Sagrada Familia.

Mike and I visited Barcelona in the 1990s as part of a whirlwind 10 day trip that included Madrid. At that time, Sagrada Familia only had Nativity and Passion entrances, and the towers associated with them. There was no roof over and hardly any columns in the nave. We had intended to visit the interior when we were in Barcelona last May with Mike’s brother and his family. However, I apparently failed to hit the purchase button to buy the tickets so we wandered the outside while they toured inside.

Thankfully we had a second chance and we really enjoyed our morning inside the basilica. I rarely get emotional over architecture but that wasn’t the case here. It is an incredible building. On a macro scale it is powerful but the details are really striking. No matter where you look, you see something new, innovative and inspiring. Unfortunately the pictures can’t give you the full impression. If you have the opportunity, please go. I know we hope to be around to make it back after they complete it (only 10 more towers to go!) in 2026…of course I think when we visited 25-30 years ago they hoped to have it done by 2010 or something…so we will see how it goes.

Below are pictures of the altar, the nave including the incredible effect of the stained glass windows.

We also visited the sacristy, the space used to store the priests supplies and vestments and where they prepare for mass. As a former altar boy, where we used a closet for a similar purpose, I hope you will trust me when I say Gaudi created the most beautiful space I’ve ever seen-he also designed the storage units.

As some readers may recall, when we were in Barcelona previously we had a wonder tapas experience at a little restaurant near our hotel and the Triumphal Arc, Elsa y Fred. Six other couples from the larger Cruise Critic that rode the metro together from the port to the church joined us to walk to the restaurant for lunch. While delicious, Mike and I agreed we wished we had of just ordered tapas rather than the meal of the day. Each of the three courses had two offerings so we had all six dishes and just halfed and halfed then between us. Of course we had to have their delicious octopus..and it was just as good as we remembered!

Appetizers were a delicious pea soup and a salad.

The main dishes were risotto with seafood and a really tasty sausage plate. Unfortunately no pictures of dessert.

After lunch we headed through the Gothic Quarter towards La Rambla, the pedestrian street that runs for many blocks. Along the way we happened upon a beautiful performance palace. I would like to go back and tour it’s interior. We also happened upon an ancient church which was the polar opposite (by just as impressive in its simplicity) to Sagrada Familia.

After getting to La Rambla, we wandered it back towards the port. All in all a wonderful day and a good walk-5.9 miles!

While I used the port terminals WiFi to post some overdue blogs, Mike went aboard and learned we wouldn’t be leaving as scheduled due to the weather predictions at Funchal. I’m writing this a week later in the middle of the Atlantic and the ship is still full of rumors as to whether it was the weather or the repairs that delayed us. Who knows and frankly I don’t really care.

We discussed using the extra day in Barcelona to explore some more of the city but that long walk the day before took it out of us and after not waking until almost 10 am, we elected to treat it as a sea day and do what we now do best. Nada!

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There’s a hole in our ship!

Two weeks or so ago we relieved an email from Norwegian Cruise Lines informing us of an itenerary change. Rather than arriving in Barcelona at 5 am on Wednesday and departing at 5 pm, we would arrive at 6 pm Tuesday night (today) and not leave until 8 pm. This change was required “in order to complete some technical repairs not impacting the safety of the ship”. No skin off our backs, extra time in Barcelona sounded fine by us. But wondered what was going to be repaired.

After we docked, Clay was sitting in the room at the desk with the balcony door open and was startled by the window washing apparatus going by with its driver who laughed and waved when Clay screamed like a girl. Turns out the apparatus was being moved to help out with this repair but we didn’t realize it until after dinner when we returned to the room to find the side of the ship bathed in work lights, two cranes and a hoard of hard hats lifting a crankshalf into a newly cut hole in the ship (above the waterline thank goodness) and two other hardhats grinding away on the removed hull portion presumably preparing it for reinstallation.

You can’t tell from the pictures but there a section of deck inside the hole has been removed so that the new crankshaft can be delicately maneuvered to the lower deck. Clay took the pictures below, some from our balcony but most from the pier. While ashore he got to talking to a retired nuclear plant engineer who had pictures of the old crankshaft sitting (in five pieces) on the pier in Civittivechia before he boarded. Apparently it had been cut into chunks aboard and then removed through already existing openings. According to this guy, the ship has five generators, three for the engine (need two for full speed), one to run the ship, and one spare. So I guess they were right when it said it wouldn’t affect safety.

Fingers crossed that they don’t drop the crankshalf before they get it fully aboard…or drop the hull portion overboard before they get it rewelded onto the ship!

But at the rate they are going-the crankshaft is now inside the ship (it is 11:10 pm) it looks like Norwegian had done great planning and logistics.Though I’m sure some folks will be complaining about that noise and lights. I hope the grinding is about done so I won’t be one of the complainers.

Views from the pier:

The view from our balcony:

Barcelonai

You may be saying to yourself, “Self, I don’t recall Clay mentioning Barcelona when he told me about his year of travel.” and you would be right!  We hadn’t planned on visiting Barcelona this trip (well at least once we decided we couldn’t afford to spend our month in Spain there).  But Mike’s brother Chris and his wife Jen along with their daughter Rebecca and her boyfriend Karol (Pronounced Karl – he is polish) decided to celebrate Rebecca’s graduate school graduation with a week in Barcelona.  We had to get from Sofia to Lisbon and that entailed a stop somewhere and Barcelona was just as good as Milan and lots better than Frankfurt, so we modified our Airbnb stays and spend four nice days with them.

We arrived at the Hotel Rec (which Chris found and we loved) around 8 pm on Saturday night and the others arrived around 1 pm on Sunday.  Mike and I spent Sunday morning wandering through the park below the Arc d’triumph (who knew Barcelona had one too?) and got back to the hotel as they were arriving.

We all went and had a late lunch and then the travelers checked in and took naps until that evening.

The hotel has a beautiful rooftop lounge and terrance and we ended up having a Jamon tasting and just relaxing that evening.  Mike bought the ham at a speciality store around the corner and boy was it tasty….but not inexpensive – we had three levels, the most expensive was 199 euros a kilo or about 105 dollars a pound!  Wowzer!  Needless to say we only had a taste of it.  Most of us thought the much more economical $50 a pound ham was just fine….of course his majesty Burton thought we should only eat the good stuff from now on!

Monday we all went to Park Guell together. This was originally envisioned as a residential development in the hills above Barcelona and Saudi (architect of La Sagrada Familla) was charged with designing the common spaces.  Unfortunately, it never took off – I guess just like our neighborhood in Knightdale, the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition.  So at some point the it was all sold to the City and turned into a park.  Most of the park is open to the public but the “monumental” area requires a timed ticket to try to keep the crowds down….notice my use of “try”!

Through our the park there is a lot of decoration done with tile shards. This is the technique that Calatrava uses on his modern buildings-remember the cultural center in Valencia?

The Hyperstyle Hall was designed to serve as a covered gathering space for neighborhood events -that’s it at the top of the steps and its roof as the public plaza. It is currently having repairs made which allowed us to see how the dimes on the underside are made above. So while most visitors were unhappy about the construction fence I enjoyed it!

There is also an interesting area of the park which creates a walkway that has a wave form on the interior and interesting columns on the outside, including one called the wash woman and another reminiscent for the spiral columns of the canopy over the altar at St Peters in Rome.

Gaudi’s work may have influenced lots more architects than I realized-these columns at another spot in the park reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright’s columns for the Johnson Wax Building. Knowing Wright’s ego I’m positive he would say he was unaware of them!

You will have to make your own decision:

On Tuesday, we continued our Gaudi experience by heading to La Sagrada Familla.  This is the church that Gaudi started and that still isn’t finished as you can see from the construction shot at the top of this blog post. When Mike and I visited in the 90s, they said they hoped to have it finished by 2020, they are now pushing to have it finished by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.  I doubt they are going to make it as they haven’t yet started on the biggest towers…but who knows, with modern building techniques, perhaps they will.

Mike and I had planned on going inside and I “knew” I had bought the tickets – hell we didn’t buy the airline tickets until we were sure we could buy tickets for the same time as Chris and crew were going.  So Monday, I go to find the tickets in my email, hmmmm, not there?  Let me check the credit card…hmmm, no charge?  Did I just imagine it?  Anyway, it appears I dropped the ball, so while Chris et al climbed the tower (been there done that, not gonna do it again) and spent time contemplating inside this magnificent building, Mike and I sat outside and people watched!  Luckily we will be back to Barcelona as our first and only mainland port stop on our Transatlantic back to the USA in November and I am definitely going to buy a ticket for inside this time!

We are also making plans to have lunch at the restaurant around the corner from our hotel where we had wonderful tapas (including grilled octopus better than any we had in Greece) on our last night in Barcelona.  Yummy!

on Wednesday, Mike and I metro-ed to the airport (again arriving too early to check our bags, had a quick visit to the lounge again courtesy of our Priority Pass and then boarded TAP Portugal airlines headed to Lisbon.  While the checkin and boarding process had some of the same issues we experienced in Sofia – again due to contracted airport employees I believe (and so tweeted to TAP), we were pleased with the flights.  On our slightly over 2 hour flight we were served a sandwich and drinks! When is the last time in the US that you saw anything other than a packet of peanuts on a short flight (unless you were seated up front)?

We arrived in Lisbon uneventfully and made it to our Airbnb via UBER after seeing the loooooong taxi line.  Since we have been here we have learned that UBER is easy and cheap here…in some cases, no more expensive than taking the bus!

More on Lisbon coming right up!

Headed to Valencia.

6:45 alarm reminded me of what I like about retir…..ahem, not working. What an awful time to have to get up!

We had our last cruise ship breakfast for awhile then Mike dealt with an accounting issue-jeez, we are in the same cabin, on the same credit card but Viking loaded all the obc to Mike’s account and none to mine. So he had lots of credit and they were getting ready to charge lots to me.

Then an easy leaving of the ship, rolling our bags off was a breeze(though compared to larger ships the color coded bag groups was pretty small and it wouldn’t have been the cluster I’ve seen elsewhere , quick stop at immigration to welcome us to the EU- 180 days starts today….so it appears we have plenty of cushion. Then a $24.61 cab ride to the train station. Arrived about 8:45 for our 9:30 train and now we are onboard headed to Valencia!