We Made it to Barcelona!

This trip started when I asked my wife whether she’d consider a quick Thanksgiving trip abroad instead of visiting family (sorry family!). With only 10 vacation days a year, a 4-day holiday is a rare opportunity to travel further than Minneapolis, Denver, Phoenix, or New York for a weekend!  Reluctantly, she said Barcelona…

That was several months ago and I was excited enough that I posted all about the airfare booking process. Since this blog’s about points and miles, I’ll add a few thoughts re. points/miles to follow-up on my original post and then get into the fun stuff about what we did there.

Bonus DC to New Orleans in First (aka adding IAD-…-MSY) = Impossible

I really thought this was going to be possible! When it became apparent that I wouldn’t find another way home, I decided to execute this option. My theory was that my itinerary would be MSY-ATL-CDG-BCN / BCN-CDG-IAD (Washington DC Dulles) <long stop> IAD-…-MSY. Agent after agent agreed this should be possible but the computer kept coming up “no.” After some time I figured it out.  The problem is that IAD is a spoke to both Delta and Air France. You aren’t allowed to stop-over in a spoke. If I could route through JFK, DTW, MSP, ATL or another hub, it’d be different but I never could find low business class routes via those hubs. I fought hard to get this and now accept that it’s not permissible. Somewhere in the routing rules, this is probably clear. Lesson learned. Such is life. We still got a great trip in Delta Low Business at thanksgiving and used just a little extra cash and Southwest miles to get the last leg home. So be it.

Four Points Barcelona

We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal while on this trip, located on the Diagonal, pictured below.

Barcelona Diagonal

As a category 2 Starwood hotel, it’s a mere 4000 points on weekdays and 3000 on weekends and even less on on those rare days where cash+points rates are available (exactly what I love to use SPG for). On the plus side, it was located with easy access to multiple metro lines, good food options nearby, and clean facilities. It was a clear winner for us when I reviewed options where I could use points (and that was a high priority). That said, the walls seemed relatively thin (perhaps because I’d just recently been in the vault like Waldorf Astoria Orlando) so noise transmitted and my wife said the pillows could be better. She also said it’d have been nicer to be more centrally located but when I asked how much more she’d pay (points or money) for that, it wasn’t much. She’s a Starwood gold and I think we were given a higher floor room as a result with quite a nice view of the city. We also received a couple drink certificates to be used at the bar and I enjoyed those. No free breakfast was available.

Transportation and the Barcelona Card

With so little time, we debated what to do here until the last minute. Ultimately, we opted for the Barcelona Card with which we could use the RENFE train from the airport and metro during the duration of our stay as well as discounts as many locations. Given how many museums and cultural institutions we hit, I think we got our value out of it. I don’t believe we saved a significant amount of money however I haven’t really analyzed it. Some places were free (e.g. Barcelona city history museum) while others basically gave you a free value add (free audio guide to La Sagrada Familia) and others gave you a real discount. Hard to say what value we got out of it. I don’t regret it based on a subjective analysis (36 Euro per person for 4 days).

One travel item to note if you go this route, be aware that the shuttle from the international airport (BCN) to the regional/discount airport where the train terminal is located runs pretty frequently but do factor in time appropriately, particularly as you’re leaving Barcelona. We were fine though it seemed several others waiting for the shuttle were pretty stressed.

De Plane! De Plane!

Air France A380

Air France A380

Ok, it’s not terribly valid to compare an A380 to a Grumman Widgeon but I was just about as exited. I know all the cool kids have been on these, probably several times, and that Air France’s business class isn’t the crème de la crème of A380 experiences but it was our first and I enjoyed it! Perhaps too much my wife would probably say. 🙂 The lie flat seats weren’t quite flat enough, no duvets ala our premium cabin trips on BA and AA, and the AV system seemed pretty dated. That said, the much talked about cameras (esp. tail) during take-off and flight were pretty awesome. The open bar was, too much, fun. And the food definitely seemed better on the way home.

Speaking of which, I was rather unimpressed by the food on the way from ATL to CDG earlier in the trip. It seemed Air France was trying too hard, resulting in meals that were overly ambitious but which underdelivered. BA definitely seemed a superior experience (though I’m comparing old BA first vs. new/current AF business so it’s not quite apples to apples).  CDG-BCN and BCN-CDG in intra-European Air France A321’s up front were pleasant but nothing specials. They win over North American flights in that they provide meals on such a short flight while our US domestic carriers have better seating.

We spent a bit of time in one of the AF business class lounges in CDG. It was pleasant and better than a Delta Skyclub (save a couple like Tokyo’s) but noting special. Probably comparable to the BA business class lounge in LHR. A welcome addition to be sure though.

Lastly, is everyone in CDG Sky Priority or do they just not know what priority boarding is? Didn’t really bother me but it was curious.

The Activities

You came here for the miles and points stuff right? There are lots of other sites that cover what you should do in Barcelona, right? Thanks… I’ll keep this quick then. Beware that my wife’s an Architect and this was her trip. It was just my job to get us there and enjoy not running the trip from there on… It worked out well. With just 2.5 days over Thanksgiving, we hustled.

Thanksgiving Paella

Thanksgiving Paella with yours truly. Enjoyable but turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes are more my style.

Barcelona Montjuic Castle

Montjuic Castle (fort) overlooking Barcelona.

Joan Miro Museum

I believe the Joan Miro Museum was free with the Barcelona pass and very worth while. I love it when my art-loving wife brings me along to museums like this.

Casa Mila - Gaudi

Us again, on the rooftop of Casa Mila by Antoni Guadi. Well worth the visit. We were a bit early for sunset and could have done better arriving just a bit later, e.g.:

Casa Mila 2

Of course, street life is alive and thriving in Barcelona such as this on La Rambla which was really just barely getting going.

La Rambla - Barcelona

Amazingly pedestrian friendly city. Back to Gaudi…

Segrada Familia - Plan

As you see the photos below, consider that the portion outlined in black has not been built yet.

Segrada Familia - Interior

More…

Segrada Familia - Interior 2

Even more interior…

Segrada Familia - Interior 3

Stepping outside… do take the tower tour. It’s worth the extra money…

Segrada Familia - Exterior 1

Going down the tower…I was grasping the railing behind me and genuinely nervous despite generally being ok (prudent I prefer) with heights…

Segrada Familia - Tower

Segrada Familia - Tower 2

Consider that it’s been under construction since 1882…

Segrada Familia - Exterior 2

…Amazing.

So much more that I don’t have photos of and can’t do justice covering… Just do some research. Hit the Barcelona city history museum, evening in the old city, eat tapas and drink wine, and enjoy. It really is a fantastic city with far more than we could cover in 2.5 days. That said, to paraphrase my wife, it’s an easy decision when given the choice between no days in Barcelona and 2.5 days. Go.

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