Alarm starts to play it’s soothing wake up sound at 7:30am. I hit the snooze button and bounced out of bed the minute I realised where I was. Rushed into the next bedroom to find my parents, but they had already disappeared. I used this opportunity to get myself ready at which point the parentals had returned after a morning stroll to pick up breakfast and fruit from the local shops.
We all sat around our dining table with a view, Sunday church bells ringing in the distance and tucked into our croissants, apple tart, fresh fruit and because we are so English, we topped it off with some Earl Grey tea.
Our flight had landed pretty late the night before so we had all made a joint decision that we would use our first day as a lazy one, to wander the streets, soak up the atmosphere and find a place to relax. Once we were all ready to go we followed the cool breeze down to the beach.
Exploring our local area
Our apartment on Carrera de Valencia is a half hour walk away from the sea, if you are a brisk walker. We were travelling as a family and wanted to enjoy a leisurely stroll so it did take us longer.
By taking our time down the Carrer De La Marina, we got to appreciate our surroundings. We came across some great looking buildings, stopped for ice cream, watched a local kids footie match and of course took part in people watching when we parked ourselves on benches, always good fun no matter where you are.
The pavements in Barcelona are wide and super clean. All five of us could’ve easily walked together in a line (we tried our best not to though, we didn’t want to be looked at as the rude family taking up the whole pavement). As we walked down we passed plenty of people on roller blades, scooters, bikes, and on most streets there was a specific lane mapped out for them to use, perfectly thought through.
Once we saw the copper structure ahead of us, aka the goldfish, we knew we had reached the sea and by this point we had all worked up quite an appetite. Pre trip, my dad had come across a restaurant whilst cruising the internet which we had noted down as being one of our places to check out that was close to the beach. Address in hand, we went on a hunt for it but it just didn’t seem to want to be found. After a 20minute search (or what felt like a lifetime in hunger years) we bit the bullet and asked a local for help, only to be told they had never heard of such place and couldn’t offer any help with finding it. They did however recommend a restaurant popular for its Catalonian cuisine and loved by the locals. We were sold and headed straight for it.
Lunch at Salamanca
The restaurant was called Salamanca, and is on the far side of the beach on the way to the marina. It’s a tall building with the name proudly at the top, so you really can’t miss it. They have an outdoor seating terrace, which is where we decided to have our meal. When we arrived, there was no-one else there and I did start to worry that wasn’t such a good sign but the collective rumble of tummies meant we were happy to take the risk.
As we started to flick through the menus, one of the waiters brought round a platter piled high with their fresh fish of the day, it looked spectacular. However, when we looked at the menu it wasn’t exactly the most cost effective option on there. After much deliberation we opted for two types of paella (when in Rome) and grilled prawn starters. We wanted to experience the fresh seafood available but didn’t want to pay the price of a full platter (which started at €50). The food we had was divine!
You could taste the freshness and it was cooked to perfection, the squid pieces in the paella was without a doubt the best I have ever tasted. If we had time, we would have visited Salamanca again. We were really happy with everything we had and if we had space in our stomachs, would have loved to try more dishes.
Before we left the restaurant, my sister and I made a quick trip to the ladies and discovered that all the guests were hiding inside the beautifully decorated (and very well air conditioned) restaurant, so not so much of a gamble after all.
It seems we were simply the only guests wanting to eat outside in the heat. For us tourists wanting a view of the sea it was worth eating outside, especially since the waiters had very kindly positioned two large umbrellas over our table to keep us cool. All in all definitely one to remember.
After lunch we went back to the beach and hired a couple of sun loungers, €6 each, and we all sprawled out to enjoy an afternoon siesta. My favourite type of napping is when you can feel the heat and sand and hear the sound of the waves. Bliss.
Before our trip, a number of friends had said that there were lots of stalls along the beach selling snacks like churros and waffles etc. I have to say we didn’t see a single one of these pop ups whilst we were there. Apart from the odd bar dotted around and the cafes lining the pavement, there wasn’t really anywhere else to buy takeaway food and drinks.
We made a mental note to bring a picnic on our return in a few days time. For those who want it, there are some areas of the beach where you pay a bit extra to get the sun loungers, umbrella and waiter service for a certain amount of time. So there is that option should you wish.
Once our food had digested we went for another stroll, stopping for yet another ice cream (totally allowed when you’re on holiday) and again spent time gazing at all the wonderful streets and buildings around us.
Port Vell and Las Ramblas
We walked past the marina, Port Vell, where there were Artisan style market stalls selling olives, cheese, fresh juices and many other bits and pieces. A good time to stop for a quick break and refreshment and for some of us a souvenir shop. Carrying on our stroll we spotted the lonely figure of Christopher Columbus in the distance.
We decided to head towards it and have a little nosy around the bottom end of Las Ramblas before heading back to the apartment to freshen up after spending the whole day out. So off we went.
Crossed the bridge over the motorway (not my favourite thing as I have an issue with heights and there are small gaps between the planks eek) took some cheeky pics of the giant lobster before walking through the arches to reach Mr Columbus.
Las Ramblas is a very long street and we had done a lot of walking that day so we by no means had any plans to stroll the length of it but we did want to see what all the fuss was about. It is one of the most popular tourist areas in the city, famous for souvenir stalls, performers and pick pockets. I’m not going to go into it in too much detail on this post (as we returned here in day 2). We did manage to walk halfway, reaching the Opera house where we flagged down a taxi to take us back to the apartment so we could get ready for our evening adventure.
The Magic fountains
Thankfully on the plane journey here I had taken some time to read through my dad’s makeshift tour guide and had noticed that one of his things to do, the magic fountains, was only open from Thursday to Sunday, which meant if we didn’t go and see it on the Sunday evening we wouldn’t get another chance during our stay.
I had heard great things about the Font Magique and we all wanted to make the trip out to see them. The displays are every half an hour from 9pm till 11pm. We headed out around half 8 and as we had done so much walking already, took the metro.
The guides and website recommended taking the metro to the ‘Parc de Montjuic’ stop. When we got to the Paral-lel metro station there was one lonely train on the platform to the Parc, the last one of the night at 9pm and we ran to get on it.
There was a reason it was empty.
It’s really not the best way to get to the fountains! the Parc de Montjuic stop takes you to the main park area which means a heck of a lot of walking to get to where we wanted to go and the walk isn’t very well sign posted either. We came across a number of other tourists who had made the same mistake and were struggling to find their way.
We gave up map reading and resorted to asking the locals every so often to make sure we were going in the right direction. It took us a good 45 minutes before we heard the gushing of water. A sigh of relief fell amongst us all when we stepped out to see the Grand Palace building, now an art gallery in front of us and as we walked up to get a closer look, to our right was the magnificent view of the Font Magique and the fountain lined road that led to the Plaça d’Espanya.
We got ourselves some drinks from one of the cafes dotted around and headed down the escalator to watch the fountain show. Sunday night meant there were loads of people but there are plenty of places to get a good view so if it looks busy don’t worry, I feel it all adds to the ambience. We ended up staying and watching the fountain run through at least twice, it was so hypnotising. The water dances to different genres of music appealing to everyone, it really is a spectacular sight. Worth the long walk through the woods!
Tip: After we had taken in all we could, we realised that walking down the Avenue Reina Maria Cristina would take us to the Plaça d’Espanya metro stop, a 10 minute walk at the most! So if you are headed here this is where you need to take the metro to, not Parc de Montjuic.
Couple of changes on the metro, a quick gawp at the Sagrada Familia on our way back to our apartment and we were ready for bed.
A good nights sleep was in order to prepare us for our mega sight seeing adventure on Day 2 of Barcelona…