Archive for the ‘Barcelona’ Tag

Winter Weekend in Barcelona   8 comments

Well it was supposed to be a winter weekend in Madrid until EasyJet decided to cancel our flights. Hasty replanning saw us head back to Barcelona. A fantastic city so hardly a chore.

A photo heavy single post to cover 3 days (or I’ll never catch up the blog). We did much of the same stuff as before so you can read through my posts from 2017 if you want some more details.

An early morning flight from Bristol on a very chilly day


Superb views of a snow covered Pyrenees.


And over Barcelona itself.


We found a really rather nice hotel, the H10 Metropolitan just off Placa Catalunya. Right in the heart of the city, near some of the week known Gaudi buildings and an area packed with Tapas bars – more later.

View from our balcony.


After checking in (and a welcome glass of Cava) we hit the Bouqueria Market for lunch. An amazing Fish Platter, that we tried very hard to finish and just failed.


An afternoon walk along the seafront. By the time we got there it had clouded over and was really rather chilly. Only a couple of weeks later in the year than last time but several degrees cooler


A few of the city’s well known buildings. La Pedrera (night and day shots)


Casa Batllo – night and day.


Fundació Antoni Tapies.


Casa Thomas.


Casa de les Punxes (my favourite from last time)


And of course the stunning and still unfinished Sagrada Familia.


When we woke on the second morning it was grey and the pavements were wet with rain. By the time we reached the Sagrada the skies had cleared to a wonderful blue and there was some warmth in the air.


A walk in the Parc de la Ciutadella and its stunning statue before lunch.


You are never more than a few steps away from a Tapas Bar in Barcelona and this one, Bastaix was small, friendly and superb. Tapas is great for any meal lots of plates for feast, a small number for a light lunch. This is Black Pudding and Goats Cheese drizzled with honey.


Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar.


To close out our second day we headed to another of my favourite spots from last time, the Carmel Bunkers.


We caught the bus that takes you to the top but after two stops we had to get off due to a closed road. We had to walk all the way up but it was a fine walk that took in some other great viewpoints.


Everyone knows I love views down over cities and this is one of the very best.


We were lucky the skies had cleared to give such a stunning evening. As it was a weekend the place was packed with locals enjoying a good natured sunset party.


Some homes sit on top of the hill – what a fabulous place to live.


The crowds waiting for sunset – it was turning chilly and we weren’t really dressed for winter so we headed down. More tapas to eat and all that.


Even though just a plain block of flats this building was catching both the sun and my eye.


Our last day before a late flight home and time for another long walk. We really covered some miles over the three days.

The twin Venetian style towers at Place Espanya.


The view from the Palau Nacional.


A wander around the Olympic Park.


We found a way up to the ridge above the coast with some unusual views across the docks and the harbour before we walked back to Montjuc castle.


The ludicrously expensive gondola with views across the city.


The lovely fountains and water features in the Jardins del Mirador and views across the harbour and Barceloneta


We hopped on a bus down to the seafront for a snack and a drink on the beach.


The waves were huge and the water busy with surfers and SUPs. I was envious of the conditions and ached to get in the water for a play.


We settled for a beachfront seat and beer.


Another long walk along the beach and water-front.


And back through the town past the Cathedral


And one final Tapas feast before we headed to the airport for our flight home.


Wonderful sunny break in a vibrant city full of interesting stuff and great food. No better way to escape from a dreary British November.


A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!


We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)


Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep


A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)


A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10


And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless



Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later


A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill



The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb


Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year


2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!


And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts



More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.


Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer


I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal


May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan



No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF


Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks


Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax



A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change


One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug



After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye


By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)


Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.


Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon



The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)


A monster thunderstorm in Turin


My favourite seafront walk in Venice


The Colloseum in Rome – of course


Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)


The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”


A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon


And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne



Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!


But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons



A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)


More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University


And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot



After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr


And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain


A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor



And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains


The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful


The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs


Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach


Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

Barcelona – Beach Life   14 comments


Our last day before flying home in the evening was a glorious one, clear, sunny and pretty hot. We decided to take a metro out to the far end of the beaches and walk back along the seafront. We’d been to the beach a few times before, notably on our first day and in the middle of the week for a swim


The first day was a chance to have a sandwich on the rocks





And a stroll down to this all-glass hotel affair at the far end. Probably an ugly monstrosity to some but I quite liked it




A couple of photos from our second visit


We went for a swim this time. Colder than I thought but great to swim in the sea on a warm day at the end of October



The beach front is a good few miles long and really well done. By that I mean it’s not a natural beach. This whole area was derelict and run down before the Olympics came along. In order to make the city presentable everything was renovated and sand imported to make this splendid beach frontage


As it was Sunday it was packed with locals all enjoying some warm autumn sunshine. It was a cracking walk just watching the people and soaking up the rays. Winter is long and cold in the UK so we wanted to make the most of this! 🙂


The beaches are all spotlessly clean and the water crystal clear. Fabulous for a swim but as we were traveling at the end of day it wasn’t really on for us even though it was a perfect day. The whole walk is pedestrianized so no cars to trouble us. There is a bike path as well and it would be a very pleasant leisurely ride


These two skyscrapers and strange sculpture dominate the southern end of the beach. Again I really liked them and I didn’t feel they were out-of-place




After lunch we sat on the beach for an hour or so and paddled in the cool water



A very relaxing way to spend our last afternoon



We took another wander down to the big glass hotel


And its cracking views through the palms back along the sea front


Nothing finer than a stroll in the warm sunshine along a Mediterranean beach.


We took our leave of the beach, walked back to town through the marina, ate some takeaway churros, picked up our bags and caught a train to airport for our flight home. Not back till after 1am but that’s what holidays should be about making the most of every minute


What a fantastic city. Architecture, history, mountains and a long beach. Brilliant way to spend the last week of October


Posted December 1, 2017 by surfnslide in Barcelona, Cities

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Barcelona – Font Magica   17 comments


On our last evening we headed back over to the fountains near Placa Espanya and the Palau Nacional. There was already a massive crowd there and seating room on the steps was at a premium. What had everyone come here to see? The Magic Musical Fountain Show of course!


Now I know you’re thinking “Magic Musical Fountains – how tacky” and I have to say I was dubious after the one we saw in Budapest


However this one was done on a much bigger and grander scale and it was mighty impressive


The way they controlled the water and the lights was really rather magnificent and I enjoyed it immensely and a lot more than I thought I would


The description sounded like they did one show every 30 minutes but it just seemed to be one long continuous show for between 1-1.5 hours


We arrived on the dot at 9 when it was crowded but if visiting again its best to show up 15-20 minutes after the start time as many people have wandered off by then and there is a lot more space and places to sit on the steps. Its not like you miss much as each combination is all on a similar theme


We went and stood close up for the final few minutes before we headed back to the apartment. We’d been there 45 minutes which was plenty and it was a grand way to finish off our last night in the city


I took several video clips which came out pretty well so I put them together in a little compilation below


Pretty good eh!


As we walked back along the road to Placa Espanya the fountains, columns and palace looked wonderful



The road was lined with smaller fountains also lit in a most charming fashion


A bit tacky and cheesy but very well put on, and, a real novelty in Barcelona, free!

Posted November 30, 2017 by surfnslide in Barcelona, Cities

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Barcelona – Sagrada Familia   15 comments


Barcelona’s most famous site and its most visited one. Another you have to book ahead to be sure of getting in and we chose the morning. Despite the fact that it was only a few minutes walk from the apartment it only comes into view when your almost underneath it


The entrance was under the Nativity Facade and we took a quick look before we took our trip up the tower on the Passion Facade



The views from the top were impressive but very much obscured by protective mesh and scaffolding.


You can only see one part of the city and the area you can explore is very small


The views from the Bunkers del Carmel were much better and I’d suggest that paying the extra to go up the tower is probably not worth it. I think in years past there was an extremely narrow and airy bridge between the towers you could walk across. It doesn’t seem to be there any more (possibly it was structural while the towers were being built)


Back down and we picked up our audio guide (which was excellent by the way) and gave this extraordinary building, the pinnacle of Gaudi’s ambitions, the attention its deserves. The level of detail is staggering to try to take in.

It feels kind of special to be able to witness a building of such complexity and design taking shape and what the intentions are rather than historians trying to re-create those intentions from historical artefacts.


This is the green cypress tree, a refuge for the white doves of peace in a storm


I was immediately struck by the intricate detailing of the Nativity Facade, one those parts completed in Gaudi’s lifetime under his direct supervision. It depicts the details of the birth of Christ and you could look at the details for hours and still see something new


It’s a breathtaking introduction before you step inside


Even the doors are works of art and represent the diversity of life in a forest. Gaudi’s work was heavily influenced by what he saw in nature


Once you step inside the effect is quite simply staggering. The roof is supported by a forest of pillars and sprouting branches. The forest analogy is entirely accurate as this effect was intentional. Gaudi wanted to recreate the feeling of a natural forest and he expanded that thought to how the interior is lit. The branching pillars were also of significant structural importance allowing the roof load to be spread more evenly and thus reduce the thickness of the pillars themselves


Having been lucky enough to visit St Peters in Rome I was able to recollect the massive pillars that supported the dome there and compare them to their slender cousins here


The pillars are made of for different types of stone to bear the weight in different areas


I mentioned the forest theme and that is also a feature of the lighting. The intended effect is of the dappled light through branches that you would see in a sunlit forest. Gaudi wanted to retain that close link between the natural world, spiritual beliefs and his own architectural designs. Once you see and study his buildings, even someone with no architectural knowledge like me can see these same patterns and influences in all his buildings and those of his contemporaries. He hated straight lines. There were none in nature he contended


The stained glass on either side is also designed to match natures cycles. The cool greens and blues of dawn on one side and the darker red and orange tones of sunset on the other



It was consecrated in 2010 by the Pope and the audio guide recreated the choirs singing. I’m not a religious person in any way but I have to say that standing there listening to the music was uplifting


As ever photos just can’t do it justice. More than any other of the buildings we visited on our travels this year, this is the one you just have to see for yourself. Words and images just cannot convey what an utterly staggering, unusual, unique and breathtaking building it is


We stepped outside to look at the Passion Facade that depicts images from Christs death


Less detailed but perhaps appropriate given the sombre nature of the subject. Gaudi was long dead when the work here was completed by sculptor Josep Subirachs with his own angular style, very different to Gaudi himself. If you look at the bottom left figure in the photo below, called the evangelist, it’s based on a likeness Gaudi himself. A small tribute by the sculptor


This cryptogram has numbers that add up to 33, the age of Christ at his death


An explanation in the museum under the church



The museum was extensive and excellent, containing a whole host of information about Gaudi, the Sagrada and many other things. You could also look into the workshop where they use intricate models, using 3-D Printers to assist with what must be an engineering nightmare of bringing Gaudi’s vision to life


We wandered back through the inside for another mouth agape look at this extraordinary place



We took a last wander around the outside from where you can get a better view of the enormous scale of the building


A bit of background. Its been under construction now for over 100 years and is still far from finished. At the moment its only 2/3 of its final height when finished which seems quite amazing considering the height it is already. This video gives a view into the future as to what it will look like when it’s finished, especiallly the Glory Facade which is still under construction

Estimates range from 2026 to sometime after 2040. It will be worth the wait


The tower outlines are apparently inspired by the peaks of Montserrat outside the city. More on that in a later post


I have read a few disparaging remarks (one compared it melting wax candle) and the construction has been plagued with controversy and incident over the years. It is hard to appreciate it completely while it’s under construction and dominated by tower cranes but on the other hand its special to be allowed to still visit in such circumstances


I think its a truly stunning building and a marvel of design, form and architecture. One of the truly unique sights of the modern world


Posted November 15, 2017 by surfnslide in Barcelona, Cities

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Barcelona – Food!   19 comments

One of the real pleasures of Barcelona is food! A special short post to celebrate that fact. Any of my readers who may be Vegetarian or a little phased by dead things in shops probably ought to skip this post

One of the big surprises and a must see in the city if you visit is the Mercat de St Josep La Bouqueria. It was like no other food market I’ve seen


The place was packed both times we went and its a real sensory overload for anyone who loves food. They have everything to tempt you. Fruit and Veg, dried fruit and chocolate, spices and a huge variety. Even if you don’t taste what’s on offer just looking at the stalls is an event. It really is a place not to be missed


Being on the Mediterranean, pride of place goes to the seafood. It’s fresh in as much as most of it is still alive and still moving and they have some weird and wonderful stuff. In the photo below, bottom right are Goose Barnacles and they are seriously weird


The sea urchin and crabs were still wriggling. One seafood stall had shrimps and while we were looking the stall holder scooped a few up and the rest all started bouncing around. It was weird and gross all at the same time


Our special favourites however were the stalls that seemed to specialise in sales of the bits we squemish Brits no longer eat. Heads, Tripe, Lungs, Brains, Trotters and the like


It takes me back to my childhood when we used to buy whole pigs and we would eat the lot (although I never tried brain on toast which is a Black Country delicacy!)


On our first visit we tried some of the take away stalls for some fresh seafood


The Funsters were also rather partial to the chocolate coated strawberrys on sticks


The real eating heaven in the market are the Tapas bars and on our second visit I was determined to try one out



You have to hover around and wait for a seat at the bar and we got lucky with this one. The menu is on a hand-printed sheet and you just mark off with a pencil what you want. They then cook it in front of you while you wait. I had the best fried Calamari ever and some blood sausage and onions. It was divine


The hustle and bustle of the place is intoxicating and I absolutely loved it. Eating freshly cooked Tapas sitting a bar in the market where they source the food is quintessentially Barcelona.  It would be the first place I’d head for when I visit again. I could have lived in the place.


A small diversion here to say that outside the market on the opposite side of the road is the Erotic Museum. Talk about sublime to ridiculous


There was a resident Marilyn Monroe lookalike (at least that’s who I assumed she was supposed to be). We declined the offer to go in. Not really a family outing.


Back to food. We ate out many times and it was always excellent. On our second night we ate in a very hectic but friendly restaurant on the seafront for some Paella


The waiter took some photos so a rare chance to see yours truly


We went back on the last day as well for another slap up meal before heading home


We tried some amazing food. I sampled razor clams (a bit gritty for me) and Aubergines with honey and soft cheese (amazing). My favourite dish was the one below. Squid with wasabi deep fried in batter flavoured and coloured with black squid ink. It looks odd but the taste was sensational. It was another really friendly restaurant just around the corner from the apartment (we went twice)


You need to “eat” Barcelona as well as see it!

Posted November 12, 2017 by surfnslide in Barcelona, Cities

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Barcelona – La Catedral and all things Catalonian   23 comments


A bit of a mixed bag post to cover a bunch of stuff we did over several days that don’t warrant posts of their own

Firstly Le Catedral which presents a magnificent facade, reminiscent in many ways of Cologne Cathedral. Whilst the main structure was built between the 11th and 13th Centuries, the facade was only added in 1870


Inside you realise what a huge and impressive structure it is. As always on a whistle stop walk around without a tripod its very difficult to capture decent images



It has a fine display of stained glass windows


The real delight – for me anyway – is that you can visit the roof for a few Euros


There is a metal gangway you walk along and its really rather excellent. The old heart of the city has many large churches and from our wanders you can visit the roof of most of them, all claiming to have the best views in Barcelona!


The younger members were struggling in the heat of the sun and needed a rest


These two unusual bell towers caught my eye


A distant view of the Sagrada Familia


South West across the city


Panorama taking in the roof and half the main tower


The bright green ridge tiles of the building next door caught my eye



The cloister next door was also a rather nice way out


This is the old city’s other main church the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. I really liked the old city and its maze of narrow streets. Very like Venice without the canals. We didn’t explore as much as I’d have liked as we wanted to be out in the sun


Unless you’ve been living in a cave you’ll know that Barcelona is in Catalonia, much in the news of late with its squabbles over independance. We though we ought to see some Catalonian heritage and where better to start than the Camp Nou, home of the mighty Barcelona FC


Only me and TJS went for a poke around. You can do a tour of the stadium but as with all things in the city they make a hefty charge. Its a huge stadium holding close to 100,000 and and I’d assumed it would be a towering structure. In fact most of the terraces are below ground level so from the outside it doesn’t look much.

We had a look in the club shop at some distressingly expensive merchandise (25 Euros for a baseball cap anyone?)


We’d hoped to be able to see a game but the only one was the evening we arrived so we were out of luck. Another excellent reason to go back


It was an interesting week to be in the city as whole independence thing was really in full swing. We’d seen a few minor protests and there had been a huge rally that had just finished the evening we arrived


On our last day there was a big anti-independence march. All very civilised and interesting to witness


A couple of days previously the Catalan Government had formally decalred independence prompting the chaos that we’ve seen since with leaders arrested and others effectively in exile


The people we spoke to just seemed uncertain about what was going to happen next and how it would affect daily lives rather than any passion, one way or another. Not sure if they will achieve independence (seems unlikely) but if they do then at least we can say we were in Catalonia when it was born (in a way)


More Catalonian sights. This is the City Hall


And on the other side of the square the official residence of the Catalonian President, the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya


A short walk across town is the Catalonian Parliament Building


Lots of Police around but an otherwise unremarkable building where some momentous events had and were to take place


They chose a nice spot for it in the very nice Parc de la Ciutadella


The heart of the park is the Cascada Monumental.



Barcelona has loads of these green parrots flitting about. No idea if they are indigenous or a population spawned from escaped captives (the zoo is next door). After many attempts I finally got a decent photo


We were in the park at the end of the day as the sun as setting when the light was just superb


A very Catalonian experience

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