Le Meridien ~ Barcelona

Le Meridien Barcelona

Le Meridien Barcelona

Artwork at Le Meridien

Artwork at Le Meridien

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 Europe - 3include 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!

Le Meridien Barcelona

Le Meridien Barcelona

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.

Arrival art work by Joan Fontcuberta

Arrival art work by Joan Fontcuberta

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.

La Rambla

La Rambla

St. Joseph La Boqueria

St. Joseph La Boqueria

Las Ramblas has a tree lined central promenade which is crowded all day and night. The street is pavedEurope - 7 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.

Barcelona Shopping

Barcelona Shopping

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!!

Cava cava

Cava cava

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.

Le Meridien Barcelona CentOnze Restaurant

Le Meridien Barcelona CentOnze Restaurant

Europe - 41.5

CentOnze

Le Meridien Barcelona

Le Meridien Barcelona

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.

Barcelona

Barcelona

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

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It’s all about the Sangria, Barcelona

Sangria on Barcelona Wharf

Sangria on Barcelona Wharf

One of my favorite things about Barcelona is the Sangria!!!! I have been to Barcelona twice and both times, fully indulged in the Sangria. The picture above is at a restaurant on the Barcelona Wharf. Need I say more. What makes Spain’s Sangria so deliciously unique is…..the full body and character of the wines made in Spain. Sangria can taste like watery soup if made incorrectly.

Eons ago were the wine-loving Romans in Spain who wisely discovered when settling in the area that the climate was ideal for growing grapes. As time passed, Europe’s penchant for wine-based punches enhanced with fruit and often other alcohol.

Sangria at Barcelona Wharf

Sangria at Barcelona Wharf

There are all kinds of sangria, it can be made with red wine (my favorite), white wine or rosé (Rosado in Spain). Sangria by definition is a “fruity wine punch”. The Spanish word Sangre means blood. Sangria is a

Sangria on La Rambla

Sangria on La Rambla

wine from Spain, Portugal and Argentina. It normally consists of wine, chopped fruit, a sweetener, and a small amount of added brandy. Chopped fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, apples, peaches, melons, berries, pineapple, grapes, kiwifruit and mango are commonly added. The usual sweeteners are honey, sugar, syrup, or orange juice . You can really make sangria your own by substituting brandy for other liquids such as Seltzer, Sprite or 7 Up.  In some parts of Southern Spain, sangria is called zurra and is made with peaches or nectarines.

Sangria is served throughout Spain and Portugal during summer. Sangria is often served in 1-litre pitchers or other containers large enough to hold a bottle of wine plus the added ingredients. Among the Spanish and Portuguese, sangria is most typically served at informal social gatherings, much like punch, from a punchbowl. Sangria is often served with a wooden spoon, used to get fruit out of the bottom of the punchbowl or pitcher.

Sangria was initially introduced to the United States in 1964 during the World’s Fair in New York. Although many believe that this wine punch has been around in Europe in various incarnations for hundreds of years.

Sangria is so pretty!!! Traditionally sangria is served in a pitcher but at parties I have served it in a large, glass container with a spout because it looks gorgeous. If you serve it this way, be sure to have fresh fruits that were marinated in the sangria overnight, on the side so people can add them to their drink. Another fun idea is to make two sangrias- one for kids and people who prefer not to have alcohol and one for the adults. When making the sangria for kids, use white grape juice instead of wine and omit sweetener. It is a great party drink for all seasons. I have served sangria at winter parties with apples, cinnamon sticks and pears floating inside.

National Sangria Day is December 20th!! When making or ordering sangria, what you must know is that the main ingredient – fruit is what differs the types of flavors for sangria. In addition, whether or not spritzers are added.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Here is a recipe for authentic, basic Spanish sangria

1 Bottle ( 26 fl. oz) Spanish red wine

1 tablespoon sugar

Juice of 1 large orange

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise

1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise

2 cups sliced strawberries

1 liter 7-Up (add last minute)

1 cup of Grand Marnier

Refrigerate over night and add 7-Up at the last minute!!!

ROSÉ and SUMMER FRUIT SANGRIA
Rosé wines are popular and very delicious to use in sangria, particularly when combined with ripe, in-season fruit. Serve with small forks so you can pull out fruits swimming in the drink and eat them.
Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus chilling time
Makes: About 5 to 6 (2 glasses each) servings
2, 750-mL bottles dry rosé wine
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange liqueur
1/2 cup (125 mL) icing sugar, or to taste
2 medium, ripe apricots, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 large plum, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 medium ripe nectarine, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 cup (250 mL) fresh blackberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh blueberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh raspberries
1 medium lime, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups (500 mL) soda water
Ice

1. Pour the wine and orange liqueur into a large bowl. Whisk in the icing sugar until dissolved. Taste and add more icing sugar, if needed. Add the fruit, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
2. When ready to serve, stir the soda water into the sangria mixture. Fill a pitcher or two, depending on size, half full with ice. Ladle in the sangria and serve.

This recipe was found at life.nationalpost.com

Antoni Gaudí Structures, Barcelona

Roof top of Gaudi's Casa Mila

Roof top of Gaudi’s Casa Mila

View from the roof top of Casa Mila

View from the roof top of Casa Mila

Barcelona is known for it’s architecture and one of the most famous architects,

Casa Mila

Casa Mila

Antoni Gaudí’s gothic style structures. They are very unique by design and interesting to tour inside. We were able to view a few of them during our one week stay in Barcelona. Sangrada Familia is probably the most recognized and visited structure by Gaudí and for this reason, I have created a separate post specifically about Sangrada Familia. So be sure to check out that page by clicking on the word “Sangrada Familia” on the right hand side of the page under “topics”.

Antoni Gaudí is from, Reus, which is a small town south of Barcelona.  A

Casa Mila roof top

Casa Mila roof top

‘Modernisme’ movement took place towards the end of the 19th century in Catalonia that extended from ca. 1880 to the First World War. This movement was similiar to other currents such as Naturalism, Arts and Crafts, and Art Nouveau. It was motivated by a return to traditions as an expression of national identity, as well as by the introduction of modern techniques and materials as part of progress. This Modernisme movement was very different from anything else as it pertained to cultural identity. The movement expressed literature and music, painting, sculpture, decorative arts and, of course,  architecture.

As we rode the Barcelona Bus Turístic around, we saw long lines in front of  Gaudí’s, Casa Milà. Later we found out that tickets are available for purchase on line in advance, thus avoiding the lines. The long lines indicated that this was a poppular Gaudí

Roof top of Casa Mila (La Pedrera)

Roof top of Casa Mila (La Pedrera)

straucture to tour and so we decided to take the kids and see for ourselves!! The best times to tour the bulding are before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., otherwise be prepared for crowds. Upon entereing the building you will walk through a downstairs area which has gorgeous glass window formations and indoor courtyards. Go up the elevator and walk around the roof top viewing the clay colored, head formations. The bulding displays what high end apartment life was like 100 years ago. Casa Milà is unlike any building I have ever toured or seen for that matter. I was a little nervous walking around the roof tops as it is very high and you walk up and down hilly, narrow pathways. Upon exiting the building there is a book store with unqiue gifts and souveniers.

Roof top of Casa Mila

Roof top of Casa Mila

Casa Milà  is also known as ‘La Pedrera’. It is a very unusual looking building, which was built between 1906 and 1912 by Gaudí (1852–1926).  La Pedrera is the headquarters of Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera and includes a cultural centre. This bulding is known for an array of activities which are organized, exhibitions and other events.

Price information to tour Casa Milà:
Adult: €16.50
Student: €14.85
Disabled: €14.85
Children (six and under): free
Children (seven to twelve): €8.25
Casa Batllo from bus

Casa Batllo from bus

Another one of Gaudí’s masterpieces is the Casa Batlló which opened in 1877 and is located in the heart of Barcelona. Casa Batlló is a remodel of a previously built house.

When riding the Barcelona Bus Turístic around you will see Casa Batlló which is located in the very heart of Passeig de Gràcia. Gaudí’ wanted this building to have marine inspiration, such as a dream world, which portrays nature with its earthy elements and bits of fantasy.
The house was originally the residence of the Batlló family. Then, Gaudí included a huge gallery which projects several meters out over Passeig de Gràcia for all to see! He also added large oval-shaped feature windows and inserted stone columns in the shape of bones, and balconies in the shape of masks or gothic figures. On the top of the building there is a spectacular roof which resembles a dragon’s back. In addition, there is a tower with a cross rising up with four arms pointing north, south, east and west.

Gaudí is known for his representations such as an animal’s spine on the roof terrace using tiles of different colors on one side and the use of trencadís mosaic technique on the other. The roof also displays four chimney stacks. Gaudí completed a full refurbishment of the building using innovative techniques and creativity.
Barcelona City Council selected the house as a candidate for the 1906 award for the best building.

Price Information to tour Casa Batlló:
Adult: €20.35
Student: €6.30
Children (six and under): free
$$ saving tips: Most of the Gaudí structures can be viewed from the Barcelona Bus Turístic. It gets expensive purchasing tickets for an entire family at each building. Some structures you really have to view from the inside, such as Sangrada Familia. However, other structures are shown very close up from the bus. The bus also provides information about the buildings and drives slow enough to take pictures. We were lucky as the bus came to a complete stop often times in front of the buildings due to traffic. Be sure to ride on the top deck to get the best view. The Sangrada Familia must be toured inside to see the various colors of gorgeous marble columns throughout. There are so many museums and building to see in Barcelona in addition to all of the Gaudí structures. The best way to save money is to ride the bus around first, take pictures of everything, and map out what you want to return to. Casa Milà was worth paying for the tour. You don’t need to pay for the guided tour with the head set. We did and then ended up just reading our way through and taking off the annoying head phones.
5wheelsto5star is featured monthly Destinations Travel Magazine

Castle Montjuic, Barcelona

Europe - 16 Castle Montjuic

Castle Montjuic

When researching Barcelona I saw Castle Montjuic pop up but it was relatively difficult to find information on in English. I read a review from a mom who said it was one of the things that her kids enjoyed most and that it was free! So I decided to find out as much information as I could, but it was bits and pieces here and there. I am hoping that this post will capture everything I was looking for about the castle in one place! This was a favorite spot in Barcelona for our family because there were so many different things to do in one place and everything is outside. The castle sits up high with gorgeous views of their gardens and the Mediterranean Sea.

Barcelona Bus Turístic

Barcelona Bus Turístic

Getting to the castle- we stayed in a hotel on La Rambla, but regardless of where you are

staying or if you are in Barcelona for a day, you can access the castle location from the double decker bus, Barcelona Bus Turistic. The bus has three routes: red, green and blue. There is a ticket which allows you to ride on all three routes or purchase a single route ticket. For more information on routes and ticket prices please visit the site http://www.barcelonabusturistic.cat/web/guest/informacio. When purchasing a ticket for the bus, it comes with earphones to listen to the tour in 10 different languages if you choose. Castle Montjuic is located on the red route, but prior to reaching the castle, you must take a ride on the cable car, Telefèric de Montjuïc, which transports passengers to the top of  Montjuic. The cable car holds up to 8 passengers.

Telefèric de Montjuïc

Telefèric de Montjuïc

There are fantastic views of Sangrada Familia and Torre Agbar. The Telefèric de Montjuïc hours of operation vary seasonally. Be sure to double check prior to planning your day at the castle at http://www.tmb.cat/en/teleferic-de-montjuic.

Lunch area at Castle Montjuic

Lunch area at Castle Montjuic

There is a lot of walking which involves going up stairs to get to the castle from the cable car. It is best to allow yourself a couple of hours to really explore. There are informational plaques throughout to read about the history, people, construction, etc. In addition, you can eat lunch there. We stopped off at La Boqueria (marketplace) on the way to the bus, purchased salami, cheese and Panini to bring to the castle for a picnic. They sell beverages, have tables and an open lawn to enjoy a nice lunch.

Coin operated telescopes

Coin operated telescopes

Stop off and take a peek through the numerous coin-operated telescopes at various points around the gardens. You will see great views of the beach, the Mediterranean sea and imagine what it was like to be on the look out for approaching ships. Be sure to bring coins!

History: Montjuïc Castle is a grand castle that controlled the city since 1640. The purpose of the castle was to repress the people during two centuries. Repression of the anarchists in the XIX century and prison for the political prisoners under Franco. The castle is famous for the execution of in 1940 Lluis Companys, the president of the Generalitat of Catalonia. Nowadays is the only place of the city where you can see a statue of Franco. In addition, the castle shelters a military museum.

http://www.barcelona.com/barcelona_directory/monuments/montjuic_castle

Shops at Castle Montjuic

Shops at Castle Montjuic

The castle has a few, little shops to browse through while walking around. I found a pair of mosaic goblets that I fell in love with and would have purchased without a second thought, but they looked as if they would not ship to Hawaii well. Browsing through the shops was fun and the kids each picked something small and inexpensive.

Slide at Castle Montjuic

Slide at Castle Montjuic

The castle has two, large slides which I had read about but had difficulty finding. Part of the difficulty was not knowing the Spanish word for “slide” and trying to act it out for the security workers. The Spanish word for slide is “toboggan” which may come in handy. The kids loved going down the slide and then climbing up all of the stairs to go right back down the slide again. The slides are located just below the castle.

Canons at Castle Montjuic

Canons at Castle Montjuic

There are canons at the castle which the kids can stand and climb all over. This was quite fun for them as they read about the castle and how it was placed on the top of the hill to protect Barcelona from ships on the Mediterranean. They climbed right up and started the reenactments. It is a great photo opportunity as well, since these are real canons.

$$ saving tips: Purchase the Barcelona Bus ticket on line and save 10% on the ticket. Bring your own food into the castle and have a picnic lunch there. The views are absolutely breathtaking and it is as if you are eating in a park overlooking the Mediterranean. The castle has tables and a large, open lawn to sit down and relax. The restaurant at Europe - 20 Castle Montjuicthe castle is pricey and most of there business is on catering for large groups.  Take pictures of the signs and the history rather than purchasing the brochures and post cards. That way if your child chooses to write a report on the castle later, you will have all of the information for free.

5wheelsto5star is featured monthly in Destinations Travel Magazine

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