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Published: September 7th 2008
Friday 5th September
(Geoff) Today is the day that we will board the ship for our long awaited Mediterranean cruise. Before that happens, we have a few loose ends to tie up in Barcelona. We sleep in a little (jet lag is now long past) and after breakfast we head back towards La Rambla. We potter around here for a little while before we decide to head back to the apartment and get a taxi to the port where the ship is docked. This sounds really easy doesn't it?
Well it doesn't work out to be so!!
We visit the markets on our way back and get some nice fresh fruit and pastries (good practice for Paris) and decide we will have morning tea in the apartment before the cleaner arrives. Only problem is, we get to the apartment and the cleaner is already there! So we quickly grab our bags, which we packed earlier, and head down to the foyer. I ring the taxi service only to be told that the operator doesn't speak English - Great! So we converse in pidgin English/Spanish and she finally tells me that she will try to have a taxi there
in 10 minutes or so. We wolf down the morning tea and head outside to wait (having left the keys in the apartment so no going back there). Voila a taxi appears and its for us, nearly 15 minutes after the call. Then the taxi driver doesn't speak much English either! I finally get across where we want to go and he hurtles through the streets down to the docks. Sue and I both breathe a sigh of relief as we sight the ship and he drops us off outside the terminal.
We join the queue and start our way to the security station. As we get closer the couple in front turn to us and say “are you Australian?” We are surprised but not as surprised as when we find out they are not only Ozzies but from Canberra and indeed from Weston Creek. - Graham and Margaret. As a famous Oz character once said 'Crikey!!”. Of course now we have to go through the security gate and once again I set off the alarm, even though I have emptied pockets. The lady in security looks me up and down and then points to my glasses case and
asks me to open it. This works OK as the case only contains my glasses and not some anti-social substance that will get us detained. We are through and continue on to the gangway for the ship, chatting with our new found Canberra friends all the way.
The rest of the day was spent settling in to our room, exploring the ship a bit and orienting ourselves for the cruise. We decide that we wil change our shore excursion for tomorrow - we are due to go for a 3 & ½ hour bike ride around Barcelona but reckon that will be too hot and tiring so we opt for a bus tour around Gaudi landmarks in the city.
(Sue) The cabin is great. We have a huge bed which is very comfy, although the feather pillows are too soft. We'll get these changed soon. There was a complimentary bottle of champers, strawberries dipped in chocolate and 3 bottles of red wine in the cabin when we arrived. But wait there is more... there is also tickets to a plush restaurant on board that you ususally pay for! Geoff was very suspicious to start with, but I convinced
him it was all real. The outside balcony is wonderful, and as I write we have the door open to take in the sounds of a triatholon in progress in Monte Carlo (Sunday).
Saturday 6th September - Cruise day 2
(Geoff) We are up and off to the buffet by 7:30 as the tour heads into the city at 8:30. On the tour ticket it says be at the meeting point 10 minutes before. We arrive at 8:20 , just in time to hear our tour being called!! All works out well though as we leave the ship (looked like a bunch of sheep) and headed to the bus area. Found the bus and our tour guide and started off into town. Then we came to a halt while waited for a couple of stragglers to catch us in a taxi. They caught us up and we then proceeded into Barcelona, all the while the guide keeping up a narrative of interesting places and facts.
It was pretty interesting seeing Gaudi's flowing architetural designs in amongst the more sedate/staid architecture which surrounds it. After a couple of hours, we pulled up outside his crowning glory - the temple of La Sagrada Familia - a huge cathedral that was started in 1882 and is still not completed!! Even though its not finished, it is absolutely awe inspiring! The outside is decorated with all sorts of statuary and religious imagery but I was totally gob smacked when we went inside and saw the scale of the building - it just needs to be seen to be believed!! We had been given what I thought was an over generous 80 minutes to have a look around but even then we ran out of time and were working hard to catch the bus for its next stage.
Our last stop was at a now public park that was designed by Gaudi on commission from Count Guell as part of a city subdivision that didn't get off the ground. He was engaged to design the infrastructure that would service 18 blocks for the well to do. Unfortunately the blocks didn't sell but thankfully the park remains and is now open to the public for free. Here there are beautifully laid out gardens amid meeting places that have ceramic covered statues and structures. Once again, Gaudi's flowing forms were quite different from the normal architecture of the day and it is really amazing that it has all survived the last 100+ years so well.
Now its back to the ship for a swim, lunch and then get ready to head to sea. Big fanfare as we headed to the back deck (Deck 9/10 above the main deck) for some Tapas and Sangria and farewell to Barcelona. Back to our cabin, caught up with Graham and Margaret, did some shopping on board and then it's time to get the glad rags on and off to dinner in the posh Vista Lounge. Rather nice really with table service and a three/four/five course dinner. Nice way to end the day and the company was great. We shared a table with a Liverpool couple as well as our Canberra mates and had a great night. Of course, I finally succumbed and bought some of the cruise wines ( I'll explain that later) - you have to watch what you say or do as they only need a small excuse to charge you for this or that, and all in US$.
Off to Monaco tomorrow after sailing overnight (20 hours at 20 knots means we will cover 400 nautical miles overnight!). Will spend a quiet day and will look around the city for while. Dinner in one of the Restaurants might be nice.
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