In autumn 2009 we stayed at Camping Vilanova Park near Barcelona. We left Foix in France on and travelled through the Pyrenees foothills along some very windy roads (as in Z bends rather than stiff breezes). We chose to take a couple of (toll) tunnels rather than climb the bendy roads to the passes.
Vilanova Park is a huge site – it took us a while to work out the geography or explored the outer limits – with lots of chalets and statics, a couple of big outdoor swimming pools (still open and well patronised in October 2008 ), a very big and well-stocked supermarket and a big bar and restaurant (again still open). Some odd things though: (a) there are only three drinking water taps over a huge site; (b) to use the waste water/refill and chemical toilet disposal facility at the motorhome service area you need a key from reception which is five minutes walk away; and (c) the water outlets at the pitches use hydraulic hose connectors and you have to pay a €60 deposit to get a tap and then use jubilee clips to attach a hose. All very odd. Good facilities though – clean and modern (though no toilet seats, and pre-select the paper) and taps for the showers (rather than a push-button which gives a brief burst) which provide powerful blasts of hot water. And lots of lean moggies which look as if they would like to get friendly. This is a site that offers 60 days for the price of 30 so it is a popular place to overwinter – no doubt why the facilities are so good, they have lots of visitors all winter. As usual lots of Dutch but a good number of Brits too.
Vilanova is on the coast about 45km from Barcelona. To get to Barcelona we have to take a bus from the site to the railway station (€1.05 one-way, it is only about 3km as the crow flies but the bus takes the scenic route which covers almost every street and so takes about 40 minutes) and then an all-stopper train - €5.10 return - which takes another 40 minutes. We did this on Monday and then spent more than an hour (a) searching for the tourist information shop cunningly hidden in the Sants railway station and (b) looking for the bus stop for the open-topped tour buses for which we coughed up €26 each for a two-day pass.
We then did the blue route on the tourist bus which covered the waterfront area, the Olympic site and the Montjuic hill which had a cable car up to a viewpoint. We then had a noodly lunch in a place called Wok on the waterfront – OK but not as good as Wagamama or even Nood in Lisbon – and then strolled – rambled even – along the Ramblas which was OK (lots of those people who dress up as – for example – Don Quixote and then stand still for money, flower stalls, caged birds, paintings) but – perhaps because it has been hyped so much – we thought it wasn’t as good as the similar street in Palma in Majorca. It was a pity we had already eaten lunch because we stopped off at the market where there were several well-patronised tapas stalls which looked excellent. We also had a wander round the Cathedral which had a good garden (with geese) and a lift to the roof for a view, but was otherwise unexceptional. The picture above is taken in the cloisters of the Cathedral.
We went back to Barcelona for a secon day but got an earlier bus – at 9am – and then the metro from Sants up to the Sagrada Família, the Gaudí masterpiece. Despite the very extensive works – both to clean the original and build more – it is still an exhilarating building and the exhibitions are excellent at explaining and illustrating Gaudí’s designs and the influence that nature had on his designs. A visit to Barcelona is worth it just to see this building.
To make up for faileding to eat local, we stopped at a tapas restaurant for lunch and had some cod in tomato sauce, bits of spicy pork on sticks, jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese, covered with breadcrumbs and then deep-fried, and patatas bravas with delicious garlic mayonnaise. We would have had more – which we would not have been able to eat – if the sensible waiter had not restrained us.
We then took the tourist bus red route and went on to the Parc Güell – again done by Gaudí – which was a total delight. The Park Guell started life as a housing development and Gaudi designed the houses but only a couple were sold so it was a bit of a distaster. Eventually Guell ( the developer) gave the site to the council which turned it into a park - and it's free to visit. The picture above is of one of the houses at Park Guell - it looks more like a gingerbread house than we appreciated when we took this picture. We finished our day with a red-route bus tour which included the Camp Nou (curiously unimpressive from the outside but it does take 100,000 spectators so appearances are deceptive).
Barcelona is a huge and interesting city, we only touched upon some of its attractions, so saved something more for next time. If you are thinking of going to Barcelona for a mini break then you do need three full days to do it justice. We recommend the tourist bus as a way to get an overview of the city , it's also a useful tool for jumping off and jumping on at the most popular sights but the underground is cheaper, easy to understand and clean.