Europe Trip – Barcelona (Day 10)

This was the last day of our Europe trip. We enjoyed one last breakfast on the cruise ship before disembarking. We went straight from the cruise ship to a guided tour of Barcelona, visiting two sites we had not visited at the beginning of the trip: Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia.

Our guide drove us to Park Güell where we spent a little over an hour exploring the park. Debi was particularly impressed by the Modernist architecture and design of Gaudí that incorporated so many elements of nature and tried to blend in with nature, like this tunnel designed to look like a wave:

Toren surfing a Gaudí wave at Park Güell.

Pretty much everywhere you looked there was something amazing to see with stunning attention to detail.

Toren and Debi at Park Güell.

I shot a photosphere in Park Güell but it doesn’t really do the park justice:

After Park Güell, we headed to La Sagrada Familia, the famed, unfinished, Modernist church of Antoni Gaudí. A friend had recently visited Barcelona and told me that she was overwhelmed by La Sagrada Familia when she first saw it. Having visited lots of churches, mosques, and synagogues, I was skeptical that I would have the same experience, but rounding the corner the first time I was close to it, I was genuinely impressed. The soaring towers and the contrast with the surrounding city are stunning:

The two finished facades were both fascinating to explore. I could have spent a lot more time just taking in all of the architectural details:

Debi and Toren in front of La Sagrada Familia.

But the exterior facades were nothing compared to the interior. Walking inside for the first time and seeing the soaring, vaulted ceilings with the amazing pillars and supports was breathtaking. Perhaps the most beautiful building I had seen previously, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, paled in comparison to the brilliance of La Sagrada Familia. Everywhere you looked there was something fascinating to see. The colors, the shapes, the design, all were truly marvelous. I’d love to spend an entire day inside the building watching the colors shift and exploring every detail.

Alas, we didn’t have all day, just about 30 minutes inside the church. Even so, I did my best to capture some of the amazing views:

The stained glass windows on one side of La Sagrada Familia

I’d really need years of additional photography training, hours of time, and probably better camera equipment to do this place justice. It was a moving experience to see this masterpiece of design.

After La Sagrada Familia, our guide drove us to the AirBnB we were staying in and helped us get checked in (some minor complications, but it worked out). We were outside of the main tourist area in some very nice apartments. As a result, we got off the beaten path a little and found a nice restaurant that served tapas:

Enjoying tapas in Barcelona!

Since we had skipped lunch, our tapas meal was like an early dinner. Some of the family had a very early departure the next morning to catch their flights home. Others had a somewhat later departure. Even so, we decided to walk down to the Gaudí buildings we had missed and spend a little more time enjoying Barcelona. We ended up stopping for smoothies and a hot chocolate that was like drinking chocolate sauce you’d put on ice cream it was so thick and rich. On our way back to the apartments, people were starting to set off fireworks as it was the night of a major festival in Barcelona, the festival of Sant Joan (Bonfires of Saint John) that celebrates the summer solstice. We also happened by a churro shop and stopped to enjoy Nutella-filled churros as our last meal in Barcelona:

Toren enjoying a Nutella-filled churro in Barcelona.

Finally, on our way back to our apartment, Toren was jumping posts, something he loved doing all over Barcelona.

Wrapping up: I would definitely like to travel to Rome, Cinque Terre, and the Amalfi Coast again with more time in each location to really appreciate them. I could also see myself vacationing in Barcelona when I just want a place to get away and relax. It was a busy vacation but we got to see and do quite a bit and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Europe Trip – Boarding the Cruise Ship (Day 3)

Rosemary (Debi’s mom) arranged a transfer to the cruise ship from our hotel. Getting checked in and the luggage situated took a bit, but we were on the ship by about noon. We made our way to the buffet and grabbed some lunch, then started taking advantage of all the offerings on the ship. We were on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, which is an enormous ship with lots of offerings.

After lunch, we went to the rock climbing wall where Debi, Toren, and I (and several other nieces and nephews) all climbed the wall.

Ryan (in red) and Toren (in blue) on the climbing wall.

Most of the kids were excited to go swimming, so we got them ready as quickly as possible and let them swim for most of the afternoon.

One thing we always do on cruises with my in-laws is enjoy dinners in the main dining room. The food is typically very good and we enjoy the service. I have to be very careful not to over-eat, but it is a nice chance to enjoy good food, excellent service, and chat about our daily adventures. We got started with our daily dinners that first night.

After dinner, Rosemary had reserved tickets for all of us to see Cats, which was being performed that first night. Most of us went, but a few opted out since they had seen it before and were not keen to see it again. As a fan of musicals, I was familiar with a few of the songs and really enjoyed them, but had never seen it. Debi had seen it on Broadway but was fine seeing it again. I will admit that the first act left us all… disappointed. I’m sure the acting and singing were fine compared to other productions, but there is no coherency to the story. Toren’s intermission review was pretty accurate, “I like shows with a premise.” Almost all of the people in attendance got up at intermission; much less than half of those who were there at the beginning of the show stayed for the end. It was actually their loss. While the coherency of the play didn’t improve all that much (no one knows what a Jellicle cat is), the symbolism and meaning of the play became more apparent, there was a really good dance number, and the more well-known songs were also in the second act. By the end, we were glad we stayed and actually enjoyed the musical. Would we see it again? Meh. Probably not. But it was definitely worth seeing it once.

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Europe Trip – Barcelona (Day 2)

It was the birthday of one of my nephew’s and he really wanted to go kayaking. So, we went kayaking. I think we all were hopeful that sea kayaking in Barcelona would give us a lot to see, kind of like when we went sea kayaking in Alaska. We were also under the impression that, like Alaska, we were not going to get wet. Both of those assumptions were wrong.

We ended up renting the sea kayaks from Centre Municipal de Vela de Barcelona, which is located really close to the Olympic Park in Barcelona. What we didn’t realize is that the kayaks had holes in them so water could drain out, but that also meant that sea water could come in. We also weren’t allowed to go to the nearby beach because people were swimming there, which meant we were relegated to paddling out around a concrete barrier and then coming back. We basically got to see the concrete barrier, some buoys, some big ships in the ocean, and each other. Additionally, the water was freezing and there were really big waves on the ocean. Collectively, what this meant is that we got really wet, really cold, and didn’t get to see much. But it was good exercise. The sea kayaking took up most of the morning. We found a nice restaurant for lunch where that same nephew ordered squid (which he didn’t eat, so the uncles finished it off).

After that, we got on the hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus and got to see quite a bit of Barcelona. I was so impressed with the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and the fountains in front of it that I suggested we get off there. We did and spent a good hour enjoying the views and taking photos. Here’s a photosphere in front of the Museu:

The Museu really is an amazing sight with views of most of Barcelona and fabulous fountains:

I enjoyed the view enough I shot some footage of the waterfall just to keep as a loop.

A view of the museum below one of the waterfalls.
The view of the fountains from the museum.

We even managed to get a group photo:

Family photo in front of the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

We then got back on the sightseeing bus and returned to our hotel. After a quick chance to drop off some stuff and refresh ourselves, we headed out to a nice, small Italian restaurant for dinner.

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Europe Trip – Barcelona (Day 1)

My in-laws took the whole family on a trip to Europe again (see the previous trip). This time, we flew into Barcelona, spent two days there, then embarked on a 7 day Royal Caribbean cruise with 5 ports of call: Mallorca, Marseilles, La Spezia, Rome, and Naples.

The trip started off with some “excitement.” Most of us were supposed to meet at JFK airport in NYC (on the evening of the 13th) and fly to Barcelona together. However, due to weather issues, there were big delays into and out of JFK. The family flying in from SLC weren’t sure if they were going to make the Barcelona flight, so they got re-routed through Paris. We ended up meeting Steve (Debi’s brother) in NYC and we all flew together to Barcelona, landing around 10:30 am the next day. We arrived just a little before another part of the family, so we waited for them in the baggage claim. Once they arrived, Rosemary (Debi’s mom) had arranged for a transfer to our hotel. Those who got re-routed, unfortunately, ended up getting really delayed in Paris and didn’t get in until about 10:00 pm that night (almost 12 hours later).

After we got settled in the hotel, we went for a walk. Our hotel was just a few blocks from Placa de Catalunya, so we stopped there first. Here’s a photosphere I took there:

We were all pretty hungry, so we found a nearby restaurant and tried the famed Spanish paella. It was, meh.

Spanish paella in Barcelona
Spanish paella for three. It was fine, but I wouldn’t move to Spain to have it regularly!

From there, we headed for a walk down La Rambla, which was quite nice. We stopped for some treats along the way, walking all the way down to the Christopher Columbus statue and the port. We took a different route back, heading through Barri Gotic (the Gothic neighborhood) to our hotel. Given the limited sleep most had gotten on the plane, pretty much everyone was keen to get to bed early. Toren, Steve, and I went out for food, finding a nice little Italian place that was cheap but had good pizza.

A couple of quick reflections on Barcelona…

Perhaps it was the areas we were in, but we didn’t see a lot of parks and places for kids to play. There are plazas in front of churches, but most were paved and did not have areas for kids to play.

The wide, clean streets and fascinating architecture made walking in Barcelona quite pleasant.

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