Tag Archives: tourists

Urban exploring in Barcelona

We spent 48 very full hours in Barcelona on our way up to participate in the International Canoe Federation Freestyle World Championships in Sort, Spain.

After a slightly delayed 8 hour flight from Toronto we were pleased to retrieve our luggage, including Hunter’s kayak. We had arranged a car and driver to take us into our hotel in Barcelona and this was a reminder about european driving styles… due to our flight delays the driver was in a rush to drop us off and make his next pick-up. Lots of weaving and dodging of cars at high speeds on the highways left us feeling thankful that it was a Sunday with fairly low traffic.

Our hotel was not ready to be checked in to so we set off exploring for a few hours to get oriented and try to stay awake. We stayed in the Raval district, which is just west of the popular “Las Ramblas” main thoroughfare and Gothic district. After meandering our way up and down small streets and finding little bakeries to shop in, we landed back at our hotel and the boys immediately crashed. After being forced to get up a few hours later to get some food, everyone was back in bed and out for the night by 8pm.

have to try all the pastries!

Day two we started off with a fabulous breakfast buffet at the hotel. Hunter was in his element and proceeded to eat ALL of the mini crepes that they had. We then hit the streets of Barcelona for more exploring through an e-bike tour. This was the perfect balance for everyone – I got to see the sights and learn more about the history, the boys got a surface overview of the area and the buildings and got to race around like they were on mopeds. As part of this tour we also had “skip the line” access to La Sagrada Familia, which is an incredibly impressive building full of so many small details. It is mind blowing to think that it has been under construction for almost 100 years.

One of the best parts of the e-bike tour was learning the history of Barcelona along the way. Looking at the transformation of Barcelona from pre-Olympics to today was quite surprising. It was also really interesting to learn of the pro’s and con’s of all of this growth and development. Barcelona is the most expensive city in Spain to live due to high demand for real-estate and low tourism based wages and many people have to share apartments in order to make ends meet.

We discovered a wonderful covered food market a few blocks away from the hotel that is a bit like Granville Market in Vancouver or the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. The Mercado de la Boqueria was full of wonderfully fresh fruit and yummy local foods. We went back a number of times for watermelon to beat the heat.

Our other favourite experience was just wandering the streets of the Gothic Quarter looking at the architecture. The narrow streets and all the fine detailing on the buildings left you looking all around you at every turn.

While Barcelona is a beautiful city, it also comes with all the other parts of a tourist destination – lots and lots of people…Our 48 hours was fun but we were ready to move on to the countryside and the slower pace of the Catalonian pyrenees.

Tourists vs Adventurers

dinner at Virginia's on King

The original plan for our first 3 weeks of January was to balance tourist like activities (mostly focused on American History for school) with adventure activities. We were headed to St. Augustine for a week to surf, bike and explore the Historic sights. Ditto for Savannah. Charleston would be a short 3 days with just biking and Historic sights.

Thanks to the ARCTIC CHILL that brought high winds and freezing temps to the south east, we spent the first 9 days of January wearing every piece of fleece we owned and even pulled out the emergency duffle bag with our down jackets, hats & mitts (I had packed this for winter nights in high mountainous areas – NOT the southeastern coast!). We definitely weren’t going surfing or biking.

St. Augustine went from 7 days to 3, Savannah went from 7 days to 3 and Charleston has gone from 3 to 4. 100% of our time has been spent being tourists because you can still wander around forts and museums in the rain and the cold. This has been a real shift to our travelling “style”.

When I shared the tourists vs adventurers observation, Hunter asked if it was “bad” that we were being tourists… No – just different.

A few observations from the last 10 days as tourists:

  • It is much more scheduled than being an adventurer – needing to be certain places at certain times
  • It is generally more expensive than being an adventurer – entry fees, tour fees, restaurants because we are either away from the camper for an extended time or rushed between activities. As we own all of our toys already, there really isn’t much of a cost to our adventuring
  • Learning is fun yet harder to do as a family, with everyone reading and understanding at different speeds, and having different areas of interest
  • It is harder for us to sustain as everyone feels rushed and overloaded
  • No matter how much we walk around as part of our tourist day, it doesn’t feel like we are being active compared to our adventure days

We are really glad that we’ve played tourist. We’ve learned an incredible amount about American History from the 1700’s through to the 1900’s and it has set a great foundation for so many other things that we are going to learn about this year.

We will have another week of playing tourist when we hit New Orleans in late January. It will be important for us to find some good adventure time between now and then to recharge!