Tag Archives: Barcelona

B = Barcelona

A to Z Ports: Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the busiest cruise ports  in the Mediterranean with many cruises starting or ending there and some spending an extra night or two because there is so much to see. There are several cruise ports in Barcelona, however most larger ships dock at Adossat Quay Terminals. There is no direct way to get there, except by taxi. If you are docked for the day — or longer — there is usually a shuttle bus that will take you to in front of the World Trade Centre, which is a stopping point for the two hop-on hop-off bus services. It is also a quick walk to Las Ramblas and and Port Vell.

Barcelona ports

Smaller ships may dock at the World Trade Centre Terminals.  This is a special treat because you don’t have to take a shuttle or taxi — you get stuck in traffic when the bridge is “open” to allow for ships to sail through it. I’ve docked in Barcelona several times and only once did my ship dock at the World Trade Centre Terminal.

I’ve written a lot about Barcelona. Here are some of my posts:

#atozchallenge

Mystery Cruises #AtoZChallenge

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So, why would someone pay to go on a mystery cruise; get on a ship and head to ports unknown? Since I love to cruise, this sounded like an interesting opportunity to sail into, well, mystery! I’ve now done two of these cruises and both on the Braemar.  I really like this ship. It is a smaller one and feels like family. It is very easy to sail solo and meet lots of friends on this ship.

On the first cruise, we sort of knew where we were going. The passengers were given a choice and we voted for one port or another — but we did not know where we were going until we got there! Here are the ports we visited:

Porto, Malaga, Barcelona, Valencia, Cartegna, Cadiz, La Coruna

The second mystery cruise was truly a mystery — one that would include only maiden ports (ports where our ship had never visited). It was very strange not to be able to plan or research the ports we were going to, nor to be able to know exactly what to pack — for warm or cold! The cruise was early May, so it was hard to plan for everything. It started in Dover and we waited to see if we would turn to go north … or south (or if we could even trust that, in the night, the ship would change directions!). As it turned out, we continued North and thus we began a cruise that went to Norway, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.

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The ports included:

Larvik, Hundested, Nyborg, Fredercia, Wismar, Lyskil

Would I go on another one? It would be hard to keep me away!

 

 

Y is for Y más: a review of my top five places

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Y más or “and more …” is my review of my top favorite places to visit — as least at of today! Here is my countdown…

Number Five:  Cadiz, Spain! I was so surprised at the  beauty and walk-ability of Cadiz. At to that a Fortress named after my patron saint that is constructed in a star shape, beautiful beaches and great seafood — what more could I want!

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Number Four: Lisbon has beautiful architecture, twisting streets, great museums, amazing music and, of course, good food and wine!

Number Three: Buenos Aires with it different neighborhoods, tango all night, and friendly people — I think I lost part of my heart there!

Number Two: Cuba!  I am still dreaming about Cuba and all it has to offer. I love Cuba and her people. Viva Cuba!

And number one should not be a shock to anyone who has read my blog … BARCELONA! If I could, this is where I would like to live. Architecture, people, beaches, food, night life, museums, concerts — it has everything I love (and did I mention football and Camp Nou?).

 

New adventures in Bacelona

It should come to no surprise that, when we had the choice to go to Barcelona, that is what we chose on the “Choose your Own” cruise on the Braemar. The really cool thing about being on a smaller ship, is that we got to use the dock near the World Trade Centre, not the normal Barcelona Cruise Port. We were docked next to one of the Port Cable Car towers and a quick walk to the Columbus Column at the foot of Las Ramblas!  All I can say is once I left the ship, I felt like I was home.  I love Barcelona!

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I wanted to do something different this time, so I headed to the  main tower of the port cable cars which is in the Barceloneta neighborhood and directly across from the beach and an aqua centre. They start running the cable cars at 11:00 AM, so being a little early, a took a walk along the beach, watching some surfers and drinking an espresso.

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Then, I headed back and was in the first car that went across from the port to Torre de Miramar on Montjuïc mountain. Passengers alight from the cable cars in the Costa i Llobera Gardens. From here, all of Barcelona is at your feet.

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This is how close the Braemar was docked!

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Of course, I wanted to visited some of my old “haunts”, so here are more pictures of things I love in my walking through Barcelona.

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Yes, I love Barcelona!

Choose your own cruise highlights

I have lots of stories and photos to share about my latest cruising adventure. As I posted earlier, it was a cruise where the passengers choose which ports we would visit.  So, where did we go?  Here is an overview of the cruise:

From Southampton, we sailed 530 nautical miles to Leixoes, Portugal and a visit to Oporto.

Oporto, Portugal

Next, we sailed 521 nautical miles to Malaga, Spain

Malaga, Spain

After another 530 nautical miles, we visited Barcelona!

Barcelona, Spain

Another 182 nautical miles latter found us in Valencia.

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And another 182 nautical miles brought us to Cartagena, Spain.

Cartagena, Spain

After 366 nautical miles, we arrived in Cadiz, Spain.

Cadiz, Spain

We sailed back up the Iberian Peninsula for another 522 nautical miles to La Coruna, Spain.

La Coruna, Spain

Then, we headed back another 368 nautical miles to Southampton. More detailed stories are coming about each of the ports as well as a bit about sailing on the Braemar. It was an amazing trip!

A to Z Challenge: W = Weddings

W = Weddings, or more appropriately the weddings I’ve “crashed” while travelling

Wsince I usually find myself visiting churches and other picturesque places, t would make sense that I might encounter a wedding … or two. Here are some of the weddings I’ve seen in my travels.

Probably the most unique was when I went to the Montserrat Basilica, which is outside of Barcelona. I got there a little before it opened and noticed that, among the tourists, there was a group of people who were very well dressed for a Saturday morning. Imagine my surprise when they opened the doors and the tourists lines up on the right-side aisle to see the Black Madonna and the rest went to sit in the church proper top attend a wedding!

Montserrat, Catalonia
Montserrat, Catalonia: A beautiful spot for a wedding
Montserrat, Catalonia
Montserrat, Catalonia: Breathtaking views!
Basilica of Montserrat, Catalonia
Basilica of Montserrat, Catalonia
The wedding at Montserrat
The wedding at Montserrat
The wedding at Montserrat
The wedding at Montserrat
The line to see the Black Madonna at Montserrat
The line to see the Black Madonna at Montserrat
The Black Madonna at Montserrat
The Black Madonna at Montserrat

My other wedding pictures are from walking around a city and finding myself in the middle of the celebration.

Wedding in Amsterdam
Wedding in Amsterdam
Wedding in Amsterdam
Wedding in Amsterdam
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
Wedding in Amsterdam: The man in the blue sweater is in every photo!
And the party continues
And the party continues
Another beautiful church for a wedding in Helsinki
Another beautiful church for a wedding in Helsinki
Another beautiful church for a wedding in Helsinki
Wedding in Helsinki

One thing they all had in common, the bride wore white.

A to Z Challenge: S = Spain

S = Spain

SSpain has to be one of my favourite places in the world to visit.  I see, to love everything about it – the food, the music, the architecture, the people.  There is just so much to do and see and so much diversity. So much, in fact, that I am already planning for my next visit; which, unfortunately will not be until 2015. But I leave a piece of me heart there each time I go.  Here are some of my highlights of four places: Malaga, Madrid, Toledo and, of course, Barcelona.

 

In Malaga, I spent a lot of time wandering through the fortress that overlooks the city and port, visiting the cathedral and wandering through the park that runs along the port.

 

Malaga

 

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Malaga

Madrid is filled with people and music. I there were two impromptu drumming performances that I stumbled upon while wandering through the city. I was also there the night FC Barcelona was playing for the Euro Cup final – and I got the watch the game with a group of people sitting in the kitchen of a restaurant (before I headed back to Barcelona to celebrate the win in the streets!). I also spent a lovely Sunday in Retiro Park and meet more musicians. I do love Latin music!

Madrid

Dancing to drumming in Madrid
Dancing to drumming in Madrid
Dancing to drumming in Madrid
Drummers in Madrid
Row boats in Retiro Park, Madrid
Row boats in Retiro Park, Madrid
Mariachi Band in Retiro Park, Madrid
Mariachi Band in Retiro Park, Madrid

 

Puppeteer in Retiro Park, Madrid
Puppeteer in Retiro Park, Madrid
Arabic drummers in Madrid
Arabic drummers in Madrid

 

Toledo is another walled city with a magnificent cathedral, marzipan and winding streets.

Toledo

Toledo

And then, of course, there is walking down Las Ramblas in in Barcelona.

Catalan musicians
Catalan musicians

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Man with pet rabbit on Las Ramblas
Man with pet rabbit on Las Ramblas

For me, Spain is filled with life – and life cannot get better than this!

Here are more links about my adventures in Spain:

A to Z Challenge: G = Gaudi

G = Gaudi

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Staying on my theme of Barcelona, there is beautiful art and architecture and Gaudi’s influence is one dominate feature.  From the Sagrada de Familia, to Parc Guell to many buildings, it is hard to miss!

The Sagrada is still under construction – and will be for some time yet. These photos are from 2009 and there have been a number of changes since. One tip – go there early and head to the roof before the line gets too long!

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There are more rooftop designs on Gaudi’s buildings.  I think they look like aliens!

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Parc Guell is a great place to wander and see what magical creatures await you. Of course, everyone wants their picture with the dragon!  I finally gave up getting one with just the dragon and took a picture with random people.

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A to Z Challenge: F = Food Shopping in Barcelona

 

F = Food shopping in Barcelona

FJust off Las Ramblas, in the heart of the Barcelona, is its oldest market, Mercat de Sant Josep de La Boqueria. It is where many of Barcelona’s top chefs as well as the general population shop for the freshest food. It is also a busy tourist destination. In addition to all the food stalls, there are a couple of cafés. The boqueria is very busy, so one of the best ways to visit is with someone who can tell you its best-kept secrets.

 

 La Boqueira

La Boqueiria

My guide was a chef who teaches at the Cook and Taste cooking school. The tour of the boqueria was the first part of our cooking class – a trip to the market to buy some of our ingredients. There seems to be a stall for everything, from eggs in many different sizes to different varieties of olives to one that only had meat from bulls. (NOTE: at the time I visited, these were the bulls killed in the bullfights, so I do not know if it is still there now that bullfighting is outlawed in Barcelona.)

Egg stall at La Boqueira
Egg stall at La Boqueiria
Olives stall at La Boqueira
Olives stall at La Boqueiria
Stall that sells meat from bulls at La Boqueira
Stall that sells meat from bulls at La Boqueiria

 

There is one section just for fish.  This is where we purchased the fish for our paella and learned the difference between male and female cuttlefish, along with a secret to buying the best tuna for sushi!

Stall that sells meat from bulls at La Boqueira
Learning about buying fish
Fish stall at La Boqueira
Fish stall at La Boqueiria
Crabs & shrimp at the La Boqueria
Crabs & shrimp at the La Boqueiria

Everything is very colourful – and interesting!

 La Boqueira meat stall

La Boqueiria meat stall

Here is more on my cooking class experience.

One more: F = FC Barcelona! (Anyone who knows me knows this is my other passion!)

Planning for the next big adventure

Planning for a trip

For me, planning for a trip is part of the whole experience. My friends say that I am constantly in “cruise control” – either planning for a trip, going on the trip, and then sharing my experiences and starting to plan the next one!

So how do I start planning for a trip?  The first step is asking myself where – and how – do I want to travel. Is it time for me to get a brief taste, or am I ready for a deeper experience?  For me, both are very valid experiences. The “brief tastes” allows me to sample and see how a place feels to me.  And, since I do most of my travelling solo, it is important for me to have a bit of a safety net when venturing to places unknown. Some people are fearless – and some people think I am fearless – but really, I do know what my comfort level is.  So, my first taste will probably be as part of a cruise or a travel experience with someone else. Cruising allows me to know where I am going to stay, I meet lots of people, and I get a “taste” of many places.  The ones I like go on my “I’m going back there to spend more time” list. I also try to include a few days before and after to explore and to things that would be not part of being on a ship.

The next step in my planning activities are pretty much the same: I’ve decided where to go – now let’s find out more! I usually start my research looking at where I want to stay once I “arrive” at a destination.  Trip Advisor is a good source for reviews, and is usually one of the first places I check for good information on prices and neighbourhoods.  While I like hostels, I also like a little more privacy than some hostels offer.  I tend to go to ones where I can find a private room so I can find the best of both – friendly people to chat with but my own space for comfort. I also like to stay in near transit and downtown centres. It makes getting around less of a hassle. A couple of my favourite hostels that have private rooms include Hotel La Bohème in Amsterdam, the Living Lounge Hostel in Lisbon, and Hostel Mare Nostrum in Barcelona.

I love using local transit and study the transit maps before I go. A really good practice of mine is to get a copy of the transit map and really get to know the layout – especially of the area where I am staying. Being able to show – at least outwardly – that I am confident about where I am going makes me feel better. I cannot tell you how many people ask me about where to go or how to use the local transit because I do seem to know what I am doing!

Next, I create my own Trip Navigator – a travel guide with information on each place I will visit and includes notes on places I want to see, how to get there, maps, pictures, contact information – anything that I may need.  The Trip Navigator for my next adventure is ~124 pages and includes all the basics I would want “at my fingertips”, including hotel, flight, and train confirmations; a list of embassies or consulates; and extensive tourist information – places to see and things to do. Since this collection of documents can get large, I collate everything in a pdf document that I can keep on my Kobo e-reader – with other copies available on my cell phone and computer.

I also update an “oh s***” list and leave a copy with the person who house-sits for me as well as taking a copy for me. This list will have emergency information (emergency phone numbers, ticket information, hotel addresses and phone numbers, travel and health insurance information, and credit card info). It turned out to be quite useful when I lost my wallet in Barcelona.  While waiting for a train, I pulled out this list and cancelled my credit cards – all in less than 10 minutes after I knew the wallet was gone. I also make copies of my passport and credit cards – I tend to carry the copy of my passport while I am out and about exploring instead of the real one, unless it is strictly enforced that a traveller must have the original passport with them at all times.

It may look like I over-plan for a trip, but I think the planning is almost as much fun as the going. I am a librarian by training, so researching new things is important!