Such a sad day today! Our friends, Amin and Zahra, are disembarking from the cruise. Some of the people that have been on the ship are continuing the journey with us; others are leaving and heading home. New folks will be coming on board today as well. Since so many are disembarking, the buffet is a zoo; people want to eat quickly, and then get off the ship.
I set up a tour today through Barcelona Day Tours. Amin and Zahra are signed up, as well as an Australian couple and a couple from Utah. There is also a couple that are embarking today. The woman from Utah informs us that she has broken her ankle, and so is in a wheelchair. I asked her when she injured herself; she says it was on one of the first ports! She does not have a cast or boot on her ankle, so I asked her if she has seen the ship’s doctor. She said that she has not done so. I wonder how she knows it is broken??? I broke my ankle years ago, and could not have managed without having the bones set and some good pain meds. . .I also asked her how she had been managing some of the excursions, given how much walking and how many stairs there are in many of the place we have stopped. She said that some of the men on the excursions have stepped forward and carried her in the wheelchair up and down the stairs. Today will be a new experience for her; no one is volunteering to haul her around!
Our tour of Barcelona focused mainly on the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. We stopped at several buildings that Gaudi built. They are definitely unique in their design; they remind me of something one would see in a Dr. Seuss book. Pretty cool, all in all. I have been taking notes on all of our excursions so that I could remember the details later when I actually typed up my trip reports, but seem to have misplaced all of my notes on Barcelona. Oh, well! I do remember that Gaudi had a few wealthy patrons that footed the bill for his “genius”. He also, apparently, lived and looked like a bum, according to our tour guide. Our guide for this excursion was pretty funny. After almost every statement she said, she would end with, “Oh-la-la”!
We were dropped off by Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), and walked around the exterior, learning about the different facades. I was kind of surprised that we were not taken inside; I thought that was part of the tour. The exterior was fascinating. Construction started in 1882, and continues to this day. There are to be 18 spires, representing the 12 apostles (shortest spires), the Virgin Mary (taller spire), the 4 Evangelists (taller yet) and Jesus Christ (tallest spire). There are 3 grand facades: the Nativity façade (to the east), the Passion façade (to the west), and the Glory façade (to the south; this one is incomplete). We started at the Nativity façade, and worked our way around the building.
If you look carefully at the picture of the Passion façade, you will see what looks like Imperial Stormtroopers from Star Wars. Did George Lucas take his inspiration from Gaudi’s masterpiece? Our tour guide claims so, but, who knows?
After touring the exterior of the church, we went across the street to a souvenir shop/potty stop. There was a model of what Sagrada Familia will look like when it is completed, so I took some pictures of it. We wanted to buy our grandson a FB Barcelona Messi jersey, so we priced it at the shop we had been directed to. Since we had a few minutes, we comparison shopped at the store next door and found the exact same jersey for half the price! I guess a person should always be suspicious if a tour guide directs you to buy something at a particular shop; they probably have a sweetheart deal with the owner!
Our next stop was Parc Guell (Parc is the Catalune spelling of Park). It was originally intended to be a housing development (built by Gaudi) for the up and coming of Barcelona. Unfortunately, the idea never really caught on, and so only two houses were built and lived in during Gaudi’s day: Gaudi’s house, and his benefactor’s house. The development was supposed to contain 60 homes. The streets were lined with large, cement balls, which were supposed to represent the beads on a rosary (there are 59). He used mosaic extensively in the development. It was a really lovely idea; I am not sure why it never took off.
The tour guide was very concerned about our wheelchair bound woman seeing Parc Guell, since there are stairs that must be navigated. Her husband managed to get her down a large set of stairs; he looked like he was having a really difficult time of it. Her response when they made it to the bottom? “Don’t you ever do that again. That was really uncomfortable for me!” Unbelievable!!! The rest of the people in the group felt really bad for him. Just a side note regarding her “broken ankle”: we saw her the following day on the ship, walking around the buffet!
It was now time to leave the whimsical, fantastical world of Gaudi. The remainder of the tour was spent driving around to view the sites, including an old bullfighting ring that is no longer used. Bullfighting has been banned in the Catalunya region of Spain (it is still legal elsewhere). We drove past the World’s Fairgrounds and the Olympic Stadium. Our last stop was at a scenic overlook of the city, and then it was time to start dropping people off at various locations, including a few at the ship. There was a huge line of people waiting to embark; we were glad we didn’t have to mess with the crowd in the port building at that point. We chose to be dropped off at the top of La Rambla, and had to say goodbye to our good friends, Amin & Zahra.
We walked down La Rambla (me with a death-grip on my purse, since the area is well known for pickpockets), and stopped at Le Boucherie, which is a market area that reminded me of Pike Place in Seattle. It was organized a little better. There seemed to be areas of the market that sold particular products: candy, fruits/veggies, meat, etc. We bought a package of a traditional marzipan candy after sampling it at one of the stalls. We exited the market, and walked the rest of the way down the avenue to the Christopher Columbus statue.
We wanted to take a taxi back to the ship, and just assumed that we would be able to find a taxi driver that would at least speak rudimentary English. That was not to be! We tried hand signals, we tried writing down what we wanted, we gave up! He ended up following us in his taxi (apparently he really wanted the fare). Clayton gave him a 10 Euro note, and pointed in the direction of the ship. Not sure how much the trip should have cost, but, for us, it was 10 Euros! By the time we got to the port building, the earlier crowds had dissipated, so we were able to walk right through security and get back on board.