Last night, around 1:15 am, the Crew Alert alarm went off, which is a continual ”ringing” of the alarm, actually a harsh electronic siren-thingy, jarring me and everyone else in the Crew area awake. Normally if there is a major issue the PA from the bridge would come on and the officer of the watch would request an “Assessment Part”, a pre-assigned group of officers that would go, investigate the situation, and contact the bridge where a plan of attack would be devised and announced. To go right to Crew Alert . . . Well, you stumble awake with visions of COSTA CONCORDIA in your head. As I was pulling on my jeans pondering our immediate future and thinking, “This is going to be interesting”, the Bridge came on announcing a “system malfunction” and telling us to go back to what we were doing, most, although not all of us, sleeping.
This morning is Barcelona, one of my all-time favorite cities in Europe. I’m on tour starting with a 75-minute drive around Barcelona looking at the sites, stopping at Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia for a photo stop, and then a 1.5 hour drive to Montserrat, a mountainside old Benedictine Monastery. Nikki was out here on a previous cruise and loved it, but this will be my first visit. I’ll tell you about it in a later blog.
But let me tell you about Barcelona . . . and fortunately when I come back in July to join the RUBY PRINCESS, we will be in and out of Barcelona for several months, so I will have lots of opportunity to explore.
Barcelona is a fun, friendly, busy, at-times whimsical, liberal and exciting Spanish city, with a population of around 1.7 million and a metropolitan area of around 5 million. Spain, like much of Europe and the world (with Panama being a notable exception) is in a major financial crisis. Unemployment hovers around 24%, but amongst young people it’s almost 50%.
Originally Barcelona was a Phoenician then Greek trading outpost. The city was founded in 1104 BC and is the oldest, continuously-inhabited city in the Iberian Peninsula and possibly SW Europe.
A Up on Montjuic Mountain there is a beautiful public park known with this statue of people dancing the traditional Catalonia dance along with fantastic views of the city and the port. This statue for me best reflects the exuberance, joy and freedom of Barcelona.
Barcelona was a thriving city in Medieval times and part of that ancient city remains. There is a spectacular Gothic cathedral dedicated to the co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young 13-year old virgin who was martyred. The tradition is that she was forced to parade through the street naked to her martyrdom but a miraculous early spring snowstorm came to cover he nakedness. This is probably the only church in the world that keeps geese in the church – 13 white geese symbolizing the young woman’s age and the miracle of the snow to protect her nakedness.
The Gothic Quarter is filled with odd Gothic elements, gargoyles, ancient buildings, and this marvelous bridge. The Gothic Quarter is within walking distance for most people. Midway up La Rambla your turn left and start winding through the ancient streets of the Gothic Quarter.
La Rambla is one of the most exciting streets in Europe. In the center you will find flower markets, bird sellers, street entertainers of all kinds and a generally festive atmosphere characteristic of Barcelona. About halfway up, on the left, is La Boqueria Market which has been the marketplace of Barcelona since the early 1200s. The present building was built in the middle of the 19th century. The market is filled with flowers, fruit, fish, meats, and explosion of color and flavor. There are stalls where you can purchase lunch and it is one of the experiences not-to-be-missed in Barcelona.
Next blog I’ll talk about Antoni Gaudi and the marvelous Sagrada Familia the iconic building of Barcelona.
Now it’s time to go ashore and meet my tour for the day. This has been a busy, busy contract and I haven’t had time personally to really explore the ship or enjoy what it has to offer. Rebecca, my daughter, comes to join me in June and when she does I intend to carve out time to play passenger and lay in the sun (now that we have sun), see the shows, and eat in the dining venues.