Day Three, Final day in Barcelona

It was Sunday, and we decided to sleep in a bit and catch up on our rest.  I was pretty sure I’d heard thunder during the night, and when we woke, it was raining.  Oh well, can’t let that get us down.  After a snack at the hotel, the three of us decided we’d see what we could do to get to the inside of Sagrada Familia.  We knew there were “ways” to get a ticket – as our guide Christian had informed us the day before.  We just had to go to a certain bank machine – a special one that sold event tickets – and voila!  We would have our tickets without having to wait in line.   We hopped in a taxi, went to the Basilica and returned to the special ATM that we were shown the day before.  Wouldn’t you know it, the darn thing was not working (for the ticket part, anyway).  We then considered waiting in the regular line to get the tickets, but  it was raining and the line up went around the block, literally.   SO, we had to be happy with again viewing the outside of this amazing structure.  David snapped this photo of us in front of the church.

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This was taken with one of the newer facades in the background.  I really like this side, as it has a timeline of sorts, in sculpture, showing the last days of Christ.

Here’s a photo of two things of interest.  First you’ll see the two men embracing.  This depicts Judas kissing and betraying Jesus.  Next to that is the “Sudoku-like” set of numbers.  If you add the numbers up in any column, any direction, even diagonal or zigzag, it always adds up to the number 33.  The age of Jesus when he was crucified.  John was very impressed and made sure I got a close up of it.

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Well, the rain continued to fall and we were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t get tickets to go inside.  We grabbed another taxi and returned to the hotel.  David needed to be at the airport by mid afternoon for his return flight to London.  We just hung out in the hotel lobby and visited until it was time for him to catch a ride to the airport.  It’s never fun to say goodbye, but this time it wasn’t quite as painful.  We knew we’d be seeing David again soon, sometime around Christmas.

After he left, the rain stopped and John asked me what I’d like to do.  I replied that all I really wanted to do was to somehow get inside Sagrada Familia!!  He too knew that it was today or never…. so, we decided to attempt to buy tickets online.  The hotel manager was ever so helpful, and before long we were printing those tickets!  Back in the taxi for a return trip the the Basilica!  Since we already had tickets, we were able to bypass the (still) very long line.

The inside was sure worth the trouble of printing out the tickets and making a return trip!!  Apparently, Gaudi had a huge love of nature and the columns inside were made to look like stalks of a plant.  SO unique and interesting!!

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I loved how the light poured in through the window near the ceiling.

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All I can say is that this place was amazing.  It really grabbed us both with it’s unusual beauty and design.  If you look near the bottom of this next photo, in the center, you’ll see a round object, all lit up.  Believe it or not, this is Jesus, hanging over the altar.  The following photo will be a close up of just that.

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As mentioned before, the church is not completed on the outside, but the inside is complete.  They do not yet hold regular services in this part of the church, but they DO have them in a basement area.   Here’s one last look at the outside…

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After our wonderful visit to Sagrada Familia, we returned to the hotel, with plans to meander across the street that evening to “Patagoinia” for dinner.  They didn’t even open till 8pm!  Like I said, Europeans like to consume their evening meal quite late!   We enjoyed a leisurely steak dinner, knowing the next day we’d be boarding the long awaited cruise ship.

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Barcelona – Day TWO

columbusWe woke to a bright and sunny day in beautiful Barcelona.  Our tour was set to start at 9 am sharp, and we needed to meet the tour group at the old Post Office, so we easily grabbed a taxi right out front of the hotel.  After a bit of a wait, we met our mini-bus and our tour guide, Christian.  We can’t say enough good things about Barcelona Day Tours and our wonderful guide.   The photo to the left shows the Columbus Column, pointing out to sea.  He left Barcelona in 1492… and sailed the ocean blue…. and discovered…. Puerto Rico!  Anyway, we boarded the bus and headed through the city and then up towards the monastery, Montserrat.

Please remember that you can click on any of the photos to enlarge them!

Before leaving  Barcelona, we drove up onto a hill where we could look over the entire city.

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David snapped a picture of us, high on the hill…

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And then it was off to Montserrat.  As I recall, Montserrat is an important area for Catalonians for three reasons.  1. Religion  2. Recreation  3. Mushroom hunting.  Okay, number 3 may not be totally correct, but our guide did say that he used to come up here with his family in search of the elusive and apparently delicious wild mushroom – or was it “magic” mushroom?  🙂  Looking back into my diary, it was an hour and a half drive from the city, high up into the mountains outside of Barcelona.

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Montserrat is named for the serrated mountain tops that are visible in this photo.  We were also told by our guide that in honor of this special place, “many girls are named Montserrat here in Catalonia”.  I didn’t think it sounded very feminine, and sort of doubted him, but just last night we were watching a program on the Biography channel about Freddie Mercury.  You may or may not remember Freddie towards the end of his life, singing a song he wrote with an opera singer named “Montserrat”.  The song was titled, “BARCELONA”.

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Here we are, looking all happy and enjoying our surroundings.  This was before my near-death-experience which truly changed the course of this trip.  Shortly after this happy photo was taken, our guide gathered the 14 of us up and we began the hike up to the cathedral.  It was warm, and before long the scarf that appears in this photo was stuffed into my purse.   We passed many stalls of locals, selling handcrafted  cheeses, honey,  and other foods.  And then, suddenly the stairs loomed in front of me.   Hey, I’m not a wimp.  I live with pain every day of my life… but I was a bit vain and didn’t bring my cane along on this first tour.  There were about 40 stairs, quite steep…. and by the time I got to the top, I was so out of breath, my heart was pounding, and I was sweating like crazy.  I remember thinking, “this could be the big one”.  I had no chest pain or any thing like that, but I sure felt horrible.  After we climbed those nasty stairs, it was more uphill walking until we finally reached the cathedral.  I love old churches, but I was feeling so weak and weird and sweaty that I couldn’t enjoy this one as much as I wanted to.  I sat in one of the pews for a while and prayed for strength to go on!   It really was a beautiful place.

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I thought I might be croaking when I snapped this shot of the entrance to the cathedral.  Then we entered and were treated to this glorious sight.  As I said before, I was soon joining some of these folks having a rest and a prayer.

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We learned that many people come to Montserrat to give thanks to the “Black Madonna” for something she has done for them.  The line up was VERY long to file past the Black Madonna.  Next is a photo I took showing the Black Madonna holding the Baby Jesus.  You can see what appears to be a father and his small child going past the statue.  They (like every one else), touched the Madonna and thanked her for an answer to a prayer.  We were told that the line ups are longer on the weekends, and we were there on a Saturday.

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For more information on the Black Madonna of Montserrat, you can click here.   I was still feeling weak, sweaty, and just plain yucky as we left the church and made our way back down the stairs and past the open air stalls where people were selling food.  We bought bread at the bakery (yep, Montserrat has it’s own bakery!) and two types of cheese from the vendors.  After a good hearty drink of lemonade and some bread and cheese, I finally began to feel like I was going to live.  I honestly don’t know what happened to me.  Was it the heat?  The stairs?  Whatever it was, I never felt this way again – thankfully.    I now wish we had tried the national dessert of Catalonia – a type of cheese (sort of like cottage cheese we were told) covered in local honey.  Next time, I guess 🙂

Next stop was Parc Guell, a place originally designed as a housing district, but now is a park.  The creator was the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi.  Our guide suggested he would lead us on a 45 minute walk through the park.  I suggested to my husband that I’d be skipping that walk!  We did enter the park, and sat in the shade of an umbrella while sipping a cool drink.  I was just starting to feel human again and didn’t want to be out in that hot sun, so most of Parc Guell remains a mystery to me.  We did learn a lot about Gaudi, who is truly Barcelona’s most famous citizen.  He certainly left his “mark” all over the city… and his style – which is VERY odd unique — was one I grew to greatly admire.   Here’s David, getting us a drink at Parc Guell.

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Onward to the most famous site in all of Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia.  The Basilica of the Sacred Family, designed by Antoni Gaudi.  We’d heard and read quite a bit about this place, but to be honest, from all the photos I’d seen, I thought it was a really strange, strange piece of architecture.  The church from a distance —-

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Looks just like a brown, spiky mass of mud.  Not to be sacrilegious, but it sort of resembles a giant wasp or mud dauber nest.  And then.  And then you get closer and it begins to take shape, begins to make sense.

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The closer you get, the more amazing this building becomes.

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It’s NOT just a mass of brown mud.  There are amazing sculptures everywhere, all depicting a part of the life of Jesus Christ.  Gaudi was a devoted Catholic and began this Basilica in 1883.  At the time of his demise in 1926, it was only one quarter of the way done.  The goal is to have it completed by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.  I could go on and on about this place – there is SO much to look at on the outside.  Our tour did not include a visit to the inside of the church, that would have to wait until another day!   We concluded our day-long tour, said goodbye to our fabulous guide Christian, and returned again exhausted to the hotel.

That evening we went to a small, sort of out of the way restaurant not far from the hotel called “336”.  Here’s a photo I took of the English menu.

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The “menu of the day” turned out to be a great deal!  We got CAVA, bottled water, half a bottle of wine each, bread, an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert, all for around 20 Euro.  Not bad for a Saturday night in Barcelona!  Again I failed to snap a photo of the food, but we all had the Cod.  It was delicious.  The chef himself actually came out of the kitchen to ask us if it was prepared to our liking.  Very pleasant fellow!

We sat outside and enjoyed the wine, the food, but most of all, the company.

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That’s my CAVA, front and center above.  It’s a lot like champagne.  After dinner it was back to the hotel for another good rest in that amazingly comfortable bed.   The next day we would say goodbye to David, and have our own little adventure.

Mediterranean Cruise Day One – Barcelona

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Hello one and all!  I know I’ve not blogged in literally forever, but I’m back!!!  Since I last wrote I’ve retired from my job as a bedside RN in Neonatal Care after 35 years.  For a while, we hope to do some traveling, and my plan is to document it here.  In mid-September we did a 12 night Mediterranean cruise, embarking from Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.  We had cruised at least 5 times before, (Alaska, Mexico, New England, Panama Canal, Caribbean) so I felt like we were “seasoned cruisers”.  We booked this trip back in March and did LOTS of research about our ports of call prior to the big day.  Another exciting thing was that we cruised with our neighbors, Brian & Paul.  Here we are, pictured above with all our stuff (which I struggled to put into just two suitcases per person, one big and one carry-on) packed into Brian and Paul’s car.  We decided to take the shuttle down to SeaTac airport instead of driving and paying to park for 17 days.

It was a very long trip.  This is an understatement.  We knew it would be grueling and for a couple of “older folks”, it was.  If you consider the time getting to Seattle, the time waiting to catch our overnight flight to Amsterdam, the flight TO Amsterdam, and the flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona, the total travel time was about 21 hours. We arrived totally exhausted, but determined to stay awake until the normal local bedtime… which we succeeded in doing.

We arrived 3 days prior to our big cruise which was intentional.  We wanted some time not only to explore Barcelona, but also to visit with John’s son, David (who we hadn’t seen for over a year).  He lives/works in London UK. He arrived from London just minutes after we arrived from Amsterdam and we met up in the airport.  🙂  It was so great to get to have a couple of fun days with David!  First stop was our hotel, Hotel Indigo Barcelona.  Now I cannot take credit for finding this gem of a hotel… hubby did the research on this and we were all very pleased.

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Here is our room…. absolutely LOVELY and modern.  The bed was honestly the most comfortable hotel bed I have EVER slept on…. could this be because I was one very weary traveler?  Possibly, but this really was one great bed!

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Here is a view from our little balcony, looking down onto the busy street below.  We were on Floor 2, which in Europe really means the third floor.  They count the ground floor as “floor 1”.  My apologies to all who already knew that little piece of info.  We read on Trip Advisor that some folks complained about the street noise, but we weren’t bothered by that since the windows are triple glazed and did a good job of blocking out the all day and all night traffic.

Our first order of business, after securing our rooms was to get something to eat.  David got a recommendation from the front desk clerk for a non-touristy place for Tapas.  It was only a few block walk… which would have been NOTHING for normal people, but we were SO tired and my bad leg was also SO tired, that it seemed further.  Just for the record, I’ll say right up front that my bad leg was literally a PAIN IN THE….. well, hip, the whole time.  I now will fully admit that I should have had the replacement surgery back in March when I wanted it – no matter WHAT kind of implant they wanted to put in!  Yet, one cannot go backwards, only forwards, so I did the best I could with what I had (a degenerated hip joint).

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We sat outside at this nice, busy, non-touristy restaurant.  The weather was divine!  About 75 degrees here in the early evening (about 7 pm or so).  Oh, at this point I will mention that Europeans – or at least folks in Barcelona – normally eat dinner quite late…. like 9 or 10 pm.  That may be why this place was not yet filled to the max.  Anyway, it was here that I had my first CAVA (Spanish sparkling wine, mostly produced right here in Catalonia) which was delightful.  It seemed that it was the tradition to start dinner with Cava everywhere we went.  We had Tapas (an assortment of interesting appetizers) but unfortunately I didn’t snap a photo of them.  You will see later on that I enjoyed taking photos of meals…. but I digress.   It was also here that I had my first real Spanish Sangria!  Yum!

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Here’s a nice shot of David, just chillin’ over the Tapas and wine 🙂

After dinner we began our walk back to Hotel Indigo.  On the way we came across a place that I HAD to document! What the heck??

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It’s the OBAMA British Africa Pub.  They apparently serve “Ales, Stouts, Gin, and Rhum”.  I know this is not a great photo, but I snapped it while walking across a busy street.  Looks like an interesting place, eh?  Then we saw “him”.  Mr Obama himself, just lounging outside the establishment….

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No surprise, hubby had to go sit with “him” for a while.  I can only imagine what John may have said to our President.  Hmmmm.

From here, we dragged our sorry behinds to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.  We would need it as the next day was an all day tour of Barcelona and Montserrat.  Montserrat was where I nearly kicked the proverbial bucket …. but more on that next time!