Short Break in Barcelona:
Barcelona is a ‘must visit’ destination so the opportunity to experience a weekend winter’s getaway combined with an invitation to stay at the glamorous Cotton House Hotel was too good to turn down.
It’s a city you would need to spend a few weeks in to really get underneath its skin but we only had two days! There are plenty of flights there so an early Saturday morning start had me focusing on the itinerary. Having visited the city before I wanted to avoid some of the big crowds at major tourist draws such as Gaudi’s iconic cathedral La Sagrada Familia. The plan was to visit some unfamiliar places I hadn’t experienced before as well as old favourites. After dropping our bags at the hotel, conveniently located for many of the places we wanted to visit, we headed off on foot to the ‘Gothic Quarter’.We were heading to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (also known as Barcelona Cathedral) but first made a stop at the Palau de la Música Catalana , a stunning Art Nouveau concert hall designed by Catalan architect, Lluís Domènech i Montaner.In the square outside the cathedral, we were lucky enough to catch the Fira de Santa Llúcia – it’s an historic Christmas fair with stalls selling seasonal goods including models of the ‘caganer’ (a Catalan peasant who takes a poo in the corner of the stable!).At the risk of being controversial, I prefer the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia to La Sagrada Familia. It has a deeply spiritual atmosphere and its simple interior is stunning – you also don’t have to queue!Not far away from the Cathedral is the Santa Caterina Market. It’s the one that the locals use and in 1845 was Barcelona’s first covered food market. Renovation work was completed in 2005 and for a less crowded and expensive experience than the better known La Boqueria, it’s a great place to visit.However, for foodies, La Boqueria is still the main event and a cheeky Estrella beer and plate of tender Galician Octopus dripping in oil and flavoured with smoked paprika at the market’s Bar Central make the perfect lunch. For culture vultures for whom art is the food of life, the Museu Picasso is a fascinating journey through the great master’s early life giving a real insight into his creative development.After the museum, it was lovely to go back to the Cotton House Hotel. The building dates from 1879 and is located on the former site of the “Cotton Textile Foundation”. It became a hotel 3 years ago and with stunning interiors by designer Lázaro Rosa Violán, a rooftop pool and outside bar, it is the perfect urban retreat.The bedrooms were super stylish with a really comfortable bed, big bath and shower area with bathroom amenities from the exclusive Italian brand Ortigia, and a terrace with views of Barcelona.Before heading out for dinner we dropped into the Cotton House’s gorgeous Batuar Bar.The prizewinning head mixologist suggested The Perfect Godfather for me – a heady blend of Ardberg 10, Amaretto di Saronno, Tia Maria and orange bitters; and a Lady Cotton for her – a refreshing mix of Tanqueray 10, St Germain. Grand Marnier Red, lemon juice, egg white and sugar. There’s nothing better than drinks before dinner…which was at Barcelona seafood specialist Botafumerio.After home-made crisps and olives, we started on a crisp bottle of Albariño and feasted on garlic prawns, Galician pie with cod and raisins and black rice. After a great night’s sleep back at The Cotton House, it was time for breakfast. Hot options include omelettes, enticing waffles, pancakes and crepes. And there is a fabulous selection of pastries, breads, cold meats including jamon, and smoked fish, juices, tea and coffee.It set us up for a visit to MACBA, the contemporary art museum of Barcelona. Its architectural white modernist interior is the perfect showcase for contemporary art shows which change throughout the year and the galleries are large allowing for thorough investigations of artist’s outputs.After the art, the sun came out, such a relief after a cold, grey English winter, and we strolled down to the sea at the end of Las Ramblas – Barcelona’s main drag – to people watch, gaze at the yachts and to eat seafood at Maratim Restaurant. The final stop off on the trip was a visit to Palau Güell, architect Antoni Gaudi’s mansion designed for the industrialist Eusebi Güell to show off in the 1880s. It’s an Art Nouveau temple to sombre excess, a cross between William Morris and the Batcave and is one of the classic Gaudi sites to be visited.So Barcelona I’ll be back. To eat and drink, to walk the streets and gaze at the marvels that you have in your city. Thanks for having me.