Barcelona & Madrid with Manya

Agent Name:Manya
Date: June 2010
Trip Location: Barcelona & Madrid, Spain
Spain is a country of many splendours, with spectacular landscapes, cosmopolitan cities, and diverse cultural backgrounds. Influences from Roman times, North African Muslims, French and Jewish eras are visible in the distinct architecture, cuisine and the rich cultural heritage of the “duet” cities of Barcelona and Madrid. And as of last July 2010, FIFA World Cup Soccer Champions!
Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous state of Catalonia, is Spain’s 2nd largest city. Although more than 1.5 million people live there, it doesn’t feel like a large city. With a prime location on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, the Port of Barcelona is bustling with activities, with its 8 terminals, 5 of which serve Cruise ships and the other 3 for ferries linking Spain to Italy. There are two official languages spoken in Barcelona: Spanish, and Catalan (an interesting blend of French and Spanish) and generally spoken in all of Catalonia. Surprisingly, English is not as widely spoken as expected, especially in public places such as hotels, restaurants, museums.
gaudi architecture in Barcelona
The presence of Modernism, the Spanish version of Art Nouveau, and the unique style of its precursor Antoni Gaudi, makes Barcelona a popular destination for visitors looking for more than just a city escape. Buildings, churches, parks, bare his distinctive touch and can be seen all over the city. Stroll the maze of narrow streets, lined with colourful entertainers, tapas bars and shops to discover this multi-faceted and diverse city. Take the metro, fast, efficient and inexpensive and travel from one end of the city to the other. Or hop on to the Big Bus from Plaza de Cataluyna to view all the highlights of Barcelona.
Some suggestions of the “what not to miss in Barcelona” are:
* Gothic Quarter
* Las Ramblas, a very long pedestrian street linking Plaza de Catalunya to the harbour, with streets entertainers, outdoor cafes, tapas bars
* All of the Gaudi’s creations: la Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s most famous unfinished masterpiece, La Pedrera, Casa Batilo on the famous city block of Passieg de La Gracia, etc.
* Guell Park – one of the Unesco protected sites.
* Montjuic Park – for a breathtaking view of the whole city.
* The Olympic Site on the waterfront
* Picasso Museum
Travelling to Madrid from Barcelona is easy, fast and very comfortable. The AVE train or high speed service leaves frequently from Barcelona Sants Station, and in about three hours you are in the heart of Spain’s Capital City. Madrid Atocha is an imposing building centrally located opposite Plaza del Emperador Carlos V, and at the convergence of many important streets including Calle de Atacha, Paseo Del Prado, Avenida de la Ciudad de Barcelona, and many more. The station has gone through extensive renovations, with the original building taken out of commission and converted into a concourse with shops, cafes and a stunning covered tropical garden. The Atocha station also serves 2 Metro stations.
Madrid is synonymous with art, culture and history. It has 73 museums, including the world famous Prado, and the contemporary Reina Sofia museum, home to Picasso’s famous masterpiece, Guernica. Theatres abound, as well as night clubs, cabarets and tons of restaurants. There are so many buildings, palaces, monuments and parks to discover in Madrid. Walking tours are highly recommended. Some of the highlights, and can be arranged before you arrive by your travel consultant, or by the many tourist offices throughout the city.
Bicyles in Barcelona
Some of the highlights are:
* Plaza Mayor : very large plaza with restaurants, boutiques, cinemas
* Royal Palace, where the King and Queen of Spain live
* Puerta Del Sol, with a modern statue of Charles III, and the amazing Casa de Correos, a former post office
* La Almudena Cathedral
* Las Ventas Bullring, for its impressive architecture of red brick and ceramic tiles
* The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, home to the Real Madrid soccer team El Retiro Park, in the centre of Madrid
* Royal Botanic Gardens
* All the museums: Prado, Reina Sofia, entrance fee only €8, free after 6pm, and free on weekends!!
A visit to nearby Toledo cannot be missed. Only one hour by train from Madrid, and only €11 each way, spend the day visiting this lovely medieval village where you will find the remnants of the peaceful co-existence of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.