Traveling with Kids: Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain: one of our very favorite family travel destinations in Europe! Great travel tips for visiting Barcelona with kids, including the perfect accommodations for families and the sweetest museum you can’t miss!

In June of 2014 my family spent a month traveling through Spain and London. I’m highlighting our individual destinations, giving you tips on traveling with kids and sharing some of the best things we discovered. You can find previously published travel posts on my Travel Page. You can find all the photos from our trip on my flickr page. 

Somehow,somewhere, I got off track with posts recounting our trip to Spain. I’m realizing that if I don’t finish writing those posts soon, we’ll hit the one-year mark of our trip! Part of what was holding me back was editing the nearly 900 photos I took while traveling. I’m happy to say that I finally buckled down and finished editing AND printing every single one. So now that I have that under wraps, how about we move on with a visit to Barcelona?

We flew to Barcelona following our side trip to London. I’m happy to report that our second experience on RyanAir went much better than our first. Our bags were still over the weight limit, but we were able to shift things around suitcases without fear of missing our flight. As much as we loved London, it was such a lovely feeling to walk out into warmth and sunshine after three days of cold and rain.

Barcelona with Kids | Family Travel

Barcelona is absolutely beautiful, like no other city I’ve ever visited, and so completely different from the rest of Spain. The architecture is just incredible, and I spent much of the trip with my eyes upturned and my mouth open in wonder.

Barcelona with Kids: Las Ramblas | Family Travel

We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, so after getting situated in our room, we decided to stroll along Las Ramblas. At the Plaça de Catalunya, the kids discovered their second favorite thing in Spain after churros: pigeons. We bought two bags of food and let them go to town.

Barcelona with Kids: Placa de Catalunya | Family Travel

Barcelona with Kids: Placa de Catalunya | Family Travel

Legend has it that a drink from the Fountain of Canaletes ensures your return to Barcelona. We all wanted that to be true, so we drank up. Eli practically drenched himself (the water comes out really fast), so I see multiple return trips to Barcelona in his future!

Barcelona with Kids: Las Ramblas | Family Travel

Farther along Las Ramblas I found my own version of heaven: La Boqueria. So much amazing food, so little stomach space available!

Barcelona with Kids: La Boqueria | Family Travel

Barcelona with Kids: La Boqueria | Family Travel

Barcelona with Kids: La Boqueria | Family Travel

On our way back to the guesthouse, we found ourselves in the middle of an epic thunderstorm. While Mike and I huddled under the eaves, the kids had other plans, which resulted in one of my favorite memories from the trip:

The rain in Spain … falls heavy in Barcelona tonight! #sixesinspain

A video posted by Angie Six (@angiesix) on

Wednesday would be our only full day in Barcelona, so we wanted to make the most of it without completely wrecking the kids. We started off early with a visit to Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia. We bought tickets that included an audio guide as well as a visit to the tower on the Nativity facade. The audio guide was very helpful, allowed us to move at our own pace, and kept the kids’ interest as well. The additional entry to the tower was very cool – it allows you to go up one of the towers and cross the bridge in between the towers.

Barcelona with Kids: Sagrada Familia | Family Travel

The views are breathtaking … but the space is very tiny and cramped. So if you’re afraid of heights, claustrophobic, or larger rather than small, you might consider skipping this additional tour.

Barcelona with Kids: Sagrada Familia | Family Travel

Barcelona with Kids: Sagrada Familia | Family Travel

Barcelona with Kids: Sagrada Familia | Family Travel

Barcelona with Kids: Sagrada Familia | Family Travel

Barcelona with Kids: Sagrada Familia | Family Travel

Barcelona with Kids: Sagrada Familia | Family Travel

Words cannot do this cathedral-in-progress justice. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I’m not being overly dramatic when I tell you it moved me to tears. It’s something we’ll never, ever forget.

Speaking of buying tickets ahead of time, if you want to walk through Park Güell, Gaudí’s iconic park, you’ll want to buy tickets in advance to this as well. We headed there after lunch, but found that in order to see monumental area (where the most famous areas of the Park are) we’d have to wait nearly 2 hours for entry. You can visit other areas of the Park without a timed ticket, so we took about an hour and wandered around.

Barcelona with Kids: Park Guell | Family Travel

The kids were dying to see the ocean, and Mike and I were happy to indulge if it meant we could lounge around on the beach and give our feet a rest. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Barceloneta. We probably should’ve warned the kids about the nudity, especially Elena. I’m not sure she’ll ever recover from so much full-on male nudity in the presence of her parents! We had a great dinner at Makamaka, with some excellent people watching as well, followed by a relaxing evening on the guesthouse rooftop hammocks.

Barcelona with Kids: Barri Gotic | Family Travel

We had an early evening flight to Seville on Thursday, so we took advantage of our last few hours in Barcelona to do a walking tour of the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) neighborhood at our own leisurely pace. We started off at a museum no kid in their rightful mind will turn down: Museo de Xocolata (Museum of Chocolate). Forget a golden ticket – our ticket was a chocolate bar! It’s a small but fun museum, with information about the history of chocolate, as well as some incredible works of chocolate art.

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We saw so many unique and beautiful things on our walk, but the coolest thing of all was the various displays of the Dancing Egg. We just happened to time our visit with the Feast of Corpus Christi. Many cloisters and courtyards in Barcelona feature beautiful fountains. During Corpus Christi, the fountains are decorated with flowers, and an egg is place in the water jet. The egg rises and falls with the water, and appears to be dancing. No one is really sure of the significance of the egg, but it has been a tradition since the 1600s!

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Our time in Barcelona went entirely too quickly. We could’ve easily spent another few days there. As short as our visit was, I’m very glad that we made it a part of our trip. It was our favorite part of Spain, and a fabulous city to visit with kids. So, to wrap up Barcelona:

How much time should you allocate?

As I said, we needed more time. While we didn’t feel rushed, we left out a lot of things we would’ve liked to see. In order to see the city without killing your kids, I’d plan 3 full days.

Must-see: 

Do not go to Barcelona and not see Sagrada Familia. I don’t care how touristy you think it is, or how cathedral-ed out you think you (or the kids) are. It’s that awesome.

Best tips: 

I highly, highly recommend buying your tickets ahead of time for Sagrada Familia. With our timed tickets, we were able to walk right in, while the line to buy tickets (even early in the morning) snaked around the cathedral.

The Metro system is organized, clean, and fairly easy to use. We used it several times in the little time we were there, including as transport from the airport to the city. Buy a T10 card. It can be used by multiple people and provides 10 single trips per card.

Best Things We Ate:

We discovered our love for a new kind of pastry, a specialty of this area of Spain: ensaimadas. Imagine a snail-shaped, brioche-like pastry dusted in powdered sugar … delicious.

Barcelona with Kids: La Colmena Bolados | Family Travel

We were also stopped in our tracks by a display of pastel and neon blocks of … well, we weren’t sure exactly. We bought a couple, which had the texture of a very sugary meringue. We later found out they were bolados, which are meant to be dissolved in water for a refreshing drink. Welp, we ate them. And they were tasty. We found them at La Colmena, Spain’s oldest handmade candy shop. You could eat a hundred things here and not be sad.

Where We Stayed:

Barcelona with Kids: ZooRooms Guesthouse | Family Travel

We stayed in the absolute cutest guesthouse, ZooRooms, in the Eixample neighborhood. After our closet-sized room in London, the luxury of spreading out through two large rooms was almost more than we could handle. In addition to our large quarters, we had use of a kitchen, as well as a large rooftop patio. The owner was ridiculously kind and helpful. After giving us a full tour, he sat down with us and went over a map of Barcelona. He asked us what we hoped to see, and then gave us recommendations on how best to get there. He showed us where the nearest market was so we could buy a few things for breakfast, and he recommended several restaurants nearby that we might like. I’d read in the property description that there was a washing machine available. When I asked about it, he waved his hand. “Leave it outside your door and we’ll wash it for you,” he said. We hadn’t done laundry in 5 days, so this was no small feat! The price was very reasonable for both the accommodations as well as the prime location. I’d stay here again in a heartbeat.

Barcelona with Kids: ZooRooms Guesthouse | Family Travel

Next up: We take a different turn on our trip, heading south to Seville … and renting a car for a for a little road trip through Andalusia!

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(NFL) Combine Life

NFL Scouting Combine Tweetup 2015 with Peter King

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

I love following my favorite NFL media on Twitter and Instagram, especially during the NFL Scouting Combine week. It’s interesting and entertaining, both to peek inside the parts of the Combine that are off limits to non-media folks, as well as to see my hometown through their eyes. (Note to media for next year: No more TwitPics of the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s. Unless you tote yours around the city like your own spicy Flat Stanley, everyone’s seen it before. Stop taking pictures of it and just eat the damn thing.)

So when the MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas posted a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #CombineLife, I couldn’t resist clicking on it. More insight into the coaches and athletes? Yes, please! Instead, it was a clear example of  “I don’t think that word/hashtag means what you think it does.” Lots of farmers, a plethora of actual combines, not so much football.

 

The Combine is officially over, and I’m thrilled to say that the Combine Tweetup I organized was a big success. The event sold out, which I was a tad nervous about since it was the first year we asked attendees to pay. Between ticket sales and on-site donations, we raised nearly $2000 for Thrive360. That feels so incredibly good, and makes me want to give each and every one of you that came out on that ridiculously cold night a big hug. Unless you’re not a hugger, then I’d settle for shaking your hand. The good people at Sun King kept everyone hydrated and happy. To top it all off, we had an incredible panel of NFL media answering every kind of question under the sun for two hours. Many, many thanks to Albert Breer, Ian Rapoport, Mike Tanier, Alex Marvez, Doug Farrar (Sports Illustrated), Aaron Schatz (Football Outsiders), and Hal Habib (Palm Beach Post).

NFL Scouting Combine Tweetup 2015 Albert Breer

Albert Breer (NFL Network)

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

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Alex Marvez (Fox Sports, Sirius XM NFL)

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

NFL Combine Tweetup Alex Marvez Albert Breer Ian Rapoport

Peter King, Alex Marvez, Albert Breer and Ian Rapoport (NFL Network)

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Most importantly, thanks to Peter King – for coming up with this crazy idea in the first place and for continuing to make it priority when he returns to Indy every year.

NFL Combine Tweetup Angie Six Peter King Thrive360

Peter, myself, along with Shane Scarlett and Jill Madinger of Thrive360

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

I’ll leave you with my favorite snapshots of #CombineLife. Peter graciously invited my family to dinner with the MMQB team on Saturday evening. It ended up just being Elena and me. Mike was trying to get over a cold before flying out to party work in New Orleans on Sunday evening. And at this juncture in parenting, I’d rather have a root canal than sit through a 2-hour dinner at a nice establishment with a 7-year-old that can barely make it through a private meal in our home without farting or shooting milk out his nose. So Elena and I it was. Even though she’s not a sports fan, I really wanted Elena to come so she could meet and spend time with people who have taken a passion and turned it into a really fun career. And I especially wanted her to meet Jenny, who I would very much like to be when I grow up. We had a fantastic dinner, and I only had to kick Elena under the table twice for sneaking peeks at her iPod. Eventually the conversation turned to Elena, and what she was into these days, which turned into this:

Jenny Vrentas Peter King NFL Combine

Elena happily giving Peter and Jenny an impromptu audio demonstration of what the kids are listening to these days (it’s All Time Low, if you’re as uninformed as the rest of us).

Or this. I have no idea what Elena and Robert Klemko are doing, but I’m a fan of both.

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Photo by Todd Rosenberg

I’d tell you that I’m done writing about sports for a bit, but that would probably be a lie. I have a Fuel Up To Play 60 event coming up next week with Pat McAfee, and that guy is nothing if not treasure trove of things to write about. The NFL Draft is only two months away, in Chicago of all places, which has me seriously contemplating a road trip. Free agency and trading periods open up in less than two weeks. Let’s face it, I’m a junkie and I can’t quit. I guess that’s the #NFLLife.

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Wander and Wonder

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. While I have been compensated, all thoughts and opinions are expressly mine.

T.A. Barron: The Wisdom of Merlin. 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life

I spend more time than I care to admit grumbling about the state of my children’s brains. “They’re doomed,” I think to myself. You see, their first love is not nature, or art, or the printed word. It is the little i-device, which they hold  as if it were precious gem.

Like an old lady who sits on her porch, waving her cane in anger and assuming that the children are always up to no good, I err on the side of shout-y. “Sweet Jesus on a bicycle! Put that screen down and do something else!”

Let me tell you, my children always respond to shout-y with humbled hearts and enthusiasm for other activities. Yes, indeed.

Instead, I was the one with the humbled heart recently. Elena showed me exactly what had caught her interest on her iPod for what seemed like seventy-hundred hours on a Sunday afternoon. She was going through photos posted to Twitter by an account called Microscope Pics, which collects and reposts images taken by electron microscopes.

“Do you know what the grooves on a vinyl record actually look like?”

“Did you know our dust was so beautiful?”

“Did you know how adorable zebrafish larvae are?!”

I don’t, I did not, and OMG let’s adopt some zebrafish!

Zebrafish larvae electron microscope

Photo credit: Jurgen Berger and Mahendra Sonawane

Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

And so it is true what Socrates says:

Wisdom begins in wonder.

By closing our minds to where inspiration and wonder can be found, we shut out entire worlds of fantastic things. We exclude photos we’ll never see, places we’ll never know to visit, music that will never move us to tears or dancing, food we never imagined we might taste, people we might never have the pleasure of knowing, books we’d never have the joy of escaping into.

T.A. Barron: The Wisdom of Merlin. 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life

I find wonder in the books, in museums, through my kids’ eyes, in the people I meet, through walks in the forest. Those are terrific places to wander, wonder, and be amazed. But in my narrow-minded view of what constitutes a good way to spend one’s time, I can very easily block out other perfectly acceptable sources of wonder. I can forget the sage advice from the fantastically creative mind that gave us the loveliest spider that ever existed, E.B. White:

Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.

T.A. Barron: The Wisdom of Merlin. 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life
The enemy of seeking out wonder, however, is busyness. When we’re too rushed and hyper-focused on the task at hand, we might as well be walking around with blinders on. There were times I wished I could purchase a pair specifically made for small children. (Although if you told me they were available in the One Step Ahead catalog I would not be the least bit shocked.) A simple walk or an errand could easily turn into to an hours-long affair. I just wanted to return a book to the library, not marvel at every blade of grass and bestow a name on each ant that crossed our path. But that ability to stop, look, and ponder gives way to curiosity, which leads to knowledge. Given the chance to pursue those things which rouse a child’s wonder, that child eventually grows up into an adult that can find joy in the world around them. Bonus: they also grow up into adults that you actually enjoy making conversation with at a cocktail party.

Whether it’s your toddler on a walk, your 3rd grader and his Pokemon cards, your teen and their iPod, or your spouse and their favorite podcast, open your eyes to the infinite sources of wonder all around you. You never know what you might discover.

Wander often. Wonder always. Quote

 

This post was sponsored by author T. A. Barron and was inspired by his upcoming gift book “The Wisdom of Merlin: 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life.” This book is the wizard Merlin’s answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?” Surprisingly, the answer has only seven words — including wonder. But they are the most powerful words of all. The Wisdom of Merlin is available for pre-order now, and will be available wherever books are sold on March 23, 2015.

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