It’s a cold, dark day in Amsterdam… the Christmas lights have been put up on our street, the clocks have gone back, the rain is lashing against the windows as I write. Hard to imagine that three days ago I was bathed in the warm Autumn sunshine of Barcelona, strolling down the Passeig de Gracia, popping into shops and stopping for delicious tapas!
There’s always something going on in Barcelona, and of course, you can’t look at the news without hearing about the Catalonia “crisis”, and the current political turmoil in this beautiful city. On Sunday, the streets were full of pro-Spanish unity supporters, draped in flags, peacefully (at least to my eyes) having their say. We walked among them, quietly observing, acutely aware that an important and decisive part of this country’s history was unfolding around us, whatever happens next.
All in all, it was an interesting time to be visiting one of my favourite cities! I recommend October as a great time to visit – the weather is still glorious, but the city is a lot less crowded. The daytime temperature is in the early 20’s (c) – a lot more comfortable than it can be in the height of summer, with cooler evenings.
Read on to discover my hotel and dining highlights and recommendations from this trip…
In my last post about this stunning island, here, I wrote about the luxurious Sheraton Salobre resort in the South of Gran Canaria. If you want to try somewhere completely different (but still with a dose of luxury!) – this is it! It’s a 4* resort in the Northwestern part of Gran Canaria, in Agaete. Close to the fishing town of Puerto de Las Nieves, with stunning views across the Northern coastline of the island.
When I was 19, around £200 each bought us a week, self catering, including flights (!) to the island of Fuerteventura in the Canaries. We were met at the airport by a tour operator, crammed onto a coach with mostly retired couples, and dumped outside the resort, which was located basically in the middle of no-where, surrounded by sand dunes. I remember the weather veering between hot and windy to very cool and overcast. The island was pretty much a building site. It didn’t matter, as it was still an incredible adventure for a teenager, 1000’s of miles away from home.
Most British people will also have memories of holidays to the Canaries in your teens, excitedly looking through travel brochures (yes, actual brochures!) in Thomas Cook on your local High Street. Or your first thoughts may be the tourist trap resorts of Playa de las Américas or Playa des Ingles, choc full of British tourists and their kids grabbing a cheap package holiday in the sun.
Fast forward a few years (maybe more than a few 😆), and I have returned to the Island of Gran Canaria several times over the past two years. I was pleasantly surprised to find how much the island has developed and matured, and it’s now one of my go to places for a luxury poolside holiday. We steer clear of the crowded beach resorts, and head further into the hills, finding beautiful and luxurious resorts to enjoy spectacular food, decadent relaxation and – if you can tear yourself away from the pool – incredible hiking trails. This is Gran Canaria for grown ups! Read on for my recommendations and reviews of this beautiful island paradise (unfortunately you’ll need a bit more than £200 these days 😉)
Roof terraces, shopping, lazy beach days, and of course, tapas!
Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in the world. After the horrific attacks in the city less than two weeks ago, I’ll admit it was with a little trepidation that I travelled there as planned, last week. But, when I thought about Barcelona, a place the means so much to me personally, I knew that I should and would definitely travel there. Although still raw from the atrocious events, it’s clear to me that the heart and spirit of Barcelona will not be so easily damaged.
While perhaps a little quieter than I would expect at the end of August, it was as beautiful, sunny and eclectic as ever.
Where we stayed
Hotel Omm, Carrer del Rosselló, 265, 08008 Barcelona
A departure from our usual hotel in Barcelona (the H10 Metropolitan), as we like to mix it up a little! It’s in a fantastic location, just off Passeig de Gracia, one of the major avenues in Barcelona for shopping (both designer & high street) and architecture.
Opened in 2003, the design of the hotel is typically modern, with a nod to the luxury travel of the 1960s (think Mad Men style sofas, leather wing chairs, polished dark wood floors & designer lighting).
The check in process was efficient, and the staff were friendly and helpful throughout the stay.
Our room was on the 6th floor, one below the roof terrace & pool area. The room was spacious and modern, with a large open plan bathroom (behind a partial wall), and another bathroom on the other side with toilet and shower (this room had a door!) There were two small balconies with a fantastic corner view of the Passeig de Gracia.
Aside from occasional cigarette smoke coming into our room from somewhere (possibly the terrace upstairs), and the awkward layout of toilet/bathroom areas, the room was lovely, and of the standard I would expect.
A big selling point of Hotel Omm is the Roof Terrace & Roca Bar on the 7th floor. There’s a small pool area, sofas for lounging and table seating, overlooking Gaudi’s La Pedrera. The perfect spot for sunning yourself with a cocktail and snack and watching the world go by. I personally recommend the wild rice with vegetables, curry, coconut and shrimps. My one bit of feedback would be that I would love to see the staff up there smile a bit more!
Hotel Eurostars Grand Marina, Moll de Barcelona, s/n, 08039 Barcelona
After deciding to spend a spontaneous extra night in Barcelona (it’s very hard to leave!), we booked this hotel online, literally last minute, and hopped in a taxi. Location wise, it couldn’t be more different than the Hotel Omm, situated right on the Port Vell marina.
It’s also on a much bigger scale, a large complex set around a huge central terraced area. It’s almost hard to know where the huge cruise ships end and the Eurostars Hotel begins!
The hotel has the feel of being used more by corporate or large tourist groups. Again, very different to the slightly more luxurious, intimate feel of the Hotel Omm.
The room was again on the 6th floor, with a view over the large central area (shown above), which seemed mostly deserted at the time! The room itself was spacious and modern.
N.B. We were initially allocated a smoking room on a smoking floor in error. We called reception and then went back down, where they immediately found us an alternative room and were very apologetic.
I saw on TripAdvisor that this had also happened to someone else, so I would recommend you double check that they know your requirements, whether smoking or not.
The roof terrace of the hotel has a sun deck and small pool and bar, and is fantastic for a spot of sunbathing! Again, it feels a bit like being on the deck of a cruise ship, and as you’re right in the marina, you are also overlooking the huge cruise liners. There’s a small library of books, towels provided and a changing room.
I would recommend this hotel if you’re looking for a standard 5 star hotel experience, with good service, convenient to the beach and marina area. It’s not for those looking for a luxury boutique hotel. I will definitely stay there again to explore this area more, and make use of the roof terrace! Also had excellent room service breakfast.
Where we dined
Roca Moo @ Hotel Omm, Carrer del Rosselló, 265
“Roca Moo, gastronomic restaurant with a Michelin star, offers creative Catalan cuisine under the direction of chef Juan Pretel and the unconditional support of the Roca brothers” (Hotel Omm website)
The design of the restaurant is luxurious and refined, decorated in opulent dark colours. There are around 10 tables, so it’s quite an intimate space.
At Roca Moo you have a choice of two tasting menus, one slightly longer (and more fishy!) than the other. I’m sometimes wary of tasting menus, because although the portions are generally small for each course (and I’m always hungry!), the mix of all the different rich foods and wine can just be a bit much by around the 5th course!
We chose the classic tasting menu, and we were assured that the portions were perfect, and the food wasn’t too heavy, so you would be able to eat it without feeling too full. The staff were very helpful with the menu choice and our wine choice (we decided on one bottle of Coma Blanca 2005, rather than the wine flight).
The Golden Egg..before
I can honestly say this was one of the best experiences of a Michelin restaurant I’ve had. The food was indeed in perfect portions, with beautiful flavour combinations, and, while inventive (e.g. the “golden egg”!), wasn’t too theatrical, as it sometimes can be. Each course was well timed and delicious.
Highly recommended for a luxurious dining experience, with fantastic menu of fresh and interesting dishes. I will be back!
We booked this restaurant the same evening we arrived at the Eurostars hotel. As we were having a spontaneous extra night, we hadn’t booked anything special, and we were happy to stay in the hotel complex.
I was pleasantly surprised by this restaurant and the quality of food. The design of the restaurant is elegant and opulent. There were only two other diners when we arrived, who were finishing their meal, so we ended up having private dining for two!
I had a starter and main (stuffed ravioli followed by sea bass), both of which were delicious, and nice portion sizes. The menu has some really interesting dishes, and I will definitely return to sample some more! I was too busy eating to take pictures, but take my word for it!
And finally.. anyone for tapas?!
Obviously it would be a terrible crime to go to Barcelona and not eat your own weight in tapas! I could happily live on tapas dishes, and we find ourselves going to our favourite places at least a couple of times on each visit.
Two of my favourites;
Tapas 24, Calle Diputació, 269 (just off Passeig de Gracia)
Run by Carles Abellan, this is a bustling basement tapas restaurant, serving delicious traditional dishes with a twist, as well as more unusual ones. You can sit either around the kitchen area at the bar, watching the magic happen, or on high tables along the side. The staff are friendly, efficient, and of course fluent in English. We recognise most of them each time we visit – it’s nice to see the turnover isn’t too high!
We have always found the perfect time to visit is for a late lunch/early dinner around 4pm. Otherwise it can get pretty full, especially with workers on a lunch break.
Recommended for fantastic tapas, great service and relaxing experience after a day of shopping and sight seeing- as well as a very nice Albarino!
Tapa Tapa Xiringuito, Carrer de Pontevedra, 56
Part of the TapaTapa chain, I’m sure food purists will roll their eyes, but it happens to be one of my favourite places in Barcelona. Fantastic tapas (including smashed eggs & ham, which is amazing), great service, and a picture menu showing all the amazing food you can order – so you can just point at things and they magically appear at your table! My kind of place. I try to do that at home but it doesn’t always work 😦
We always have a bottle of chilled Martin Codax Albariño alongside the tapas.
A perfect spot for a late relaxing lunch after an afternoon on the beach 🙂
In my next post about Barcelona, I’ll be reviewing more hotels, as well as talking about a trip to Montjuïc Castle, which is a must do!