So as you may know, we at Cut The Cap decided to send Luke off to the motherland, Cuba, to learn about cigars after catching him smoking a King Edward!
I also took the opportunity to take the wife to Barcelona with some dear relatives all in the name of good blogging and research while Eray lounged about the office, took some calls, answered a few emails, and generally slacked off. Bloody awful!
Tickets booked with EasyJet, and hotel booked at the excellent Hotel 987 Barcelona, we merrily made our way to the magical land of Catalonia.
I booked the flights on EasyJet’s website roughly 2 months ago and was really surprised at the excellent value you get. For fifty pounds of the queens currency per person I booked our flights (plus luggage) and this was for an early morning flight on a Thursday and returning on the Sunday morning which is ideal in my opinion. It meant we got there at a great time on Thursday with still a whole day to enjoy, and got back in time to have some R+R before work on Monday morning.
The flight was surprisingly pleasant (didn’t expect much of a budget airline after my last ordeal with Ryanair) and we got there on time which is always a bonus. Our cab ride to the centre of the city took roughly 30 minutes and cost us a mere 30 Euros which in my opinion was great value again. In London a 30 minute cab ride could cost you a liver, or a second mortgage.
Having got to the hotel at about 12am, our room was ready despite arriving 2 hours ahead of check-in and the front office staff were kind enough to hand us our keys early to drop our bags in and hit the streets of Barcelona. The room was great! For the money you pay, and the location you get, you don’t really expect the rooms and the general level of the hotel to be right at the top but it was which was fantastic. We had a great hotel, in a great location, for a great price.
First trip out, we walked along the Carrer Mallorca east bound towards the famous Passeig de Gracia which runs down the middle of the city from just before the Avenida Diagonal (a road running diagonally across the city) down to the equally famous Plaça Catalunya. 1 block down Passeig de Gracia you come to the most amazing building you have ever seen. The Casa Batllo.
The Casa Batllo
Designed by Catalonia’s patron saint (well, almost) Antoni Gaudi, the Casa Batllo is absolutely breathtaking. The weather was great when we were there and the sunlight really helped enhance the colours on the outer face of the building.
Gaudi’s inspiration for this building, like a lot of his creations, was drawn from mother nature. The seas to be more precise. The stairs leading up to the interior clearly resemble the spine of a great ocean creature. All across the entire building we see the ocean theme, from the sea blue tiling along the walls of the atrium (the center of the building with the stairs going up all the way to the roof and lift) to the ceilings and the huge windows of the living room looking out on to Passeig de Gracia. It really is an awe-inspiring building.
The La Pedrera (translation: The Quarry), also known as Casa Mila, is another masterpiece building by architect Antoni Gaudi.
It sits across the road from Casa Batllo at 92 Passeig de Gracia and is known for its wrought iron and stone facades. It has a more industrial, much rawer feel than the Casa Batllo and I would definitely recommend a visit, if not for seeing how such characteristics can be beautiful, but for the huge spectrum of Gaudi’s talents.
Home of Antoni Gaudi, and the park he built, Park Güell is one of the most spectacular places I have ever had the privilege of being to.
The park, which was initially meant to be developed as a housing area, has so much of Gaudi’s style in such a huge area that it’s almost too much of a sensory overload at times. The beautiful mosaics, the shapes and lines, all seem like they’re out of a Disney fantasy. And get to the top of the park, you will be rewarded with an amazing view of Barcelona as the park is situated quite high above the rest of the city.
In the centre of the park is Casa Gaudi, the home of the man himself, and quite to my surprise was a very subtle house, with lovely delicate touches of great design here and there but not quite as ostentatious as his other works. The house is now a museum for everybody to enjoy and learn more about Gaudi on a personal level, and not just as an architect.
You get an insight in to the mind of the architect and it’s quite evident he was a hugely religious man and this perhaps has something to do with the simplicity he has kept in his home.
Entrance to the park was free, with entry in to the Casa Gaudi an affordable 5 Euros.
Home of arguably the best football team in the world, from the main road coming in from Diagonal, the world famous stadium doesn’t look like much until you get to the other side where the museum entrance is. However, remember that this is no spring chicken as far as modern day football stadiums go. The Camp Nou has been around for over fifty years and still remains one of the great homes of football, and belonging to FC Barcelona is world known as the ‘theatre of dreams’.
We took the stadium tour which normally costs around 23 Euros per person and in my opinion is an absolute bargain.
We got to go through the museum and snap away at some of the greatest footballing assets in history such as the UEFA Champions League trophy, football kit belonging to some of history’s greatest players, the FIFA Ballon d’Or (which Barcelona’s very own Lionel Messi has won twice now despite being just 25 years old) and a huge selection of interactive displays which help immerse you in to the world of the Catalan giants.
The tour also takes you round to the dressing rooms of the players, the press room where you can get a picture lifting the Champions League trophy, a walk out through the tunnel on to the sidelines, and even in to an actual ‘Fan Theatre’.
There is so much to see and do at the Camp Nou that it’s pretty much a must-do. My wife and her cousin, both football-hating women who have normally no interest in such things enjoyed the tour too and it was nice that we could all enjoy it together.
The Sagrada Familia, if ever there was one would have been the church that god himself built.
The church which is by far the Most spectacular feat of Gaudi is not actually complete for another 15 years and chas been in construction since 1886. However, there is still plenty of it to see from the amazing scenes from Jesus’ birth, life and death sculpted on to the facades facing east and west, to the excellent architecture inside and the museum at the end of the tour. We took the option to pay a little extra for the audio tour which was really great as without it your just walking around a beautiful building.
No trip would be complete for me without checking out the local cigar shops. My research told me Gimeno’s on the Rambla was the establishment of choice so while the ladies were outside enjoying the neighbouring shops and scouting for suitable eateries, I took the opportunity to pop in and stock up for the weekend.
Perhaps the most expensive items compared to the UK were lighters (as I am in the market for a decent one I’ve done my research) but even this wasn’t a great deal more and probably can be attributed to the bad exchange rate at the moment.
The selection of cigars wasn’t anything to write home about but the prices were. I managed to pick up 4 Monecristo Edmundo AT’s for 10.25 Euros each, a Montecristo No.2 for around the same price (no tubed option), a RyJ No.2 (probably one of the better petit coronations in my opinion) for a little over 5 euros, and a Siglo VI AT for a little over 20 euros. I also got some Montecristo Mini’s to enjoy as the ladies were in and out of shops like such establishments do not exist anywhere else in the world. This was a great idea because they seem quite popular in Spain and you often get the whiff of a purito walking around the city and I felt like a regular Catalan. I even managed to strike up conversation with some locals about them outside H&M on Passeig de Gracia as we waited for the ladies.
The staff were really helpful and a pleasure to visit and I would recommend a visit if you do go Barcelona.
Travel around the city is relatively painless as long as you can find a cab. We often found ourselves wandering around for a good half hour before we came across any taxi’s but once we did I really thought these were the best value mode of transport in any city. The fare’s were extremely reasonable and we never had a bad driver (unlike Thailand).
There’s also the metro which runs across the whole city but we didn’t waste our time on it as the taxis were so well priced and to be honest if I wanted to be stuck underground on a train for half the day I’d be back in London heading in to work just like every other day.
All in all, for a short break this really was a great trip. Lots to see, the food is great, the people are warm and welcoming and the cigar prices are massively cheaper than the UK.
Also, keep an eye on EasyJet prices as we managed to get our flights for under £50 each and this can really make a great getaway within reach for everyone. This could even be a great Christmas present for a loved one.
Don’t forget to check out our pics from the trip below: