Saturday, October 15, 2011

What Barcelona Taught Me

We just spent a gorgeous, sunny, warm weekend in Barcelona.  How European of us!  Jetting off with the kids to the continent for a quick getaway.  It was the first of what I hope will be many such weekends this year.
But, since it was our first time, we learned a thing or two from the experience.  Here is what Barcelona taught me.

1.  Plan on spending the year doing a "Playgrounds of Europe" tour.  I will seek out the best playground in every city.  Let the kids run around. They are, after all, just kids.   Set realistic expectations and don't be disappointed when the kids don't want to view yet another gothic cathedral.  We found the best playground in Barcelona to be right out in front of the Sagrada Familia.

La Sagrada Familia
2.  Buy their souvenirs early.  Get this out of the way so they can stop gawking at every shop you pass by.  And, for the grown ups- if you see something you like, buy it right then and there.  Don't assume you'll be able to come back later and pick it up.  I like to try to focus my kids on a particular type of souvenir.  We collect t-shirts (which I plan to have made into a t-shirt quilt someday) and patches from the cities we visit.  I also try to pick up a Christmas ornament wherever we go.

Kate with her souvenir fan
3.  Guide books can be wrong.  Frommer's led me astray a couple times on this trip.  The 7 Portes is not at all a kid friendly restaurant and the Parc Guell is definitely NOT "mostly playground".  (In fact, if you have small kids I would just skip Parc Guell altogether).

View from Parc Guell
4.  Watch out for pick pockets.  On the overcrowded bus to Parc Guell, the man behind me had his wallet lifted right out of his front pocket!  Luckily, he noticed and was able to grab the thief who dropped the wallet.  Made me feel very happy about my recently purchased anti-theft hand bag!

5.  Know your limitations.  Sure, going on a little cruise on the Mediterranean seemed like a good idea at the time.  But we should have remembered that one of our children gets extremely motion sick.  And freaks out on boats.  And cries.  And even a pair of sea bands and an old motion sickness lollipop pulled from my emergency mommy kit couldn't salvage a trip like that.

Amazing market near La Rambla
6. Be prepared for anything and travel light.  We were able to book a room with a crib and a high chair at the Eric Vokel suites.  We relied on public transport while in Barcelona so we traveled without car seats.  One small stroller and one piece of carry on luggage each.  The kids each had a school backpack and I used this bag for me and the baby.  The ergo baby carrier is a must have when flying into London Gatwick because you cannot collect the stroller until you reach the baggage claim area.  That is a very l..o..n..g time to hold a squirmy baby. 

7.  I'll never have enough time (or enough energy) to see everything in every city.  So I will cherish the moments I do have, enjoy spending time as a family, take lots of pictures.  Someday my kids will look back at their passports full of stamps and see photos from around the world and I will tell them about all the places we went.  They might not remember much of it- but I certainly will. 

I loved Barcelona.  Next time I'd like to go back with just my hubby and spend the weekend sitting at a sidewalk cafe along La Rambla drinking sangria and people watching in the Spanish sun.  Because the last thing I learned from Barcelona is that family trips are great, but sometimes you need to get away without the kids, too!


  1. how fun!! spain looks like such an amazing country to visit :)

    i buy chritmas ornaments when i travel too! a great keepsake.

  2. You're a clever lady. How about you leave the kids with their Auntie Cristina and head over with Tom?

  3. Victoria- isn't it fun to pull out the ornaments every year and remember all the places you've been?

    CBT- When you're in this hemisphere I plan to leave the kids with Tom and spend the weekend with you somewhere! xx

  4. Honestly, you should publish a guide book about living and traveling abroad for families!!! You plan and research so well, and learn so much on each adventure!
    Sounds like a great trip :)

  5. what a fun story you and your family have!! following you now!

    Adventures of Newlyweds

  6. Oh my gosh, I love this! I want to go to Barcelona so bad, it's on my to see list for sure. Great post!

  7. We did Barcelona pre-kids, so we did the sipping sangria sitting on the Ramblas, the flamenco show, etc-- so fun. And The Family Church-- so funny, I remember them telling us there was expression kind of like "when pigs fly", but it was "when the family church is finished" -since it's been worked on forever... we love Europe, you are going to have such a great time living there!!!

  8. Oh wow! What lovely sights! Thanks for sharing.

  9. It sounds like you had a great time, even with the sick kids. Sorry about that, by the way.

    Thanks for stopping by on my SITS day. It was a fun day for me.

    And you're right, those mountains are great therapy. Thanks for the reminder. I need to go for a drive in the canyon to shake out some of these cobwebs.

  10. Great post! I would just add that if you give the kids a camera in locations where they might become bored (a church, monument, etc), they could turn into little troopers :)

    Thank you for joining Post Of The Month Club :) XOLaura

  11. Hey! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Your Barcelona adventure sounds awesome! Looking forward to checking out your site more! :-)

  12. Very useful advice, I wish I'd had it before taking mu 6 year old daughter to Paris. You tend to forget that cities are quite grown up sort of places. Your kids may not remember all the details, but they will know you had fun together, and with all those t-shirts, they will be reminded! I popped in from Laura's linky club. Have a great week, love Linda x

  13. Great tips! I completely agree about buying the souvenirs early in the trip. I think we looked at every music box in Paris before finally selecting one days later. Every shop had the same ones, so I don't know why we didn't buy one on the first day. Live and learn!

  14. Absolutely LOVE Barcelona and look forward to being able to visit the city again!


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