Barcelona is a huge city that was home to the 1992 Olympics. I was last here in 1983 so I don’t recall much about how it looked then as compared to now, but we were told that the waterfront was transformed for the Olympics from a gritty working port to the pretty tourist destination we see today.
We were cleared to go ashore around 9 am after a long approach down a narrow channel to the cruise terminal. For the first time since Singapore we would be leaving the ship via a “jet way” style pedestrian bridge from Deck 3 to the Cruise Terminal.
We left the ship around 11 am and caught the shuttle bus for the 2 mile drive to Columbus Circle.
NOTE: There was a 5 Euro (RT) charge for this shuttle which is the first time we were charged for a shuttle this cruise, other than the really long ones i.e., from Civitavecchia to Rome, which were sold as tours vice a shuttle. However, nothing is really free as it is all baked into the price of the cruise at some point and generally ala carte pricing gives you the opportunity to only buy what you value so I don’t mind.
The Cruise Ship Viking Star was moored near the shuttle bus stop and we were excited to see her in person as we are booked on her for a Baltic Cruise this summer. We have sailed on Viking River Cruises a few times and were interested in trying this line for an Ocean Cruise. Watch this space for reports as we set sail with her in August. After that cruise we will be returning to the USA on the Queen Mary 2 for a classic “Crossing” on one of the most formal lines still sailing. We like to sample other lines to see what they offer, but have always come back to HAL as our favorite cruise line.
The nearest landmark to the shuttle drop off is Columbus Circle which has a statue of Columbus on top of a tower with his arm pointing out to sea. There has been a mild debate about what was the significance of direction he is pointing – Is he pointing to the new world? To his home town? After taking a few pictures near Columbus Circle and looking up the answer to the question – “Where is Columbus pointing” No clear answer, but simply out to sea was the consensus I discovered. Rick and I posed for our own version of where to point.
We headed off on Las Ramblas, which is one of the main thoroughfares heading northwest from Columbus Circle and was filled with people on this beautiful spring day. There were a handful of street artists painted to look like statues which always attract interest but I always wonder how much money they make. They must make enough or they just really enjoy just sitting there, because there are always people doing this in many of the larger tourist cities around the world.
Las Ramblas has a large pedestrian only section in the middle of two, relatively narrow streets. The center pedestrian section is filled with shops and cafes and was made for easy strolling and people watching. After about 1 mile we reached the Placa de Catalunya which is the center of Barcelona. Here we turned from heading northwest to northeast and continued along the Carrer De Fontanella until we reached a smaller street, Carrer d’Estruc which was the location of the Llanarium Yarn Shop which was unfortunately closed on Mondays.
Yarn shopping was on the agenda today and in addition to the Llanarium we had a couple more shops to look for. We were in no particular hurry, but in retrospect, we should have done a few things in a different order, since 2 of the shops were closed for the afternoon siesta. We managed to check out some of the inventory thru the storefronts and most of their offering was cotton yarn which is not one of Judy’s favorite fibers.
This part of Barcelona is a maze of wonderful streets selling a variety of food and goods from giant burgers to designer bags, local crafts and everything in between. It was a joy to simply stroll down the streets looking at what was for sale and exchanging smiles with tourists and locals alike on this fabulous day.
After we discovered 2 more closed yarn shops we entered the Placa Nova which is the location of the Cathedral of Barcelona, the holiest spot for 2000 years when the Romans built the temple of Jupiter here. The current Cathedral was built between 1298 and 1450. We didn’t go inside but continued onward toward the waterfront.
As we reached the waterfront we spotted the surrealist sculpture called El Cap de Barcelona which means “The Head” and was created by American Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein for the 1992 Olympics. It is 64 feet tall and is made out of concrete and ceramic.
On the other side of the harbor from where the shuttle bus departs is a shopping center called Maremagnum. There weren’t that many stores, but we decide to check it out as it was on the way to a cable car that went over the harbor and looked interesting. As we got closer we learned that the reviews for the cable car weren’t that good on TripAdvisor and the starting point was much further than it looked when we started so we decided to take a pass and head into the shopping center.
The shopping center had a Starbucks where we purchased a Barcelona coffee mug, a Latte, hot tea and a chocolate muffin. We had been walking for over 3 hours at his point, so it was good to sit down for a bit.
In the harbor next to the Maremagnum was an interesting floating sculpture by Robert Llimos inspired by the poem “El Satltamarti” by Joan Brossa. The all white sculpture is of a standing human figure, looking skyward with his hands clasped behind his back, while floating on integrated buoy.
After we finished our drinks we started to head back to the shuttle bus. We couldn’t resist buying our first hot dog of the cruise as American style hot dogs are a little unusual outside the USA and we always enjoying sampling local interpretations of this American classic. Judy and I split one and it was OK, but we won’t be traveling back to Barcelona for the hot dogs.
On our way back to the shuttle bus we noticed an interesting sign warning tourists of a 50 euro fine if you bought anything from a “blanket vendor”. If they were really serious they could close these people down in less than a week, but they are not serious, so they put up meaningless signs to make someone feel better. The same with pickpockets. If the Barcelona authorities wanted to put an end to pickpockets – they could do so easily, but the police here choose to not take this seriously – a sad blot on an otherwise wonderful city.
There wasn’t any Sail Away party tonight as we were leaving sorta late so we wandered about some of the open decks until it was time for dinner. We enjoyed a Lobster and Shrimp Calypso Dip for a starter and the Spanish Style Seafood Paella for the entrée.
There wasn’t any live show tonight, but they were screening the movie “Barcelona” in the Queens Lounge. We took a pass and turned in early.
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