Barcelona and Beyond
American Airlines flies daily to both Barcelona and Madrid (flights from Madrid to Barcelona are plentiful on AA’s oneworld Alliance partner airline Iberia). Check out fares and travel specials at AA.com. If you go to Spain, consider a side trip to Paris (you know, just because) and our following recommendations:
Grand Hotel Central, www.grandhotelcentral.com
What’s not to love? From the sleek and hip decor to the chic rooftop pool and lounge area to its central location, the luxe Grand Hotel Central lives up to its name. Walk through the massive double doors off busy Via Laietana (check out the lion’s-head door knockers) and step into a quiet urban oasis. Housed in a 1926 building that has been completely restyled, the hotel combines its genteel past with an updated, avante-garde ambience. Fancy a ride around the Gothic Quarter? Rent one of the hotel’s electric bicycles. Need a massage after a hard day of sightseeing? The Wellness Suite can work out those kinks. Craving a meal with Spanish flair? The Avalon Restaurant & Café has a table for you. Within easy walking distance of many major tourist areas and Metro stops. Grand, yes. Stuffy? Not at all.
Get to Paris
Rail Europe, www.raileurope.com
There’s something very Cary Grant about boarding a train at night, knowing you’ll wake up the next morning in a different European city. Discover that feeling by heading to Barcelona’s Estació de França and climbing aboard the Elipsos Trenhotel. Once you get past the city limits, open the shades and watch Europe roll by in the moonlight. You’re on vacation, so grab a late-night snack in the club car and then fall asleep to the gentle swaying motion of rail travel. Wake up refreshed and find yourself in Paris. Cary would definitely approve.
Get to Your Paris Hotel
Super Shuttle, www.supershuttle.com
Yep, those familiar blue vans are in Paris too. Serving Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais airports, the Super Shuttles are a welcome sight for Americans whose French is limited to oui and merci. Book your reservation online and cross one more care off your list. Rates are quite reasonable, and the door-to-door service is a far-superior option to taking an airport bus and then schlepping your luggage from the bus stop to your hotel.
**Editor's Note:The hotel previously listed in this article, Hilton Arc de Triomphe, is nowThe Hotel du Collectionneur. You can find more information about this property on their website: www.hotelducollectionneur.com.
If you walked into the lobby of a swank Paris hotel and heard Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” coming from beyond a sign proclaiming “Elie Family Bar Mitzvah,” wouldn’t you smile? We did. But this art deco haven offers up plenty more reasons to put on a happy face. Start with the plush, multichandeliered lobby and work your way up to a luxuriously appointed guest room that’s large even by American standards. Spoil yourself by sipping a cocktail at the Purple Bar, where oversize prints from vintage comic books give the elegant interior a touch of whimsy. The hotel is conveniently located only a 10-minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées.
Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg, www.sofitel.com
If you’re judged by the company you keep, consider some of this five-star hotel’s neighbors: Hermès, Prada, Chanel, Givenchy, Valentino. Yeah, you get the idea. Near the Place de la Concorde, the Sofitel oozes French sophistication and style. Just breathing the air here makes you instinctively want to spiff up, dress up and behave like a person of distinction. Which is the feeling you’ll get every time a hotel employee remembers your name on sight.
Keeping in Touch
Mobal International Cell Phones, www.mobal.com
Just because you have a cell phone, you won’t necessarily be able to use it in Europe. Many phones sold by U.S. carriers utilize CDMA technology, rather than the GSM system that’s prevalent in Europe. If your phone doesn’t measure up, $29 will buy a cell that works in more than 170 countries. No contracts, no minimums, no hassles. Pay only for the minutes you use.