We arrived in Barcelona at four in the afternoon on Wednesday, Nov. 16, and left Thursday, Nov. 17th. I finally got time to start this Day 1 blog (I’ll cover Day 2 in the next one) this evening, Friday, Nov. 18th, as we pull away from Palma de Mallorca (which I’ll cover in the subsequent blog).
Everyone knows Barcelona, but a lot of you haven’t heard of the history and culture of the region, Catalunya. I won’t go into it in depth, but you should know that Catalunya, whose civilization, language, and character have been distinct for almost 2,000 years, extends across the Spanish-French border and centers around Barcelona. It’s borders are set by the people who are Catalan, not by any lines set by kings or governments (this is the same for the Basques, whose center is Bilbao, and extends into France). Catalunya is the industrial center of Spain and the port of Barcelona is one of the major ports of the Mediterranean. With a population of over 3 million, Barcelona is a city of contrasts. It has long been a intellectual and artistic community and it is home to many artists and architects, the most well known, Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi’s works and style is found everywhere in the region, but none are as famous as his design of the “Sagrada Familia”, a Catholic church that he began construction on in 1883. The project was stopped in 1926 when Gaudi was hit by a tram and died. The construction was started again by his disciples and still today is not completed. It is one of the most beautiful churches in the world, and is a must see if you ever visit Barcelona.
Susy and I visited Barcelona many times when we lived in Zaragoza, and you would think we had seen it all. We focused this trip on “Las Ramblas”, one of Europe’s most famous promenades. As you will see, we walked it in the evening on Day 1, and then during the day on the Day 2, and still feel like we have to go back to see what we missed.
OK, let’s start touring. The Maasdam docked in the Muelle Adosado (Adosado Dock), at one of Barcelona’s port cruise terminals. We been to a lot of ports, but this was by far the largest we have visited, it is laid out like a big city airport with four or five major cruise ship terminals and several ships docked around each terminal. From the ship to the port entrance was two and half miles, so we took the port’s shuttle bus and fortunately were dropped at the beginning of Las Ramblas. Here’s a map of central Barcelona with the port at the bottom:
Right above the World Trade Center in the center of the port (at the bottom of the map) you can see the Monument Colon (which is the monument to Christopher Columbus). Just a little bit to the right and above the Monument running up through the center of the map is Las Ramblas, running all the way to the top of the map, but ending (the promenade part) at the “Placa de Catalunya”, a large plaza (green area near the top center).
The beginning of Las Ramblas:
After a few blocks you really start to get into the heart of the wide boulevard:
Tonight’s walk from the beginning of Las Ramblas to the Placa de Catalunya is probably several miles, so Susy and I (our goal was to walk it one way the first night, then take a taxi back to the ship) stopped at a typical café along the way:
Doesn’t this remind you (those of you who know Spain or Buenos Aires) of the typical coffee and tapas place. Across from the café was the “Gran Teatre De Liceu”, the famous opera house:
Las Ramblas has areas of stalls as you walk along, and one of the most beautiful areas is the flower stalls. Here’s a few:
I can’t tell you how tempting it is to wander off Las Ramblas, because the side streets are full of café’s, shops, etc.. in this old historical part of the city. One of the side trips we had to make, however, is to visit the fresh food market, “La Boqueria” :
You walk into fresh food heaven:
How about this presentation:
Are you hungry enough to eat right there? O.K.:
This was the largest fresh food market we have seen. There were stalls of fresh meats, fish, fruit, vegetables, etc. etc.. This place went on forever. By the way, you might think it’s late for a market, but actually they had just opened after siesta, and stay open to about 9 or 10 PM when the Spanish consider having their evening meal.
We finally got back on Las Ramblas and continued to walk along the promenade. In these few photos I can’t begin to show you the beauty of this walk. Everywhere you looked from the buildings along the way:
to the stalls that sold everything but the kitchen sink (didn’t see one):
even rabbits, chickens, and turtles (I’m glad Nickolas wasn’t there or we’d be bringing a rabbit home).
O.K., we’re coming to the end as we approached Placa de Catalunya, and what should appear but:
a “CORTE INGLES”, so big Susy went into panic. Needless to say, we went in and finally arrived at the top floor (which always has the restaurant) to have our evening meal. Susy wanted me to show you her dinner photo:
As we left the “Corte”, with Gary (that’s me) finding a pair of shoes he had been looking for about 8 years, and Susy with nothing, she was heard to say “It can’t compare to Macy’s (that from the Queen of the Corte Ingles)”.
We headed back to the ship after one of the best evenings we’ve ever had in Barcelona. We really had a new and very positive perspective of this great Spanish city, and looked forward to the next day and seeing Las Ramblas by day (plus a big surprise).
Love You All,
Gary (alias Gagu)