We arrived in Barcelona early in the morning. This was a final destination for many and the beginning of the next leg of our journey, a second 5-day cruise in the Mediterranean with ports-of-call in Rome and Naples.
We signed up for a bus tour of the “architecture and vistas that make Barcelona special”. Our first stop was high above the city on Montjuïc Hill. The hill offered a wonderful vantage point to see the harbor, the Oasis, the city and the mountains beyond. Unfortunately, there was a thin fog hanging over the valley below making it difficult to see the view clearly. I noticed a lovely statue of children dancing in a circle on the hill. The statue by Josep Cañas is dedicated to celebrate this form of dance performed in the Catalonia community.
As we entered the city center our guide pointed to the city’s transformed bull ring. She explained that Cataluña had built two bull arenas in anticipation of the Olympic Games in 1936. But she continued, “but over time the residents decided they did not want the space dedicated to killing animals and turned these beautiful spaces into shopping and entertainment centers”.
Once in the city, the bus drove down the tree-lined Las Ramblas as the tour guide pointed out many buildings of interest designed by various architects and making a special note of the buildings of architect Antoni Gaudi. We passed Gaudi’s Casa Mila, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. The buildings were certainly unique, expressive and several had an air of whimsy. We also passed beautiful fountains, statues and the Arch de Tromf.
There was quite a bit of traffic when we started the tour but it picked up significantly at about 11am. We were told that most residents started work at around 9-9:30am, ate lunch at around 2pm and dinner at 9pm. It is a very different lifestyle than back home.
We could not help but notice the amount of motorcycles and motor scooters present in the city. Our guide reminded us that the streets of European cities were very narrow making it necessary to have small vehicles. I was amazed at the way these intrepid riders weaved their way in and out of traffic with ease.
We learned that the construction on the most famous of Gaudi’s works, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, started in 1882 and was not predicted to be finished until 2030. According to our guide, Gaudi recognized this and went to great pains to finish his architectural plans for future generations.
We walked around the building to the front door of the castle and the entrance to a beautiful courtyard. According to local lore, this is the door where Ferdinand and Isabella met Christopher Columbus when he returned from the new world. After listening to a brief history we made our way through the courtyard to the back of the castle to the political building.
Two interesting aspects of these buildings that caught my eye were the gargoyles and the bridge that went between the two buildings. We learned that the bridge was built to protect the politicians when walking between the buildings from being attacked with rolling bombs and other projectiles by disgruntled citizens.
I loved the gargoyles jutting out from the facades of the building. The guide was asked what or who the gargoyles represented. She thought for a moment and said, “I suppose they represent the many different faces of the inhabitants of Spain at the time”.
As we came around the corner and back onto the pedestrian walkway, the guide pointed to the Picasso artwork on the museum in front of us. We were all struck by the images on the building. Evidently, Picasso was asked to provide artwork for the outside of the building and this was his response. It was very funny to see a stick figure piece of art associated with Picasso. It was interesting to see the old and new architecture existing in such harmony.
We made it back to the ship just in time to take advantage of the special luncheon for the consecutive cruisers in the Opus dining room on deck 3. We were seated at a table with two women, who coincidently, were members of our tour group. While enjoying a wonderful three course meal, we all got to know one another. We learned that Claire and Dory were cabin mates and lived in the Villages. Claire was very interesting. Evidently, Claire had been in the travel business and even though she has since sold it, she continues to travel extensively. She told us that she had just come off a 79-day cruise and after this one she would be going on a cruise that would last over 50 days. I was exhausted just listening to her itinerary.
The rest of the day passed by with now familiar activities. We rested a while, dressed for cocktails and dinner and retired for the evening. As we cruised slowly out of port we were treated to a sky filled with yellows, oranges and reds. The day was just lovely. I was certain that I would dream about all the beautiful images I had seen during the tour. Next time we visit Barcelona, we will take the time to walk along the boulevard and take in these beautiful buildings up close and personal.
Tomorrow we are at sea once again slowly cruising to Rome.