***This is part 5 of my “Spain-giving 2014” trip report detailing a recent trip to Barcelona over Thanksgiving weekend***
1. American Express Centurion Lounge at SFO
2. Korean Air Lounge at LAX
3. KLM Business Class Los Angeles to Barcelona, via Amsterdam
4. Majestic Hotel & Spa Barcelona
5. Exploring Barcelona in a Motorcycle Sidecar
6. Day trip to Girona for Lunch at El Celler De Can Roca
7. Sala VIP Lounge at BCN, KLM Crown Lounge at AMS
8. KLM Business Class Barcelona to San Francisco, via Amsterdam
With just 36 hours to spend in Barcelona and 24 of those reserved for a day-trip to Girona, we needed some wheels to help shuttle us throughout the city quickly. In other places we’d done the standard bus and walking tours before, and even a Segway tour in Prague, but our tour in Barcelona in a classic motorcycle with sidecar was the most fun we’ve ever had.
I had stumbled onto the idea from Flyertalk, where most of my good travel ideas seemingly come from, and after watching Brightside Barcelona’s video I was sold:
I booked the half-day 4.5-hour Barcelooona tour online, and BrightSide was very flexible as we needed to make some last-minute changes to the schedule. Our tour guide arrived at the hotel right on time, we got our first glimpse of the gorgeous ride that would be taking us throughout the city. My wife and I flipped a coin to see who’d get the sidecar – she won.
The next 4.5 hour were entirely ours to customize, and our guide helped us design a route based on our interests and priorities for what we’d like to see. The tour is designed to take you throughout the city and you’ll see a lot, but nothing in great detail. If you’re the type that likes to enter every building and read every sign, this may be too fast and furious for you.
The seat behind the driver was comfortable and there was a built-in handle to hold on to. I’d recommend this even if you haven’t had experience on a motorcycle before and may be nervous about it, as the ride is very stable and moved at a slow pace. The helmets are equipped with a Bluetooth communication system so all 3 of us could talk to each other even while driving.
Our tour started with a visit to The Sagrada Familia where we walked around the block to see it from all sides.
Then we continued north past the Hospital de Sant Pau.
And into Park Guell where we explored for a while before taking a break at the picnic benches where we polished off a bottle of Cava.
The tour is fully refundable in the case of sustained rain, but for the most part even when it rains in Barcelona it doesn’t stay for long. Lucky for us, the skies opened up and started to pour for about an hour just as we were leaving Park Guell. The guide came equipped with full waterproof rain gear for us, and we continued to ride for a few minutes before we called uncle and ducked into a coffee shop to wait out the storm.
No complaints from me, as that meant another opportunity for a delicious cappuccino. I don’t know what they do differently in Barcelona, but the cappuccinos here were simply amazing.
The rain stopped, and we continued on to the National Museum just as the sun was setting and the night lights of Barcelona came to life.
As requested, we ended the tour in Old Town Barcelona where we wanted to eat dinner. Our guide knew this area extremely well and recommended Cal Pep based on what we were looking for, which was a traditional tapas meal.
We arrived just as they opened and grabbed seats at the counter where we could see all of the food being prepared. No menus were distributed so we were a bit confused at first. The waiter came by and asked us if we’d like a mixed tapas selection for 2? Sure!
It started with some bread, toasted with oil and slathered in fresh tomato. So simple, yet so delicious.
Next up, a mixture of small fried fishes including anchovies and sardines.
Then claims sauteed in white wine and butter.
I’m not entirely sure what this was, but it was prepared like an omelet and then slathered in butter.
And finally the last tapa of our mixed selection, monkfish with mushrooms.
The waiter came by to ask us if we were done, but as big eaters we had room to fit in one more dish. He ran through a few options, and we settled on “pork and beans”. The pork in this case was an amazing homemade pork sausage stuffed with foie gras. It’s Cal Pep’s signature dish and they even had handouts with the recipe.
We wanted to walk home after dinner, and spent a few more minutes exploring Old Town. We stopped into the shop below to admire the Spanish jamon.
And stopped by a grand cathedral.
It was a lovely 30-minute stroll back to the hotel, and we made one final stop to check-out the Guadi building a block away.
That was a wrap on our one and only day in Barcelona, since the next morning we took off early for Girona. We were up early due to jet lag and managed to squeeze in a visit to a cute pastry shop, Boldu, for breakfast before leaving.
The seemed to specialize in animal-looking donuts, and we had our choice among many different types, including penguins and snowmen.
Normally I don’t like it when my food looks back at me, but today I made an exception.
Despite the short amount of time we had in Barcelona, I absolutely loved the city and can’t wait to return for a longer stay. The highlight was definitely our motorcycle tour, and would strongly recommend this for your next visit.