served slightly stale bread by one of the very busy waiters at one of the very busy beach restaurants. These restaurants on the beach are very tempting, luring you in with delicious wafts of garlic. When the sun is out you think that you need to dine outdoors next to the sea, but the food and service are never good and at these places they are always overpriced. It was OK, but we would not go back. (Sorry it was that bad, I can’t remember what it was called).
Exploring: The electric buggy
After lunch, the wind was high and the temperature cooler, so we decided to hire an electric four seater buggy that we had passed many times on the beach promenade. It had no functional use whatsoever, but was fantastic fun. We whizzed up and down the 2km stretch, much to the amusement of the passers-by, and fits of giggles from the girls.
Then it was back to the hotel, to get ready for dinner.
Saving the best until last, Dinner: El Chigre 1979
Thank goodness for this marvellous recommendation from the concierge at our hotel. After our lunch disaster, this completely turned our dining experience around. Located in the Born district, near to the Modern art and Picasso Museums. It is a great part of town full of dark narrow streets the hide small independent clothes shops, design shops and cool bars (also check out Uölker – Sneakers & Co whilst you are there if you are a fellow sneaker geek. We popped in there on the way to the restaurant and picked up some super-cool sneaks for Teddie and Dan).
The restaurant concept is described as “Catarian” (Catalan & Asturian) Cider and Vermouth Bar with two lands, two languages and two kitchens with gastronomy as common line of communication, with one common goal: feast on!”.
That description was a little confusing, but I can say that the food and drinks were so tasty, and the experience there was so fantastic that I would absolutely return for a second helping.
Again, on recommendation we had their specialty – fresh chargrilled octopus, paella and steak. The flavors were extraordinary, and the meats such good quality. As it was a cider bar we indeed tried the cider. Mine was a delicious light and bubbly cider, whereas Dan went for a more traditional, almost half fermented cider that came with its own table top dispenser (see pic – I will go all out and say mine was definitely the better choice).
We returned to the hotel, tummies full, and very happy.
DAY 4: Departure
On this day, we were that family who made the most of the breakfast buffet. With a flight time at midday, finding decent food in an airport or on route is challenging so without apology, we tucked into a breakfast starter, main and dessert. Mostly fruit and eggs but still it was quite exciting.
With one final gaze at our magnificent view from the 28th Floor – we were off in a taxi and on our way to the airport. The journey to the airport is about 20 minutes. It is so quick and easy.
And then home at last…
Would we go again? Absolutely
Would we go again with children? Definitely
Is it easy to get to? Very easy
Is it expensive? I would say not compared to other major European cities
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I would love to hear about your recommendations for Barcelona, or any other destination that is great for a family mini break.
Please remember to share if you like!
Love, KOKOKALM xx