Saturday, 28 March 2009

Day Seventy Seven: The Rain in Spain….

Falls in Barcelona as well as mainly on the plain. Well we made it this time and despite freezing our butts off we can say that we saw all the sights that Barcelona has to offer and we did it from the top of an open double decker bus in the rain!

Something happened during the night and we are still not sure what it was but instead of poodling around at 10 knots the Captain made an announcement that we only partly heard as we had the TV switched to a different channel (all ship announcements come out on Channel 1 which also shows the ship’s position, speed and heading). We believe that someone was taken ill (yes another one) and in order to get them to port early we suddenly increased our speed to 22 knots and arrived 5 hours early – i.e. 2.00am instead of 7.00am – so we woke up to find ourselves already tied in Barcelona’s harbour. Hilary was feeling so much better that she was up and about and in the shower before I hardly had my eyes open and then we popped across the open deck 12 to the Conservatory so that we could not only get breakfast but also get a taste of the weather. It was wet, drizzly not raining heavy and the forecast was that it would clear up and the sun would come out with the temperature rising to 57F. None of that happened for we left the ship around 10.00am in the drizzle and came back around 3.00pm still in the drizzle.

At most ports P & O runs a shuttle bus into a central point of the town we are harboured in and Barcelona was no exception as we only had to walk off the ship – “Goodbye” said the machine – and onto a coach to be whisked off on a 5 minute coach ride to the World Trade Centre. Incidentally this location was the source of much argument at the ship’s Reception Desk as it wasn’t shown on the map provided in the Port Guide and one female passenger stood defiantly at the desk insisting that they show her where the World Trade Centre was as she had a friend in a wheelchair and wanted to know where they would be dropped off. We decided to hell with it and we would stop wherever and work it out from there and as it turned out the WTC square was right next to the statue of Christopher Columbus. Remember him you American readers? He was the one who sailed over to you in 1492 and sailed back in 1493.

Right alongside old Chris was a kiosk selling tickets for the Tour Bus (€21 each for an all day hop on/hop off ticket) so we plunged right in and bought them and within a few minutes we were on the blue route seeing the sights of central Barcelona from the comfort of an open topped bus. I say comfort very lightly as it was raining, the seats were wet and it was around 55F but we did have the benefit of little blue headphones that gave us a running commentary in several languages, one of which was English. We continued with the blue route right into the central Catalunya Square where we got off and changed to the red route that we knew would take us to the famous Gaudi Sagrada Famillia cathedral that has been under construction for more than 100 years – for those of you who are as unfamiliar with Gaudi as we are, he died in 1927. Gaudi’s influence is everywhere in Barcelona and we saw examples of his strange style throughout the city including a terrace building with a roof that looks like a snakeskin and we could have seen a lot more if we had had the time to get out at the various stop. That cathedral/church is amazing and its build is progressing extremely slowly as it is all done with voluntary contributions but the really strange thing about it is the different styles that it is built in, everything from Gothic to extremely Cubic modern, I will predict that it will not be finished in my lifetime even if I live to be over 100 years old.

We continued with the Red Route past the 1992 Olympic Games stadia and buildings, then onto old and modern castles, buildings with spires and turrets before heading back towards the city centre. In order to get back to the ship we had to get back on the Blue Route when suddenly there was an announcement over our headphones to say that our bus was now becoming the blue route bus and all passengers wanting to stay on the red route had to change buses! How strange and fortuitous was that? Mind you it was a long route to get back to the ship as the journey took in the Barcelona football ground (where a lot of men got off) as well as a long climb up to a sight seeing observation point where we could look down on the whole of the city, before heading back down to sea level. At one stage we abandoned the top open deck just to get out of the cold and the drizzle but it was so cramped and with no visibility we went back up again after only one stop. So our anniversary day was a real voyage of discovery (a little like our explorations in Amsterdam and Keukenhof were when we were on honeymoon all those years ago), and with that I will hand you over to Hilary who will probably curse me a little for giving her so little time as we both need to be dressed to meet our friends in Andersons for drinks at 6.00pm before we go to Rhodes to eat at 6.30pm. Talk to you later….

Tiz I. Still recovering from the cold and wet – my feet are still a block of ice! The drizzle did not stop and seeped into our coats and made the hard shell plastic seats on the bus little puddles of water – nice. At one stage Sam turned to me and said ‘stick with me kid and we will see the world’ he did not add that it would be quite chilly for the Spanish bit! We did quite enjoy the day in an odd sort of way and when we bought the postcards (20 in a pack) we could honestly say we had seen every one of the views illustrated). By the time we got to see a shop we were too cold to manage to pick out the postcards individually, our hands were blue and numb and it was difficult to focus through the steamed up glasses! Tonight we are having dinner at Rhodes restaurant and all our dinner companions are joining us. We even got a card from ‘Gary Rhodes’ for our anniversary – how good is that? It should be a good evening as they are all good company and we will all have a lot to talk about tonight. I’ll bet that Christine and Peter have both been into most of the important buildings, they always seem to get themselves in the right place at the right time. Alison and Bill will have kept dry and had a day of food and wine – that is my guess anyway, we will find out tonight. Tomorrow I will start to look at the size of the problem of getting all our stuff into the suitcases we have brought! My guess is that we will need another large bag at least, I will keep you posted with the progress on that one. Having seen some examples of Gaudi’s architecture it makes me wonder exactly what substance of choice he was taking. The buildings are structurally safe but visually odd – and full of interest and little quirky extras. So now for the replies to the messages. Sam I have been thinking about you all in Texas with the storms, was Fred and Linda’s home safe from the tornados in the area. Julian, what is AIS? What a lovely surprise it would have been to see you in Southampton, I do hope that your customs cutter is rebuilt soon. Thank you for the wishes for our anniversary, how did you remember that? Hayles you are right, we should be home between mid day and 2.30pm. The taxi is due to meet us at 9.30am and providing the customs and other formalities are straight forward we should be ready to meet it then. We are really looking forward to seeing everyone again soon. This has been the most amazing trip of a lifetime and we have had a brilliant time but I have missed you all. Take care, God bless.

OK back from Gary Rhodes where we had a magnificent meal full of surprises including a cold mango soup that was given free between the main course and the dessert and which everyone absolutely loved. Dinner was really funny with Peter and Christine bickering away at each other the whole time, apparently they had not had a good day in Barcelona and they had pretty much done the same as us except that Peter got fed up with waiting in queues for the tourist buses and decided to catch a taxi to Gaudi’s Sagrada Famillia and then found even more queues there waiting to go in. They ended up in Los Ramblas a notorious quarter for pickpockets and ended up in an argument with a bunch of hard men over the old ball under the cup game. Luckily they managed to extricate themselves but it obviously caused some friction between them for as I said they bickered their whole way through dinner. We had our photo taken just before we ate so if they turn out well we will post a copy. That is it for now, Hilary has already gone to bed and I am the only person in the Cyb@Study where I have nearly a 100 minutes to use before this cruise ends and only 4 nights to use them in so I may look at a few extra websites tonight before I log off. Night all….


Julian said...

Hi glad mum was well enough to enjoy Barcelona. You have certainly packed in some sightseeing on your cruise. I hope the dad enjoys his birthday on Monday. Hopefully you will get to see some sealife as you come across the bay of Biscay. AIS is the Automated Information System. It is a radio signal that ships can overlay onto the radar and it gives details of a ship such as name, speed and heading. It helps the rock dodgers avoid hitting another ship, and you can follow ships at sea provided they are close enough to land for a habour radar to pick up the signal.
love to you both,
Love Julian

Pat said...

Happy Anniversary and may you have many more of them. Glad you have had a good day in Barcelona but a bugger that it was rainy and cold. Just think though of all the lovely weather you have had over the last two months, much better than here.
Wouldn't it have been great if Julian's boat had been Southaqmpton to meet you, now that would have been a lovely ending to what sounds like a tremendouse trip.
See you soon love Pat