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Briefly in Barcelona

casabBarcelona - now there's a city I can go back to time and again.  The happening buzz, stopping for delicious tapas, seafood, salads and Spanish cava, being enticed down alleys and into boutique shops, the fantasyland of Gaudi's architecture, the beach bar trail...leading to the ice bar if you feel the need to cool off.

Things to do

La Sagrada Familia.  I visited this unfinished architectural apparition on a separate visit but I highly recommend you go.  Gaudi dedicated much of his life to creating this church. I'm hoping to see it completed in around 13 years time - making its total construction time about 140 years.  By then there should be 18 towers, the tallest being over 120m.  Although incomplete it is still unique and eccentric and fabulous.

Shop til you drop - the Gothic District is great for this.  And an experienced shopaholic friend made the whole experience all the more rewarding. There are unique boutique shops spreading out like a maze from the Cathedral area.  For high street shops and designer ones wander down Passeig de Gracia.  From here you naturally reach...

Casa Batlló - A fairy-tale kingdom of a building with no straight lines.  A spine for a stair-rail, a shell-shaped ceiling, a dragon on the roof. It is full of surprises. Nature and the sea are seen throughout.  The facade sparkles, and undulates and glimmers in the sunlight.  Gaudi created a modernist dream like no other.  Its spectacular from the outside, but I think its worth taking the audio tour inside for around €18 to get an understanding of the influences in Gaudi's creation.

spireThe Cathedral garden - Entering a walled garden with towering palms and geese, and the cathedrals spire looming above was a delightful find in the middle of the city. 

The general view is that its not recommended to eat on Las Ramblas as its a tourist trap, but a stroll along it on your way to the beach means you meet some strange street artists which add to the atmosphere. Watch you wallets - this is good advise in any city.

There is still plenty to see on future trips, particularly the Museu Picasso and other Gaudi offerings - Palau Güell and Parc Güell and La Pedrera.  Also to go beyond Barcelona to the Teatre-Museu Dali in Figueres.  The museum holds, as well as many of the greatest works from thoughout his life, Dali's crypt and grave are found in the centre of the surrealist building.  Monserrat, a bazaarly shaped mountain 50km from the city.  Take the cable car to be rewarded with the most dramatic views.

Places to eat and drink

Too many to mention, but here are some favourites on this trip.

Cuines Santa Caterina near the Cathedral for casual dining on shared tables.  Its hard not to over order. All produce used is fresh from the market next door.

Bar del Pla, in the Gothic District, has a inspired tapas menus and lively atmosphere.

OpiumMar is one of many cool hangouts at the beach.  We had Mojitos while reclining on vast sofas. Very Ibiza.

Ca la Nuri creates a relaxed ambiance for chic beachside dining.

IceBarcelona is the first icebar at a beach in the world.  Where better to cool off on a scorching day. Enjoy a vodka cocktail in an ice glass and have a dance with an ice-sculted bear. They provide thick jackets and gloves! 

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To stay

Now this is easy.  I have 2 great hotels and 1 fab hostel to suggest which will cover most people's budget.

I was lucky enough to stay at The Hotel Neri, perfectly located close to the Cathedral, in the central Gothic District.  We were a short stroll from everything we wanted to do.  We were at once greeted by helpful staff who are ready with advice on how you can enjoy this city to the full.  The stone elegance of the former palace, which is now an sophisticated 22 room hotel, is softened with furnishings of velvet in warm colours.  There is a restaurant that serves, as well as a gourmet dinner, what has to be the best breakfast I've ever been offered.  First muesli with yogurt with delicious coffee, then a platter of goodies in tapas style along with juice, followed by either fruit pancakes or various egg combinations.  I felt well set to wait until the local lunch time of 2-3pm for my next feast. A flower-filled roof terrace is an ideal spot to relax in a hammock or chair with a glass of cava at the end of busy day meandering the streets. As for the rooms; a standard room was lovely, a suite was divine.  The bed was plumb and comfortable.  We could choose our sheet and pillow types, and select our favourite music type and DVDs.  The stone rain shower was a pleasure.  The decor is chic with imaginative creative details. View details

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A short stoll from Las Ramblas, on an interesting street, is the Hotel Curious.  From the minute you step in you are struck but the sleek style and cleanliness of the place.  This is no ordinary 1 star hotel.  Each room has a wall-sized photo of a local scene from the region in either the theme of air, fire, water or earth bringing the outside in.  Bathrooms, bedding, corridors, balconies and rooms are all clean, modern and beautifully finished.  For those that like quality and value, there is no compromise here.  You can have it all.  View details

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Casa Gracia Barcelona is a modern and creative hostel within walking distance of many attractions, shops, restaurants and bars, but also offers events - music and art and social gatherings on site too.  There are ensuite rooms and those with shared facilities and dormitories too.  View details

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