Saturday, March 30, 2013

Barcelona in 4 Hours!

Europe Trip Post # 3

5/23/2012, Wednesday (Barcelona day 2 and boarding our cruise/cruise day 1)

Barcelona, Spain: We bought our hop-on/hop-off tour bus (hoho) tickets from the concierge for the tour bus. There are a couple different buses you can use, we picked the bus Turistic, because they had the best reviews. We were VERY happy with the friendly and informative service. After riding the bus for 4 hours we wanted to move to Barcelona- that is how much we enjoyed the bus tour. You can tell the narrators and company and very proud and love their city.

Before I get to the bus, we had to eat! The hotel breakfast was very expensive and we knew we would be eating a lot once we got on the ship so we opted for a nice, charming, tasty, street-side little restaurant. We all ordered something small like muffins, fruit, and coffee. Very affordable! The weather was starting to warm up, the sun was making an appearance; the making of a great day was in the works! Oh, this was also the first taste for almost everyone having sparkling/gas/bubble/delicious/whatever-you-call-it water. Personally Tyler and I have grown to love it and we buy it from Sam’s in bulk. P.s. adding Crystal Light to San Pellegrino is to-die-for and deserves an entire post alone! 

After satisfying our bellies (side note: I gained 9 pounds on the cruise, but lost it all in Paris) we were off to wait for the bus that picked us up almost in front of our hotel. We went straight to the top of the double-decker, open-air bus. Not too crowded yet as we were on the first trip of the day (9am I think). Our time was limited so we wanted to get an early start. We figured this would be the best way to see as much of Barcelona as we can. This 4 hour tour teased us and the list of reasons to come back to Barcelona was growing. It is true, you need a few days to see Barcelona! Again, due to time constraints, we only got off at one location on the bus tour. (you can get on and off "hoho" buses as many times as you want) We decided to ride the bus for 4 hours, putting us back at the hotel by 1 and arriving at port by 1:30. Our goal was to be boarding the ship by 2pm.

Tour highlights: all the Gaudi buildings, UN-freaking-believable. Pictures do not do the buildings justice. We also enjoyed seeing the shopping/high end part of town, and the Olympic village area that provides spectacular views. Overall the bus ride was a very pleasant, relaxing experience… I am sure the sunny 70 degree weather didn’t hurt. I do not have many pics because, well, we were on a moving bus and the quality is poor.

Look what we saw from a high location on the bus tour- our ship waiting for us! This got us really excited seeing our very first glimpse of our flotaing hotel for the next 2 weeks. 

Final thoughts on Barcelona: We are coming back! One day we will! ... and secretly plotting how to move there...  We would do anything to move to Barcelona! Barcelona has the perfect balance of history and modern/urban living- while being on the water! As a huge Dali fan, another reason to come back is to visit his town and museum located about an hour or so out of Barcelona via train. We were impressed with how clean Barcelona was. We think it was the cleanest city of all the places we went to. This is why I took this pic, not because of the Big Mac in Spain (really Tyler?) but look how clean the background is, every part of Barcelona we saw was this clean, amazing!

Barcelona, Spain: After the cruise glimpse we caught high from the Olympic village we were anxious to get back to the hotel, grab luggage, grab a cab and get to the cruise! Our goal was to make it back to hotel by 1, and be boarded by 2. I kinda have a "thing" with schedules and staying on time (hey, that is probably a good thing while on a jam-packed Europe trip). I did enough research to know how long it should take to get from point A to point B on various legs of the trip. So far my research came though and we were right on schedule!

We were back to the hotel by 1- the hotel got our cars quickly, and loaded us up- and off we went! Because we arrived later to port than most (boarding starts around 11:30), we were literally the only ones checking in so it was a breeze.

We bought some water and sodas at the port and off we went! The excitement and anticipation was very obvious amongst us all. I was practically running up the gangplank. This would be the first time any of us have been on a cruise ship this size, we could not wait to see the first impressions!

At sea: First we went to our rooms and met our room attendant, Rufina, who was spectacular by the way. Our rooms were 1255 and 1257. We had our welcome sparkling wine and fruits as we were concierge level.

I hate to bring some negativity but I do have one complaint before I forget: the shampoo and conditioner in the cabins is horrible. I know I could have brought my own but I wanted to save luggage weight. I am not one to complain about something like that as I buy cheap stuff from Publix but it was so bad I couldn’t put a brush through my hair. Lesson learned, next time I will bring my own!

Pictured below: Very first glimpse of our C3 room!

Pictured below: Dad is one happy guy!
Starting the trip off right!

I suggested we all go eat at Bistro on 5 for lunch as the buffet is packed on the first day. Tyler, my mom and I went to Bistro on 5. This was a great decision, no one was here- everyone was at the buffet. We had a great server named Ashlan. Dad and Brandon wandered off somewhere. Whatever happened I told everyone we will always meet for dinner, good plan. That is the hard things about cruise- communication is tricky. It is best to have set meeting times or slide notes under doors.

After eating lunch at Bistro on 5 the 3 of us went back to the rooms, our luggage had arrived. We unpacked and set out to go up top for sail-away from Barcelona. Oh my, I just smile thinking about seeing the "Lawn Club" (one of the highest decks on the ship) and the beauty of the Spanish coastline for the first time. It was a beautiful evening, slight wind from the sailing ship, temps in the mid 70’s, and excitement buzzing from all passengers about to embark on this journey together. Seeing Barcelona from sea is stunning!

Pictured below: Our fist of many pictures on the Lawn Club with Barcelona in the background

A few minutes after this pic I found dad, he was parked up against the back bar of the Lawn Club (don’t know the name) with a drink in his hand taking in the sights. The rest of us joined him to watch sail away. We all quickly found our favorite parts of the ship. Tyler and I instantly fell in love with the Lawn Club.

After sail-away, we headed down to our rooms to relax a little before dinner, we had the late seating. We had our first of many spectacular meals that first night. Our first thoughts of the Grand Epernay dining room was sleek and sophisticated. We were seated at a corner table with a nice window. Our server, Nehemias, was also spectacular. I can hear his voice now telling us about the dinner. In fact I made pizza tonight and I can picture him explaining “the beautiful pizza the chef prepared tonight…” ahh the memories. We enjoyed the sun setting as we progressed through our dinner courses. I had the crème brulee that night, my first of about 30 desserts for the trip. (No exaggeration). We were all more than satisfied with our meals.

We did some exploring and off to bed, we have not had much sleep thus far and will not really get a lot of sleep until a sea day.

As Captain Yannis would say when ending his announcements, I will say “Outtt” for this post! 

Other stops on our trip:
Barcelona Day 1 (exploring on foot)
Barcelona Day 2 (hop on/hop off bus)
Cote d'Azur and Monte Carlo, Monaco
Florence, Tuscany, & Pisa
Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Positano
1st Sea Day
Kotor, Montenegro
Venice, Italy Day 1
Venice, Italy Day 2
Dubrovnik, Croatia

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