Once sang by Freddie Mercury, on a song made famous and very much associated with the opening ceremony of the 1992 Olympic Games. I remember watching it when I was 11 years old and 25 years later I would be walking around the grounds near the Olympic Stadium, soaking up the fantastic views that surround it.
We decided to come to Barcelona in October because a) I desperately wanted another holiday/mini break and b) after a poor English summer (again) we wanted a bit of sun and culture. Barcelona has been on our list for a long time and friends kept telling us that it was a must see place.
At first, most of it felt against us. Ryanair cancelled our flight. We got our money back and we were lucky as we had plenty of notice but the new flights with Vueling, cost us more than double. Ryanair have that ability to know where you want to fly to at a cost much cheaper than any other airline, making it hard to avoid them sometimes.
Then came the protests for independence in Barcelona. Streets lined with a sea of people all chanting something or other. Flags hung at virtually every window of every apartment block, mostly saying ‘Se’ or what I assume is the flag associated with becoming an independent state, red and yellow with a blue triangle featuring a white star.
Last but not least (I like to think things come in threes) was Storm Brian. Impacting mainly the south of England but still causing gusts of about 40-50mph in other parts of the UK. We were flying from Birmingham this time so I was convinced we would be affected in some way or another.
We were – but not massively. What I would call a ‘bumpy take off’, Laura described as ‘nothing really’. The plane swayed a little as we launched down the runway but as soon as we got up everything became very calm and the whole flight was really smooth.
One thing to note though was the disappointing lounge experience at Birmingham. As a (slightly) nervous flyer, I enjoy airport lounges as I can relax away from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal. We have used the Aspire Lounge at both Manchester and East Midlands, so we felt confident of the service we would get. The Birmingham Lounge has great views of the runway and was set up to be a good experience. Wrong! Awful customer service. Food and drink not being replenished (which is the whole point of paying to be there) and when we did request something, we were greeted with huffing and puffing and at one point ‘for God’s sake!’. It was so bad I filled in a complaint form there and then.
We flew into El Prat airport, I think most flights do and got the airport shuffle into the centre. We should have been taken to Placa de Catalonia but ended up at Placa de Espania, due to the protests I think. I wouldn’t mind – had we have been told, but we weren’t. We walked the rest of the way and it took us about half an hour. It meant we got to walk through some nice neighbourhoods like Sant Antoni and El Raval, which are worth visiting as they are up and coming areas.
We had booked a hotel in a wonderful location just overlooking La Rambla. It was quite a touristy thing for us to do, stay somewhere so central but honestly it is so easy to get to the sea front or other places from here it is completely worth it. Breakfast was included and although the room was small, it was spotlessly clean and we had a balcony view of the street below us. All double glazed so you couldn’t hear a thing.
Naturally I had read about the awful terror attack that took place on La Rambla in August. It’s hard to ignore as Barcelona has plenty of boulevards full of people walking up and down them every day. It’s sad but a reality that somewhere like this should be targeted. I read that the attack started at one end of La Rambla and ended at this mosaic. The mosaic looked quite small on photos and I kept looking out for it. On the second morning I stood on our hotel balcony (I’ve slightly embellished the balcony bit) and realised what I was looking at – the mosaic itself. I found it strange almost that there was no reference to the event that took place in August, no flowers or anything to say something major had happened. Other than the huge police presence you wouldn’t know. Maybe that’s the way it should be to show that life must go on, I don’t know?
I would definitely recommend Hostal Marenostrum. It’s location was ideal for us to get to pretty much everywhere (we do a lot of walking but in Barcelona it’s all flat anyway) and breakfast was included in the price. A good breakfast at that too – continental but enough to stock you up for the day.