A visit to Barcelona Spain
We were onboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines Epic on a repositioning cruise from Port Canaveral, FL to Barcelona with various stops along the way - the seventh (and final) stop being Barcelona.
Barcelona is 5,283.5 sea miles from Port Canaveral and 153 sea miles from Palma de Mallorca. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits, its urban area extends to numerous neighbouring municipalities within the Province of Barcelona and is home to around 4.8 million people, making it the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan. It is one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea, located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, the tallest peak of which is 512 metres (1,680 feet) high.
If you have never been to Barcelona & either you are planning a trip there, or you just want to know more about it, here are some good sources of information;
This was day 16 (the final day) of our transatlantic cruise on the Norwegian Epic. The ship arrived in Barcelona harbor very early at approximately 5:00AM. Our game plan was to wait until the last possible minute to disembark and let the crowds diminish. We had a hotel room reserved at the Alexandra Hilton Hotel, so there was no need to hurry. However, even though Norwegian had originally indicated that we could depart the ship as late as 11AM, the "Freestyle Daily" ship's bulletin made it clear that everyone had to disembark no later than 8AM - so our "remain flexible" rule was utilized.
I had visited Barcelona numerous times while in the Navy, and Celeste had never been there. However, in the years since I had last been here, the city had grown considerably and in fact the harbor had been extensively expanded since my Navy days. The port area where my ship used to tie up was converted to a marina (and other facilities) named Port Vell.
We had made plans to remain in Barcelona for several days, and had selected the Alexandra Hilton Hotel on Carrer de Mallorca as our place to stay. The hotel is just a few meters away from Rambla de Catalunya, which turns into La Rambla as you get nearer to the harbor. The hotel is also less than one kilometer away from the La Sagrada Familia, which was on our "must see" list. Very nicely situated hotel, very modern, quiet & comfortable.
This picture gives you some idea of the size of the Barcelona Harbor, it is comprised of; an industrial/commercial (freighter/cargo ships) area, a large area devoted to Cruise Ships, and a marina area for smaller vessels.
Barcelona cruise port is currently ranked the largest Mediterranean cruise port with turnaround operations (roundtrip itineraries) and world's 4th busiest port.
The building in the lower center of this picture is the Barcelona World Trade Center.
Our first destination (after dropping off our luggage at the hotel) was the Sagrada Familia. The Familia is located 2.1 kilometers north-east of our hotel, and we could walk there all the way on the Carrer de Mallorca.
The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família ("Expiatory Church of the Holy Family") is a large unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona. Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), his work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the church and proclaimed it a minor basilica.
The building had a "street fair" kind of thing going on near the entrance, where groups of people were forming "human pyramids", throwing people into the air and catching them, vendors were selling souvenirs, etc. Our goal was to purchase tickets and go inside the building - but watching these groups perform was entertaining!
The Sagrada Familia is one of the world's largest Church buildings: from the entrance to the apse it is 90 metres, the five naves are limited by a 60 metre long and 45 metre wide transept. The four side naves are 7.5 metres wide each, the main nave is 15 metres - exactly twice as wide. The vault of the main nave is 45 metres high, and the side aisles are 30 metres high.
The interior columns are inclined and utilize "tree like branches". The weight is routed directly over the pillars in the ground - all this without bearing facade or exterior buttresses. The result of this ingenious solution is spectacular: the pillars and arches supported by them transform the interior of the temple into a stone forest of palm trees, lots of light streaming in through large windows and the vault.
Our hotel was a very short distance from the Rambla de la Catalunya, which is a wide boulevard with an area in the center for pedestrians and various sidewalk vendors such as small restaurants. We had walked by some of these restaurants during our hike around the city, and decided to have dinner at one of them our first evening.
Our morning's first adventure was a walk to the Casa Batilo, tt was designed by Antoni Gaudí (the architect of the La Sagrada Familia), and is considered one of his masterpieces. A remodel of a previously built house, it was redesigned in 1904 by Gaudí and has been refurbished several times after that. Gaudí's assistants Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, Josep Canaleta and Joan Rubió also contributed to the renovation project. The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), as it has a visceral, skeletal organic quality.
La Rambla Area
Our hotel was just a few feet from Rambla de Catalunya, which as you walk towards the harbor, eventually turns into La Rambla the famous shopping district.
The tree-lined central promenade of La Rambla is crowded during the day and until late in the night. Its origins as a watercourse are reflected in the paving design, which appears to ripple like water. Along the promenade's length are kiosks that sell newspapers and souvenirs, other kiosks selling flowers, street traders, performers, and pavement cafes and bars. Several notable sights are also located within the promenade, including a mosaic by Joan Miró and the Font de Canaletes, a fountain and popular meeting point.
Along the Rambla are historic buildings as the Palace of the Virreina and the Liceu Theatre (Liceo in Spanish), in which operas and ballets are staged. The La Boqueria market opens off the Rambla and is one of the city's foremost tourist landmarks, housing a very diverse selection of goods.
Montjuic Castello & Area
After walking south through La Rambla we arrived at the harbor, and decided to take one of those double decker bus tours around the city - this would allow us to see a great deal more of Barcelona than by foot and we could leave the bus tour at Montjuic Castello.
Montjuïc Castle is an old military fortress, with roots dating back from 1640, built on top of Montjuïc hill. It currently serves as a Barcelona municipal facility. The eastern side of the castle sits on a cliff high above Barcelona Harbor, which gave the fortress a commanding view of ships arriving.
The castle is surrounded by the Jardins de Joan Brossa, a beautiful large park which you can traverse by a cable car (Teleferic de Montjuïc) or by foot. We choose to ride the gondola, as we wanted to maximize our time in the castle.
The name "Montjuic" comes from Latin for "Jewish Mountain", and there was originally a Jewish cemetary in this area.
We saw dogs everywhere we went in Barcelona, sometimes in groups, most often singly. There was even a dog park next to the Sagrada Familia. Obviously people in Barcelona are fond of dogs, and because we are too, we decided to show these images!
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