Simon Woods

Family holiday in Barcelona - Al Fresco Holidays

For anyone in this part of the world, a trip to Barcelona is a must. Jill & I had been in that peaceful, half-remembered time before the arrival of children, and we were looking forward to seeing what the Little Woodses would make of it.

So what was the verdict? ‘The Sagrada Familia is so cooool.’ I’m sure others could improve on Alex’s architectural critique of Antoni Gaudi’s fantastical and as yet-unfinished cathedral, but he does have a point. It is a thoroughly cool building that you just can’t imagine getting anywhere with the stolid planners of English cities – and what would Prince Charles make of it? However, in mid-summer, Barcelona itself is the opposite of cool – it was already in the high 20s by the time we arrived in the city at around 10 am (we’d set off ~8:30-ish), and this combined with high humidity didn’t make for an ideal day of sightseeing.

We started off with a trip to the Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona. On this holiday, whenever we see someone wearing a Number 10 Barça shirt with the familiar blue & purple stripes, we have a race to see who’ll be the first to shout out, ‘It’s Messi Time!’ This will mean nothing to anyone unfamiliar with both football and The Tweenies, but it makes us giggle. In an ideal world, we’d have gone our separate ways with Alex & I doing a stadium tour, and the ladies having a shopping spree along La Rambla, but hey, that’s for next time. So we just drove around the stadium, which it has to be said is pretty ugly from the outside – the beauty lies within…

Then we headed towards the Parc Güell, another Gaudi-inspired attraction covering 15 hectares on a hill overlooking the city. Correction, we tried to head towards the Parc Güell. A combination of poor driving and worse map-reading, plus what seemed like a total absence of useful signposts meant that what should have been a ten-minute journey ended up taking three times as long. Parking near the Parc isn’t great, and we ended up around 15 minutes walk away. Younger members of the party were beginning to wilt in the heat but we’d brought some water and snacks, and these seemed to perk them up. Even so, the two-hour amble around the park that we’d planned for was curtailed, but not before we’d stroked the mosaic chairs and fountains, listened to guitarists plucking away in the shade of the satisfyingly nobbly-arched arcades and watched the police trying to catch the army of hawkers peddling a wide array of tat that was more gaudy than Gaudi.

Then it was time to head off to that cool church (with a few more u-turns en route). Pictures don’t do it justice (an excuse for my camera batteries running out…) but let’s just say it’s once of those buildings that makes you smile and that you want to touch, just to see whether or not it’s made of gingerbread. Sadly, we weren’t the only ones who thought the Sagrada Familia was cool. The queue at 1pm was vast and rather slow-moving, and with the temperature now in the mid-30s, and our tummies beginning to rumble, we made an executive decision to abandon the visit and head down to the sea front for lunch.

The Parc Olímpic near the Old Town was developed for the 1992 Olympics, and today is home to a large marina, a palm-fringed sandy beach and several restaurants. We ended up at El Rey de la Gamba, eating salt cod croquettes, paella, monkfish and lamb chops. Lunch finished well after four, after we’d joined in singing cumpleaños feliz to celebrate the 83rd birthday of an immaculately-coiffed lady on an adjacent table. A ramble on La Rambla was suggested, but the call of the air-conditioned car was too strong, and within a few minutes, we were back on the AP-7 heading north back to the Costa Brava.

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