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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

barefoot blogger moving to france
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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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Barcelona

How to Get To France Via Barcelona by Train

If you’re thinking of heading to Uzès this summer or anywhere else in the south of France, check out flights to and from Barcelona. Then grab a train.

When friends talk about visiting the south of France, I always suggest they look at airfare and consider coming in through Barcelona. It’s only a short train ride to some of the most visited places in France. I will emphasize the idea now that I’ve spent a few days in Barcelona. The city and the Catalan area of Spain shouldn’t be missed. In just two days, I sampled some of my favorite things — astonishing architecture, food, and shopping.

“Modernisme” at its best

I first visited Barcelona in 1966 with two University of North Carolina college girlfriends. We were on a “Europe-on-$5-a-day” tour in my new “fastback” VW. We’d picked up the car in London and traveled for nearly two months before arriving in Barcelona. Our mission was to attend a bullfight and eat paella. That’s all we knew about Spain, even though I had picked up some of the language in university Spanish classes.

Little did I know I would return to Barcelona 50 years later and find the city almost unrecognizable. 

Vista del Cuartel Central ( Parc de L´Eixample ) en 1960

Who knew the Arena where we watched the famous matador Jesus Cordobés reign supreme would be a shopping center in 2016?

Bull Arena Barcelona 1960s
Bull Arena Barcelona 1960s
Las Arenas Mall in Barcelona
Las Arenas Mall in Barcelona

What a shame we didn’t do some homework before our 60’s tour and learn about Antoni Gaudi and his magnificent architecture. On the other hand, I was thrilled 50 years later to discover some of his most famous masterpieces.

img_1020
Basílica de la Sagrada Família

The Basílica de la Sagrada Família is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona that started construction in 1882 under the auspices of the Spiritual Association of Devotees of Saint Joseph. Architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano began the project but resigned and turned it over to Catalan-Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. The Spanish Gothic/Modernisme/Art Nouveau structure has been a steady work for architects and builders since its first stones were laid. The centuries-old basilica and adjoining rooms, still being executed according to Gaudi’s plans, are expected to be completed in 2026.

I hope to be around to see it!

Casa Batlló, also known as Casa dels osseous (House of Bones), is a landmark building in the center of Barcelona. The house was remodeled by Gaudi in 1904 as part of a trend in modernism in the city’s wealthy residential district during the late 1800s. The revitalized downtown area, known as “mansana de la discòrdia” or “block of discord,” features three re-constructed houses, each of contrasting designs — Casa Batlló by Gaudi, which is next door to Casa Amatller by Puig i Cadafalch, and down the street is Domènech i Montaner‘s Casa Lleó Morera.

 Gaudi

Casa Milá in Barcelona
Casa Milá in Barcelona

Casa Milá in Barcelona

Casa Milá in Barcelona

Not one to “stay within the lines,” Gaudi had a vision for Casa Batlló that included a rounded version of everything — from windows to hallways.

Perhaps the most breathtaking parts of the house were the “servant’s quarters” on the top floor, the stairway to the rooftop … and the incredible views.

Casa Milá in Barcelona
“Servants quarters” at Casa Batlló in Barcelona
Casa Milá in Barcelona
Unique ventilation system designed by Gaudi for the upper level of Casa Batlló

Casa Milá in Barcelona The theory about the rounded features Gaudi created for Casa Batlló is that he envisioned Saint George, the patron saint of Catalonia, plunging a dragon with a lance. 

Rooftop at Casa Batlló
Rooftop at Casa Batlló
View of Barcelona from the rooftop at Casa Batlló
View of Barcelona from the rooftop at Casa Batlló
Barcelona from the rooftop at Casa Batlló
Barcelona from the rooftop at Casa Batlló

 

 

Casa Amatller was the first of the homes to be updated by neoclassical architects in Barcelona’s “mansana de la discòrdia” section. Owned by chocolatier Antoni Amatller Costa, the mansion was built in 1875 and redesigned in 1898 by Antoni Puigi Cadafalch, one of the most prolific Catalan architects and town planners of the early 20th century. Inspired by traditional Catalan and Gothic styles, Puig was influenced by European trends of the time — exposed bricks, tile, and wrought iron.

Casa Amatlier by Josep Puig i Cadafaich
Casa Amatlier by Josep Puig i Cadafaich

 

Antoni Amatlier was a renowned industrialist famous for introducing a revolutionary system that allowed for the quick and large-scale production of chocolate. He was also an avid collector. The home still contains original family furnishings and collectibles. Antoni Amatller died in 1910. His daughter, Teresa, continued the chocolate business until she sold Chocolates Amatller S.A. After she died in 1960, the home was turned into a museum under the guardianship of the Barcelona City Council. It became the Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic (Amatller Institute of Hispanic Art).

Casa Amatlier
Casa Amatlier

 

Casa Amatlier
Casa Amatlier

 

Casa Amatlier by Josep Puig i Cadafaich

If you aren’t familiar with Chocolates Amatller, a lovely store is on the museum’s ground floor — complete with all types of chocolate treats to enjoy on the spot or take out. Need I say that some of that sweet chocolate for the hot chocolate found its way into my suitcase?

Casa Lleó I Morera was refurbished in the late 1800s by architect Lluís Domènech I Montaner, commissioned by wealthy divorcé Francisca Morera Oritz. Unfortunately, Oritz died before living in the mansion. Her son, Albert Lleó I Morera, and his family took charge of the house, hence the name. Just recently opened to the public, I only viewed the mansion from the outside. Next time, I won’t miss it!

CASA LLEÓ I MORERA
CASA LLEÓ I MORERA

Casa Lleó i Morera Barcelona

Casa Lleó i Morera Barcelona
The entrance shows a wooden carriage lift.

Food to die for!

Tapas, pizza, and cafes galore fill the streets of Barcelona. My quest was to try as much of it as possible. What better way than to go for tapas? These were some of the best.

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Shop in style

You don’t have to spend a dime to enjoy shopping in Barcelona. (Although I’m sure you will find something you love if you’re like me!)  The shops are a treat in themselves.

Shopping in Barcelona
Shopping in Barcelona
Barcelona
Louis Vuitton

Barcelona

Logistics for a 2-day visit to Barcelona

Arriving at the airport in Barcelona, there are several means of transportation into the city. The article linked here describes several choices. I suggest taking a train from the airport terminal and coming to the Barcelona-Sants train station (Sants Estació) in the town center. You can board the train directly in front of Terminal 2 at the airport. If your flight arrives at Terminal 1, there is a free shuttle to Terminal 2. When you arrive at the downtown station, dozens of taxis can take you to your Barcelona destination. The bonus is that it’s the same station where you’ll take your train when you take off to France. You already know your way!

Santa Railway Station in Barcelona
Santa Railway Station in Barcelona

Barcelona city tour

One of the first things I do when traveling, especially in a large city, is take a city bus tour. You can do it in several ways, from a scheduled van or bus tour to a hop-on-off bus. I prefer the hop-on-off variety. Barcelona is such a big and varied city that some bus companies offer a one-day ticket with three routes. My hotel was in the middle of a central downtown area, within close walking distance to the sites I most wanted to see, so I chose the two-hour Red route — to the former Olympic Games site, the beaches, and the port of Barcelona. Next time I visit, I’ll see more.

Barcelona Bus Turistic Routes
Barcelona Bus Turistic Routes
Hostel Casa Gracia's friendly reception
Hostel Casa Gracia’s friendly reception

Where to stay in Barcelona

Depending upon the length of your visit to Barcelona and the Catalan area, there are many options for places to stay. I was thrilled with my choice in Barcelona – Hostel Casa Gracia Barcelona on this short visit. The hotel/hostel is on Passeig de Gràcia, in the center of a bustling business, tourist, and restaurant section. Except for the hop-on bus tour, I walked everywhere!

Trains to the South of France

 Barcelona

Perpignan, Narbonne, Carcassonne, and Toulouse are some destinations you can visit in France from Barcelona. Stops include Béziers, Adge, Sète, Montpellier, Nimes, Avignon, Aix en Provence, Marseille, Valence, Lyon, and París. Stops you might want to make in Spain are Girona and Figueras. Go by train!

Bon Voyage!

 

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