Charles de L’Arbre, CEO of Santa Barbara Travel, shares his itinerary, reviews, and travel trips from his most recent trip to Europe with his wife, Barbara. In this first installment, find airport and travel tips, and take a tour of Barcelona.
We departed LAX on Air France on their Airbus 380—marvelous service and food in business class. Lie flat beds and great entertainment system on board. We were at the Korean Airlines lounge which had very little to offer in terms of food apart from the ability to make ramen noodles and generous helpings of kim chee…..
The transfer at Charles de Gaulle involved 2 long walks and a short train ride to change terminals plus going through security and passport control. With an hour and a half between flights in was manageable and the signage to get from one place to another was very clear.
In Barcelona, we stayed at the Ritz Carlton Hotel Arts which was built for the Olympics down by the waterfront. The area had formerly been all warehouses and docks and was re-designed by the architect Frank Gehry to include hotels, beaches, and areas with a lot of restaurants and bars. Now a very hip and tourist friendly area.
We stayed up on the Club Level where check-in was handled and were shown to a beautiful room looking north along the beaches. Once unpacked, we went to The Club and toasted our arrival with a glass of cava, jamon de Serrano, Spanish cheeses and other delicacies and made our plans for the next two days.
Dinner that night was at a wonder tapas bar, La Pepita where we were looked after by the owner who suggested choices off of their long menu and plentiful wine list. We left sated and amazed by a bill that was less than 65 Euros.
Breakfast at The Club followed by a cab ride up to the Passeig de Gracia—often described as Barcelona’s Fifth Avenue. We started on the upper part of the street which is much more of a residential neighborhood and meandered our way down. As I often do, we looked in at various hotels we use in Barcelona.
The most unusual may be the Casa Fuster which was originally designed as a private home by the great Spanish architect Lluis Domanech I Montaner, considered a contemporary of Antoni Gaudi, done in the Modernist Style. Now a wonderful hotel with a terrific bar, it is very close to the iconic Gaudi structures.
We stopped in at Casa Batlló, a renowned building in the center of Barcelona remodeled by architect Antoni Gaudí. It was a 15 minute wait for entrance tickets but well-worth the wait for a self-guided tour with audio-assist of one of the most extraordinary structures in Barcelona. Also on Passeig de Gracia is another Gaudí house: Casa Milà popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’ (the stone quarry). For anyone interested in Gaudí, this is not to be missed! Casa Milà, popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’ (the stone quarry), and the Casa Battlo. Both are on Passeig de Gracia and open to visitors.
We continued on down Passeig de Gracia, stopping in at the Hotel Majestic—another deluxe and very Spanish hotel with reputation for superb service and an unmatched location—as well as the Mandarin Oriental Hotel which opened 2 years ago. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel is very serene and Asian in feeling and is separated from the street by a long entrance hall with most of the public rooms on the second floor. Like its sister hotel in Paris (which we saw a week later), the entire hotel is almost like being in a spa.
Lunch was at the rooftop restaurant of Hotel 1898 down on Las Ramblas. Lovely service, a bit of a breeze, good food washed down with an excellent Rioja—all a perfect end to the morning hike. The hotel is a wonderful marriage between traditional and very hip and a good choice for anyone who wants to be down closer to the Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona. From our table we could look out on the spires of the cathedral a couple of blocks away. Other hotel choices in that area would include the Hotel Colon, which is directly across from the Cathedral, it’s budget-friendly, sister hotel, the Regencia Colon, as well the the lovely Hotel Neri—a modern hotel inside a 15th century palacio.
After breakfast in The Club, we decided to take a quick run up to La Sagrada Familia—something we do every time we are in Barcelona since my first visit in 1977. La Sagrada Familia is the yet-unfinished masterwork of Antoni Gaudi. Construction began in 1882. Gaudi was killed by a streetcar 40 years later and construction progressed slowly until about 20 years ago. Completion is estimated to be about 16 years from now.
Travel Tip: Because it is Barcelona’s most-visited attraction, it is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to reserve your tickets for scheduled tours in advance! No first-time visit to Barcelona is complete without a visit to this amazing cathedral.
Tour complete, we went back to the hotel, finalized our packing and took a 10-minute taxi-ride to the Barcelona Passenger Cruise Terminal. Forty-five minutes later, we and our fellow passengers were among the first guests to board the Regent Seven Seas Explorer.
Glass of champagne in hand, we wandered around the ship—truly impressed with the artwork, the detail and, of course, the layout. Not dissimilar from other Regent ships we have sailed on, there is truly a wonderful aura about Explorer—the public rooms have a lovely scale and the staff absolutely top-notch.
Details of the voyage on the Seven Seas Explorer coming soon
Charles de L’Arbre
Talk to our CEO, Charles de L’Arbre, about his recent trip to Europe visiting Spain and traveling aboard Regent’s new Seven Seas Explorer. Contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org