We asked the night before whether we could hire a driver to take us around because we only had so many hours in the day before we had to be on our cruise ship. The cruise ship was to depart at 7:00 p.m. and you had to be on by 5:00 p.m. and we wanted to try and see some of Barcelona before we left. We had left a note for the morning clerk asking whether we could hire a driver, so Friday morning we were awakened by a call from the front desk informing us that to hire a driver for three hours, it would cost us $450 US dollars, plus $80 US dollars for any hour that went over and $23 for the driver’s lunch. We opted to learn the metro instead, but then we found out that we could walk to what we really wanted to see. We also found a lovely little restaurant on the main floor of the hotel and sat down and had breakfast. Our waitress was a delightful young lady who told us how much she loved gospel music and that there were large popular well-attended gospel concerts all over Barcelona. To our surprise and delight she even sang “Oh, Happy Day” for us, so we were off to a very special start that morning. The breakfast, for the foodies out there, had ham, cheese, croissants, scrambled eggs, sausages, quiche, all kinds of breads, fruit, peach, orange and pineapple juice, yogurt, and cereal. As you can imagine, we were good to go once we finished eating breakfast.

Roman Wall and Defense Towers

Roman Wall and Defense Towers

We took off walking and just photographing interesting street scenes, there was just so much to see. One of the first things we came across was an old fort. There’s a picture of it, along with the sign in front and it says, “Roman Wall and Defense Towers” and we took a number of pictures there. And, you know me foodies, I took a picture of the little sandwich shop across the street. We then saw a great massive cathedral under construction and we came across the equivalent of a Spanish flea market and in the back of the flea market was a group of guys playing a guitar and singing and that was pretty fun. After that, we continued up the street and we found a pretty neat souvenir shop, so we did a little bit of souvenir shopping (actually I didn’t buy anything) and Carol and Marjorie found good things to take to the people back home. We headed on our way after purchasing souvenirs. It was so marvelous being in a city so old and the architecture was amazing. At one point we came across a building with, I don’t even know what this technique is called, but it looked like there were women in a Greek style carved into the outside of the building. We also came across a store called “Very Cheap” and I thought that was pretty funny, and a statue of a very stern looking man with a pigeon sitting on his head, which was pretty funny. It was then time for the first serious shopping stop. We went into a purse and leather goods store and I have to tell you that Marjorie loves purses, so she purchased a purse. It was pretty. It was black and white and it’s kinda hard to describe. It’s really pretty, though, and unique, and on we continued on our meander. We ended up bumping into the University of Barcelona and we went inside and took several pictures there and boy did it have the feel of a campus. Even though, of course, we were in a totally different culture, a campus is still a campus.

I have to say thanks very much to my two traveling companions because I’m sort of the geek who likes to go and visit other schools, even on vacation. Anyway, after leaving the University of Barcelona, we set out to look for the Gaudi Buildings and Antoni Gaudi was an artist whose work is very elaborate and it is from his name that the word “gaudi” is taken, so having never seen those we set out to do that. When we arrived at the first Gaudi Building, there was a small crowd outside taking pictures and it was immediately apparent why they are so fascinating. It’s really hard to describe. You can see the pictures here in the blog and I think I’ll let his work speak for itself. Say this, it certainly is distinctive. After we saw the smaller Gaudi works, we headed out to see Barcelona’s most famous sight and that is Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. That name means the church of the holy family and it was designed and partially constructed by the master architect who I mentioned before, Antoni Gaudi, and it later became his most famous achievement. He spent 43 years of his life working on this incredible project beginning in 1883 working until the day of his death on June 10, 1926. Gaudi designed it with the intent of creating a 20th Century cathedral using visual symbolism to express the many mysteries of faith. His plan had three facades symbolizing birth, death and the resurrection of Jesus. Work on the church continued after Gaudi’s death and it continues today. The current design is based on a combination of reconstructive versions of Gaudi’s original plans that were lost in a fire and modern adaptations. It was an incredible sight to see and I’m not sure the pictures that I have really capture it, but they at least give you a sense of the cathedral.

After seeing the cathedral, yikes, we were short on time! We had arranged for the front desk to call a taxi for us to take us to the cruise boat and we were about 10 minutes away from the time we were supposed to meet the taxi. There was a taxi stand around the cathedral, and we hopped in a taxi and directed him to hurry back to the hotel where our taxi was awaiting to take us to the cruise ship. We had to order a mini van to fit all of our luggage to go to the cruise ship. Our taxi driver was very gracious about our last minute arrival and cheerfully helped us load all of our luggage into the mini van taxi. Now I know some of you are wondering or “tisk tisking” at the fact that we had so much luggage, but in our own defense, our entire trip was 14 days, the cruise was a 12 day cruise which meant you needed day gear and nice attire for dining. There were also three formal dinners during the course of the cruise, so quite frankly that was a lot of stuff. Anyway, I just had to say that in our own defense. As I said, we liked our taxi driver, he was very cheerful. When we got in the cab we took it as a good omen when the music he was playing was a Barry White CD. We just cracked up laughing and then we sang all the way to the ship, so when we arrived at the dock we were in the best mood ever and the taxi driver got a nice fat tip and he even sang with us. It was a hoot! What a good omen for what our journey would be like.

Now if you might recall, I told you that we had trouble printing Marjorie’s sea pass, but that was no problem because she had completed the on-line process and she was sharing my cabin and so we were able to pull up her records and we were on the ship with our sea pass in no time. For those of you who haven’t cruised, the sea pass is a little card that serves as your ID card every time you get on or off the ship. It is like the size of the cards that hotel doors have, it opens your room door, and it’s also your charge card for everything on the ship. There’s no cash used on the ship, except in the casino, which really wasn’t our issue. You use your card to buy drinks or to buy whatever at the shops, so all you need on the ship is your sea pass. What happens is that when you register on-line, you register a credit card and everything you buy is charged to your credit card, so it’s kinda convenient, but you better not lose it. So, as I was saying before I digressed, we got on the ship very easily and then you had to wait for your luggage to be delivered so we decided to go and have a late lunch. We went up to the Windjammer Café on the 11th floor of the ship and is very casual dining with a buffet style dining area. I have to tell you that we tended to prefer the dining room and to haveThe Windjammer Cafe food served. One of the reasons is because the Windjammer Café tended to have a large number of young children and teens who reached and grabbed and also it tended to be really hectic when there were a lot of people up there. If you just sat down and had your lunch and ordered off the menu and had it served, that was a lot quieter and a lot nicer. Anyway, that wasn’t open, so we went to the Windjammer Café and we had a light lunch and we went back down to our rooms to explore the cabin and to begin to unpack our many, many outfits. I forgot to tell you that the name of the ship was the Brilliance of the Seas. It’s a Royal Caribbean ship and our cruise was a 12-day Mediterranean cruise.

After we got our suitcases and had finished unpacking, there was a sail away deck party and we went up for that and then we had to run downstairs and hurry and get our life jackets for the life boat drill. The lifeboat drill is pretty dreadful. It’s necessary, I understand it, but it’s always yucky. What you do is you go in the closet, you take out a life vest. Each cabin has life vests that are numbered with the number of the cabin and then you go up to the promenade deck, which on this ship was deck 5, and you stand in the sun while the captain reads the instructions for an emergency and how to get on the life boat. The other problem is that you have to wait until all the guests in your staging area show up and there’s always some folks who don’t show up on time for the drill and we have to stand there and it was pretty hot that day in that hot icky sweaty life jacket. I know that it’s important to do and had we needed it, we would be glad that we had gone through the drill.

After the drill we went downstairs, took showers and got ready for dinner and we had opted for what is called the “my time” dining which means that we could eat at any time from 6:30-9:30 p.m. We did that because the length of the excursions, which are the trips at the various ports, differ depending on what we were doing that day and we wanted the flexibility to change our dining hour. We went down to dinner and foodies you are going to kill me, but I did not keep records of the fabulous meals. Let me just say that at each meal, there were at least six appetizers, six entrees, six desserts, as well as salad and soup. It was fine dining indeed.

After dinner, we went up to the Pacifica Theater, the main theater on the ship, for a welcome aboard show and that was really fun. On the cruise ships, they have Vegas/Broadway style shows with dancing and singing, comedians, and magicians. We even had some hangul dancers. Every night there is a show and the first was sort of a welcome aboard review and it was a lot of fun. We really enjoyed it. Afterwards, we went up to the disco for the Motown hour and it was kind of lame so we left. There weren’t very many people up there and the music was not that great. We walked downstairs and went to the Colony Club, which was another one of the nightclub areas, and they had a karaoke kickoff and that was hilarious. We got to watch everybody sing karaoke and then we went back up to the disco for the 4th of July bash and there was champagne that night. That was a pretty full first day on the ship, and we went to our room to rest for the next day.

Here’s a little bit about the ship and what was available. There were a lot of venues for music and dancing, so for example, there was music by the pool with a group called the Tropical Duo, which was a steel drum player and a guitarist. There was a group called The Souled Out Show Band. We called them the SOLD, sold out because they were terrible the whole time. We didn’t go back to see them. Then there was a Graces High Society trio, which was a little string trio. There was always a dj on the discotec and there was something called the Venus Duo, which was a guy who played sax and a pianist, so there was something for everyone in terms of music on this ship and that wasn’t even everybody, but there was also a piano bar.