Europe Stories and Tips

Barcelona Day 1

Bracelona Photo,

We left the French Riviera in the evening and settled in for a long run. The next day was spent at sea and was used not only to rest and eat and eat, but to look up interesting acquaintances made aboard, exchange eMail addresses and tell each other how much we enjoyed their company. Much of the afternoon, of course, was taken up with packing our suitcases. My wife is a perfect whiz at doing this in a most orderly fashion, so I stayed out of the way (at her request). Early the next morning we arrived in Barcelona and its extensive harbor. Disembarking was made in a relatively orderly fashion. Depending on whether you went to the airport for an early plane or took a train somewhere or, as we did, stayed on in Barcelona, different colored tickets were issued for the luggage and the colors were called out in proper order to leave the ship. We left relatively early because we were Captain’s club members, so about 10 am we grabbed a taxi and were driven to our hotel.

Barcelona is divided into several districts, the oldest one being the Gothic Quarter. We had chosen a hotel in this quarter because most of the interesting sites are located there. We stayed at the Hotel Raco del Pi on Carrere del Pi, a very narrow street with many stores, restaurants and ice cream parlors. After settling in at the hotel, where, unfortunately, we had to wait over two hours because of our very early arrival, we decided to take a little walk to get acquainted with the neighborhood.

A very short walk down the street took us to Placa Nova in the shadow of the towers of the ancient Roman Wall. There was a nice outdoor restaurant, where we had a sandwich and cold drink. A few steps around the corner brought us to the cathedral. Here we were fortunate to see the worshippers come out of the Cathedral after mass. There was a small band sitting on the steps of the Cathedral, playing native songs (I presume) and gradually people began a slow dance while forming a circle and holding hands. After a short while, more and more people joined and enlarged the circle. Eventually a second circle was formed and it too began to grow as not only natives but some daring tourists danced. It was a most moving display of reverence and friendship.

We sat on one of the stone blocks, which were all along the periphery of the Pla de la Seu in front of the 14th century cathedral. The cathedral complex also comprises three palaces, the Cases del Canonges, the Casa del Dega, and the Casa de l’Ardiaca. Time was passing and we went back to the hotel for a rest and to contemplate dinner.

We saw a very nice tapas bar almost across the street from the hotel and decided to try our luck there. The owner spoke good English and made interesting recommendations about the food. We each had a Catlunyan salad which consisted of a large platter with several green vegetables, lots of tomatoes and other vegetables and the whole was ringed with a selection of different Catalunyan sausages sliced very thin. With this, we had Catalunyan bread, which was two large slices of rye bread covered with a red (tomato? plus herbs) sauce. It was excellent and we both polished our plates. With it, I had a bottle of Spanish beer which was very tasty.

I should mention that our movements were somewhat restricted because my wife had fallen and twisted her ankle, as a result, we walked rather little and then only very slowly. Most of our travel in the city was, therefore, by taxis, which were very reasonably priced.

The next morning we left the hotel and turned left this time and shortly came to the La Rambla. The La Rambla starts at the Columbus lookout at the harbor, a statue of the discoverer, and goes all the way to the Placa de Catalunya - quite a long distance. La Rambla is a pedestrian zone set between the roadway, it is about 50 feet wide and has many stalls, restaurants and sellers of a variety of products. Most stunning were the flower displays.

It should be pointed out, that there was a gathering of about 5000 motorcycles to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Harley-Davison. Contrary to what one reads in the local papers, these bikers were very well behaved, came from all over the world and rarely made a nuisance of themselves. About the only complaint was that once in a while someone had a pass-through muffler, thus making lots of noise. After we became too tired to go on, we returned to the Placa Nova and had more of the delicious orange sorbet being sold in the ice cream parlor and then returned to the hotel for a much needed rest.

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