One great thing about living in the South of France is it’s easy to get to lots of other places without needing to get on a plane. Barcelona is only about three hours from here and now that we are all tooled up with an in-car DVD which stops making us want to pull our own eyes out because the kids are being SO annoying in the car, a three-hour trip, or even longer, is no longer a huge deal.
For our first night we stayed in the very exquisite ABaC hotel in Barcelona because I was reviewing it for Travel Intelligence. It was so tasteful that even the car park was well-lit, as Alex pointed out. The weather was still beautiful despite it being nearly November so we went to look a some Gaudi in Parc Guell and then took them across town for tapas just off La Rambla. “It’s like being at Moe’s in The Simpsons!” Toby said as we sat at the bar.
The next day we tried to go to see La Sagrada Familia but the queue was HUGE, so instead we went for a wander by the beach and got the cable car across the port. I love Barcelona – there’s something so “hip” about it – and it was very exciting to be back in a big city. Barcelona is a great place to visit with kids – Trish over at Mum’s Gone To…agrees.
Then – as far as the kids were concerned at least – we left Barcelona for the main event – Portaventura – Spain’s only theme park. We stayed in the Wild West themed Hotel Gold River – we had a little log cabin complete with a grandma’s rocking chair outside. The park doesn’t open till 10am so by then the kids were beside themselves with excitement. There was a really good mix of kiddie rides and scary rides – on the first day we mainly stuck to the kiddie rides like tea-cups (Livi’s favourite) and carousels etc – the one “grown-up” ride we tried was Grand Canyon Rapids – which is as it sounds. It was brilliant fun but if I’d realised quite how wet we were going to get I’d have been a bit less tight and bought the plastic ponchos which were for sale in the queue – as it was Livi and I got so soaked (or perhaps we are just a bit less hardy than Alex and Toby) that I bought myself and emergency dress and Livi a T-shirt a few sizes too big for her to wear as a dress too. Probably should have done it at the end of the day rather than at the beginning….
Our first day there was Hallowe’en, which it seems the Spanish go for in a big way as almost everyone, young and old, was in a costume – there were whole families of Munsters and face painters in the park offering “fag stubbed out on face” effects and other similarly gruesome things. The park was absolutely packed – some of the rides had queues up to three hours long – and the stayed open till midnight – although I’m told if you go out of school holidays and weekends though there are very few queues. Alex and I got a bit over-excited at being out late and had a few too many cocktails before our surprisingly good dinner at the Grand Opera Restaurant while the kids chased a man (or woman) in a Woody Woodpecker costume and Bluto from Popeye round the hotel square.
But despite feeling a bit delicate the next day, we managed to corral the kids onto a smallish roller coaster “Tomahawk” which they LOVED – especially Toby. I had forgotten how much I love roller coasters – I probably haven’t been on one for about 20 years – and our fast passes meant Alex and I could take it in turns to go on the big rides – including Dragon Khan which has eight loops. Fantastic. I am considering becoming one of those roller coaster anoraks who travel the world going on bigger and bigger ‘coasters (see, I’ve already got the lingo!) However we did give Hurakan Condor a miss – it’s a ride which basically lifts you almost 100 metre up in the air and drops you straight back down again . Maybe next time…….
There was a lot og hallowe’en stuff going on – we made Livi cry (whoops) by taking her into the Mina del Diablo where zombies and people with chain saws jump out at you as you walk through a series of dark passages. Probably should have paid more attention to its “three pumpkin” rating. I’m just glad we didn’t have to experience Hotel Burn – which Dulwich Divorcee writes about here – as it sounds absolutely terrifying.
All in all – “it was really, really great” as Livi, wearing a pretend knife stuck through her head said as we left the park, once she had been reassured that the zombies weren’t real and taken to see a little Sesame Street show to recover.