Easter break this year resembled Christmas, with yet-to-arrive spring season it had become quite depressing to live without the Sun. I had never imagined that I being from India would ever complain for the lack of sunshine, but here we were escaping to Southern Europe in search of Sun.
It did not elude us, we basked in the crisp golden sunshine of the Mediterranean and committed ourselves to afternoon siestas in that short break. The trip started with the flight to Barcelona, vueling had excellent connectivity and fairly good prices to offer. Our itinerary could be outlined as Zurch-Barcelona-Palma Mallorca-Barcelona-Zurich, with some time spent on each hop of the journey. Flying in at of the evening of Good Friday, we settled down at a hotel near the airport for 2 nights, the first morning was spent exploring our way to the city. A bus to Placa Espanya was our means of transport, being practically outside the city we suffered slow frequency of the buses.
Plaça d’Espanya is the largest square in Barcelona, once used as a site for public hangings it was transformed to its current shape for the 1929 World Exposition, it is a great point to start for transport connectivity as well. Instead of loitering around at Espanya, we rushed to Jaume I metro station to catch the Sandeman’s Free New Europe Walking tour, this had just started a few days ago. The next two hours were spending walking around the Old town, and listening to the heavy Scottish accent of Frasier who was our guide. We could witness the sights of the old town, and also understand the story behind Columbus’s misadventure in finding India, and landing up in the Americas. It was particularly interesting to learn about the Spanish Civil War, and the ongoing fight of Catalonia’s for an independent new country with Barcelona as its seat. The tour ended at the Port side of Barcelona, filled with Palm trees imported from Hawaii with Christopher Columbus pointing in the wrong direction (how typical of him!).
After leaving the tour, we walked based to the Old Town and stumbled in the Barcelona Cathedral. Barcelona Cathedral has an interesting history about the patron saint of the city Eulalia; a teenage saint who was persecuted for her beliefs. Barcelona cathedral is remarkable mainly because of the front facade of the church which was created for the 1929 World Exposition.
We walked back to one of the bylanes to grab noodles at a fast food joint and bumped into an Indian gentleman who worked there, after a neat meal our next stop was to return towards Espanya.
Placa Espanya is famous for its pathway to Montjuic (literally means Mountain of the Jews), with National Art museum, and Olympic stadium right at the top. One could either take a cable car or walk up, thankfully they have plenty of escalators to assist the long set of stairways. The Magic fountain show on the weekends catches over a few thousand visitors in the evenings, it was indeed worth it. Montjuic is one of the key sights of the city, opening up to Placa Espanya and welcomed with the two Venetian towers.
Returning later at night to our hotel, we ended up in the middle of nowhere with the bus driver not stopping it at the right stop! We managed to get hold of a taxi, and luckily were not too far from our hotel. Next morning we were dropped by the hotel for our flight to Palma de Mallorca.
Majorca is the British Capital of Catalonia, thronged with British tourists all the year round, this Island is the mecca for a relaxing break. Our stay was planned for Palma Nova, which is an hour from Palma Majorca.
We took a business to, guess what? Placa Espanya to catch the next bus to Palma Nova. After getting down at a bus stop one too early, we walked almost a kilometer to our hotel.
Our hotel was right at front of the beach of Palma Nova, it was indeed a privilege to be able to just walk right on to the beach within 5 minutes from the room. However, it still being sunny but cold enough that one couldn’t get into water. But, for those who had been missing the bright sun for over 4 months now, it was no less than heaven. Relaxing on the beach, we soon found ourselves digging into dollops of ice cream, the first in this season!
Next morning, we took a bike rental and went on following the route from Palma Nova, St. Mathias beach, Magaluf…a long cycle break in sunny but cool weather we enjoyed traveling along the seaside, between the markets and stopping for a heavy desi meal. While Palma Nova was peaceful, Magaluf beach is famous for its night life with number of Pubs and Discos frequented mainly by British tourists. We could not, however, book tickets to the Pirates show as it was not happening on that day. Cycling is indeed a popular reason for visitors there, with plenty of tourists planning a multi day cycling trip in the Calvia region of Palma.
Back to Barcelona
Next day, we returned back to Barcelona in the afternoon, this time staying in the city right next to the Sants railway station, which had really good connectivity with the Airport. We spent the evening searching for Sagrada Familia church. This church is unlike any other, it is not like the Milan Cathedral, or Notre Dame of Paris, it is unique in itself and with almost 120 years into it, it is still under construction! The building is a masterpiece designed by the famous Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi. He decided to give it an interesting design departing from the traditional Gothic architecture code followed elsewhere in Europe. To complicate it, he notably used hyperbolic and elliptical geometry in a lot of elements. The entry price per person would be at 16 Euros. It probably is a means to fund the church construction.
Gaudi is probably the most famous architect in Catalonia, may even be compared in greatness with Picasso, another Catalan painter who is a household name. Our next morning went into search for Casa Mia and Casa Batlo, both are must visit places in Barcelona. Both are a demonstration of unique design, combination of colors and attempts of Gaudi to please the snobbish rich of Barcelona. It was also interesting to see various art/architecture students attempting to learn from the design of the great architect. With this we moved to Placa Catlunya, and spent a couple of hours basking in the spring sun and shopping for souvenirs.
- Moving around Barcelona is pretty simple by Metro. You may purchase and use T-10 tickets for 10 trips across trains/buses. It can be shared and even be used for airport transfer.
- While is plenty of travel advisory about pickpockets in Barcelona, we did not notice as such situation.
- The official language in the region is both Spanish and Catalan.
- Be sensitive to the fact that Catalonia is a nation in itself, with multiple attempts to gain freedom from Spain. People are passionate about it, and that is why FCB is not just a club but considered a religion. It was a means for Catalonians express their Catalanism
- Flights from Vueling and Ryanair are often economical, if you book these well in advance.