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Barcelona, Spain
web: hotel-alexandra.com
email: informacion@hotel-alexandra.com

By Lois Foster Hirt, Correspondent

About Barcelona // Barcelona, the cosmopolitan, coastal capital of Catalonia, is an architectural delight. The city is divided into six quarters with each area being distinct, unique and special. The numerous museums and the Gaudi architectural wonders alone need time to be explored. Wide-open boulevards, with central sections for strolling and dining, are a pleasure to walk. Las Ramblas, a pedestrian street, houses flower stands, small animal and bird stalls, newspaper and book kiosks along with numerous cafes and sidewalk performers.

Where to Stay // Hotel Alexandra is a newly refurbished four-star hotel with 77 double rooms and the four junior suites with a terrace and Jacuzzi. There are five conference rooms with every possible business service and amenity. The hotel's location, between Paseo de Gracia and Rambla de Catalunya in the Eixample district, and allows one to walk just about anywhere.

Where to Eat // Eating early (before 8:30 p.m.) is not something one can do here. Restaurant L'Altell in the Hotel Alexandra serves Mediterranean fare as well as buffet breakfast. Cocktail bar is lively. You do have the option of eating and drinking at many tapas bars all day long especially on its central pedestrian strips. My special favorite, delicious Spanish Omelets, different than US style. Some Vegetarian offerings: Juicy Jones Vegetarian restaurant and juice bar by the opera house off Los Ramblas --Cardenal Casanas 7 bcn 933 024 330 Comme Bio Vegetarian Gran Via Corts Catalanes 933 010 376 -has an organic health food store like whole foods -vitamins, etc. Comme Bio on Via Lautana 28.

Places to see // Antoni Gaudi was an architectural genius. All his buildings are unique and a must see. Every aspect is a treasure to observe particularly at Casa Mila also known as La Pedrerais. Standing on the roof, with its unbelievable array of chimneys and ventilators, affords a wonderful view of the city. Gaudi's furnished apartment is open to the public. The La Sagrada Familia, an unfinished Gaudi built church, is a fantasy. Don¹t miss the Picasso Museum which is housed in an old, ornate, beautiful building. For the modern art lover visit Museu D'art Contemporani de Barcelona. Walk between Catalunya and Passeig de Gracia on C. Aragon. You can't miss the Antoni Tapies Foundation. On top of the building is Tapies' Cloud and Chair sculpture, created out of anodized aluminum and metallic fabric. Port Vell, an entertainment complex, and the fine, sandy beaches await you if you tire of sightseeing and need a break. Stroll along the boardwalk, shop or visit the Historical Museum of Cataluna. Also, check out the sky ride/cable car. The Olympic Village was built for the 1992 Olympics. Look for the huge fish sculpture among others. Walk around and enjoy the scenery. Rent boats, eat or shop. See the new opera house. El Licea, in all its splendor. The horseshoe shape seating design is decorated in red and gold with some box seats actually on stage. To see where residents food shop, check out Mercat St. Joseph La Boqueria with individual stalls right by the opera house. Spain operates 27 casinos.

Tips // Since Barcelona is divided into quarters, each can be done as a day trip. Be prepared for a different dialect here. The names of the streets can change from one block to another. If you need to conduct any business at a bank, be sure to do it between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. October through May on Saturdays, they are open until 12:30 p.m. Not all banks in Barcelona cash travelers checks. Opera lovers: Try to purchase tickets for the opera in advance of your trip. Look into purchasing the Articket for museum visits. Museums are closed on certain days. Be on the alert for pickpockets. Temperatures range between 51°F in the winter to 77°F in the summer. Prepare for rain in the spring and fall. The coldest months are December and January.

Shopping // Shopping along Passeig De Gracia gives you a choice of many famous, fine boutiques and jewelry stores. If you are into antiques, you have your choice of 73 shops at El Bulevard Dels Antiquaris. El Corte Ingles is a very fine chain department store. The English chain store Marks and Spencer is here on a smaller scale. Tuesday may be the only day you won't be able to explore a flea market. Museum shops are excellent places to pick up special and unique gifts. The glassware to purchase from Barcelona is called Mataro Don't forget to get the vouchers for your VA T. (Value Added Tax) when you shop. Whatever you spend over 15,000 pesetas, you are entitled to a refund of 16% of your purchase price. You will need a filled out invoice from the store and your receipts. Some airports want to see the goods. You can mail in to get your refund or collect it at the airport. This must be done before you leave Spain.

Transportation // Taxis do charge extra from the airport. Each piece of luggage that isn't a carry-on is an extra fee. Use the metro, it¹s a breeze to take and transverses the whole city. Ask about the day passes.

Books // If you enjoy reading authors from a country you are going to or have visited, try these Spanish ones: Murder In The Central Committee, by Manuel Vazquez Montalban. For poetry there is Federico Faria Lorca. Since Barcelona is known for its Gaudi architecture, you might want to read Barbara Wilson's, Gaudi Afternoon. The department store El Corte Ingles has a big bookstore. Crisol is a chain bookstore.

By Lois Foster Hirt, Correspondent

Trying to decide what to see in Barcelona is like trying to choose one flavor of ice cream. Why eat a single flavor ice cream cone when you can taste a multi-flavored one. That is how I felt about savoring the varied Gaudi structures. In Barcelona the only souvenir I wanted to bring home was an actual building. Each one was more elegant and decorative than the next. Wherever you walk, be on the lookout for the wonderful architecture on most buildings. This includes the ironwork and doors. I¹m sorry I didn't have more time to spend in this fascinating city.


LOCATION: Barcelona, Spain
ROOMS: 77 (+4 suites)


+34 93 467 71 66