The disembarkation went incredibly smooth considering how many people were on the ship. Everything was organized and mostly everyone knew what they had to do. Still, it was a lot of hurry up and wait, and our cabin was no longer ours. We had breakfast with Ray and Lynda and wished them well. Their honeymoon was continuing with a tour of Spain and Portugal, and they left the ship before us so they could catch their flight to Madrid.
Our turn finally came and after we collected our luggage, we headed for another bus. A tour of the city was the last thing included with our tour package, after that we were on our own. First we stopped in the Gothic section of town, dominated by the Cathedral, which we explored with the aid of another local guide. Then back on the bus.
At this point we were feeling tired and churched out. Seeing the Sagrada Familia was like a jolt of electricity. It's a church, but it is literally like nothing we'd ever seen before. We walked around the church with our jaws open. Dan, an architect, was suitably impressed. The church is incomplete, only two of the four planned entrances are finished and most of the center area is not even started. According to the current plans, they should actually have a roofed area for services within twenty years. Even so, the design of the architectural patron saint of Barcelona, Antoni Gaudí is stunning.
One entrance of the church is the story of the Nativity. It reflects Gaudí's characteristic rejection of straight lines. Chris thought it looked like a cathedral religious ants might build. On the other side, the Passion is nothing but straight lines and angles. Designed by a different architect (Gaudí died in 1926) it looks like it was carved out of the stone with precise lasers. We wished we had more time to stay.
Somehow our plans to stay an extra night in our hotel, the Plaza, had gone awry. For an anxious hour, we called different hotels in Barcelona to see if we could find a place to stay the next day. Luckily, there was a cancellation and we wouldn't have to move.
We rested a while then met Dan and Sonja for dinner. And by dinner, we meant paella. The concierge had directed us to a local restaurant, but it was a meat place--no paella. The kind manager took pity on us and sent a waiter to walk us a few blocks to another restaurant that served us some great paella. The wine was good too.
It was a holiday in Barcelona and fireworks were scheduled for the Plaça d'Espanya, the plaza in front of our hotel, at the foot of Montjuïc. As we returned from dinner, we found ourselves in a crowd of at least one hundred thousand people gathering for the show. Though not as crowded as the Mall on the Fourth of July, it was one of the biggest crowds we'd ever been in. There were people on the roof of our hotel and it looked like the view was pretty good. We had to show the guard our room keys to be let in, and we finally managed to find our way to the balcony. We had the best seats in the house for the fireworks, which went on for over an hour. It was a great evening.
The next day, our last day, we walked to the main shopping and tourist street of Barcelona, La Rambla. It was only a half-hour walk. We did some shopping, had lunch outside at a cafe table, and visited a museum of photography. Linda tried to translate the Catalan signs which were more plentiful than the Spanish. Later in the afternoon, we walked north to Casa Milá, an apartment building created by Gaudí, which the residents of the city call La Pedrera (the Stone Quarry). It's now a museum containing examples of Gaudí's work. We passed by a restaurant called Citrus and made reservations for four at eight-thirty.
After a long exhausting walk back to the hotel (later we realized we could have taken the subway back), we rested a little then got ready for dinner with Dan and Sonja. It's surprising that the hostess didn't laugh at us when we made reservations, because when we showed up, there was nobody else there. People dine late in Barcelona. We had one of the best meals of the trip, especially Linda's grilled calamari. And, of course, the wine was excellent. (This could be part of the reason Chris gained twelve pounds.)
We took one last walk and then taxied back to the hotel to pack for the trip back. In the morning, on the way to the airport, Linda had a chance to talk to the taxi driver in Spanish about life in Barcelona, the Catalan language and Catalonian separatists. Chris just sat there.
On the flight from Barcelona to Paris, we had a nice talk with Nathalie Scott, a business student living in Paris. She offered to show us Paris if we ever had a chance. One day, we will take her up on her kind offer.
When we came back from our Ireland trip in 1998, Linda had a bad experience at the airport in London when she started feeling ill as we waited to board the plane. Bad luck struck again in Paris. While we were cutting across the parking lot from one terminal to another, Linda tripped on a chain strung low against the ground. The Lladro porcelain piece she'd gotten for her sister survived intact, but she scraped her knee badly.
We arrived home exhausted, slightly bruised and extremely happy.
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