Tag Archives: Barcelona

The joy of travelling with a three year old

The unschooling diaries: week forty

Travelling with kids gets a pretty bad press. It is, patently, harder than travelling used to be pre-parenthood: there is another person’s needs to factor in after all, a person who can’t actually contribute anything to the logistics of the whole process.

But what they might lack in organisational skills those little people make up for in a whole host of other ways.

We spent a few days in Barcelona last week. It is one of my all-time favourite cities, helped along by the fact that one of my bestest friends has lived there with her family for the past seven years. Visiting them feels a lot like going home (in an unashamed global citizen – thank you very much Theresa May – kind of way), and I love that my son is starting to get to love the city too.

The anticipation started before we even got on the plane.


We had woken early, leaving home in the dark soon after six to drive to the airport. Arthur slept all the way, and was still a little disorientated when we got to check-in. He perked up as we headed towards security though, full of questions about what the machines were looking for, and why we had to put liquids in a little plastic bag.

We answered as frankly as we could, and smiled as he bravely stepped up to walk through the scanners and waited for our bags to make their way along the conveyor belt.

On the other side: breakfast, and then the excited scramble to the gate.


Once we were on the plane, Arthur expertly secured his own seat belt, and listened intently as the safety message was relayed. He passed away the journey with a movie on the iPad, interspersed with chat about what we were going to do once we arrived and a little bit of Spanish practise.

He is so used to travelling now that he no longer needs much of our attention, at least not on a short flight. Leigh slept, and I wrote a blog post. And as we came into land we all peered out of the window with anticipation.


Our little holiday itself was fairly uneventful. We hung out with our friends, we enjoyed the cultural acceptance of children that meant we could enjoy a drink and some tapas whilst they played in the street, we noticed things in their barrio that we might previously have taken for granted because Arthur’s observations and questions threw new light on the everyday.


We had one day when we ventured further afield: we were keen to go for a swim, so planned to take the cable car from Montjuic to Barceloneta. We set off up the hill, but when we reached the station we discovered it was closed. Arthur was gutted, so there was no denying him when he spotted the cable car up to the castle even though we’d only intended to get the funicular down to Paral.lel.


It was an unexpectedly awesome trip. Whilst Leigh and I gawped at the views Arthur gave us a running commentary on the mechanics of our transportation. He was fascinated by how it all worked – and whilst I generally prefer not to think too much about that when I’m suspended high above solid ground it was strangely liberating to answer his questions.


We eventually made it to the beach, and though the pool we were aiming for was not hugely accommodating to kids the sea was fresh and clear and alluring. Our friends have pretty much finished their sea swimming for the year, but the water was warm by our standards, and Arthur delighted in playing in the surf. It was just on the edge of safe, but with Leigh and I taking it in turns to shadow him he was able to test his limits and work on his confidence in the water – one of the most crucial strands of our makeshift curriculum.


Back with our friends over dinner, it was lovely to watch Arthur bonding with their daughters. Seven and nine years old, I have known them both since infancy: they were really my first initiation into motherhood, and will always hold a special place in my heart. When we were in Barcelona last summer Arthur was still only two, and whilst they did their best to be kind to him he was not yet playmate material. This year all that had changed.

They played, and chatted, and laughed. Over dinner Arthur began exploring some Spanish words again: I love that he’s interested in the concept of another language, and I’m keen to take advantage of that as much as I can.

Our country might be tightening its borders and distancing our neighbours in Europe with every new utterance, but that is not the future that I want for my son. With this special link we have with Barcelona, and with this wonderful aptitude for travelling that Arthur is revealing, I have a feeling our horizons will only get broader from here on in.


A toddler-inspired trip to Barcelona

Seven years ago or so, one of my bestest friends moved to Barcelona. I was gutted that she would no longer be around the corner, but there began a love affair with the Catalonian capital, a city that whilst I was living in London became my second home.

It’s been harder to visit as frequently now that I’m living in Devon, though it’s a short flight from Bristol, or a seriously cool adventure by ferry and road from Plymouth. Last summer we managed to make it out with Arthur for the first time, and discovered just what an awesome city it is with a toddler in tow.


I’d already been used to traversing the streets with my friend’s own children, but I’d panicked a little at the prospect of visiting with an eighteen month old, especially in the height of summer. I needn’t have worried though.


He loved toddling down tree-lined streets, eye-catching graffiti, a handy play park or an intriguing piece of public art on almost every corner. The whole culture is just perfectly set up for kids: no-one looked twice when we took him out in the evening for dinner, and with the help of the sling we could get everywhere we needed to on public transport.




On top of the general infrastructure though there are lots of things to do that are just perfect for keeping little people entertained. Having just booked our flights for this summer’s trip, I thought it was about time I revisited them!

1) The beach

It’s sometimes easy to forget that Barcelona is right on the sea. In fact, when I first visited as part of an InterRail trip nearly twenty years ago, I’m not sure we actually made it to the beach at all. The coastline has been developed loads in the intervening years and there are now a range of beaches to choose from, becoming quieter and cleaner the further you venture from the centre.


It was a real bonus in the August heat to be able to go and chill out and cool off – though actually the sea is lovely and warm in summer, especially for a little boy used to swimming in the bracing seas of Brixham!


2) The Olympic pool 

The sea is not the only option for a swim. In fact my favourite place for a refreshing dip has to be the Olympic pool high above the city in Montjuic.


The water is delightedly cool on hot skin, it never gets too crazy busy, and there is something brilliantly surreal about the setting. The views across the city are pretty much impossible to beat.


3) The Miro foundation

Whilst you’re up in Montjuic, it’s well worth paying a visit to the Fundació Joan Miró. The art is big and bold and beautiful – just right to capture the imagination of a toddler. And as an added bonus there is a roof terrace with more wonderful views and the chance to get up close and personal with some striking sculptures.



4) The cable car

If you’re still hankering after more views, the cable car back down the mountain is pretty special. I’d love to take Arthur back now that he’s babbling away – I’m so curious to know what was going through his mind as he stared wide-eyed at the world below.



5) The Sagrada Familia

For something completely different, it’s well worth checking out Gaudi’s magnificent church – a masterpiece which is still under construction.


From the outside it is unusual and impressive, and the soaring space of the interior is fantastic too. It is a welcome respite from the heat: Arthur was flaking as we waited outside, but soon perked up with the cool air and space to explore.



Make sure you book tickets in advance to avoid the massive queues – you can do this online right up to the day of your visit and I would definitely recommend you do.

6) The Aquarium

More respite from the heat can be found at the aquarium down in the old harbour. It was crazy busy on the day we visited, but that didn’t bother Arthur: he was entranced by the different coloured marine life and would happily have stayed for hours if we’d let him.



7) Parc de la Crueta de Coll

One other place that’s well worth a visit for some watery fun is the paddling pool in the old quarry at Parc de la Crueta de Coll. It’s a bit out of the town centre, but totally doable on the metro. You’re much more likely to be rubbing shoulders with locals than tourists, and for most toddlers it is a little slice of heaven.



(I know he doesn’t look too happy in the second pic, but I think he was just in a deep state of relaxation: basking in the sun whilst standing chest deep in cool water.)

8) La Boqueria

After all you adventures, you are likely to be in need of some refreshment. Barcelona is awash with great tapas bars and restaurants of almost every variety you can imagine, but it is the markets I love most, and La Boqueria is my favourite of those.



For little ones it is a feast for the senses: from fresh fish piled high to fabulous fruit to eat on the go. Definitely worth popping in, if only to soak up the atmosphere.

Even with all this, I feel like we have only scraped the tip of the iceberg of opportunities Barcelona offers for young families. It’s a good thing we’re going back in a couple of months: I cannot wait for more adventures – or for the blissfully deep sleep they inevitably induce.


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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X is for Xampanyet


A tiny tapas bar in the Born area of Barcelona, near the Picasso museum: a little slice of history where locals and tourists alike gather to soak up the atmosphere, the food and the cava.

It’s never easy to get a table, but once you do, shuffling along benches and perching on stools to squeeze everyone in, you’re always in for a treat. From the ubiquitous pan con tomate to plates piled high with melt-in-the-mouth ham, from little red peppers stuffed with cheese to fresh and vinegary anchovies. We always eat too much, and it always costs a fraction of what we think it will. And it’s always washed down with copious amounts of house cava – served in vintage saucers and strangely refreshing despite being a little too sweet.

As I’m writing this I realise I haven’t actually been there for ages. For a while, after one of my best friends relocated out there with her family, Barcelona became my second home. But then I moved out of London, and Arthur came along, and suddenly popping over for the weekend became somewhat more challenging. We did make it back to the city this summer, but like many places in Barcelona this little tapas bar was closed for the holidays. I guess I’ll just need to book another trip to savour its flavours again.

X is for Xampanyet.


Joining in with The Alphabet Photography Project over at PODcast.