Saturday, November 7, 2009…My Equinox diary
Today was spent in Barcelona, one of my favorite cities in Europe. The weather was mild and the sun shone all day. (One thing we heard from the 300 or so folks who were on the Equinox for the past two weeks for its last regular Med sailing was that it was a gray and dreary trip, raining almost every day. These folks are called back-to-backers and will have been on board the ship for almost a month when this cruise ends in Ft. Lauderdale.) So far on this cruise, weather has been cooperative.
Some years back I spent several days here so I wanted to be sure Chet got to see the highlights and, for me, that was the fantastical buildings by Antonio Gaudi and most particularly the Sagreda Familia church. So we booked a shore excursion that took us to the church and by several other Gaudi buildings and then included wine and tapas at three local tapa bars. Seemed like a perfect combination!
We left the ship at 8:30 a.m. and headed directly to the church, driving through the old part of the city and seeing many of its most famous buildings, old and new. Then we got out of the bus at the church and we able to view it from all sides.
This is without a doubt one of the most amazing structures in the world. It was begin in 1822 and has not been finished yet. Construction is funded entirely through donations, therefore its formal name, in English, is the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family. Many refer to it as a cathedral, but I don’t think it actually is one…at least yet. Maybe when it is finished in 20 years or so.
Three different major architects and untold artists have worked on this masterpiece, however, Antonio Gaudi was the major visionary, even though he died in 1926. Two of the facades of the church are nearly completing and work is forging ahead on the final section.
This is one place in Barcelona that every visitor must see. I also strongly recommend the Park Guell (Gaudi’s never completed garden city) and the Picasso Museum, even though we did not make it to them today. Many Mediterranean cruises depart from Barcelona, so if you happen to book one that does, be sure to come in a few days early to explore all this lovely city has to offer.
But on to the tapas! As most of you probably know, “tapas” are the wildly popular small bites that are sold in tapas bars all over the city…and now the rest of the world as well. It is a bit like ordering dim sum…they have all sorts of snacks displayed and the rest are pictured. Usually, one would order two or three of them with a beer or wine…and then head on down the street to another such bar.
We did visit three fun tapas bars, all very different..and despite the fact we began around 11 a.m., the wine certainly did slide down easy.
We finished up around 1 p.m., early enough for us to explore a bit more. So Chet and I left the group which was returning to the ship and decided to walk down La Ramblas from the Placa de Catalunya to the statue honoring Christopher Columbus. It took about an hour to stroll down this most famous pedestrian boulevard where we passed an array of flower stands, bird shops, souvenir shops, sidewalk artists and many entertaining “living statues.”
We stopped off to spend 15 minutes inside the Mercat de la Bouqueria, one of Europe’s most famous city markets. It was full of colorful produce stands as well as those selling meat and seafood, candies and spices. This is always a good photo opp.
If you are interested in exploring on your own, you should know that you can take the ship shuttle down to the oceanfront and from there catch the bright red Barcelona Bus Turistic. These open-air, double-deck buses travel all over the city on three routes, offering 44 off/on stops and you can easily cross between the routes at special intersections. This is all for one price, 21€ for one day or 27€ for two days. You can pick up the brochure right at the tourist desk in the ship terminal as you leave the ship.
We then caught a cab back to the ship (10€ with tip) which we considered worth it. We were back by 3 p.m. giving time for Chet to nap and me to write.
Tomorrow: A short day at Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and our first formal night.