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Barcelona | BA Club Europe | a beautiful horizon | gargoyles | fully nude mermaids

Barcelona | BA Club Europe | a beautiful horizon | gargoyles | fully nude mermaids

Old Mar 18, 14, 6:53 am
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Barcelona | BA Club Europe | a beautiful horizon | gargoyles | fully nude mermaids



Barcelona - Such a beautiful horizon
Barcelona - Like a jewel in the sun
Por ti seré gaviota de tu bella mar
Barcelona - Suenan las campanas
Barcelona - Abre tus puertas al mundo
If God is willing
If God is willing
If God is willing
Friends until the end
Viva – Barcelona


Origin

The lyrics above were first sung by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Cabbalé back in the 80s. But I remember hearing them for the first time just ahead of the 1992 Olympic Games, which were of course held in Barcelona. They are wonderfully evocative and caused me to wonder in my youth just what that city with the beautiful horizon was like.

For years I enjoyed listening to the song and even sang it in concert at my old school concerts with a girl from the year below. Of course I had to sing a whole octave below Freddie Mercury, though. I am a bass after all!

A seemingly unrelated event in early 2012 caused me to have the chance to visit Barcelona and prepare this report that you are enjoying now. I had been buying a fair few Club World tickets on British Airways shuttling back and forth between Doha and the UK. I had spent enough that I earned an American Express 241 voucher. I thought that there would be no way that I would ever use it. But I did!

Following my return to the UK on a permanent basis my Dad and I decided to use the voucher for a holiday. The deal was that I would provide the voucher and the Avios and Dad would provide the hotel. A good deal, I thought. So some time after Christmas 2013 I started hunting around on ba.com for routes with availability at a mutually convenient time.

Other candidates as I remember them were Rome, Copenhagen and Madrid, Gibraltar, Milan and Dubrovnik, but we settled on Barcelona. Tickets were booked and we were ready to go.


Itinerary

Outbound flight

Route: LHR-BCN
Flight: BA474
Departure date: 13th March 2014

Scheduled duration: 2:05
Scheduled departure time: 10:00 (10:00 GMT)
Scheduled arrival time: 13:05 (12:05 GMT)

Aircraft type: Airbus 320
Aircraft registration: G-EUYD

Cabin and seat: Club Europe, seat 1A
Seat factor: 32 out of 32 seats occupied – 100% seat factor


Inbound flight

Route: BCN-LHR
Flight: BA481
Return date: 16th March 2014

Scheduled duration: 2:25
Scheduled departure time: 17:30 (16:30 GMT)
Scheduled arrival time: 18:55 (18:55 GMT)

Aircraft type: Airbus 320
Aircraft registration: G-EUUL

Cabin and seat: Club Europe, seat 4A
Seat factor: 29 out of 32 seats


Ticketing

Fare: GBP 50.00 each + 15,000 Avios each + one Amex 241 voucher
Date of booking: 27th December 2013
Time of booking: 76 days (10 weeks and 6 days) ahead of departure


Destination

Hotel: Hotel España
Address: Calle de San Pablo, Barcelona

Room grade: Standard, but we were lucky to have a patio, which most do not have
Room: 116


London Heathrow Terminal 5 – Galleries Club North

You will remember that our flight was scheduled to depart at 10 o’clock in the morning. With this in mind Dad and I took the Tube from Pimlico at about 7.45am. We were at the airport not much more than an hour later to find shorthaul flights delayed due to fog. Not a problem though, as that is what lounge access is for.

We headed out of the London Underground station and proceeded to the north to head through the fast track security there and then go into the lounge.

Many FTers seem to prefer BA’s lounges at the other end of terminal with the clustered Club, First and Concorde Room facilities, together with the Elemis spa. But as far as Club lounges are concerned I always head to the north for it’s balcony. We settled back with some breakfast and a glass of champagne.


Flight from London Heathrow Terminal 5 to Barcelona Terminal 1

FIDS were posting delays of approximately 25-35 minutes on all shorthaul flights. Longhaul operations were moving on time – I dare say that BA like to get these flights off rather than the shorthauls to make sure that all those revenue heavy longhaul coupons are burnt rather than refunded or rebooked to a seat on another flight that could otherwise be sold later.

Nevertheless we proceeded to the gate at about 20 minutes past the hour and 40 minutes after the gate was due to close. When we arrived at gate A15 priority boarding had just begun so we headed neatly through that channel and onto the aircraft.

Embarkation: 10:25
Push back: 11:35
Airborne: 12:00

I sat down to listen to some music on the iPod and soon the Captain was on to tell us about our long delay. Some people claim that shorthaul business class is not worth it because you are only on the plane for an hour or two.

And aye, that may be true in most cases I would reply to them. But when you have a long delay that hour represents a lot of extra time to be sitting in a narrow seat. For this reason I consider shorthaul premium cabins to be worth the extra, fortunately in this case just a small dent in my mileage balance.

Next to our plane was BA’s upgrade special. Surely everybody going on the aircraft registered ‘UUA’ will have good luck Upgrading Using Avios!



On a walk to the galley I found this pin in the door labelled ‘REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT’ - does anybody know what this is for?:



Unfortunately despite the late departure no hot lunch was served. But the catered ‘extended breakfast’ was quite decent, with a selection of salami and Parma ham, cheese, olives, sun dried tomato and courgette. Even though the portion was small it was enough for me, but I was hungry by dinner time!

We flew over the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees and I was reminded of how Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin escaped from France through these mountains in the wonderful books by Patrick O’Brian. Aubrey, being English, needed to evade capture so was disguised as a dancing bear with Maturin as his handler. Funnily enough, a much earlier book by the same author features a similar event with a man dressed as a dancing bear and this book is about Catalonia:



As were approached Barcelona we had a fine view of the Mediterranean and the city itself before circling around over some hills…:



…and the beautiful turquoise sea:



Barcelona is renowned for it’s architecture and even the control tower was quite funky:



As we pulled up to the stand we passed a nice Qatar Airways aircraft and a blinging Emirates A380.

AOG: 14:37
On stand: 14:42

Verdict

A good flight with nice catering (although portions were small) and great views, especially towards the end.


Barcelona arrivals

Since we were in row 1 my Dad and I were first off the aircraft. There were no queues at immigration so we jumped straight into a taxi and were into town perhaps 25 to 30 minutes after leaving our seats. The taxi cost approximately EUR 28.


Hotel España

Our taxi took us into the city centre and along Rambla, a long road with plenty of tourists, touts and pickpockets around. Our hotel was situated a short distance down a pedestrianised road just off the tourist spot so we got out and headed in it’s direction. We were quite surprised by the amount of graffiti around.

Check in at the hotel proceeded swiftly and I asked for a room with a balcony. None were available but we were able to have a room with a patio instead, which was probably even better because we could sit out there for breakfasts and it’s rear aspect caused the room to be extremely quiet and peaceful.

In principle, this should have been a great hotel, well decorated and located with attentive staff too. Unfortunately sleep quality was poor. Perhaps we were just unlucky that the beds did not suit us.

As is usual in Europe, our room had two beds next to each other…:



…but it also had a nice patio with living wall and some interesting interior decorations:



The rest of the hotel was attractively decorated…:



…with an impressive staircase…:



…and some wells to let plenty of natural light into the interior:



The hotel is evidently quite an old structure and had some beautiful mosaics in the floor. Although all the flooring was contemporary the old mosaics were lit behind glass panels:



There was a lovely fireplace in the bar…:



…and fully nude mermaids decorating the walls in the Sala les Sirenes (room of the mermaids):




Mercat St Josep

Near to the hotel is the Mercat St Josep…:



…a wonderful market with an astounding array of fresh produce:




Dad and I bought some lovely food from here, including jamon iberico and candied oranges.


Quayside

Barcelona is and always has been a maritime city. Today there are moorings for pleasure boats…:



…and working boats:



There is also an anchorage further out with large cargo vessels waiting to come into the large modern port, of which more later.


Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar

Barcelona’s cathedral’s name reflects the city’s maritime heritage and we stumbled across it while exploring the city on our first day.

Outside there were some children playing with a man making enormous bubbles:



The architecture was spectacular, with plenty of gargoyles:



The cloisters were beautiful. There were geese, oranges and fish, together with a drinking fountain dedicated to George (Jordi), patron saint of Catalonia.



Inside the cathedral I was interested to note that although there were large numbers of tourists it was very much a working church, with confessions being heard and prayers made. Around the edges there were a selection of small chapels, each dedicated to a particular saint.




Dinner at Bar Cañete

Guidebooks told us that Barcelona is full of tourist traps and the best restaurants can be found by asking the staff at your hotel for a recommendation. This we did, and were directed to a nearby tapas place called Bar Cañete.



The meal, which we ate sitting at the bar, was splendid. The menu was extensive making it a bit difficult to know what to order. We asked one of the waiters to make a recommendation and he came up trumps.

We ate jamon iberico, fried anchovies, monkfish, pork fillet and cannelloni. The food is cooked behind the bar so you can see the chefs working hard. We did notice a lot of salt being used and were quite thirsty later that night.

For dinner on the two subsequent evenings we headed to Los Caracoles (the snails), which had an extensive menu of good food, excellent shrimp and crayfish, and a wood-burning oven that produced excellent fish, chicken and pork.


Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia – Gaudi’s magnum opus

On the morning of the second day we headed off on the Barcelona metro to visit the iconic Sagrada Familia. The metro, which had a station almost next door to our hotel on Rambla, is easy to use and quite extensive. A ticket permitting ten journeys within three days cost approximately EUR 10.50.

Arriving at the Sagrada it was extremely apparent that work is still in progress, despite work beginning in 1882, with plenty of cranes and nets around on the outside:



Regarding the lengthy time required for construction (remember work began in 1882) the architect Antoni Gaudi is said to have remarked that “my client is not in a hurry”!

There was a long queue to get in but those who buy tickets online can avoid this. If you visit Barcelona, be sure to buy your Sagrada Familia tickets online! We joined the queue and were waiting about 40 minutes to reach the front. But when we got there what awaited us caused every second’s worth of wait to be worthwhile.

We entered through bronze doors cast with words from the gospels extending from them. I understand that these are stories of the passion of Christ, and indeed the façade in which they are set depicts this story. Certain elements of the doors were polished to a shine from thousands of people touching them. Jesus was quite shiny, but the cryptogram (see the bottom right image) was well worn indeed:



I understand that elements of the cryptograms, which are present all over the structure, represent Christ’s age at the time of resurrection.

Inside my breath was taken away. The architecture was awe-inspiring and the light was beautiful – clean and bright. The entirety felt absolutely ethereal and I do not think I have ever been anywhere else quite like it. Even the great cathedrals of England do not match up to the beauty of this masterpiece.

It was interesting to observe that while the outside of the cathedral was quite naturalistic, with a certain imperfection in the stones and decorations inspired by nature, the interior was entirely geometric.

On entry one of the first things I saw was four porphyry columns, each capped with a representation of one of the Four Evangelists:





Along the nave the columns are designed to give the impression of walking through a forest of tall trees:









Above the altar we have a representation of Christ on the cross:



Different materials are used in different parts of the basilica:



The stained glass contributed to the beautiful light – some of the windows were colourful yet others were clear and I was not sure whether or not they shall all be stained at one point or if the combination of stained and clear glass contributes to the beautiful heavenly light that fills the space. I did like the reflection of the stained glass on the organ pipes:



The interior is highly geometric:



Throughout my visit I observed that the basilica seems to be much less of a working facility than the cathedral we had visited the day before. There did not seem to be much praying or confessing going on – most likely there are set times for mass when tourists are expelled.

Heading out through the opposite side to that which we had arrived we were presented with the façade of the nativity. The four towers, which are currently part of eight and shall later be part of twelve, represent the Apostles. This façade was one of the first parts of the structure to be completed and the stones and carvings here are noticeably more mature than elsewhere.



Animals and the tree of life are represented:



Music is an important element…:



…and as you would expect, this being the nativity façade, elements of the nativity story are depicted:



Once our visit was completed we headed out into the adjacent Square to get a better view of the whole. Notice how the cypress trees are quite similar to the shape of the towers.






Park Güell – another Gaudi wonder

The afternoon following our visit to Sagrada Familia we headed off to experience another of Gaudi’s projects – Park Güell, to the north. Getting there on the metro was quite easy but there is a walk of about 20 minutes from the station. Although the park is on a hill some of the climb is helped by escalators.

Reaching the top, we had a fine view of Barcelona:





At the very top there were plenty of tourists like us soaking up the view…:



…which included the rest of the park as well as Barcelona itself:



Unfortunately my camera battery died after this point, so I ‘borrowed’ the following four pictures from Wikipedia. There are some beautiful mosaics and a colonnaded walk. As with the Sagrada Familia’s exterior the architecture is extremely naturalistic:



Since I had foolishly forgotten to pack my camera charger the remainder of pictures in this report were captured using the camera on my iPod.


Montjuïc

To the south west of central Barcelona can be found the hill of Montjuïc, which apparently means hill of Jews in Catalan. A beautiful spot, this place has gardens, a castle and the site of the 1992 Olympic Games. Our third day in Barcelona was spent exploring around here.

Funicular Railway

To get some but not all of the way up the hill we took the funicular railway. Operated by the public transport authority of Barcelona, this is connected to the metro and accordingly could be used with the tickets we had bought the day before. The trains leave approximately every seven and a half minutes

Here is the train…:



…and here is the station up the hill:



Jardins de Laribal

Montjuïc has lovely gardens. The first that we visited were entirely informal:



Jardins de Joan Maragall

The second set of gardens we visited were more formal, with statues…:



…a living statue…:



…and fountains:



Anella Olimpica

The Olympic park’s architecture is quite classical. I remember seeing the torch…:



…lit by an archer, immortalised in this statue:



Various athletes had their footprints taken in the footwear representing their sport:



My feet were understandably larger than Nadia Comaneci’s, but smaller than Michael Jordan’s:



The stadium itself was built on the site of an earlier arena and is sunk into the ground:





The park around the stadium features this beautiful tower…:



…and a variety of trees and plants:



A beautiful horizon

Heading up over to the other side of the mountain we saw the beautiful horizon sung about by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Cabbalé:



Castell de Montjuïc

On the way to the castle we passed this cool plant. I am no botanist so have no idea what it is, but decided to pose for a picture anyway:



You can take the cable car up the mountain. It leaves from the funicular railway station and costs EUR 7.50 one way and approximately EUR 10.50 return. Standard metro tickets are not valid. We took this route down the mountain at the end of our trip to the castle.



The castle dates from the seventeenth century and was enlarged and made increasingly formidable as the years went by:



There were some impressive Vickers guns from the mid twentieth century that no doubt cause the castle to command the harbour:



The views over the port and city were tremendous:




Maritime Museum

Our last day in Barcelona took us to the maritime museum, near to the Rambla at the quayside end where I captured the images of the pleasure and working boats shown earlier in this trip report. Entrance was EUR 5.00.

The largest exhibit is this replica of a flag galley that fought at the Battle of Lepanto:



I liked this seat made of oars:



There were as you would expect a wide variety of boats on display…:





…and models too…:



…including this one of St Elmo, patron saint of sailors and the name behind St Elmo’s fire:




Travel to Barcelona Terminal 1

Feeling in an economical mood my Dad and I decided to take the airport bus from Placa de Catalunya, only a few minutes from our hotel and one stop on the nearby metro. We had found the stop the night before and the nice lady at the hotel front desk had told us all about it.

The buses leave every five minutes and cost EUR 5.80 per passenger. They are clean and the A1 bus takes approximately 25 minutes to reach Terminal 1. A separate bus (A2) carries passengers to Terminal 2 on the other side of the airport, which may be slightly further away.

Our bus left just after we embarked at 14:40 and had terminated at Barcelona Terminal 1 by 15:04. There was one additional stop before we left the city centre and the buses appear to travel around a loop rather than on a straight line route basis.


Barcelona Terminal 1

With cabin bags only it was straight through security and through to what we thought was the lounge. However we had in fact proceeded straight through to the Schengen area rather than the international area and, after picking up a few things from the shops, headed back up the escalator and through passport control. The lounge was entirely standard.


Flight from Barcelona Terminal 1 to London Heathrow Terminal 5

Embarkation: 17:12
Push back: 17:29
Take-off: 17:41

The aircraft took off to the south east over the sea, turning 270 degrees to head north. As we flew across the sea I saw a gull far below flapping it’s wings and on the same course as us. Further in the distance was the wake of an enormous cargo ship. We were all leaving Barcelona together.

We all sat back and enjoyed the flight…:



…heading back over the Pyrenees, just as we had come:



Dinner was quite decent. BA served up either a hot chicken breast or a shrimp salad. Both Dad and I went for the chicken, which came stuffed with herbs and resting on a potato cake. Pudding came in a small plastic dish and was a dish with fruit, cream and biscuit crumbs. Not bad at all.

AOG: 18:32
On stand at A15: 18:55

Unfortunately we had to wait some time to reach our stand as another aircraft was still there. We were early on the ground but by the time we reached the stand we were on time. Many passengers on this flight were no doubt connecting to Asia and Africa and the queue behind us at immigration was surprisingly small given that at least one whole A320 was behind us.


Heathrow arrivals

It took approximately 25 minutes to pass through immigration.


End of Trip Report

I hope that you enjoyed it!

Last edited by Sixth Freedom; Jun 30, 16 at 3:47 pm
Sixth Freedom is offline  
Old Mar 18, 14, 7:25 am
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Interesting tr. Thanks for posting.
camsean is offline  
Old Mar 18, 14, 10:25 am
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Nice report Sixth Freedom! The descriptions are detailed and the pictures amazing (even those taken with the iPod). Thanks for sharing!
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Old Mar 18, 14, 3:27 pm
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Agreed - very nice pictures. The food details made me pretty darn hungry.
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Old Mar 18, 14, 4:57 pm
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Originally Posted by Sixth Freedom View Post
…but on a walk to the galley I found this pin in the door labelled ‘REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT’ - does anybody know what this is for?:

Basically they remove that to allow the doors into automatic, and when they land it is inserted as part of doors returning to manual.

I think. Hopefully littlegirl or one of her colleagues can share more.
andset1191 is offline  
Old Mar 18, 14, 5:35 pm
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Thank you for this great TR and awesome pics!
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Old Mar 18, 14, 6:10 pm
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Thanks for writing the report and posting the photos, very enjoyable. It is nice that you and your father had such a good time away. Thanks again.
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Old Mar 18, 14, 6:54 pm
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Great report and great photos, but it's a little bothersome that your pocket square is sticking out SO MUCH.
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Old Mar 18, 14, 6:54 pm
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Sixth Freedom, you da man!! Thanks for this excellent and thoughtful collection of pictures and text. I'm going to forward it on to a friend of mine who's taking his daughters to Barcelona this summer. Still undecided on what to do and how much time to spend in Barcelona, I'm sure your report will supply him with at least a couple of good ideas.
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Old Mar 18, 14, 7:12 pm
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Another super trip report Sixth Freedom although I have to say I ended up being disappointed by your teasing "fully nude mermaids" title.

Despite having visited Spain many times Barcelona remains one city I've still to visit. This report has shown me it has much more to offer than I thought. ^
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Old Mar 18, 14, 9:43 pm
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Gee thanks! I'm about to got to BCN for a few days before LHR for the first time. Good preview and pictures :0
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Old Mar 18, 14, 9:57 pm
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Excellent and detailed trip report. I especially enjoyed the close-ups of Sagrada Familia. Two thumbs up.
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Old Mar 19, 14, 2:52 am
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Great pictures! If I don`t have access to Concorde Room, I also prefer the North Lounge.
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Old Mar 19, 14, 7:36 am
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Thanks Sixth Freedom, I really enjoyed reading this. It brought back the memories from the trip I took with Ms Spymon at the end of last year. I have to say your trip looked much more organised than ours. The Montjuic parks looked very nice as well, which unfortunately we ran past to time constraints, I'm sure it was nice to enjoy them a little.

You are also right about the number of tourist traps in the city centre, they can be quite hard to avoid.
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Old Mar 19, 14, 8:15 am
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great pictures. Barcelona is tops of my want ot visit places.
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