“ Address: Av. Bogatell 64-68 / 08005 Barcelona / Spain „
---Planning the Barcelona Trip---
The trip to Barcelona with my parents and their friend E had been a thought in progress for a long time...but due to various unfortunate life circumstances it had been put on the backburner. However, earlier this year it was decided that we WOULD be going to Barcelona in 2011, and that rather than a long weekend, we'd be going for a whole week, giving us plenty of time for sightseeing AND sunbathing!
We decided on mid September so as to avoid the heat and humidity, and crowds (and children) of July & August...and the next thing was finding suitable flights...but more importantly a suitable hotel.
---Searching for a hotel---
I spent hours on Expedia and the like looking at various options...if it was me going alone I'd have probably picked the cheapest and most hideous place, but VERY thankfully with me being poor (and in DESPERATE need of a holiday in the sun) my parents were paying (of course many WOULD pay for the pleasure of my delightful company), but still it didn't seem appropriate for me to be making decisions...besides, we were a hard crowd to please:
The hotel must:
* Have an outside swimming pool (I think it was me who said this was essential!)
* Be near a beach - essential when there for a week - we spent a whole two days on the beach
* Have easy access to the main part of Barcelona via public transport
* Have breakfast included (definitely one from my parents and E)
So, I left the booking to my Mum, who did very well! And for a very respectable price come to that. In fact this experience has told me that online hotel shopping isn't always the best option and that even if you find deals online, they can generally be reduced if you actually speak to a real person. After all, according to Expedia there were only 2 hotels in Barcelona (with swimming pools) which included breakfast, and the H10 Marina wasn't one of them.
My Mum booked through Travel Republic, and the cost was £414pp including breakfast (flights £155pp for anyone who's interested) - much better than any of the prices I'd found.
Our story of arrival could be a whole review in itself (easyJet were fine I might note), but I'll wait and see what comes from my Mum's complaint about the shuttlebus company that were MEANT to pick us up from the airport...oh, and to return us to the airport at the end of the holiday...we won't talk about that.
Thus began our holiday of waiting around for blue buses and my naming of our party as "Team Blue Bus". Team Blue Bus had to get a taxi from the airport to H10 Marina, which cost just under Euro40 - it's 15km from the airport, so I suppose this isn't too bad when there's 4 in a team.
---Check in, and the Rooms---
My parents had a double room on the 3rd floor, and E and myself shared a twin room on the 6th floor. Although my parents had paid before we got there, on check-in (which was a simple process) they wanted credit card details for any other expenses while we were there (we did charge stuff by the pool to the room), and two of us had to sign for the rooms.
Our rooms were very similar to each others, BUT for some reason my parents' wardrobe didn't have shelves in it, making storage of their clothes not so easy, so I think that to an extent my Mum lived out of her suitcase. E & I were fine, and although I let E have the more accessible wardrobe shelves, I made up for it by keeping my half of the room (including the two chairs to sit on) as a COMPLETE mess!
Our room was nice, although the artwork above the beds slightly dubious. The beds felt hard at first, but I did sleep well, so it was fine - once I'd got in and kicked the sheets around a bit anyway.
I always make a point of checking out the TV in hotels (it was a 32inch flatscreen) and although it was a bit glitchy at first, it was fine and we watched a little bit of some programme with James May as we prepared for our first night out.
The bathroom was nice, sparkly and clean. There wasn't an inside lock on the door which I didn't really like, but it wasn't a problem - when there's only two of you, if one is missing then there's a good chance that they're in the bathroom! The usual toilet, sink, bidet and bath/shower. And the usual shower gels/shampoos/body lotions/combs/toothbrush kits....which one puts in one's suitcase to take home and never be used.
The shower could potentially have been a problem since the knob fell off and it was a struggle to get the water from running out of the bath taps to the shower head. However, we reported it, and they fixed it.
When we first arrived in our room we were struck by the heat, and despite fiddling with the air conditioning, we never really managed to get it quite cool enough. We tended to keep the bedroom window open, which did mean a bit of noise at night (nothing unbearable though). I think that had it been a hotter time of year then we would have needed to have reported the air con situation (and perhaps move rooms), but it didn't seem worth it since we weren't in the room much, and it was fairly cool at night. One advantage of this time of year was that there were no mosquitoes or other insects to worry about.
There was a safe in the room which cost nothing to use.
Having arrived and suitably unpacked. E and I headed up to the 8th floor where the rooftop pool is located (although there are two floors above it). We nabbed four sunloungers (which were very comfy) and waited for my parents....and waited some more. Eventually they joined us, there had been some sort of a problem with their key not being activated (I thought I had the same problem later, but turned out it was just me putting the card key in the wrong way round).
The pool area was really nice, although I imagine that at peak times it would be very difficult to find a sunlounger/space. The pool was only just over 12x4m in area, and 1m deep. Not for hardened swimmers by any means, but perfect for cooling off in.
The weather on our first afternoon wasn't the best that we had over our week (which was generally lovely and hot - 33degrees), and it was a touch windy on the rooftop terrace. We treated ourselves to drinks from the bar (a small Diet Coke was Euro3), and then thought we'd get a bite to eat having been a while since our rushed breakfast at Stanstead. Looking at the menu we were struck that this wouldn't be a cheap affair, so went for 2 portions of cheese and ham sandwiches (they were toasted) with crisps, at Euro10.50 each. Although expensive, the 2 portions were sufficient for the 4 of us and it was a tasty snack. However, this was a one off, as it was the first day (and being a Sunday it wasn't so easy to find open shops to buy stuff from).
We went to the pool area on three mornings for a couple of hours (the pool's open from 10am to 6pm - although worth getting there at 9:50am to get in right at the start when they open the doors).
---Bar and Stuff---
Due to the exorbitant prices we didn't use the main bar in the hotel. My parents and E did have another couple of drinks at the pool bar (once we were told there would be a 20 minute wait), but I chose to sneak back to the room for some Diet Coke out of the fridge. I rearranged the mini-bar so that I could fit in my Diet Coke, and also wine which we tended to have a bottle of before we went out for dinner (only Euro2.50 for a lovely Rose wine from the local shop). The cleaning staff seemed to go along with this, making the mini-bar more efficient with incorporating our own drinks!
Suffice it to say, we didn't use the products in the mini-bar, or order room service. Prices were pretty much equivalent to any hotel - i.e. expensive.
---The lifts and communal areas---
I think that the lifts in the H10 were the main negative point, and we probably spent between 30 minutes and an hour waiting for lifts over the course of the week. With only 3 lifts I absolutely DREAD to think what it would be like if the hotel was filled to capacity. However, there were some comic moments in the lifts which made it all worthwhile! There was one morning though when a lot of people were checking out that it got a bit ridiculous, and would've been much quicker to take the stairs. The thing is that the lift said it was coming, but then when it came, it didn't stop.
The corridors weren't great, generally pretty hot (no air con) and the carpet a bit threadbare in places. But nothing to significantly detract from our experience.
We were lucky to get breakfast included in our price - well done to my Mum! Otherwise it costs Euro15 a day - but it boasts over 120 products (I reckon there's more actually)....so with Barcelona prices taken into consideration, if you made breakfast your one meal of the day then it would work out ok - 7am start - salad and coffee, fruit juice and cereal, 8am - full English breakfast, cold meats, lots of breads & jams etc. 9am - DESSERT! However, we generally stayed at breakfast from 8:30am to 9am and ate later on in the day too!
I said over breakfast one day that it would be easier to list what they didn't have rather than what they did have.
So, there were no mushrooms, poached eggs (only fried, scrambled and hard boiled), black or white pudding, hash browns (or potatoes of any descript), waffles, pancakes, strawberries, porridge (although there were oats, so I'm sure one could get round that if necessary), and no fish (perhaps slightly surprising since otherwise eating in Barcelona is very limited if you're not a fish lover).
I started the week with good intentions, dutifully filling a plate with watermelon, normal melon, grapes, plums and pineapple (fruit in Barcelona is AMAZING)...and plain yoghurt with dried fruit and nuts. By the end of the week it was more a case of how much bacon, sausage and egg can I fit into a baguette, and whether to have a slice of chocolate cake with my blackcurrant cheesecake or the almond tart, or just to have everything (and that's before I get started on the croissants, pain au chocolat and other pastries)....unfortunately there was no ice cream to have with my plate of desserts...although there was squirty cream available (ostensibly for those wanting cappuccinos).
The coffee machine (well, there were actually three of them) did seem to have a mind of its own, and queues for coffee seemed to depend on how well it was behaving - or not. It did the usual black coffee, white coffee (which was a latte really), espresso, hot chocolate and cappuccino, and hot water/milk (and an assortment of herbal and non-herbal teas, decaff coffee and Nesquik which you could put in it). Sometimes I did end up with a mug of milk with no coffee...when this happened I then just used the espresso function a couple of times. One morning I was literally BOUNCING!
We MIGHT possibly have taken a couple of pieces of fruit for Ron (as in Ron of the later kind), but you didn't hear that from me...
---The spa and restaurant---
There is a spa/indoor pool in H10 Marina, on floor -1 next to the breakfast room. We didn't visit, as there was a charge. I imagine that this is something that business travellers would have free (well, inclusive) access to. There is also a carpark on floor -2 which the lift kindly took us down to on 2 occasions.
The restaurant - to be honest the prices for food at the hotel's restaurant didn't seem that bad at all. However, there were that many places to try in Barcelona that we didn't feel the need to try it out...besides, the restaurant is another category on Ciao so I wouldn't have written about it in this review anyway.
Although there is a public toilet on the 8th floor by the pool, I didn't see any other toilets (e.g. in reception area), but I could be wrong. This might be a problem if people have to check out and then wait around before going to the airport.
Staff were generally helpful and polite, although there was an incident with E being hit by the automatic door on entrance where they were less than nice about it. But on the whole good. The cleaner seemed a bit perturbed when we interrupted her cleaning our room as we needed to get showered/changed between using the pool and going out for the day. The cleaner generally did a very good job though.
---Location in relation to Barcelona - and some useful tips---
H10 Marina Barcelona is described as 'a striking hotel located near the Olympic Village and the beaches of Barcelona'.
The H10 Marina is 100m from Bogatell Metro Station (L4) and 300m from Marina Metro Station (L1). On the whole the Metro is easy to use (and to a 'virgin' I suspect far easier than the London Underground - although harder for those who know the Underground well!) so long as you follow the instructions on the ticket barriers, and the signs in general. A useful tip is to buy the ticket for 10 journeys, rather than a 2 day pass (as we did, and then had to buy another ticket later in the week), as it works out much cheaper. I didn't time it, but it's probably about 5-10 minutes into the centre of Barcelona.
The beauty of H10 is that it's a 10-15 minute walk from beach. My Dad loved this, as he enjoys going for a swim in the sea before breakfast while on holiday. The beach is lovely, and if you're going to spend a whole day (we spent 2 days) there it is worth paying Euro17 for two sunloungers and an umbrella (obviously double that with four of us)...just try to ignore the irritating women who try to sell you massages and crouch down in your shade hiding from the police...I found it could be done fairly easily by putting in my earphones and ignoring the outside world. There are places around to buy food (some excellent and reasonably priced pizza and icecreams), but steer clear of spending Euro9 on a 'Sex on the Beach' cocktail - I lived and learned.
Other Barcelona tips - if you LOVE seafood, then Barcelona is for you. Lamb, pork and steak are usually found on menus, although chicken less frequently (they usually offer a vegetable paella, but I'm not really sure how well catered it is for vegetarians). Oh, and make sure you visit the magic fountains while on your stay - FREE, and spectacular!
I would recommend the H10 Marina wholeheartedly if you're going to Barcelona for a whole week, or if you just want to have obscene amounts to eat for breakfast for a week.
However, if you're going for just a few days then I think that staying right in the centre of the city might be better.
For us though it was pretty close to perfection, just a few niggles which let it down a bit.
To find out more visit - www.hotelh10marinabarcelona.com