Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 10: Barcelona

My apologies for the delay.  I was hoping to catch up in Madrid but we weren't able to get internet.  The morning we sailed into Barcelona a few of us got up early to see the sunrise and distant land.  It was well worth it; there are few things that beat the beauty of a sunrise at sea and the far off view of land.  About an hour after the sunrise, the port authorities from Barcelona pulled up next to our ship and a "port guide" jumped over from their small boat onto ours.  His purpose was to assist in piloting the ship into the rather large port.  We eventually ported successfully and were met by Spanish customs and diplomats.  There was a "diplomatic briefing" about some current events and concerns in Spain before the ship was cleared and we were free to go.

I had a few hours before the start of the "City Orientation" I was signed up for and met with a few others to go out and explore a bit.  There's a 24 hour shuttle from the ship to the Placa de Colom near the base of town, it's very helpful.  For a while we looked around "La Rambla," the major tourist street that was extremely busy.  We stumbled upon a restaurant and got some tapas, croquettes in my case.  They were pretty good, but I had much better later on.  After that, Lacey (CLU) and Heather (from Cal Baptist), who were also going on the orientation, made our way back to the ship to meet the tour.

Barcelona is a very interesting city.  It's the Catalonian region of Spain which has historically been very independent from the rest of the nation.  This is evident in the use of the Catalonian language instead of Spanish the majority of the time.  Despite this, Spanish and English are still common.  The orientation started off by driving up Monjuic, home of the '92 Olympic Stadium and the National Palace.  We saw these and got a great panoramic view of the city.  From here we proceeded down to a popular tourist site known as the "Spanish Village."  It's basically a large patch of land divided into the different regions of Spain with little bits of architecture and culture from each.  The tour continued by passing the Arena which was previously home to bullfights.  In recent years many Spanish regions have outlawed bullfights and there is a large movement to eradicate them altogether.  Some more conservative areas still perform them weekly.  We drove through the Modern District and saw some really great impressive buildings.  During the time of their construction it was the law that they be designed to look "beautiful."  We saw some famous Gaudi houses and while we didn't get a chance to go into any, the exterior views are amazing.

The highlight of the day (and probably Barcelona) was Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, a cathedral that began construction in the late 1800s and is not expected to be finished until around 2030.  The eclectic design is absolutely incredible as it is one of the most unique pieces of architecture in the world.  We then took a small break at a cool little chocolate shop.  I got an interesting iced coffee drink and had to try the fresh churros dipped in chocolate.  Approval granted.  St. James Square was the next stop followed by the Barcelona Cathedral.  The latter stops were in Barri Gothic which sported a good collection of Gothic architecture (big surprise) and was probably one of my favorite areas in the city.

After returning to the ship for a little while, a group of us headed out to find dinner.  We went to a place that was recommend by an inter-port lecturer and it did not disappoint.  While I'm usually not overly experimental when it comes to seafood, I had to the Seafood Paella and was amazing.  I also tried out a bit of a friend's Octopus and some other tapas.  It was one of the better meals I've had.  After dinner we set out for quite a walk; we had a late Flamenco Show reserved and I wanted to see a few other sights like the Arc de Triomf and famous Modern Palau de Musica Catalana (didn't get to see a concert, maybe a future trip).  Even though it was a bit touristy, The Flamenco was pretty neat.  It's amazing how athletic (aka spastic feet) some of the dancers are.  They go on and on and aren't even out of breath at the end.  After the show we made are way back to the ship to conclude a very long yet productive and fun first day in Spain.

1 comment:

E. Stutelberg said...

Clark, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed Barcelona! A good friend of mine lives there and I've been able to visit twice and see all of the sites you visited. What a busy day you had! I learned that in Barcelona when someone asks you to do something and you want to tell them that it's not that important and you'll do it when you have the time you say, "I'll get that to you when La Sagrada is finished!" Your post brought back great memories of climbing Monjuic, eating the delicious food (paella! churros and chocolate! yum!), and wandering down the narrow streets of the old city. Enjoy the rest of your journey and thanks for sharing your adventures!