Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thursday, November 10 -- Barcelona

We got lazy [and depressed] yesterday and did not post the blog, but our brief report on Alicante will appear below. 

Barcelona is a magical city.  Its people, architecture and vibe are unlike any other we have visited.  Even a brief visit is enjoyable, and that’s what we had today.  Once again, we had no tours planned, so there was no rush to hurry off the ship.  We ate a leisurely breakfast in the MDR, returned to the room to finish reading the NYT and to complete the crossword puzzle; as the week progresses, the NYT puzzles get more difficult and we were surprised to collectively complete today’s.

We finally loaded all of our “stuff” and were ready to go.  We had sunglasses, reading glasses, hats, coats, room keys and enough euro coins to use as ballast on a hot air balloon.  Barcelona conspired to make us walk forever to get to and through the terminal; previously, we have docked almost at the foot of La Rambla, the most famous street in the city, and had only to walk a short way to begin our explorations.  Today, we were at a new cruise terminal about two miles from the Columbus statue at the foot of La Rambla and had to pay 5 euros per person for all-day passes for the shuttle to the old terminal.  For all of the money cruisers bring to Barcelona, one would expect them to provide this service gratefully.   In a perfect world….

So we rode to the old terminal and still had a half-mile walk to Christopher Columbus.  This statue and the circle around it serve as the starting point for HoHo buses and walking tours as well as a meeting point for groups lest some get lost.  It is easy to find and easy to see.

Every time we have been to Barcelona, dating back to 2001, we have visited La Sagrada Familia, The Holy Family church designed by Antonio Gaudi.  Gaudi die long before it was completed; in fact it still isn’t finished despite having been started over a century ago.  We like the church itself which incorporates stylized elements from nature as decorative embellishments, especially on the exterior.  From a distance, the church looks like it is made from melting wax, but up close, the details are visible and astonishing.  We have never seen it without scaffolding surrounding the still-incomplete towers.  The last tower is supposed to rise about 400 feet above ground and will dwarf pretty much everything in Barcelona.

Today, we had less ambitious plans.  We walked up La Rambla until MA had to sit for a minute at an outdoor cafe, then continued walking.  We were maintaining a sedate pace, to put it mildly.  When we reached McDonald’s, we stopped again.   MA got a cappuccino and we walked up the second floor [called the first in Europe] because we could not figure out how to get the little elevator to work.  We took advantage of Mickey’s free wi-fi to catch up on mail and Facebook.  While we really stopped because of MA’s back, the cappuccino and internet were a bonus.

The cappuccino was only 1 euro, a bargain in itself.  We have decided that our greatest expense on this cruise, aside from saffron and the ship’s internet, may be shuttle service in the ports.  We know that we can walk into what passes for a town in Katakolon, Greece, but we are not sure of all of the other ports.

Because we wanted to see something new on this visit, we headed to the market.  Landmarks are the same all over the world.  We turned right from McDonald’s [which is across the street for KFC] and walked until we got to the Dunkin’ Coffee [which did indeed, sell doughnuts, too].  A left turn brought us face-to-face with the market’s main entrance.  We walked the aisles for about 15 minutes taking in the Serrano hams, the sea urchins and oysters, the fresh fruit cups and gelato, all while being jostled by the crowd.  Although it was mid-day on a Thursday, the market was packed.  Not only were locals doing their grocery shopping, they were at the bars and food counters eating, drinking and having a grand old time.

As much as we love to roam markets, we knew it was time to leave when MA started to flag.  We found our way back to the entrance and La Rambla.  The Ramblas, as it is often called by tourists, is a broad avenue with a center pedestrian island.  Motorized traffic is restricted by the width of the 2 lanes which define it.  Traffic was still heavy considering that the going is slow and there is only the one lane in each direction.  Trucks, cars, taxis, motorcycles and bicycles kept up a constant flow.  In the center island, things were not much different.  Tourists and locals mingled and collided [well, almost] in a crush that was actually calm compared to our previous visits.  Mixed in with the pedestrians and their selfie-sticks were living statues who posed hoping for tips; panhandlers; and sidewalk cafes, each serving similar food.  The most interesting aspect of these cafes is that the waiters have to cross the street to place and pick up the orders.  There were a dozen or more and we picked one that already had several tables filled.  We took that as good sign.  We both ordered the feta salad which was like a Greek salad with more feta and few olives [these were green] and onions.  Accompanied by MA’s sangria and D’s usual Diet Coke, it made for a fine lunch.  When we were done, we finished the trek back to the old terminal for the ride back to the Rotterdam.

 TOMORROW  -- Day 2 in Barcelona

Wednesday, November 9 – Alicante

We docked in Alicante in 2001 and, for whatever reason lost in the mists of time, stayed on board the ship.  We did the same thing today while trying to come to terms with the American electorate.  We slept a lot. 

End of story.

TOMORROW – Beautiful Barcelona

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