Trading Turkey for Tapas: Thanksgiving in Barcelona

Ahhh Barcelona.  Spain’s second most populated city.  It has definitely claimed itself a spot in my top cities that I have visited so far.  The architecture, the beaches, the excitement and commotion of the city, everything appealed to me.

I apologize in advance, as this is a long post…we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Barcelona and I of course took a bazillion photos :).  Some of the highlights I talk about and highly recommend include:

-La Sagrada Familia

-Park Guell

-The Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour

-Font Montjuïc

-Barceloneta/beach area

This past Thanksgiving, we decided to forgo our normal tradition of having a huge turkey dinner with our overseas “framily” and opted to travel with them instead.  We tried to get all of our friends to join us in Spain, but alas, only four of them were able.  Anyway, the seven of us (six adults and 1-year-old Benjamin) found a great apartment on AirBnB {almost always the first place I check for accommodations when traveling!}.  Unfortunately, the listing is no longer available, so I can’t post a link to it, but it was perfect for our group!  It was just outside of the super touristy part of the city, making it quiet and relaxing, but easily accessible via public transport and the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus [which I will talk about in a moment].  The apartment had a fantastic balcony, which was used extensively by our crew, especially in the evenings in conjunction with some adult beverages.  {Once again, I was pregnant and unable to enjoy the many perks of such grand travel destinations….I will be back to Spain one day, if only to enjoy a Sangria!}

As I mentioned, Benjamin joined us on this trip, and though it wasn’t his first flight, he did amazing on the plane!  We flew into Barcelona El Prat airport on Thanksgiving Day (November 26) and landed around 11am.  {For those curious, we generally fly out of London Stansted Airport, which is a little over an hour away from where we live, and we typically use Ryanair  flights, as they are cheap!}  Once we arrived in Barcelona, we took the Aerobus from the airport to city centre, then had about a 20 minute walk to our apartment.  We got our luggage situated at the apartment and found some lunch at Piazza D’Italia.  It was DE.LI.CIOUS!  Seriously, a perfect way to kick off our weekend of overindulgence. 🙂

After lunch, we sort of just wandered around to get a feel for the city.  I don’t think any of us realized how big Barcelona is.  There are lots of different districts with different vibes.  We somehow ended up down by the coast, so we decided to take a boat tour of the harbor.  This could have been a really enjoyable experience, but we did not do our research well enough.  First, B had to use the restroom really, really, really badly, and we bought tickets so quick that he didn’t have time to find a bathroom before we boarded the boat.  [I won’t go into detail on how that problem was solved…]  Second, the weather had been incredibly nice all day, but the sun was starting to set and it got really chilly, really fast.  We were definitely all a bit unprepared for that.  Third, we booked the 45 harbor minute tour instead of the 90 minute one, thinking that it would be a nice, relaxing quick ride, and that we didn’t need to be on a boat for an hour and a half.  Well, the 45 minute ride only took us around the marina and shipping yard area of the harbor, not out by the actual beaches and such.  It was a relaxing little break from all of the walking we had done that day, but we definitely should’ve looking into it a bit more.  Oh well, ya live and ya learn, right?

As the sun set, I did get some really great night photos by the port of Barcelona area!

We ended our day with “Thanksgiving Dinner” tapas at Maitea Taverna, near the apartment–highly recommended by our AirBnB host.  B and I had never really gotten into the tapas fad in the states or elsewhere, so we weren’t exactly sure what to expect.  We tried lots of different tapas, usually bread or toast topped with various toppings (most of which we had no idea what it was).  While we enjoyed a lot of them, we both agreed that we aren’t really “tapa people”, as we much prefer a full, hot meal for dinner.

Our whole group decided to do the two day Barcelona Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour Friday and Saturday.  We all agreed that it was well worth it- because Barcelona is big and somewhat spread out, there is no way we would’ve seen nearly as much as we did without the bus tour.  With a one-year-old in a stroller, the hop-on, hop-off bus was also ideal– he loved sitting in our laps on the top deck, watching everything around him.  He even snuck in a nap or two on the bus!  I thoroughly enjoyed the audio commentary- very informative for my nerdy self!  There are two routes included in the tour, an East route and a West route.  Conveniently, there was a stop just a couple of blocks from our apartment.


We started our Friday at La Sagrada Familia, probably Antoni Gaudi‘s most well-known work of architecture.  We purchased tickets in advance for 10am, another smart move on our part, especially with a stroller.  The outside of the basilica is absolutely incredible–and it’s not done yet!    I have seen a lot of cathedrals in Europe, but this one was really different- Gaudi’s style definitely shines through!

I was actually fairly surprised by the interior.  It was much more modern-looking than I expected.  It was still incredibly beautiful!  The way the light reflects and infuses the entire place is almost ethereal.  I love the peace and tranquility of the inside of a church, no matter where in the world you are.

From the Sagrada Familia, we hopped on the bus toward Park Guell.  Though there is a “Monumental Zone” that costs money to enter, we just wandered around the free area, meandering through the beautiful landscape.  The park is nestled on a hill, so we came upon some breathtaking views of the city.  Even at the end of November, the weather was perfect– mid-60s and sunny!  In Park Guell, we also picked up some street art- B and I try to get street or local art as souvenirs from our travels- we eventually want to create a gallery wall filled with our adventures {but for now we are using every extra dollar to continue traveling…framing and hanging shall wait :)}

We stopped at Lata Berna for a yummy lunch, then headed back to get on the bus.  After the lengthy walk around Park Guell earlier, we were happy to sit on the bus, listening to the commentary as it chauffeured us around Barcelona.  We saw and heard about many of the historic and famous sites, such as Casa Batllo {another Gaudi masterpiece–we did not visit} and Plaça Catalunya, the central square in Barcelona.

At Plaça Catalunya, we switched to the other route to see the other side of Barcelona.  This route took us uphill through Parc de Monjuïc.  This gave us fantastic views from the opposite side of the city.  I didn’t realize how varied the landscape of Barcelona was.  It contains a little bit of everything!

After a relatively  uninspiring dinner, we ended our day at the Font Mágica/Font Monjuïc.  It has a phenomenal light and fountain show each evening, choreographed to music.  All of us enjoyed it!!

Saturday was our second day of the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour, and we set out mostly to just explore the hustle and bustle of the city.  We found an amazingly deliciously scrumptious and indulgent {to say the least} sweets shop called Chok.  Holy cow, guys.  Find it.  Indulge. Love it.  I got a pastry topped with Nutella and mint chocolate shavings….I’m drooling just thinking about it.  The shop was located right along Las Ramblas, the main touristy strip in Barcelona.  There were lots of little kiosks, shops, restaurants, and bars along this boulevard, which is busy day and night.

Our next stop was La Boqueria, the most well-known market in Barcelona.  It reminded me a little of Borough Market in London {one of my favorite places!}.  I love how lively, bright, and colorful markets are!

It was a gorgeous afternoon, so we hopped on the upper deck of the bus and rode down to the beach area of the city.  Ironically (or maybe not, who knows?), we found a Mexican restaurant for lunch overlooking the water.  I really wish I knew the same of the place, as I would definitely recommend it!  Eating Mexican in Spain with a view of the ocean is a memory I won’t forget!

B and one of his friends had tickets to the FC Barcelona soccer football match Saturday afternoon, so the rest of us headed to the zoo to entertain little man for a bit.  Once again, we should’ve done our research a bit better, as our timing wasn’t great.  We got in just fine and began walking around, but shortly after we arrived, they made an announcement saying they were closing in 30 minutes.  We got to see a few animals, but I was overall not incredibly impressed.  The big cats (jaguars, etc.) were all in tiny areas and quite a few of the animals (elephants, hippo, giraffes, etc.) were nowhere to be seen at all.  There was a petting zoo that we visited, but Benjamin was not a huge fan of the goats!

The soccer football match was over as we were leaving the zoo, so we met back up with the boys at the apartment.  One of the guys decided to call it a night, but the rest of us headed toward the Barcelona Cathedral to see the Fira de Santa Llúcia Christmas Market.  The city was all lit up at night with Christmas decorations, which I loved {I am a bit of a Christmas junkie!}  The market was cute, but not overly exciting (especially compared to the grand Winter Wonderland in London!!).  We bought some Christmas ornaments and watched some street performers before heading to find a yummy Italian place for dinner.  All of us cleaned our plates, stuffing ourselves full of delicious pasta and garlic bread.

Sunday morning, 3 of the members of our group headed back to London, so the rest of us checked out of the apartment and into our hotel for the night (by the airport, since we were flying back to London early Monday morning).  We planned the day to be kind of a relaxing day since we had been so busy all weekend.  Once we got back into the city, we made our way toward the beach area again, checking out Barceloneta, a cute little area with shops and restaurants.  I absolutely loved this neighborhood.  It felt really authentic and reminded me of some of the hipster kind of areas in Atlanta and other cities I’ve been to.  We had lunch there and spent most of the early afternoon wandering the streets and beaches.  The old ladies in Spain adored Benjamin.  I can’t tell you how many googly-eyed ladies ogled him–I even had a handful of broken Spanish conversations with a few admirers who just went on and on about how cute he was.  What can I say, B and I make cute babies 😉

*Sidenote: speaking of speaking Spanish, I did pretty well for myself conversing with the locals, even though the area speaks mostly Catalan, which is a bit different than traditional Spanish.  There were definitely a few cab rides and interactions that may not have gone quite as smoothly had I not known as much as I did!  High-five, high school Spanish classes! 

Our last stop in Barcelona was the aquarium.  I think I was spoiled living in Atlanta, as the aquarium there is amazing!!  The one in Barcelona was ok; there were lots of fish, sharks, and some penguins, as well as a pretty cool interactive area for kids.  Benjamin seemed to enjoy himself, which was the ultimate goal.  🙂

We made it a relatively early evening, as we were exhausted from the excitement of the weekend and had an early flight the following morning.  It was bittersweet to leave Barcelona; I hope to visit again one day [after I make it to all of my other bucket list destinations!].

Barcelona Travel Journal

2 thoughts on “Trading Turkey for Tapas: Thanksgiving in Barcelona

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s