Barcelona is known for it’s museums, local culture, food, markets, opera house, flamenco dancing, art, architecture, gothic quarter and music. When choosing a destination, we really try to research things to do and places to eat for kids. The same is true when researching a place to stay. Some of the questions we ask are: Is the hotel family friendly? What accommodations do they offer for kids? Do the restaurants include kids menus? What is the surrounding area like? Is it conveniently located to public transportation, airports and cruise ports? Research, research, research!!!! Get to know the area before you jet set. We flew into Barcelona El Prat Airport and sailed out of the Port of Barcelona. Research the cost of a hotel transfer to the ship if you are cruising. Keep in mind, the transfer cost are per person. Compare that to cab fare to the ship from the hotel. The hotel concierge will be able to estimate the cost of the cab fare in advance. Most hotels offer the option to email their concierge questions prior to arrival. Before renting a vehicle consider the driving laws in the country which you are visiting. If you are not familiar, get familiar in advance!
While researching Barcelona, time and time again, Las Ramblas kept coming up. It is the main drag so-to-speak, walking distance to Gaudí’ architecture, tapas (appetizer) restaurants, shopping and most importantly the Barcelona Metro & Barcelona Bus Turistic. We narrowed down the hotel to the city’s most famous street – Las Ramblas and decided to stay at Le Méridien located on Las Ramblas.
When you enter the Le Meridien Barcelona- it’s like stepping into a whole new world!
The cab dropped us off and I remember looking up at the sky-scraping, ornate, historic building in absolute awe. We entered through the gold and glass revolving door, which the kids loved, where we were greeted by doorman in suits who grabbed our luggage. The modern colors of black and red flash before your eyes while taking in the sounds & aromas of espresso brewing at the coffee bar, people speaking an array of languages, various currencies exchanging at the front desk, and hotel staff rushing by, smiling. The hotel is definitely alive.
Since we were off by 12 hour time difference, the mornings consisted of getting up very early to go downstairs and await the opening of the espresso bar and the Illy coffee (Italian gourmet coffee). My daughter and I would watch the residents rushing past the windows on Las Ramblas heading off by foot in the dark to their busy day at work. The doorman must be trained to memorize each and every guest name and face! It was an unreal experience, different from that my time in Italy and France. Observing the doorman while sipping coffee was fascinating to me. Since the hotel is located on the city’s most famous street, it was reassuring to know that the doorman monitor who is walking in and out. Throughout the hotel art and architectural detailing are displayed. In the central lobby, “The Hub”, is the perfect place to people watch, visit with friends and family, read, or simply drink coffee.
The arrival art work by Joan Fontcuberta (pictured above). Fontcuberta is a local photographer and lecturer in Fine Art. He concretes on representations, wisdom, memory, science, confidence, ambiguity in images. The artwork is amazing, from the outside it appears as though you can’t see into the hotel but from the inside looking out, you can’t see the artwork.
Las Ramblas has a tree lined central promenade which is crowded all day and night. The street is paved in a design which is meant to ripple like water. There are several vendors along the promenade selling newspapers, souvenirs, flowers, and you will see street traders, performers, cafes and bars. Be sure not to miss the famous fountain, Font de Canaletes, and popular meeting point. La Rambla is lined with historic buildings which include the Palace of the Virreina, Liceu Theatre, the market- one of the city’s landmarks. Royal Square, shopping plaza with palm trees, pubs and restaurants, is located a couple of streets over from Las Ramblas.
Interesting facts about the hotel ~ Le Méridien Barcelona has had many world-famous guests such as: Pavarotti, Bruce Springsteen, Zubin Mehta, Rolling Stones, Madonna, and Rostropovich. The hotel offers limousine service, multilingual staff to attend to every need, complimentary Wi-Fi access in all public areas. The hotel is top notch with wonderful culinary options, interesting artwork, spacious rooms and located in the center of everything!!
Just a glass of Cava…….
In our house, the word “Cava Cava” are an inside joke. It’s along story, but basically the complementary glasses of Cava at 7 p.m. during the Le Meridien daily reception hit pretty fast when you haven’t eaten since noon! Getting on the meal time of Spain was a little challenging for us. We were almost asleep by dinner time and not too hungry anymore. We adjusted quickly but taking naps around 2 p.m. As they say, in rome do as the romans do.
Cava is a sparkling wine, which can be white (blanco) or rosé (rosado), produced in Catalonia. Cava is commonly made from macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo grape varieties. What is the difference between champagne/sparkling wine and cava you ask? Only wines produced in the champenoise traditional method (effervescence is produced by secondary fermentation in the bottle) can be labeled as cava. The village of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is home to many of Spain’s largest production houses. Do NOT refer to cava as “Spanish champagne”, as it is not permitted under European Union law. Yes, they are quite serious about their cava. Cava is part of Spanish family tradition and is commonly served at baptisms, marriages, banquets, dinners and parties.
CentOnze has a sophisticated, yet warm and welcoming atmosphere.
“Our Chef is the creative genius behind a menu that is both well-balanced and intriguing, in which the sheer quality of the ingredients shines through the creative aesthetic, featuring dishes whose every constituent part is given equal prominence. The kitchens are bursting with the vibrant colors and fresh flavors of the Boquería market. Ingredients of the very highest quality are transformed into ephemeral works of art… haute cuisine made accessible” ~ Le Meridien Barcelona website.
The wait staff at CentOnze are phenomenal!! Anticipating our arrival each evening, they reserved a table in the window of Las Ramblas where we could watch all the night life take place. The wait staff memorized the type of wine that we ordered the first night and brought it to the table each night thereafter. The seafood was fresh from the Mediterranean and they suggested kid-friendly options. CentOnze was the perfect way to end each day in Barcelona after our siesta.
Money Saving Tips: We chose to not rent a car when we traveled to Barcelona, as it is 37.8 EUR (approximately $49.14 US per day) to park per day. Be sure to consider the parking fees prior to reserving a car. There are several means of public transportation within walking distance to the hotel. We rode around on Barcelona Bus Turistic, which is conveniently located at the end of Las Ramblas. Tickets are available for all three routes: red, green and blue. We rode each route the first day we were in Barcelona to decide which places we wanted to tour. The bus is fun for kids as it is guided and offered in multiple languages.
Take advantage of the market’s convenient location!!! We would leave our room first thing in the morning to grab hot coffee and croissants. The kids created their own specialty smoothies – getting past the language barrier all on their own. Sit up to the counter tops in the market, order your lunch and watch the chefs and they rush around clanking pans cooking snails, ham, and quiche. Bring sliced meats, cheeses and crackers back to your room to snack on before dinner. In Spain, dinner is very late in comparison to the U.S. Our kids loved snacking away from 2-8 p.m. when most places are closed for siesta. The market is affordable! Grab Panini’s for the whole family to share and take off for a picnic. We grabbed a variety of Panini’s and headed to the Castle Montjuic .
To read more about our time in Barcelona, including Gaudí’s Sangrada Familia, Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (world famous market), Sangria & Paella recipes, and Castle Montjuic ~ click on “Barcelona, Spain” under topics on the right hand column of the blog.
5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine