When my now Husband proposed last Christmas, I immediately turned Maid Of Honor duties over to my sister. These duties can include driving the bride to every wedding related destination possible; being on hand to offer truthful advice about any wedding situation; giving opinions on dresses, decor, venues, and anything else that might possibly require an opinion; helping the bride into her dress and shoes on the day, and at every dress fitting leading up to the day; and of course, the task of arranging and organizing the hen do!
My sister being who she is – the name Monica has been thrown around from time to time in the past 9 months – she got on this straight away, and I mean straight away!
My hen-do was to be top secret, so everyone I know from my family to my bridesmaids to my hens to my work colleagues were under the threat of death, if they blabbed to me!
So let’s begin shall we…
The Big Reveal
Many a time since they had set the dates, and booked whatever it was they needed to book, my sister asked me, “how should we tell you?”
I thought maybe just letting me find out as it happened would be a good way to tell me, as we had done that for one of my bridesmaids the previous year when we surprised her with a trip to Amsterdam for her hen-do. She didn’t know where she was going until she got to CHECK IN!
However, my sister decided that she thought I would like to pack, and I might need to buy a few things so it was better that I knew before hand.
Fast forward a bit to August 22nd, the date of my home-hen-do. It’s becoming more and more popular now to have one at home, and one somewhere else. Some might say it’s greedy, I say it’s definitely worth the hangover! Especially if like me, you had a few hens who couldn’t make it, either because they’re teachers or couldn’t get the holiday time, or pregnant or whatever reason, it’s great way to make sure you spend time with everyone who is important to you. Another good reason is because it’s great to get drunk in the comfort of your sisters house, and sleep on her couch!
So we all piled into her house – thankfully it was the perfect size for parties! One of my bridesmaids and one of my best friends took me over, after letting me get changed at their house. My bridesmaids Mam even had to fix my dress for me, thanking you kindly!
Greeted by a couple of friends that had arrived before us, and a glass – the first of many – of prosecco, I was in my element! I had done hen-dos for my sister, and one of my bridesmaids, plus been to a couple just as a hen… this one was mine! No one could believe it and everyone was full of questions about the wedding.
Slowly, more guests started to pile in – friends, family, my soon to be in-laws, each getting prosecco pushed into their hands!
Now, what’s a hen-do without a silly game? A childhood favorite of mine actually, with a grown-up twist. Grown up pass the parcel! Ever played…? For those of you haven’t, you do the usual and sit in a circle. Every-time the music stops, the person it lands on either has to do a shot, or nominate a shot. Deeeelightful! I could see my sister and one of my bridesmaids sitting in the corner, with the music and the parcel, looks of excitement and panic on their faces! Was it going to go well? Who knew. My other bridesmaids were on my side of the circle, raring to go (well, one of them was pregnant at the time, so not raring to do shots!)
A beautifully wrapped package was produced and off we went! Round and round it went, stopping every so often, with brilliant gifts coming out of them! Some were sweets, others were socks, they really were fab! And of course, the majority of people nominated me to do the shots… one or two didn’t though, and either took one for the team or nominated someone else! Shout out to my mother-in-law who nominated one bridesmaid by saying “Emily seems to be enjoying it!” and also to my Aunty-in-law who quite happily did a shot of sambuca! No thanks to those that nominated me!
Round and round it goes, it’s starting to get smaller and smaller. Suddenly, it stops on me. I look around at them all, watching. I look at the parcel. I start to open it. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m rubbish at opening anything. The room is thick with anticipation. Everyone but me knows what’s coming. Finally, I seem to have opened a strange looking book. It takes a moment for me to realize what I’m holding. When I do, I look up at my sister and say “what have you done?”
Then the room pretty much erupts into squeals of excitement!
You see in my hand, I’m holing a “Lonely Planet” guide… for Barcelona.
We’re all jumping around hugging each other and I’m actually crying a little bit, because I can’t believe it! And so the night goes on… every so often I jump up and down on the spot shouting “I’m going to Barcelona!”and my sister actually asks if that’s okay?! Crazy!
Fast forward to the 27th of September. It’s 4am, and me and 8 of my closest, bestest friends are meeting in the car park of the pub that my sister runs to get on a mini bus to take us to the airport. I’m half asleep, but so excited! Once we’re all there, off we go!
In the airport, it’s a quick breakfast – highly expensive and not that nice – and then on to the plane! And what’s on the plane…? Prosecco! I’m in my element, travelling with some of the finest ladies I know, to a country I’ve never been to but always wanted to go, drinking prosecco for my hen-do!
Once we get there, it’s a bus and few metro stops, then a little bit of walking to find the apartments. And fantastic apartments they were…
Wow… the apartments were amazing! Apartmentos El Pintor, a little hard to find, but after walk back and forth on the same street, we got there!
Located about 5 minutes away from a metro, the Picasso museum and lots of bars and restaurants, plus right around the corner from a couple of small supermarkets, but enough out of the way that you feel nicely secluded! We had two apartments booked, one for 4 of us, the other for 5 of us. Both of them were the same, with a small kitchen complete with fridge – stocked with booze leftover from whoever was there before – an oven, coffee maker, kettle, etc; a very spacious living and dining area with very comfy couch, TV, books and magazines; 3 very nicely sized bedrooms, one which was en-suite (mine and my sisters room!); and a good sized separate bathroom! It was so spacious, that you could actually sleep a lot of extra people in… our room had a double bed, one of the other rooms had a double bed and a pull out couch, there was a room with two single beds and fold out bed, plus a fold out couch and bed in the living room. The apartments were really stylish, with lots of mirrors and lots of light – perfect for a group of girls all trying to get ready at the same time!
Up another flight of stairs, we got to our very own roof terrace which was beautiful! Great of pre-drinks or just relaxing after a busy day!
I would definitely recommend it! The only thing that some people might struggle with is the stairs… narrow, tile stairs, going up in a tight square spiral! They didn’t bother us though!
Food and Drink
Food in Barcelona was amazing! Drink mostly consisted of Cava, which was also amazing! From cafes filled with fresh pastries and cakes, to street vendors selling delicious waffles, we were spoiled for choice. I have also discovered that Barcelona has fantastic ice cream!!! Here’s a run through of some of the places we went…
- Los Caracoles – We went here on our first night, and although it took some finding, it was well worth it! I’m afraid I don’t have photos for this one, but look on the website, and do go! Imagine this for a moment, if you will… we walked in to what appeared to be a tiny bar. Table for 9? We were dubious, but it was no problem! The friendly waiter took us down through the bar, through the kitchen – as in right down the middle of it – across a room and up some stairs… across another room and up more stairs… and through and up and through up, each room getting bigger, and more interesting… through a room that overlooked a different room, that had hams hanging from the ceiling… past a working well… up and through, through and up, until we reached a massive room, with a huge table big enough for all of us – look at the photos on the website, you’ll see a room with stairs either side of it, leading up to some toilets, with a big table right in the middle of it… that’s where we sat! Admittedly, I was a bit intimidated by the prices… the cheapest thing that I liked was 17 euros and it wasn’t quite was I expecting, but it was tasty! Most of the table opted for HUGE delicious steaks! The best thing about this place though was the amazing atmosphere, and the fact that on the way back out, we noticed yet more rooms and stair ways…! Really give it a ago!
- Can Paixano – This place was my idea of heaven! If you’re looking for a cheap, memorable breakfast, this is the place to go! A long, narrow bar, bustling full of all sorts of different people, what an amazing atmosphere! For 3 euros (or there abouts, I can’t quite remember), you get a huge sausage sandwich and cava! What more can I say?
- Origens – This was a charming restaurant, with delicious food! An interesting menu, where they recommend you share a dish, then order one for yourself. I loved the food here and could have eaten it over and over again! I loved the decor too, really lovely to look at, and we enjoyed Cava Sangria! Yum!
- Taller de Tapas – This was right around the corner from the apartments, but to be honest with you, it was better for drinks than food. We stopped here for cocktails one afternoon, decided to book a table for later, then came back. Now, it was nice don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t great! The staff seemed to be struggling a bit, and the dessert tasted a bit burnt to me… but I enjoyed my paella and we got free Cava!
- La Cerveceria – Now, my sister had talked and talked about this place… she had talked about how amazing it was… the atmosphere, the food, and most importantly, THE CAKE. A friend of ours who was also there had been there with her previously, and it was just the place we had to go! It looked for a little while like we might not make it, but after 3 days, part of our group went home, and the rest of us stayed, leaving 5 of us (this was due to a booking error, that ended up with us having an extra night!) My sister wasn’t sure 9 would get in… getting a table is difficult. You go in, give your name and size and they tell you when to come back… it was still quite a wait, but we eventually got to our seat! Similar to many places we visited on my hen-do, the first impression is that it’s tiny… but once you round a corner, it’s actually massive! There is the option to sit at the bar, which is supposed to be great, but unlikely to happen with the large number of 5! The food was so good, the best tapas we had whilst we were there! The atmosphere was brilliant. Then there was this cake… the highlight of the restaurant. My sister told me that when she went with her husband, she loved this place so much they went twice in four nights. Our friend and her boyfriend had also been with them. Everything was amazing, but there was something about this CAKE. The best CAKE EVER. Those were her words. So delicious, her and her husband had a piece each… they usually share a desert. She kept mentioning this cake, and when it came to ordering there was the worry that a. they wouldn’t do it anymore, and b. if they did, it wouldn’t be as good as she remembered. She described the cake to the waitress, asking if they still did such a thing as a “house cake”. Yes they did, the waitress replied, although you say it had pineapple in and this one doesn’t… panic! Do we order it? Yes, she has to have it anyway, just try it! But then… us 4 are all too full to have a whole cake each, maybe we could all share… but no… if it’s just a nice as it was the last time, she doesn’t want to share! Okay… maybe we could try a piece, and if we like it you can have your piece, and us 5 will share? Yep, good plan. So, this cake came. With anticipation, she took the first bite… and nearly melted into the table! It was the same cake, and it was even better then she remembered… okay ladies, forks at the ready! Wow… what a cake! Creamy, light, slightly caramelized on the top, with a flavor like no other…! We all share this one slice after all, but half way through, my sister realizes that she must take some back for her husband! So she orders another slice, and we finish this one. If only we could have more… but can’t order a third slice of this cake… no, definitely not… but… we do have a slice right here… but we can’t eat that, it’s for my brother-in-law. But maybe… maybe we can cut a thin slice off, and eat that…? And that’s just what we did! So the moral of the story is, order the cake… order lots of the cake!
- La Boqueria – If you’re looking for a quirky place to have lunch, this is it! La Boqueria is a huge food market. Fresh fruit, iced drinks, pastries, ice creams, chocolate covered strawberries, fish, cheeses, chocolates, meat, all kinds of different food stalls, that you can spend hours looking at! It’s all really affordable, and really delicious. About half way around, you start to realize that a lot of it is the same, but keep going because every few stalls you find a hidden gem! Bars, nuts and dried fruit… you name it! We had such fun in here, although it’s easy to get separated, so make a plan to meet back at entrance or a certain stall at a certain time, then you’re free to enjoy yourself!
All in all there are a lot of delicious food and drink in Barcelona… we even had a couple of little picnics! I’d go back for the food alone.
Things to do
Now, there are LOADS of things to do in Barcelona… tonnes of historical sights, museums, parks, architecture, shopping! We did a lot whilst we were there, but also spent a lot of time relaxing, looking around the shops and just taking in the sights. Las Ramblas is a great place to visit, very beautiful, and the waterfront was great for stroll, with market stalls, waffles, and a few rides, plus lots of boats to look at! The two main things that we did, were Park Guell and Sagrada Familia. They were both amazing!
We actually went here twice. The first day we went, we didn’t realize that you can only get in with tickets at designated times… we knew you had to pay but we weren’t prepared for this. However, there is a bit of the park that’s accessible without tickets. It’s a walk through a wooded area overlooking the park. So on this day, as the weather was so glorious, we decided to have go for a wander and have a picnic. We also booked tickets for the following day.
So the next day we came back, and it really is amazing. There is school right in the middle of it, and a massive open area with seating all the way around it, which has views for miles of the surrounding area. You are surrounded by amazing architecture. Make sure you see the two houses – hard to miss – and the famous mosaic lizard, seen all over Barcelona! You can also go underneath the open area, and see what’s holding it up!
Similar to Park Guell, we went here one day not realizing that you could only get in at certain times. So again, we bought tickets to come back the next day, and I am so pleased we did!
When we got off the metro, one of my friends who had been before made us look down, and guided us around the Nativity Facade, and then told us to look up, just to get the full effect of the building! The other side, the Passion Facade is equally fascinating and striking!
It is a really beautiful building, with a fascinating history! Once inside, you see the stunning stained glass windows, and much more. It is easy to see nature everywhere in his inspirations, and even though it is still being built, it is a must see! I was blown away by it, and will go back.
I don’t want to spoil this for anyone, which is why I am not saying much about it, and why I won’t be posting any photos. If you do one thing in Barcelona, this must be it!
The Big Surprise
I know what you’re thinking… the big surprise was Barcelona, wasn’t it? That was the biggest surprise, but my lovely friends had arranged one for me in Barcelona too! Once night, we went for dinner, then got on the metro, and set off on an adventure. Once off, we walk down to the beach front, and then one of my friends put their hands over my eyes, whilst the other one lead me. We went inside somewhere, and when they uncovered my eyes, I was standing opposite a sign that said:
It took me a moment to realize exactly where we were… an Ice Bar! I was so excited! Bearing in mind that we were all dressed up… dresses, sandals etc, I was a bit concerned about how cold we would be… the door said -15 degrees! The girls had brought me some socks – looked great with my sandals! – and the bar gave you coats and gloves! So in we went. The visit included a drink, which was served in an ice glass. There were ice sculptures and it was indeed freezing! We had a great time though, I loved it!
Eso Si Que Es
On the first day, my friend who has actually lived in Spain, told us that when we really like something, when something is great, we should exclaim “Eso Si Que Es”, and for those of us that couldn’t remember it, SOCKS was just as good! So that’s just what we did, and every time we reference the trip, we now shout SOCKS! When we got home and told my brother-in-law this, he told us that we were saying the wrong thing though… I still loved shouting it and will continue to forever! SOCKS!
All in all, I had an amazing time in Barcelona, and I can’t wait to go back! I will never be able to thank my sister, my Mam and my hens enough for giving me such an unforgettable, fantastic time!