16 May 2011

Barcelona - Hosteria Grau Review

For the second leg of our extension stay in Barcelona after the cruise, we lodged at Hosteria Grau, which is in Barcelona city and just an arm's length from the famous and busy La Rambla. La Rambla is the equivalent of Orchard Road in Singapore. So the location of Hosteria Grau is pretty convenient except that the section where the hotel is located doesn't seem very safe.

Hosteria Grau sits next to a faculty building of the city's university and many students populate the area during the day and in the evening, the atmosphere takes on a grunge-punk feel with frequent sightings of wildly dressed Spaniards - think shocking pink mohawks with black leather, chains and fishnet stockings. Items sold in the shops here have in excess of skull-shaped everything, heavy metal records and fierce fantasy art that terrifies as well as sexifying death.

But all things accounted for, I still think the hotel is worth checking in to with its quaint decor and authentic feel of living like a 18th century Catalan (Barcelona is under the political administration of Catalonia and its people are known as and speak Catalan).

Hosteria Grau
Address : C/Ramelleres, 27 08001 Barcelona (Spain)
Website : http://www.hostalgrau.com/

How to Get There : Refer to hotel's website for directions. Nearest train station is Plaça de Catalunya (which is the equivalent of Orchard Road MRT station in Barcelona). However, the hotel is hidden inside a small lane so it is not visible from the main road.

I paid S$1,106.51 for 4 nights which worked out to be S$92 per person per night. Because there were 3 of us, we had to take the family suite which actually sleeps 4. So if you split 4-ways, per person cost is S$70 a night.

The inconspicuous entrance to Hosteria Grau. It's like a hole in the wall.

Not much to whine about the hotel since the location is accessible and the room is comfy enough but be very vigilant for your safety. One of the nights when we returned to the hotel, we buzzed the receptionist to let us in but he just didn't. We waited for quite a while before he finally unlocked the door for us.

When we got in, he asked if we knew the man who was behind us. Wha?! What man behind us? Is this twilight zone or something?! I didn't notice we were being tailed.

Apparently, someone followed very closely behind my dad and the receptionist didn't want to let him in so he waited for that guy to leave before opening the doors. He asked us to quickly check our belongings and he went to the door to see if the guy was still around. Thankfully, we lost nothing. We were told to never put the wallet in the back pocket and to carry our haversacks in front.

Hosteria Grau is located at the end of a little street which is also a junction for a network of 3 alley-ways. From the main road called Carrer Pelai, turn into Carrer Jovellanos (diagonally opposite from a shopping mall called El Triangle). There's a Pull & Bear shop at the mouth of Carrer Jovellanos. Walk to the end and you'll see the hotel's entrance next to Cafe-Bar Centric.

Then on our last night, it coincided with a big match between Barcelona and Real Madrid to make it into the finals of this year's UEFA Champions League. Barcelona won with a 2-0 score lead and the Catalans went wild. They were celebrating into the wee hours and making a racket with horns and louds cheers. The noise could raise the dead. But my parents slept through.

A group gathered just below our room's balcony to celebrate. We were 5 floors up so I can see all that was taking place. At about 1:30 am, I heard police sirens and loud smashes. Residents must've complained and the enforcers came to break up the party. The police were in full riot gear! And they needed to be. The partyers weren't ready to disperse without a fight and were hurling glass bottles at the police van and men. There was even something of a small bon fire burning at one corner. Very drama!

The reception area of the hotel with an English-speaking receptionist who's very helpful.

Lest you become unnecessarily worried about safety issues in staying here, be consoled that simple precautions you would take while travelling and staying alert are enough to keep you out of harm's way. Avoid coming back late alone and carry your bags in front of you. Else, pray to Bruce Lee.

Alrighty. Now let's leave the scary things outside and step into the compact interior of Hosteria Grau. Perhaps due to its small size, there's more of a homey feeling. Of course the last thing I want is to feel at home. I mean, why travel so far to feel at home right? Might as well not step out of my HDB flat then. Ha. But this homey feeling is in a nice sort of way where you feel you've walked into somebody's house rather than a hotel.

A common area on the second level. There are no TVs in the rooms and this is the only place to watch tele. There's also a PC with free internet connection but the thing is, many of the pages show up in Spanish, including Facebook. And if your FB page's language is set to Chinese, many of the tabs and link turns up as jibberish.

Decor-wise, the interior is steeped in European retro with antique lamps and architectural elements reminiscent of the Baroque or Renaissance era where everything little thing is opulently decorated.

Our room was on the fifth level. Don't worry, I'm showing the staircase here not because there is no lift. I just like the perspective. A lift serves the various floors but it's a very tight lift. Three of us and our luggages and it's filled. It's an interesting experience stepping and living in one of Spain's heritage buildings and get a feel of what it's like.

Once inside the room, we were greeted by a narrow hallway. The left door at the corner of the left pic is the very, very, very small toilet. It's so tiny that when you sit on the bowl, the door is at your face. There's no room to bend down to remove your bottoms, you just have to wriggle out of them to do your business. At the end is the bathroom and there's a door next to it to the living room. The reasonably sized living room is an Ikea showcase.

The bathroom is also not spacious and the only toileteries are sachets of all-in-one shampoo and shower gel. When staying in budget hotels, always bring your own toothbrush and toothpaste for they usually don't provide.

The room we booked is spacious with 2 queen beds and a single bed. I think it can sleep more than 4 but bathroom time would be a problem with so many people. The room make-up service isn't very prompt and be prepared to live with dust bunnies below the beds. Otherwise, the room is of an acceptable level of cleanliness and comfort for the price it commands.

Love the classic switches and flower lamps that add a touch of old world charm to the living space.

Small cases of 3D wood-carved Parisian corsets adorned the wall above each bed. Wishing an erotic European dream for all travellers who lay their heads on the hotel's pillows perhaps? My mum would be dreaming of getting a figure like that.

A small balcony in our family suite looks out to the narrow Carrer Jovellanos, ending at the intersection with the arterial road, Carrer Pelai. The photo on the right is the view at the hotel's entrance where the palm tree marks the junction where a number of small alleys meet.
So this is Hosteria Grau. If you've ever stayed here, do share with me your comments and if you're planning to use it as your hotel in an upcoming trip, let me know your thoughts after you've been there. Have fun!

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