We had three and a half days in Barcelona to see as much of the city as we could. We had previously decided to divide our time and touring in three main areas and do one each day but gave ourselves the latitude to abandon those plans if something better came along.

As usual, a city takes some getting used to. So does recovering from jet lag. We did much better with jet lag this time thanks to being in Business class on BA with fully reclining seats that actually allowed us to catch 5-6 hours of sleep on the plane. So our first day in Barcelona was a much better day than other first days in Europe have been.

We started by perusing the free buffet that the hotel provides. We had heard many good things about it but our impressions were that it much of the food on it was never changed in the four days we were in the hotel and most of what was on it was not as much something to make a meal out of as appetizers and snacks. You should not (as I suspect many have) stay at the The Pink Palace thinking that you can save a bunch by not eating in restaurants. If you only ate at the hotel’s buffet you would be very hungry.

So bright and early we were out and down to (I am almost ashamed to say this) Starbucks. Sorry folks, we are both died-in-the-wool Seattlites and need our coffee. And we need our coffee to be good coffee. And we weren’t disappointed. It was just like being back at home. The coffee on the buffet at the hotel was completely out of an automatic machine, and tasted that way.

I also want to point out that Barcelona is not a big breakfast town. And we love our breakfasts. We have only seen one place (so far, on day three) that serves what would be a “big” breakfast in the US. So for at least the first two days, breakfast for us was Starbucks.

La Boqueria

After a quick caffeine fix we were off to walk Las Ramblas, the main thoroughfare in Barcelona. Our destination this morning was La Boqueria, the HUGE open-air market located about halfway between Placa de Catalunya and the harbor. In Seattle we have Pike’s Place market which is world-renowned for its size and the variety of products you can find there. Well let me be the first to burst the Pike Place bubble. When it comes to food, there is NO comparison. La Boqueria is light years ahead of Pike’s Place. First the size and secondly the variety of food. Walking through the market I would say that my biggest regret in the entire trip was not having access to a kitchen so I could shop at the market, have that kind of selection and then be able to cook up a feast.

As a for instance--mushrooms. I have NEVER seen such a huge selection and such incredible fungi as I did here. And the fish, the meat, the veggies--all were astounding. We spent at least 45 minutes just walking around and marveling at all of it, taking pictures. One recommendation--go early. We were in the market by 8:30 as the vendors were setting up and it was wonderful to see them polishing fruit, laying out the fish and even hanging the “unskinned” wild game. At that time it was not overly crowded (as we saw it was the next morning by 9:30).

Hop on-hop off

After our photo excursion through La Boqueria it was back up Las Ramblas to Placa de Catalunya to board the Hop on-Hop off Bus Turistica.

We have done the HoHo bus in many cities. Our belief is that it is a great way to get your bearings. You pay one price and you can ride all day. You can “hop off” whenever you want and then “hop on” when you have finished seeing a site. (We later found that “hopping on” wasn’t always so easy but more about that later.) We bought a two day pass. We highly suggest doing this if you are going to be in Barcelona for two days. The pass is 19 euro for one day and only 23 euro for two so doing two days is quite a bargain and to really see it all, you will need two days. We also find that we can use it as transport to get back to an area we saw on day one but that we didn’t have time to explore until day 2.

The HoHo bus in Barcelona has three routes--north, south and a third shorter route to the beaches. We skipped the beach route and started our first day with the south or blue route that took us past some of the Gaudi masterpieces, up Mont Juic, down to the waterfront and then back to Placa de Catalunya. It was an interesting ride but we warned that first thing in the morning (10:00 am), sitting on the upper deck of an open air bus can be VERY cold. Layer, layer, layer. Even though the weather was in the high 60s (warm for us northwesters) when the bus is moving, it can get quite chilly, quickly.


After completing the southern circuit we hopped off at Casa Mila, the incredible apartment building designed by Gaudi. You can tour parts of this building (8 euro-7 with the discount ticket we got by riding the Bus Turistica) including the 4th floor apartment (set up exactly the way it was furnished in Gaudi’s time, the attic which houses a small museum
about the building and the roof which has astounding views. We arrived at about noon and had to wait in line about 20 minutes to get in but don’t be discouraged by the signs they have set up next to the lines stating how much longer the wait is from that point. Our experience was that the line moved much faster than that.

The building (especially the roof) was astounding. You’ll have to see our pictures to get a true feel for it.

After we finished with Casa Mila Kathleen decided it was time to eat. We had previously decided that lunch would be our big meal of each day as Barcelonians don’t eat dinner until well after 9:00 pm and that is just too late for us. It also seems that on every trip we have one really bad food experience and this lunch was to be it.

Poor planning on my part had put us in a part of the city at lunch time that I had no restaurant recommendations for. So we wandered looking for something on a menu that not only looked good but that we could fathom what it was. As most of you know, I am a pretty adventurous eater but my lovely bride isn’t as much. Especially when it comes to fish (she has shellfish allergies) that we don’t know.

After turning down a number of places due to their limited menu we finally found a small Italian place who had items on their menu (pastas, etc.) that we recognized. But after we were seated we found that those items weren’t available at lunch when only a fixed-price menu (two course for 8 euro) was served. We had a choice of four appetizers and four entrees. We both went with the simple side salad as our appetizer and I had the calmari as my entree while Kathleen chose the beef “hidago” which we were told by the waiter was a part of the cow that came from somewhere near the flank. We kind of assumed (you know the saying) that it would be flank steak or something close.

After the waiter had brought our salad I suddenly realized that where he had been pointing on his body to indicate the part of the cow the meat came from was a little higher than the flank. So I got out my iPhone and did a quick Google search that revealed (just as the entrees arrived) that hidago is liver. Now Kathleen likes most beef but not liver. And she doesn’t eat calmari so swapping was out of the question. Besides my calmari was awful--over breaded with no sauces or even lemon and served over a bunch of poorly cooked french fries. Needless to say we got the check and got the heck out of there with most of our lunch consisting of our appetizer salad and a fairly decent roll. (Looking back on it, this was OK as we got PLENTY to eat for the rest of the week.)

But at least we weren’t starving anymore as we made our way to Gaudi’s most impressive work, La Sagrada Familia.
This incredible church (which they expect to finish late in this century) was started by Gaudi and is a work in progress. I could go on and on about it but I will leave the historic research to you. I will tell you that again the ticket price was 8 euro or 7 with the discount ticket we got when we bought out HoHo bus ticket, the line was short to get in and it is VERY worth it. This is not something I would have wanted to miss. Again, this is a site where our pictures say much more than I ever could.

After leaving La Sagrada Familia we ran into the HoHo busses biggest flaw. We had not had a problem hopping off all day but at this point, the line to hop on was about a 45 minute wait. We do want to say that this was Friday afternoon at around 3:30 pm and on Saturday at the same time there was hardly any line at all--go figure?

(Comment post-cruise: We were in town again the following Friday and the HoHo busses were packed again. If this is true, I would avoid them on Fridays. Both Saturday and Sunday looked much lighter.)

It was a very long and tiring wait but we stuck it out. The line moved more by attrition (people leaving to take the Metro and taxis) than by folks getting on the bus. There was one point where no bus arrived for more than 20 minutes when we almost gave up ourselves but we stuck it out so we could get the ride up to Park Guell, the final stop on our tour of Gaudism.

After a 20 minute ride we “hopped off” again only to be told that we still need to walk about 10 minutes up a fairly steep hill to reach the park. I will say again, that it was worth the walk but by the time we got there, both Kathleen’s hip and my foot were feeling the effects of a day spent on our feet.

The park was outstanding. Again, seeing the pictures will give you a better idea of what’s there but the admission to the park is free and what you get to see is great.

After Park Guell we decided to take a taxi back to the hotel. Partly to avoid the long walk back to bus stop and partly because when we “hopped off” the bus we saw another line waiting to get on that looked like it was at least another 30 minutes. We can tell you that Park Guell to our hotel was less than 10 euro (with tip) and that it was worth every penny.

After a short rest at the hotel we went out to grab a quick bite and wound up in a tapas bar not far from the hotel. They not only had a menu in English but we lucky enough to sit down next to two graduate students from the US who spoke fairly good Spanish and did a great job of helping us figure out what to order. We had a great time talking with them about their Barcelona experience and we shared some great seafood tapas. Then it was back to the hotel and off to bed for another great day of sightseeing tomorrow

To continue reading about Barcelona, click here.


Hotel Continental Palacete (HCP)

Overall Impressions

  1. Would we go back again? Yes. Even though the buffet was mostly inedible and beds were “EXTRA FIRM” the service was outstanding (all spoke great English) and we don’t think you can beat the location. Far enough away from Placa de Catalunya to not hear the noise but close enough that you are in the center of everything. Our Cruise Critic friend Val calls it “Laura Ashley meets Louis XIV.” But the staff is outstanding, especially Peter, who never seems to go home. We would go back again.

    Post cruise note: We returned for one night to the “Pink Palace” and had a smaller “courtyard” room. This room was very small and had a window that opened into a light shaft that went nowhere except up six floors. You really could not see the outside world. It was very quiet except for the plumbing. You could hear each every time any other room used their water. Buffet was still inedible.

Other notes:

  1. They advertised free WiFi in all rooms. Pre-cruise it worked very sporadically. Post cruise was much better but we could never access in our room. We always had to go to the “Living Room.”

    They do have two PCs you can access for free and one is connected to a printer for the printing of next day boarding passes.

    Since there were so many of us from our Cruise Critic group in the hotel we really made use of the “Living Room.” It was always a great place to meet unless someone was smoking. This happened a bunch before the cruise and hardly at all after.

    The showers were kind of weird curtain wise (you’ll see what we mean when you get there), your electricity in your room only works with a plastic key attached to your door key that you leave when you go out so you can’t leave the AC on when you are out. Thankfully we really didn’t need it.

    There was little storage space in the rooms and Kathleen’s biggest complaint was no facial tissues or place to put her toiletries while she got ready in the morning. This was especially true in the smaller room.

    Please feel free to e-mail me with any other questions you have about this hotel.