As we arrived in Spain (Barcelona to be more exact), Brandi’s voice decided to take its own vacation, similar to when it disapeared before our wedding. It would not return until the end of the cruise. To say this was frustrating would be a huge understatement. An inability to communicate in anything but whispers – impossible in any crowded or public place. The other passengers on the ship were vaguely sympathetic, but made lots of jokes about singing or talking too much or Brian finally getting some peace and quiet for the first time in our marriage. Really it was just an annoyance, until getting out into the city.
In the city it was a little frightening. Barcelona is crowded, with people in every direction, tourists and those looking to make money off them – legally or not. Pushing and jostling and yelling, everyone trying to get our attention, just a moment of it – in every direction. If we were separated in the crowd, Brandi had no way of getting Brian’s attention. Not even the ability to scream… But thankfully it never came to that. We held hands or each other’s backpacks, and Brian was conscious of not wandering off like he sometimes is apt to do.
On our first day in Barcelona, we travelled the historic Ramblas street; checked out La Boquería and strolled across the Plaça de Catalunya where several demonstrators were camped out and eventually we arrived at the Block of Discord as well as Casa Milà.
- La Boquería is a lively produce market that is an explosion of chicken legs, bags of live snails, stiff fish, delicious oranges, odd odours, and sleeping dogs.
- Plaça de Catalunya is dotted with fountains, statues, and pigeons, and is ringed by grand art deco buildings. This plaza is Barcelona’s center. It’s the hub for the Metro, bus, airport shuttle, and tourist bus.
- The Block of Discord is where several colorful modernist facades compete for attention along this single stretch of road. All were built by well-known architects at the end of the 19th century. Because the mansions look as though they are trying to outdo each other in creative twists, locals nicknamed the noisy block the “Block of Discord.”
- Casa Milà – This Gaudí exterior laughs down on the crowds filling Passeig de Gràcia. Casa Milà, also called La Pedrera (“The Quarry”), has a much-photographed roller coaster of melting-ice-cream eaves. This is Barcelona’s quintessential modernist building and was Gaudí’s last major work (1906–1910) before dedicating his final years to the Sagrada Família
We wandered through Casa Milà with our cameras and the audio guide and learned all about Gaudí, his inspirations behind the apartment building he designed and how he developed his techniques. His aesthetic was very organic and way outside the lines of the time. Even by today’s standards his buildings are strange – at the time, completely groundbreaking
Between this fascinating tour, a stop for some lunch at a streetside cafe, and a fight through the markets to get back to our ship for the evening, it was a long day – but of course we were rewarded with luxury and comfort back on board. Brandi visited the spa for a facial before dinner, which this evening was served on the top deck of the ship, open-air. Almost barbeque style, but we still had champagne and caviar, and servers carrying our plates back to our seats for us. The plan was for this to turn into a dancing-under-the-stars evening, but the wind picked up and everyone shivered and headed back inside after dinner. We personally didn’t find it too cold, but will admit we’re used to a different level of cold than many of the others (lots of southern Californians and Texans).
The on boat entertainment this evening was a local flamenco troupe, and they were truly impressive. One guy on guitar, one guy singing, two female dancers and one male dancer. Their body language, footwork and emotion was amazing. We are sure there was a story line to their performance, but of course we couldn’t really follow the language.
When we got back to our room there was a nice display of swans, scattered rose petals, a bottle of wine and two notes, one from Maria our stewardess and another personally signed note from the Hotel Manager wishing us the best on our honeymoon!
For day 2 in Barcelona, we got up early and headed to Sagrada Familia, a cathedral that became Gaudí’s main passion and where he devoted the last years of his life. At the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete although he had been working on it for over 30 years.
The slowness of construction had never disturbed him, as when asked about the subject of the extremely long construction period, Gaudí is said to have remarked: “My client is not in a hurry.” (referring to God). Currently, one projection anticipates construction completion around 2026, the centennial of Gaudí’s death—while the project’s information leaflet estimates a completion date in 2028 or later.
Everyone had warned that the lineup to the cathedral would be very long (two hours, we were told), however our arrival from the local metro station at 10am still only gave us a 10–15 minute wait in the the line before we were at the ticket window.
To say the cathedral is massive is an understatement, the completion of the spires will make Sagrada Família the tallest church building in the world. Gaudí’s original design calls for a total of eighteen spires, representing in ascending order of height the twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. Eight spires have been built, corresponding to four apostles at the Nativity façade and four apostles at the Passion façade.
We spent 4 or so hours walking around Sagrada Família taking pictures and learning more about the life of Gaudí. We returned to the metro and saw that there was a funicular at the end of the line. Knowing how much fun we had with the funicular in Austria, we took it to the top of monjuïc. This funicular was much less impressive as it was entirely underground. Fortunately, there was a much more scenic gondola from the funicular to the very top of the hill, to an old Spanish fort.
We wandered around the fort, feeding the local fortress cats (we miss ours) and taking pictures of the view and just relaxing and making comparisons about urban sprawl. We returned via gondola and funicular to the metro and walked to the boat in time for departure, and on to Mahón!