We arrived in Barcelona in the early evening and checked in at the Hotel Regina, which is just a block from the Placa Catalunya and La Rambla. It was a nice place to stay, included a full breakfast, and was in an excellent location. Since Barcelona is a city where everyone stays up late, we had time to enjoy a drink in a sidewalk cafe and a short walk around La Rambla before turning in.
One of the easiest ways to tour a city for the first time is to ride a hop-on, hop-off bus. In Barcelona, it's called the Bus Turistic, and it has two main routes--red and blue. We were able to buy Bus Turistic tickets at the hotel. It cost us 4 euros at the hotel to buy a bus package, but we then saved 6 euros on our bus tour at the bus stop -- 21 euros without the hotel package and 15 euros with. Every little euro helps.
We got good seats on the double-decker bus before 10 am outside and upstairs on the bus, so we rode the whole red route (almost 2 hours) without stopping, and got off at Casa Batllo, one of the architect Gaudi-designed houses that is a UNESCO world heritage site. Before touring the home, we ate a snack at a sidewalk tapas bar/cafe and listened to an excellent street entertainer from West Africa who was singing "easy listening music". I love the atmosphere of a cosmopolitan city like Barcelona!
After our snack, we walked across the street to the Gaudi-designed home, which was built for the Batllo family in the early 1900's, and had an enjoyable tour (with headphones). The fee was expensive (13.5 euros with our bus discount), but it was fascinating to see this amazing piece of Gaudi's work. There wasn't a straight wall in the place, and the windows, walls, and ceiling were all whimsical and interesting.
After touring the Casa Batllo, we rode the red route bus to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's famous unfinished church. Needless to say, not much has been done since I had visited there a few months before. They've been working on this masterpiece for over 100 years, and it may be another 25 before it is finished since they are only using donations. It's definitely one "must see" in Barcelona.
We hopped back on the red bus again and rode around to where it met up with the blue route. We grabbed a quick late lunch at Pan, a Barcelona fast food sandwich shop chain that I remembered as being good from a few years before. Unfortunately, since it was about 3:30 in the afternoon, the french fries were cold and the sandwich was lacking. The only good thing was the price -- less than 10 euros for 2 sandwiches, 2 diet cokes, 2 waters, and 1 order of fries. Guess you get what you pay for.
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