To celebrate my mum’s 70th birthday we surprised her with a short trip away to Barcelona. It’s a city we’ve visited previously and love so it felt like a safe bet for a celebratory few days. That said, we’d never been there with a baby. In fact, we’d never taken Jesse abroad…until now.
Jesse was 1 year and 4 months old at the time of departure and Nat was 6 months pregnant with Amelie. We had many of the usual worries that parents of debutante fliers have: will his ears be ok? Will his drums burst in an excruciating crescendo causing his head to spin and nearby passengers to flee in a dashed panic? Will he behave or notice the grimace of anxiety in our faces and suddenly decide to have a meltdown? As it happened, he was fantastic. As he was under 2 we decided to seat him with us (I reckon by the time he’s 5 I can book him his own seat far away from us and next to some unsuspecting fool – let the holiday commence and all that!) and as we’d pre-booked our seats all together there were now three sets of legs that he could maneuver across as when the need arose. Having a window seat definitely helped as during take off and landing he was preoccupied as to what he could see (or I could invent) out of the window.
We’ve never really been ‘package holiday’ people so we arrived at Barcelona airport with a choice between taxis and the aerobus. A quick cross reference with Google maps showed that the aerobus stopped about a 5 minute walk from our hotel near the Placa de Catalunya so, as it was far more cost effective and impressive to a one year old, we opted for the bus. And I’d certainly use it again: barely any wait at all, more than enough seats available, and only two stops before the bus’s final destination (which was the point at which we had to disembark). It was much the same on our return journey and as we only travelled with carry on roller luggage it was ultra convenient.
Our hotel for four nights was the Acta Atrium Palace located just a couple of hundred metres from the Passeig de Gracia so we were brilliantly placed for a wide selection of restaurants and shops and within easy walking distance to La Rambla, the Gothic Quarter, Parc de la Ciutadella, the marina, beach and zoo. In fact I think the only place we got a taxi to was the exquisite Parc Guell which, while containing steps in some areas making it more of a challenge for pushchairs, has enough routes and pathways for you to enjoy this unique urban park. The hotel itself comes highly recommended for parents travelling with young children. They had organised a cot bed for our arrival as per our instructions, given us interconnecting rooms (something that I had forgotten to request and which came in handy when Jesse wanted to see nanny in the morning) and the staff simply couldn’t do enough for us. The rooms were large by European city standards, were quiet despite a lovely city view and had blackout curtains which was a real bonus in helping the little man stay asleep long enough for us to feel human in the mornings.
Our time in Barcelona flew by and we’ll certainly return with our young critters sometime in the near future. It has everything a young family could possible want from a city break plus the added bonus of a lovely beach to while away an afternoon on (although Jesse took some time to adjust to the feel of sand under his feet and refused to walk on it for quite some time). The cablecar from the beach to Torre de Miramar and the Costa i Llobera Gardens is also well worth a trip for not only the views but also the beautiful and idyllic gardens that we spent an age wandering through. In fact, we managed to see virtually all of the sights that we wanted to, we just applied common sense in refusing to queue in anything that looked longer than a few minutes. Despite it not being peak season places like the Sagrada Familia are always busy with throngs of tourists, so we simply spent a morning walking around its spectacular outer and enjoying the odd coffee break in one of the many surrounding side streets (it’s a shame they’ve allowed a plethora of multinational burger chains and coffee franchises to spoil its immediate vicinity).
With this in mind and despite the lure of the beach in even warmer weather I wouldn’t visit in the peak summer months with young children. I imagine the delightful strolls we took, through say the Gothic Quarter’s many alleyways, would soon become a frustrated tailback of pushchairs and parents. Furthermore, the weather ( a consistent 22-25 degrees Celsius) while we were there was just about perfect for a pregnant wife still wanting to walk as much as possible and a one year old going abroad for the first time. It also meant that the beach population was sparse and you could have your pick of the popular beachfront restaurants and cafes, request a beachside table and they’d happily accommodate your pushchair. All in all, it was a city that we loved before we had children and now we love it even more knowing it also has so much to offer for them too, especially at an uncrowded and accessible time of year.