Barcelona Travel Diary

Islie enjoying the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona rooftop wading pool.

This winter I’ve been very sidetracked with life, and so I’m months late on sharing the rest of our summer and all of our fall and winter activities! The good news is we’ve been having a lot of fun, so it makes since that I haven’t been able to keep up with sharing it! I’m hoping to catch up and organize the thousands of 2017 photos before we embark on our European Spring adventure (and take thousands more!) and whatever else the spring will bring. We will be visiting Amsterdam and Antwerp, two places that are new to us, and then wrapping up the trip with our most favorite and magical city, Paris.  Time passes so quickly, especially with three kids, and I feel like summer 2018 is right around the corner. Here is a little about the tail end of our 2017 summer trip, spent in Barcelona and accompanied by a lot of pics!

After making our train in Seville, we found our seats and settled in for a pretty and picturesque ride through fields and hills, past bridges and towns. I wish I could say all went smoothly, but inevitably there were a few tricky moments. For some reason I felt extra on display, even more so than on a plane and every potential loud noise or mini mess had me on edge, as we were surrounded by mostly businessmen. We made a quick switch in Madrid, and on the second train we sat down to a very fancy train lunch, which the kids just picked at but Karen and I enjoyed. At long last we arrived at Barcelona station, hopped in a taxi and headed to the Mandarin Oriental on Passeig de Gràcia. I chose the Mandarin for the great location, rooftop pool, and and the fact that the girls, especially Sienna loved the Mandarin Oriental in Paris so much. Lastly, the dim sum, we cannot forget about that.

Happy girl.

 

We got settled in and unpacked, heading straight to the rooftop pool to relax and take in the gorgeous 360 degree cityscape views; including the Sagrada Familia, the sea, and everything in between. We ordered the much anticipated dim sum and Sangria, Luella napped in the stroller, and Isla and Sienna played in the pool. It was a super relaxing late afternoon after such a long travel day. A mini siesta followed, the afternoon nap a bonus of Spain’s later dining time.

As night fell we went for a long walk around the neighborhood, admiring the Gaudi buildings along the Avenue, and doing a little shopping as the kids had run out of clean clothes. I loved Passeig de Gràcia, the sidewalks along the entire avenue are laid with hexagon shaped, oceanic themed Gaudi-designed tiles. Eventually we found ourselves at our restaurant in a quaint little street of the main Avenue, (unfortunately I forgot to note the name and can’t find it anywhere.. there is a little vegetable market out front) where we had a dinner reservation and enjoyed an amazing dinner. I had black squid ink risotto which was so good, and the kiddies had some really delicious pasta and traditional tapas with a twist.  We accidentally ordered too much food, as we often do and walked home super stuffed and exhausted, excited to hop in the cozy bed and drift off to sleep.

Cool light exhibit at CosmoCaixa, wish I took more photos here!
Living Indoor forest.
Moody Skies.

The next morning was rainy, so we headed to CosmoCaixa, Barcelona’s science museum for kids. This museum is huge, educational, and truly amazing. There are tons of interactive exhibits, a selection of fish and small amphibians, and a lot of wide open space for kids to play.

Sienna, reflecting. Dress by Tuchinda, old, similar here.

The girls had so much fun running from exhibit to exhibit, and taking in the huge living lake and forest built right inside the museum. I would highly recommend a visit for kids of all ages, and the museum gift shop is one of the best I’ve ever seen. There is also a huge parklike space outside, which we couldn’t enjoy because of the rain but I would imagine would be lovely on an nicer day. If you do happen to go on a rainy day I would recommend getting there right before opening as we did, as all of the families in Barcelona seemed to have the same idea and the line got long very quickly.

Isla sampling salmon at the Boqueria.

Next we went to the Boqueria, being the mother of all food markets we couldn’t miss it. It was ridiculously crowded near the front, in an oppressive way that wasn’t fun but venturing a couple of aisles in the space completely opened up and was much quieter. We enjoyed walking around and looking at the huge piles of fruits and candies, the exotic fish and meats, and the wide variety of prepared foods. We got involved in some serious sampling and eventually found seats at a great looking seafood counter and then proceeded to order way too much food. The girls loved the sights and sounds of the Boqueria and of course were especially enthralled by the vast array of sweets. They stocked up on the way out, probably not the best idea as they were bouncing off the walls for the rest of the evening.

Chatting over lunch.

 

Lu in the Boqueria. Dress by Zara.

 

This little face.

We had a late dinner that night at Bardot, which we loved. It has a cozy and intimate atmosphere, and the food was decidedly Spanish, but with a twist. There happened to be a playground almost right outside the restaurant, so the girls burned off the last of their energy (how can there be so much?!) and we walked back to the Mandarin to sleep.

Dinner Dates!

Looking up.

The next day we had a busy day of exploration planned. Both Karen and I were very excited to visit the Sagrada Familia while in Barcelona, personally I was most interested in the design, despite not being the religious sort I do love a beautiful church. Karen had always wanted to see it so it was a very special day for her. As such, we decided not to chance it with long lines and booked a private tour through the hotel. Our tour guide was the most wonderful and patient woman, the more so because giving a half day tour with a 2 and 4 year old in tow is probably not ideal.  She walked us from our hotel to the church, sharing interesting history about Gaudi’s Casa Battlo, The Pedrera, and various other landmarks such as Gaudi’s lampost adorned with bats which we might not have noticed otherwise. This wasn’t the shortest walk, but the kiddies held up well and thankfully we had brought both strollers along. We finally arrived at the church, breezed through security and then received as detailed a tour as a 2, 4, and 10 year old can handle. The building was breathtakingly intricate beyond what I could have imagined, and the history of all the architectural changes and ins and outs was very interesting. It was an amazing experience to stand there with the girls while the little ones named the beautiful colors streaming in through the stained glass and dancing along the wall. I felt so lucky to share it with them, and while Islie will have to go back I think Sienna and Luella will not soon forget the day.

The most beautiful light!

Islie looking for sclupted bugs at the Sagrada Familia.

After all of the walking and history the girls needed to cut loose, so we got lollipops and walked to the cute playground right behind the church to let them run around. Unfortunately I didn’t find the vantage point to take a great exterior shot of the church with the girls, but I am happy with the colorful interior photos I got. Next we headed out for a final walk with our tour guide, heading over to the fanciful Liceu Opera House for a quick tour, then a quick stop at the colorfully tiled the Santa Catarina food market, so much less chaotic than the Boqueria, where we had a round of fresh juices. Next we walked on past the oldest church in Barcelona, the Sant Paul del Camp, with it’s crumbling facades and into the intricate maze of back alleys in the shady and mysterious Gothic Quarter.

Sadly our only group pic this day!

Finally we found ourselves in a beautiful square with exhausted and hungry children, so we parted ways with our guide and had a tapas lunch at a chain tapas place, Taller Tapas, touristy but not bad. When your kids just won’t go on you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do!

Love these faces.
Little Islie.

 

After such a sophistaced morning plan the girls really wanted to do something more kid centric, so we headed to the Barcelona Aquarium to check out the fishies. Of course they loved this, and we spent an hour or so gazing in the tanks and then did a quick stroll around Port Vell and headed back to the hotel for some rooftop pool and cocktail time, followed by a siesta.

Sienna at Barcelona Aquarium.

They were obsessed with this giant Sunfish.

 

That evening, we had tickets to Magic Nights at the Gaudi designed Modernist museum Casa Batllo, where they open the house for the evening and have live music and cocktails on the roof under sparkling string lights. The band was an Elvis cover band, and this was one definitely one of my most favorite evenings of the trip. Listening to Elvis songs on the fairytale roof of Casa Batlo under a dark indigo sky, cocktail in hand while the girls drank orange juice and danced, it was memory making of the very best kind.

Magical night at Casa Battlo.

 

Blurry Stranger pic, but we got one!
Moonlighting as adults.

 

Gorgeous views from Park Güell.

We went to Park Güell on the most beautiful sunny morning, and spent hours walking through the intricately tiled and mosaic stone paths and tunnels, the whole park a giant Gaudi sculpture to explore. Little fairytale houses dot the property, housing mini museums of their own. There were expansive views over the city from the higher vantage points, and flowers blooming everywhere, it’s truly a magical place. You do have to be strategic with strollers but thankfully ours were light and we managed. When the kids had enough walking and started their rounds of complaining, there were playgrounds and ice cream to get them through those tough moments.

Sienna soaking it in.
Loved these mosaic ceilings.
My girl squad.
Luella as photographer.

Sneaking snacks, as usual. Wearing Luella’s old Dagmar Daly playsuit, the cutest.

Ice cream break!

 

After spending the morning at the park we headed over towards the Barceloneta Beach area for a paella lunch at Salamonica, with was recommended by a friend and did not disappoint. We had amazing authentic paella, and the staff there was the sweetest, they loved the girls and brought them little treats at the end of the meal.

Crowded Barceloneta Beach.

The BEST Paella.

 

Beach bum.

Next we went to check out the beach, which was so crowded and hectic we only stayed for a short time; enough for the kids to have a quick ice cream and me to decide it is not relaxing to have warnings about pick pockets blared over a loud speaker every five minutes and someone trying to sell you something every one minute. I am decidedly not an urban-beach lover, I much prefer an undeveloped and unspoiled beach scene.

Having a solo moment with my biggest!

We headed back to the hotel to hang at the rooftop instead, Karen stayed with a napping Lu and Isla while Sienna and I spent some quality time alone chatting about the trip and upcoming school year. That evening Karen was off to meet some friends who were in town for dinner, so the girls and I went on a mission alone for Thai food that night, to Thai Barcelona around the corner.  The restaurant ended up being a little fancier than I’d expected but the girls behaved fairly well and loved the dinner, ahem rice.

Best Brunch!

Avocado Toast of my Dreams.
Prettiest Cakes.
Cupcakes after Brunch, naturally.

 

The nest morning we started slow, and walked to Brunch and Cake for breakfast. This is the cutest little spot with the most visually stunning healthy food I have ever seen, depicted  thoroughly on their instagram account. We had a gorgeous healthy breakfast, followed by cupcakes and playground time before jumping in cab and heading over to the Parc de la Ciutadella area and the Museu de la Xocolata, the Museum of Chocolate.

Made entirely of chocolate!
….this too!
and this!

The strongest, most chocalatey aroma permeates the air surrounding the museum; and inside you will find the most intricate and detailed sculptures, large and small, made entirely of chocolate. The girls ran through the museum taking in the sculptures, loving those with familiar characters such as Bambi and learning the history of chocolate. My favorite was the chocolate Sagrada Familia and the girls loved a giant white chocolate chameleon. From here we walked on, to the Arc de Triomf and spent quite a lot of time with a man blowing gigantic bubbles, the kids chasing and popping them, slipping in the bubbly puddles and skinning their knees, never a dull moment!

Serious about popping bubbles.

Lu.
Karen and Islie, going for it.

We walked on through the park, admiring the flowers and at the end ran straight into the Barcelona Zoo. I’m not a lover of zoos but as soon as Sienna saw the sign and yelled zoo everyone wanted to go, so I acquiesced and we walked around the admittedly nice zoo for an hour or so which made the girls very happy. On a long trip it’s important to have a mix of both child and adult fun, and this outing especially was very fun for them.

Mini photoshoot in the park.
Prettiest grasses.

 

That evening we had tickets to the La Pedrera for our last Gaudi field trip. The girls dressed up, marching in their flamenco heels down Passeig de Gràcia, waltzed in and grabbed their headsets, enthusiastically embarking on the audio tour. It was a cloudy and moody evening, and the sky perfectly offset the buildings’ sculptural facade. We walked the roof as the sun set, then toured the attic and preserved living quarters, complete with requisite creepy doll. I was happy to see Lulu and Sienna so interested in the audio tour and history of the building, it really was the cutest.

Beauty on the roof.
Luella was obsessed with the audio tour!

Fancy Islie.

Reflecting.

Intricate mini La Padrera.

 

Creepiest Doll!

 

Following that we headed to Mont Bar, for our finale dinner, where I was hoping we would end  this amazing trip on a high note. Unfortunately it was not to be! The menu was a little sophisticated for the girls, so they were annoying about eating and their behavior pretty much deteriorated from there. I wrapped up my amazing meal, had an extra glass of wine to calm my nerves and we headed back to the hotel to get a good rest before our journey back to New York the next day.

 

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