Sunday, 18 June 2017

Our visit to Barcelona

We had a few hours at our leisure in Barcelona after our Camp Nou Experience Tour, its not very long to give a city like that any kind of justice, as there is so much to see and do.  Instead we tried to make the best of it and squeeze in a few sights.

Most of all I wanted to visit the Sagrada Familia as its an incredible building; the unfinished church is something else and well worth seeing up close! On the bus to Barcelona, I learnt for every 1000 people who come to Barcelona 900 see Gaudi's masterpiece from the outside, that made me feel better that we were just admiring it from afar not heading indoors.  Mind you if you do have more time when you visit Barcelona then perhaps its something worth doing.

After we walked through Las Ramblas, which is full of shops and again very busy.  We had been told to watch out for our belongings, but luckily had no trouble with pickpockets.  Although it was less a stroll and more of a sprint as its a long street and we knew we didn’t have too much time.  We also saw some street performers that had very fancy costumes, definitely ones to rival the performers we saw in London.

We stopped to have a picture with the lions on the Columbus Monument.  Youngest loves lions!

I must return to Barcelona and see Casa Batllo and Park Guell the buildings are so unique and beautiful.  I also noticed some cable cars going overhead by the harbour and they would be the perfect way to take in the sights of the city but not sure if I could brave them, its quite a long cable car journey from what our rep said and I am not a huge fan of heights!

The only thing with landmarks like the Sagrada Familia is the sheer amount of people visiting them, it’s really hard to have a proper look or get a decent picture with all the people milling about.  I get why they come, I wanted to tick it off my list of things to see myself, but if you’re not a fan of crowds perhaps aim for the quieter parts of Barcelona.

Barcelona harbour is nice to walk round; we loved the wooden walkway, it wasn’t as busy as some of the other areas we visited and we even saw fish in the water and a pirate ship, which delighted the boys!  

We stopped for ice creams and to catch our breath after a hectic couple of hours in Barcelona.  Then it was back on the bus to Salou.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Camp Nou Experience Tour

We went with our tour operator whilst on holiday at Hotel El Paso and it cost us £169 for a family of four.  It was about an hour from Salou by bus and it was a pleasant journey, our guide knew so much about the ground and Barcelona and was entertaining to listen to so it went quickly.  We were having the stadium tour (the price included entrance) and then a few hours free time in Barcelona itself.

The Barcelona Football Ground is having series renovation work and there is lots planned.  It will make it more accessible for people.  I am glad we went, as my eldest especially is a BIG Barcelona fan so he was thrilled to see behind the scenes.  I am not really that bothered about football myself, I can take it or leave it, but it was magical seeing his face light up.

It was quite busy, one of the very first rooms (the Trophy gallery) was packed, it was hard to see all the cabinets and I felt a bit claustrophobic, but afterward the FC Barcelona museum the crowds thinned for the reminder of the tour thankfully!  We were less interested in the museum I think and enjoyed the Camp Nou Tour more with the stands, field, pressroom, commentary boxes and seeing the away side changing room.  But I am sure some people will really like seeing all the cups, photo’s and videos if you have enough time and patience to navigate the crowds!!!

I loved the feeling looking at the pitch itself being high up in the stands knowing lots of great football had been played here to big crowds of people.  

You can just imagine the incredible atmosphere, its quite magical even for me who doesn’t really watch much football.

We bought a photo of the boys holding the replica trophy that was quite expensive about 20 Euro’s, but I am pleased we have a keepsake of our visit.  They were also selling bits of grass that Messi had played on which might be a fun novelty for friends back home, but I didn’t see the prices of them as it was quite busy as everyone was queuing for the lift – you can bypass the lift and go up the stairs but I am not sure how many people realised this.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Our Hotel El Paso Stay

We spent a week in May staying at Hotel El Paso, one of the PortAdventura resort hotels.

There were pluses to staying at that particular resort, we were literally a stones throw from the theme park, a short walk and you were there.  As the opening hours for the theme park were really good 10am – 8pm, we spend the morning at the hotel swimming pool then pop over to the park in the afternoon.  It was so convenient being close, it gave us the best of both worlds, a chance to relax when we needed it with the excitement of a fab theme park when we wanted it.

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I didn’t like everything about our stay, for one I don’t get the need to have corridor music, seriously I love Spanish music but from just before 9am until 9pm at night it gets a bit repetitive especially if you have popped back to your room for some R&R midway through the day.

Then breakfast, in itself the food was great (I can live on nutella covered pancakes!), a big dining room, enough choice and service with a smile.  But you had to pick a timeslot each day, not knowing on arrival how busy the park would be etc we went with 8am – 8:30am that was a hard time to meet as the week progressed and we were tired out from long days at the theme park!  I think we should have given ourselves a couple of 9:30am slots later in the week to get some rest.  We had to keep waking the boys for breakfast, which seemed a shame.  But everyone was a fan of the desserts at lunch and dinner.

With our board option you could chose to have lunch in the theme park at no extra cost, this was handy to save you coming back out and gave us a bit more variety.  Generally we had a good experience eating in the theme park except one time when they managed to royally mess up our order, it was the restaurant at SesamoAdventura.  My advice would be to eat earlier than anywhere near to closing time as they are not interested in anything but packing up, cleaning etc rather than providing a nice dining experience.

The pool was lovely, really well kept and clean with fun cannons for children to play with in a separate section.  They also had additional entertainment there like a game of ball in the pool which eldest loved.  Fair play to the two girl entertainers they work very hard and always seemed happy.

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The life guards were a bit hit and miss, if you tried to get into the pool wearing a pair of glasses they would spot you a mile off and quickly dash into action BUT if you were struggling in the water that could end up being missed.  I actually pulled a girl from the water myself, her parents were far away (out of view) and she was calling for help and trying to stay afloat, getting more and more distressed, the lifeguards didn’t spot that!  Seriously I think they need to be less keen on the glasses rule and more focused on the kids in the pool.  Although I do think parents should sit by the pool their kids are in at the very least too, especially if your child isn’t a strong swimmer.  In terms of the glasses rule you can buy a band from the hotel shop for just shy of 4 euros and that will keep you in the lifeguard’s good books!

The room itself was pleasant, the balcony is a bit of a non-event, too tiny to really enjoy sitting out on.  But we did have a great view of giant rollercoaster in Ferrari Land and was fun watching that go round.  

I loved the cocktails and they even did kid friendly ones, although the boys did prefer pop to those.

Noise is an issue, people at the hotel don’t have any consideration coming back to their room in the night, it was so loud and the room didn’t seem to have any kind of sound insulation.  SO prepare yourself for a week of being pretty exhausted.  It was okay until the last couple of days then I was desperate for more sleep.  If you’re a heavy sleeper though you probably will be okay.

It was an affordable stay being all-inclusive and having unlimited entry to the PortAventura theme park we spent very little once we arrived on holiday.  You could walk into Salou and it was nice to sit on the beach two mornings.  We also had a trip to Barcelona so the boys could see the football ground, but will cover that in a later blog post.  I would probably book again, the theme park was so much fun, but take earplugs!