Backing up a little...we spent part of yesterday remembering past visits to Barcelona, like the year we were here for several days at the end of a cruise and the Formula 1 Grand Prix was in a nearby town at the Circuit de Catalunya. On a whim, we took a taxi to the course and spent the day watching Michael Schumacher race and win (a bittersweet memory, to be sure). Then there was the time we were taking a public bus back to our hotel around midnight and we had to change buses along the way. We were dropped off at what looked like a business park on a Saturday night and waited an hour, wondering what the heck we were going to do next. We had not seen a single car or bus or motorbike go by. I think that's the closest we've ever felt to being in over our heads while traveling. Then, out of the darkness, came a bus. We were so happy to see it, I could have kissed the driver. And visiting the monestary at Monserrat was a deeply moving experience (and one I highly recommend). But mostly, G said, he remembered me in Nice on October 15 saying over and over again, "We are not going to Barcelona. We have no flight home from Barcelona. We have no reason to go to Barcelona,". Yeah, I guess I was rather emphatic about that. But we realized today that our greatest loss from the Nice incident was not missing Sarande, Albania or not having an extra day in Santorini; rather it was the 2 1/2 days, including two overnights, we lost in Barcelona. We love this city! Well...shoot.
Since the Pacific Princess was not scheduled to arrive in Barcelona until noon today, we allowed ourselves a bit of a lie in, and many of the passengers seemed to do the same. We didn't arrive in the Panorama Buffet for breakfast until after 8am, and it still wasn't very busy. We shared a table with Leah and Dick, who, it turns out, are blog readers. They took up scuba diving at 50 and are both master divers and are still going strong and I've decided that I want to be them when I grow up. :-)
We returned to the cabin and G actually napped for about an hour while I pushed Bill Bryson to move faster along that Road to Little Dribbling (he's now 41% of the way there). I looked out our cabin window shortly after 11am and saw a freighter right outside and knew we were approaching the port of Barcelona. Unlike on October 15, when the Pacific Princess was scheduled to dock at the World Trade Centeer (which would have been perfect; it's just a short walk from there to the Columbus Monument at the end of Las Ramblas), we were docking today out in the main port, requiring the purchase of an $8 per person round trip transfer, chargeable to our on board accounts, just to get out of this large port. I do wish Princess would simply roll this into our port fees, where it would never be noticed.
I stopped by the Shore Excursions Desk on the way to meet G at the British Pub Lunch, which began today at 11am, and purchased the transfers. We grabbed a quick fish and chips lunch (which I seldom eat but I didn't want to take extra time after G finished his to go the the buffet) and left the ship shortly after it was docked and cleared by the local authorities around noon. It was a gloriously beautiful day, with no clouds in the sky and about 61F. The port terminal is very new and ultra modern and looked like an airport terminal (in reality, it looked much nicer than most airport terminals). We boarded the waiting bus and were driven about 10 minutes to outside the port area. From here, G and I started to walk toward Las Ramblas, the main tourist street (actually, a series of streets) that leads from the port to Plaça de Catalunya. We have done this walk several times in the past, both during the day and after sunset, when it is part carnival, part freak show and completely Barcelona.
We had a change of plans for today, and decided to walk in search of Barcelona's miles-long beach. We had never seen it during prior visits and we had read good things about it. It was probably about a mile from where the bus dropped us off, and all along the way there was much to see. We had forgotten how beautiful the Barcelona waterfront is (or maybe it didn't used to be so nice) and we enjoyed the yacht harbor with hundreds of sailboats and several mega yachts, and there was a large circus setting up and a local food festival that we passed by on our way to the beach, intending to view it on our return. The beach area reminded me a great deal of the area around Waikiki Beach, with small grocery stores and souvenir shops and even before we reached the beach we could see stand-up paddleboarders wearing wetsuits and carrying their boards walking down the street.
The beach itself was quite impressive and- oh- it was so good to see a beach again!!!! We had walked along the beach in Nice but that beach was all stones. Barcelona's beach is dark brown sand and very nice for a Mediterranean beach. We walked for a long time along the water's edge and enjoyed the crashing waves (we have missed that a lot) and large sand sculptures and mostly the feeling of familiarity despite the fact that it was the first time we'd ever been there. We are definitely beach people at heart!
Eventually we walked back to the boardwalk lining the beach with its many pedestrians and occasional bikes and roller blades and Segways and made our way back to the local food festival. We gathered a few items- bread and cheese and nuts and a liter of Sangria and sat at a table along the waterfront, people watching and enjoying the view. We eventually started back but the sun was at such an angle that we were nearly blinded looking into it. G saw a booth selling 40 minute harbor tours that would bring us back just before sunset and we bought tickets and hopped on the boat as it was leaving. This gave us a close up view of all the new developments in the harbor (it's a bourgeoning area) and especially the beautiful yachts.
It was the perfect diversion, and, once we returned, it was much easier to walk into the setting sun back to the shuttle bus. We waited just a short time for one and were back on the ship around 5:30pm, having walked another bazillion steps today. We had purchased more Sangria and took it up to the Panorama Buffet where we added a few more things (garlic shrimp for me) and our first persimmon ever (they just put them out in the buffet today) and called it dinner. Dinner in the Club Restaurant was open seating tonight; the Pacific Princess is not sailing until 11pm.
There is a flamenco folkloric show at 7:45pm (actually, right now) but we are too tired to even attend it. Finally, G is admitting to being worn out (he's already asleep) and it's a good thing that our ports at this point are separated by at least one day at sea. We need that buffer to keep going.
And, finally, I've been watching and waiting for Christmas to arrive on the Pacific Princess. I kind of expected that we'd see Chrusmtas decorations beginning in Civitavecchia last turnaround day, but we didn't. However, this morning when I walked through the Atrium on the way to breakfast, I saw several large cardboard boxes sitting there and knew exactly what that meant. Sure enough, as soon the the ship docked, two decorators came on board and started decking the halls with boughs of holly. We were told that the decorations had come on board in Civitavecchia but were simply stored until the decorators arrived today. This is the same company that decorates the ships in Fort Lauderdale so I guess they flew to Barcelona just for this one day.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and I didn't have to lift a finger. Plus, I've finished this blog post before falling asleep and gettin hit in the nose by my falling iPad. Life is good!