Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The End of Our Journey...Barcelona, Spain (Part 1)

After sailing 200 nautical miles from our last port of call (Marseille, France) we reached Barcelona, Spain at 7:30AM on November 2, 2013.  It was our 15th day on the MS Ryndam sailing the Mediterranean Sea from east to west.

We were now at the end of our journey. Some 400 more passengers would continue on to Portugal and then to Tampa, Florida as our ship was repositioning itself in the Caribbean Sea for the winter. It had been a wonderful cruise with friendly and attentive crew members providing us with the excellent service we have come to expect from the Holland America Line.  The weather had been perfect and the seas were smooth.  Here is the Cruise Log for our most recent eight days at sea:

We disembarked from our ship at 8:45AM, got our luggage and a cab to take us to our hotel.  We would be in Barcelona for three more nights before we would fly back to our home in the U.S.  I used Spanish (American) to communicate, our cab driver was from Chile, so I didn't worry that I do not speak Spanish with a Castilian accent. This city is a part of Catalunya, therefore Catalan is the dominant language in Barcelona anyway, but I found many people spoke English quite well. Our hotel, Hotel Jazz. was in the very heart of Barcelona, just 2 blocks from Plaça de Catalunya and La Rambla.

Hotel Jazz is a 3 Star hotel.  Sharon called it  "a 5 Star hotel" after she checked into a Junior Suite on a free upgrade.

It was too early to check in, so we stored our luggage and went looking for breakfast with our friends, Bob and Sharon

There were plenty of cafes within walking distance - this one is next door
The Reception area of the Hotel Jazz

This hotel has a business center, free WiFi, a bar, a full breakfast in the morning

The upstairs bar of our hotel

We found a place nearby for coffee, rolls, and breakfast sandwiches.  Returning to the hotel before we did, Bob and Sharon scored a free upgrade to a Junior Suite.  Our room was standard and very nice. We had booked the rooms before we left the USA for 114 euro per night,  and that included breakfast (a very modest price for this area of Barcelona)! We were very satisfied and highly recommend this hotel.

Our room was quite comfortable and fairly large by European standards

The room had good climatic controls and a large screen TV plus a refrigerator and mini-bar

Our bath - only a bath shower combo in the standard room.
The Jr. Suites have a separate shower and bathtub

Our balcony

View from our balcony toward La Rambla and Plaça de Catalunya

View from our balcony across the street of Hotel Ingleterra

View to the right from our balcony
We went up to the rooftop terrace and pool on the 8th floor and looked out over the city.  Most of the buildings in Barcelona were very tall with six stories or more. Many had rooftop gardens and terraces. We enjoyed some drinks up on the rooftop in the warm sunshine.  It was in the 70's (F). Beautiful!

Sharon and Bob at the roof top pool of the Hotel Jazz
Bob looking pretty relaxed
after two weeks on a cruise

The terrace on our roof top where we enjoyed wine and cocktails

The roof top pool area

The pool was open, even in early November!

I even took a swim in the pool.  
The water was unheated, about 72 degrees F.
 Here are a few views from our roof top pool and terrace:

Next, we all did what tourists (and locals alike) do in Barcelona, we walked La Rambla, the most famous city walkway in Barcelona.  This is a wide tree lined boulevard that goes from Plaça de Catalunya to the sea.  It has a wide walkway in the middle of the street for walking, sitting, and vendors.  Ron and I sat down on the benches and watched the parade go by.

La Rambla (click to see a walking video of La Rambla)

Plaça de Catalunya  (click to see a video of the Plaza)

Just off La Rambla, I went into the famous marketplace of Barcelona - El Mercat de la Boqueria

I bought a burrito for lunch at one of the stalls, a lovely tortilla in a paper cone, filled with sausages, fried potatoes, lettuce and a fried egg.  Delicious.

Here's a You Tube video of the whole market experience:

In Barcelona,especially in the crowded tourist areas of the city, there is a problem with pickpockets. However, we were careful, keeping our wallets and purses in front of us, and with a good awareness of the surroundings, we were not victims.

Hotel Le Meridien

While walking along La Rambla, Ron found a restaurant that looked good for dinner.  It was CentOnze (Catalun for "111" -  its address on La Ramba) in the Meridien Hotel.

We had dinner there our first night in Barcelona.  Ron ordered the Monkfish which tastes like lobster. The dinner was delicious and moderately expensive. Our waitress was from Germany.  We found that almost all the service people we met came from other countries of South America, Europe and Africa. Our hotel bartender and breakfast server were from Italy and Equador.

The next day, we went on the Tourist Bus to see the city.  We spend more than 4 hours on the bus, taking all three routes to see the whole city.  We got off at Port Olimpic for lunch and some gambling at the  Casino Barcelona.

Lunch at Cerveseria Barnabier at Port Olimpic
Port Olimpic was built to support the 1992 Olympic games and the Olympic Village.  The athlete's housing was built here and was later turned into hotels and apartment buildings.  This area along the seashore had previously been a run-down and polluted factory zone before the renovation was completed before the 1992 Olympics. There was a lot of public art everywhere.

Port Olimpic marina

Some of the public art at Port Olimpic

One of the modern hotels at Port Olimpic

Roy Lichenstein's Barcelona Face in Port Vell (Old Port)
A playground and more public art

A detail from Roy Lichenstein's Barcelona Face 
Statue with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain
honoring Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón),
at the top of the statue 

The old Bull Ring (Las Arenas) now a shopping mall
In the L’Eixample neighborhood,
we saw the wonderful Modernisme architecture

Here is Gaudi's La Pedrera

Often, the Catalun flag was displayed from people's balconies
 indicating pride and a desire for an independent nation

Barcelona Sants - the Train Station

Dona i Ocell (Woman and Bird) by Joan Miro in Joan Miro Park

Ron and I were totally impressed with what we saw of this great city.  We were in complete awe of what Barcelona had to offer and knew that even our three day stay was far too limited to appreciate in full this beautiful place. Our friends, Sharon and Bob were departing on the morning of November 4th, so we had a final dinner with them that night and bid them farewell.

Chocolate nougat filled with nuts, fruits and creams

After dinner, Ron and I walked along La Rambla with Bob and Sharon one more time, eating the delicious gooey chocolate covered gofres (waffles) and gelato from the vendors, buying some Catalunyan chocolate treats, and watching  "flash mob" style break dancers perform for tips.

We planned to see the architectual wonders of Antonio Gaudi on our final full day in Barcelona.  I will cover our final day in Barcelona in Part 2 in my next post.

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