From picnics and zebras to musical fountains, here’s how Spain works for young mums on holiday
MY brother’s destination wedding in Ireland was not just an emotionfilled one, but also an excuse for us to take a quick detour, to one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, Barcelona. With my not-yet-two toddler, Iniya, in tow, we were a little apprehensive—about the long flights, new country and food not being very kid-friendly—but we soon discovered that vacationing inthe Catalonian city is child’s play. At the El Prat airport, the driver of our pre-booked taxi greeted us with a cheery“hola”. He had also brought along a baby seat and some munchies for the little one, since the ride to our AirBnB accommodation(an entire house, complete with a kitchen to whip up baby meals) was a long one. Driving in, our first impression was of a hip city with a vibrant and thriving night life. Iniya loved the bright lights, so we decided to drop off our bags and head out for a stroll in Girona, in centralBarcelona. The ‘tapas-culture’ was very evident, with cosy watering holes and wine bars punctuating every street, all exuberantly bustling. As we made our way to one such nook, we found families much like ours, complete with toddlers and children. Why should young parents miss out on the fun!
On the wild side
We planned our first full day as a babycentric one. Geared with maps of the city and the metro lines, we made our way to
the Zoo de Barcelona (`1,204/`753 for adults/children), one of the finest in Europe for its collection of animals housed in a natural setting. As expected, Iniya had a ball, and we joined her in spotting gazelles, Iberian wolves and Komodo dragons, though the loude s t c h e e r s we r e reserved for the zebras and lions. There were free shows, too, with dolphins and sea lions. In the evening,we walked tothe harbour, t oL’Aquarium, the largest Mediterranean themed aquarium in the world (`1,505/`753 for adults/ children). It was yet another family-fun experience as we not only got to see a fascinating world of colour—in the giltheads, moray eels and sea horses—but also watched the sharks and penguins being fed.
Barcelona has plenty of green open spaces, so on day two, armed with comfortable sneakers and a buggy for the little one, we set out to explore the charming city. Breathing in the sights and smells, we paused often for churros con chocolat at the ubiquitous dispense vans. With a sumptuous picnic basket, we spent a few hours under the shade at the sprawling Arc de Triomf boulevard, enjoying one of Barcelona’s iconic landmarks, while Iniya was captivated by the jolly street artists and performers. The popular La Rambla promenade was no different. We also got to marvel at some landmark buildings, like the Gran Teatre del Liceu and Palau de la Virreina. Next, the beach beckoned. So La Barceloneta it was. Gorgeous weather and weekends meant one thing: no space to spread our beach towels. But once we learnt to navigate our way, we were soon building sand castles and slurping ice pops.
Ever since I started watching internationaltravel shows on TV, I’d wanted to visit a food market. So, to visit one in Barcelona was on the top of my to-do list. Following a tip from our AirBnB host, we decided to visit the Mercat de Santa Caterina—which was where the locals shopped—rather than La Boqueria, which was supposedly rather touristy. We snacked our way down the aisles, on Roscos de Naranja (orange fritters), local biscuits and farm-fresh juices, while we stocked up on olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We even sampled some homemade tapas at one of the many pop-ups there. As for Iniya, the shopkeepers were generous and a free bunch of plump cherries kept her busy all through. What was truly remarkable about our time in Barcelona was that there was something for everybody. What seemed like adult activities—like a walk through the beautiful Gothic quarter with its Medieval architecture or a visit to the mock Spanish village, Poble Español (`903/`527 for adults/children)—were all surprisingly appreciated by the little one with equal gusto. Similarly, we were thrilled to spend time at the chocolate making and tasting sessions at Museu de la Xocolata (`452), and the Tibidabo Amusement Park (`2,257/`828 for adults/ children), located on Tibidabo hill with the Barcelona skyline as a stunning backdrop. And let me not forget the goofy time we had at the musical fountains and coloured lights show at Font Magica. As clichéd as it may sound, there was too much to do and too little time to do it all in. As we bade ‘adios’ and boarded our flight back home, holding on to every little memory created, we knew we would be back again, with our toddler in tow.