We arrived in Barcelona on time and the pilot was ready to bring us into port a little earlier than originally scheduled. By 9 am, we had nicely backed into our birth. It is always quite impressive watching how the ship in maneuvered into port.
It was raining outside, heavily at times. Our vision of Spain is sunshine on warm stone, and neither of us had envisioned our arrival to be quite so wet. Fortunately, the rain was at its worst while the ship was waiting to clear customs. Once the formalities were over and we were free to go, the rain lighted up to an occasional drizzle.
The other passengers left the ship in Barcelona, so we said goodbye to David, Roger and Janet, and wished each other well on their various adventures. David is taking several months to go hiking in Europe, and Janet and Roger are continuing their post-retirement travels – now in their eighth year.
Rather than take a taxi, we decided to take the city bus into town. We had a copy of the Barcelona map from the Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring guide (thank-you David). It provided us with enough context to successfully take the bus and then walk to find an Internet café and then the downtown area of Barcelona.
Much of downtown Barcelona is a series of winding pedestrian streets. Some of the streets are wide enough to permit a single lane of traffic, but many don’t permit any cars at all. The streets are not laid out in a grid pattern, so it is easy to get disoriented as the streets turn and connect with one another at odd angled intersections. Fortunately, Scott has a much better sense of direction than Becky, such that he could navigate us around town.
We had lunch at a mediocre Tapas bar whose only redeeming features were good coffee and free wi-fi. We discovered that wi-fi is pronounced (WEE-FEE) here, so no one knew what we were looking for when we asked for W-eye-F-eye.
After lunch we went out to see Gaudi’s masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, an incredible cathedral that began construction in 1882 and is not yet complete. Upon seeing the “Façade de la Passion” – a very intense and busy – Becky’s reaction was “This is very gaudy”, which made her wonder if the term “gaudy” actually stems from the architect Gaudi?
To end our day in Barcelona we enjoyed dinner at a much nicer Tapas Bar (Taller de Tapas – http://www.tallerdetapas.com) including the requisite Sangria. One of the dishes we tried was razorshell, a cylindrical shellfish that tastes similar to clam but had much more meat on it.
By 8:30 pm, Barcelona was just waking up, and were exhausted and ready to make our way back to the ship. We heard about a Spanish guitar concert by Manuel Barrueco starting at 9 pm, but decided to return to the ship instead. Good thing we did, otherwise we might not have been back when our leave ended at 23:59.
We used the subway (Metro) and the bus to make our way back to the port. This went well, with only one almost-catastrophe: We asked the bus driver if this was the right bus to “Port de Barcelona”, and thought we should be taking a different bus. We overruled him and got on anyway, which was a good thing. We think he was trying to send us to the cruise ship port (Port Vell) rather than the container port (Port Olympic).
We were quite surprised by the lack of security at the Barcelona port. We did not need to sign out or in to the port at security. We flashed our ship ID badges and the Port Policeman did not even look at them, he just waved us in. We walked directly to the ship through the port at night. We were glad that things were much less chaotic than in Freeport, where all the different sounds and movements make navigation a challenge. The port at Barcelona seemed to be barely alive (only one gantry was working when we left and when we returned – however, one of the mates did say they had 4 working at one point during the day).
On a side note, we confirmed that even in Barcelona, one of the easiest places to find a public washroom (restroom, WC, or toilet) is in the lobby of a 4-star hotel! Also, the hotel overcharges for Wi-Fi: 20 Euros/day! In Canada and the U.S. this is typical – it’s the small motels which have free Wi-Fi, especially those catering to truckers. We’ll see if the same holds true in Europe.