The Unbelievable Beauty of Barcelona, Day 1 (Part 1)

May 29, 2013 – Day 1 in Barcelona

So while technically this is the next in line of the Med Cruise II pictures, the cruise was at this point ending!!!!  OH NOES!!!  Couldn’t complain about one thing and it was fantastic getting to experience the Western side of the Mediterranean versus the Eastern when we toured in 2011.  The overall feel of the cruise was slightly different this time than last time, as it felt like there weren’t nearly as many younger people to interact with compared to the first cruise, and the weather certainly was a frustrating factor at times.

Yet as a whole, the experience was amazing.  We did still meet quite a few fun and interesting people, from Doug & Harriet to our pal Dave to the random folks we’d meet at the bar or the casino that we’d see throughout afterwards.  I think we are done with going on Mediterranean Cruises for a while though, and in 2014, any trip is likely to be more focused on one or two cities that we stay in.  Tentative frontrunners are a London / France (Paris?  Somewhere in the south of France?) jaunt or maybe finally hitting up Hawaii.  From the fun we’ve had on these cruises though, it’s likely we’ll be back on one in the future.  I think what would make it a bit more fun is to go with some people we knew.  Anyway, the fact was, the cruise was over!

We had packed up our luggage the night before and left it outside, as they expedite things by moving that luggage out and placing it for collection in the port so you’re not clogging the pathways with luggage you probably can’t handle.  We had a late deportation time as we had no flight to catch and effectively had no time crunch hanging over us.  We were also getting back into Barcelona pretty early, meaning we likely weren’t going to be able to check into our hotel either.  So we first grabbed some breakfast in the cafe, during which time I got onto the Viator website on my phone and secured us a Jump-the-Line tour of the Sagrada Familia as I was NOT interested in waiting in a long ass line.  Fortunately, there was availability around 4pm that afternoon, so we had an itinerary forming as we sat there enjoying our wonderful last breakfast on the ship.

All good things must come to an end, and it was finally our turn to disembark.  That went fairly easy, and we even got to see our girls Melissa and Lacey in the really long taxi line at the port, exchanging contact info before saying goodbye.  Thankfully the taxis are pretty good and not shady, and our destination wasn’t very far from the port, as we picked the Hotel Espana, a very nice hotel about a block off the Ramblas.

View from the Equinox cafe
View from the Equinox cafe29-May-2013 08:26, Apple iPhone 5, 2.4, 4.13mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 50
Ready for Barcelona
Ready for Barcelona29-May-2013 08:26, Apple iPhone 5, 2.4, 4.13mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 50
29-May-2013 08:26, Apple iPhone 5, 2.4, 2.18mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 64
 
29-May-2013 08:26, Apple iPhone 5, 2.4, 2.18mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 64
Goodbye old friend
Goodbye old friend29-May-2013 08:39, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 100
Back at Barcelona's cruise port
Back at Barcelona's cruise port29-May-2013 08:39, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 4.0, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
 
29-May-2013 08:39, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
Of course it's nice and sunny
Of course it's nice and sunny29-May-2013 08:40, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 6.3, 7.948mm, ISO 100
29-May-2013 08:40, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 5.6, 4.0mm, ISO 200
 
Waiting to leave in the dining room
Waiting to leave in the dining room29-May-2013 08:53, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 640
Goodbye Equinox
Goodbye Equinox29-May-2013 08:58, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 4.0, 4.0mm, ISO 160
Now waiting in the cab line
Now waiting in the cab line29-May-2013 09:20, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 4.0, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
 
Luckily there's plenty of cabs
Luckily there's plenty of cabs29-May-2013 09:20, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
 

The taxi got us as close as possible that morning, which was a block away from the hotel as the hotel faces onto a small little walking street.  Unfortunately, our room was nowhere near ready so while we were able to leave our luggage, we couldn’t stay.  But that wasn’t a problem!  Since Hotel Espana is right off the Ramblas (the very well-known main pedestrian plaza / strip in Barcelona), we meandered over there and took in the crazy scene.  As I remembered from before, the Ramblas is like the 3rd Street Promenade but WAY bigger and WAY more crowded.  Still full of the same kinds of things though, with endless tourists, souvenir stands, restaurants, and shops.  It’s a can’t-miss thing to see.

Hotel Espana was on this alley leading to the Ramblas
Hotel Espana was on this alley leading to the Ramblas29-May-2013 09:52, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
Pic to remember the alley just in case
Pic to remember the alley just in case29-May-2013 09:54, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
Las Ramblas!
Las Ramblas!29-May-2013 09:55, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
 
A big general market
A big general market29-May-2013 10:04, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200
29-May-2013 10:04, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 400
29-May-2013 10:04, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 400
 
29-May-2013 10:04, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 200
A nice German lady took our pic
A nice German lady took our pic29-May-2013 10:05, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 200
29-May-2013 10:05, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400
 
29-May-2013 10:07, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200
Douche Gel!
Douche Gel!29-May-2013 10:23, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 125
A great Crate & Barrel like store
A great Crate & Barrel like store29-May-2013 10:28, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 

After exploring a pretty neat marketplace called the La Boqueria, the Ramblas’ sights and a store that looked like a Crate & Barrel, we decided to do the Big Bus Tours that you can hop on and off and which take you all around the city.  These are great ways to get your bearings and to at least see things that you likely wouldn’t get to on your own. Barcelona is a fairly spread-out city and the tour company had two routes, one covering the East half and one covering the West half.  We bought a ticket that allowed us to go on both, and we basically planned it so that we’d do the East Loop first, get some lunch, check in to the hotel, head to the Sagrada Familia for our tour, then do the West Loop tour.   You know what?  We did exactly that!

The East Loop Barcelona Tour

So the East Loop Tour starts at the north end of the Ramblas, which is where we picked it up.  You then head south to the shore, upon which you then go east along the beach, passing gorgeous shorelines and since it was sunny, it really was wonderful.  You can see the Olympic village area from 1992, as well as some of the delightful modern architecture that’s sprung up in the city.  At a certain point, you then turn back northwest and head into the heart of the city, eventually driving by the jewel, the Sagrada Familia, envisioned by Antoni Gaudi.  Larry & I didn’t get out at this point, as our tour was for later, but to drive by it is a great way to whet the appetite.  It really is a jaw-dropping structure.  More on that in a little bit when I bombard with you pics from the tour.   The rest of the tour is nice as well but it’s really just a nice way to spend some time driving through the gorgeous environs of Barcelona.  Eventually you head back towards the main strip that happens to also take you by many of Antoni Gaudi’s other architectural contributions to the city such as La Pedrera and Casa Batllo.  We visited Casa Batllo the next day, so you’ll see more pictures from that gorgeous house soon.  Gaudi’s work has to be seen to be believed, but it’s undeniably compelling.

On the 1st of 2 Bus Tours today
On the 1st of 2 Bus Tours today29-May-2013 10:39, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 125
This tour took us around the western part of Barcelona
This tour took us around the western part of Barcelona29-May-2013 10:40, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
29-May-2013 10:42, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
 
29-May-2013 10:44, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 5.0, 28.475mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 200
29-May-2013 10:45, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160
29-May-2013 10:46, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 4.0, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
 
29-May-2013 10:50, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
The back of the Barcelona Cathedral
The back of the Barcelona Cathedral29-May-2013 10:50, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
Lichtenstein artwork
Lichtenstein artwork29-May-2013 10:54, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 5.0, 11.982mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
 
The waterfront area
The waterfront area29-May-2013 10:54, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
29-May-2013 10:55, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
A tower holding up the gondola
A tower holding up the gondola29-May-2013 10:57, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 4.5, 7.815mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100
 
Bridge leading to Port Vell
Bridge leading to Port Vell29-May-2013 10:57, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160
29-May-2013 10:57, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
29-May-2013 10:57, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100
 

Ramblas Lunch and Hotel Espana

Since the tour was a loop, we were right back where we started.  We weren’t sure where to grab lunch though, so as we meandered back through the Ramblas, we did try to find a place that seemed to be not at all where it was supposed to.  We did finally find a place that looked like it would be fine and we ended up having a fantastic meat and cheese platter with sangria that was just exactly what the doctor ordered.  THEN, we checked into the hotel.

HOLY COW.  The Hotel Espana was definitely a very nice way to spend a visit in Barcelona.  It’s a gorgeously restored hotel built in the 1850s with a very modern flair.  We had a room on the top floor (reserved especially because I was like, let’s just do this right) of this 4-Star hotel and the room was splendid and the view from our open-air balcony was wonderful.  It was such a relief to just have a base of operations again and to relax for a little bit.

Had to get some food - meat and cheese platter ahead
Had to get some food - meat and cheese platter ahead29-May-2013 13:53, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 1000
29-May-2013 13:53, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 800
Content
Content29-May-2013 14:14, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 800
 
29-May-2013 14:14, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 1000
29-May-2013 14:18, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200
Back on the Ramblas to check in finally
Back on the Ramblas to check in finally29-May-2013 14:19, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
 
The Hotel Espana awaits
The Hotel Espana awaits29-May-2013 14:27, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
At our fantastic hotel in Barcelona
At our fantastic hotel in Barcelona29-May-2013 14:36, 2.4, 4.13mm, ISO 50
The panoramic view from our penthouse room
The panoramic view from our penthouse room29-May-2013 14:38, Apple iPhone 5, 2.4, 4.13mm, ISO 50
 
Quite the locale
Quite the locale29-May-2013 14:39, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
29-May-2013 14:39, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
29-May-2013 14:39, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
 
Our room was very comfortable
Our room was very comfortable29-May-2013 14:40, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 100
29-May-2013 14:40, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 500
29-May-2013 14:40, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS, 3.4, 4.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 640
 

The day was not over – not by a long shot!  But I think I’ll have to break this post up as it’s gotten ridiculously long!  Up next?  The amazing Sagrada Familia and the West Loop tour.

2013 Mediterranean Adventure Pics

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