People stroll through historic downtown Barcelona.
By STACEY MARCUS
The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.
— G.K. Chesterton
When our daughters, Rachel and Emily, were young, we often took them to Cape Cod or Southern Maine to vacation. I adored watching them chase hermit crabs, build sand castles and ride in the bike trailer as Mitch pedaled along tree-lined trails. Their appetite for adventure grew and we swapped shore vacations on the East Coast to trips to California, cruising on the West Coast and resort-hopping in Mexico. In high school, one daughter visited Prague and Budapest. The other flew to Rome to study in college.
In the blink of an eye they became college graduates, full-time professionals and lovely young women. Lucky for us they still love spending vacation time with Mom and Dad.
When the stars aligned and we found a slice of time that worked for everyone’s schedule, we booked a trip to Barcelona, Spain. I announced that we would be going as travelers and that we would bop around Barcelona carefree sans restrictions and reservations.
Anyone who has traveled to Europe will agree, creating an itinerary is quite simple: Wake up late. Eat. Walk. Drink cappuccino. Enjoy cultural activity. Eat. Shop. Drink wine. Eat. Enjoy cultural activity. Eat. Go to sleep when you typically would be getting up. Repeat. (Full disclosure, I may have stopped to shop a few times and Mitch capped the day at wine as much as he could.)
While every family needs to design a trip to meet their personal preferences, here are a few suggestions if you plan to visit Barcelona with your grown children.
Find an apartment through an outfit like Airbnb. We discovered a spacious four- bedroom two-bath apartment in central Barcelona three blocks from Passeig de Gràcia, Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. It was great to have a comfortable and convenient home base to circle back to and get to live in a neighborhood where you can walk to the market and discover a special spot to enjoy breakfast. We walked everywhere giving us an opportunity to discover as travelers rather than tourists.
Get to know the neighborhoods. We were in Barcelona for six days so did not get to visit all the beautiful neighborhoods, but fell in love with these spots:
Barceloneta: A charming and colorful neighborhood located on the beach, we visited this gem one evening and had fun strolling along the streets looking for a place to enjoy dinner. We lucked out and discovered a casual dining spot befriending a local named Tito who bought us a round of drinks and shared his insider scoop.
The Gothic Quarter: Barrio Gotico was one of my favorite places in Barcelona, steeped in history and resplendent with storybook winding streets filled with breathtaking architecture. I could have spent the six days roaming around and taking photos.
La Rambla: Spain’s famous promenade, this Barcelona street sprawls on for miles. I could live on this street forever with its endless shops, cafes, street vendors and stream of people. Make it to the end and reward yourself with the breathtaking views of the port area.
We also enjoyed strolling around the museum-filled hills of Montjuïc and the bohemian neighborhood La Gràcia.
Make a list of the top attractions you want to see. Make reservations (forget that notion that you don’t need to plan. I will tell you why soon). Here are a few spots to see:
We had the pleasure of seeing Casa Batllo sprinkled with snowflakes. The exterior is one of the many testaments of Gaudi’s unique style of architecture and the interior is an illumination of a one-of-a-kind creative mastermind. The tour of the home Gaudi built for Josep Batlló, a wealthy aristocrat, is a must.
Park Guell by Gaudi is a magical place to see a spectacular view of Barcelona and enjoy a magical park full of music, mosaics, beauty and lots and lots of people.
Climb Montjuic hill and visit the myriad parks, Olympic stadium, museums and the ancient fort at the very top. Selfie city for views of Barcelona.
The Picasso Museum is a treat for art aficionados and anyone who is curious to learn more about the multifaceted art legend. More than 4,000 works are part of the permanent collection that illuminates his special bond with Barcelona.
Take a tapa tour. One of the highlights of the trip was enjoying tons of tapas. Who knew eating so many little bites adds up to so much joy?
Barcelona is a city brimming with markets. Be sure to check out La Boqueria for some mouth-watering paella and local favorites. A cornucopia of colors, flavors and surprises awaits.
We opted to see a flamenco show in the intimate and medieval setting of Palau Dalmases.
And here’s where the idea that one should be a traveler and not a tourist falls apart. We saved our trip to La Sagrada Familia, the unfinished church designed by Antoni Gaudi and the numero uno tourist attraction, to the day before we left. Instead of arranging for tickets to avoid the line, we opted to be laid back and wait in line. Only problem was that the tickets were sold out and we never got to go inside the most impressive attraction in Barcelona. The moral of the story is that while it can be much less stressful to let your trip unfold organically, sometimes you need to plan and make reservations.
Of course, we have a great story, not to mention an even greater reason to return to Barcelona.