10. Barcelona


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Apr 20th, 2011
10. Barcelona

Thursday 24 March – it must be Barcelona!

From the deck of the ship, which is alongside the wharf before breakfast, we have a good view of an old fort and a tree-clad hill, with the city sprawling away to the right. This looks a much larger city than Cadiz; the port is busy and well equipped. There are special termini for cruise ships; the Melody is alongside cruise ship Terminal B, which is a fair way away from the city centre.
As we are only allowed a paltry morning to explore, we organise to share a taxi into town with another couple who have been to Barcelona before and recommend a good spot. So the smart black-and-yellow (Renault Scenic) taxi deposits us at a large traffic circle, from the centre of which rears up the Christopher Columbus monument (he stands on at least as tall a pillar as Nelson’s in London).

Columbus at top, pointing west

The city is immediately impressive, with grand, graceful buildings and wide streets leading off in all directions.

At the base of the Columbus monument. Riding lions, taking pics

It’s a a sunny, spring morning and we start our ramble up “La Rambla”, a famous grand avenue that starts at Columbus’s feet. It’s a main artery into the city, designed with a broad middle section for pedestrians, and a road for traffic in each direction on the sides. All the traffic lights are painted bright yellow. We notice a rank of bicycles one can hire for a small fee on a take-and-return basis, but we prefer to stroll. The avenue is lined with mature plane trees, just budding. Every building on this avenue is lovely.
There is plenty to look at on the way  up the avenue: cafés and kiosks, tapas bars, art shops and flower-sellers and buskers and mimes and pavement artists and tourists and locals hurrying about. A petshop kiosk sells weasels (of the four-footed long-tailed variety) or maybe they are ferrets, along with tortoises and hamsters. Strange place for a pet-shop?

La Rambla flanked with elegant buildings

A group of rosy-faced Spanish high-school boys pick us out as obvious tourists fresh off the ship, encircle us and enquire politely if we wish to partake in a little survey. They hold out their i-phones to record our answers. They are out of the classroom on a ‘practical’, studying english as she is spoken by tourists. I hope I didn’t confuse them too much (South Africans are supposed to be black like Mandela). “What is the beegest problem in your country?” is answered in one word: “Crime” – not a great ambassador, am I.

St. Joseph's Market (well named for the family breadwinner)

We continue our goggle-eyed way up the Rambla and happen upon the central market – another covered market, accessible off the avenue. Here is another bright cornucopia of wonder and delight, sights and scents and textures – we breathe it all in and fervently hope that there will be one like this in Florence.

Here follow just some pics to show you what we mean:

The Sweetie Stall from Heaven

Fresh mushrooms of all kinds

Chocolates - please apply strait-jacket now

Food of the Gods - this pic specially for Claire

Okay that’s enough drooling.

Time is nearly up, so we turn and start back along this avenue of marvels.
The street artists are amazing, posing for the crowd. One pair is dressed in elaborate demon costumes complete with scales, tails, dinosaur feet and huge leathery wings. They are real showstoppers and attract large crowds, but refuse to be photographed unless one pays something, growling and turning their backs. Another artist is covered from head to foot in flowers. There is a coal-dusted miner, a napoleonic soldier, a Roman marble statue and even a magi who is levitating, cross-legged! We can’t figure out how he is doing this, so he gets our Euro and I get a picture.

Cleverly done!

Just space underneath for sure

James buys a cool T-shirt, featuring a tyrannosaurus rex skull wearing an Uncle Sam top hat. Wi-Fi zone stickers are all around. As there is no time to visit any attractions such as a museum or a cathedral, we decide to just soak up the atmosphere. From a a newsstand adorned with postcards and souvenirs, we purchase the day’s Guardian newspaper to catch up on non-Japan, non-Ghaddafi news – the Sky TV feed has been on again, since Cadiz). We read the paper and have a cup of Spanish cappuccino in the sunshine, before getting another taxi back to the ship for our 12:30 curfew.
Our glimpse of this city was way too short, and admittedly we have probably seen one of the best parts, but it has persuaded us that we really must return for a proper visit one day.
Back on board, as we sail slowly away from the Spanish mainland (with the customary three long hoots as we leave the harbour), there are reams of instructions from the ship’s organisers on how they want us to pay our final bills and the procedures for disembarkation the next day in Genoa – in colour-coded groups. There is also a list of farewell and ‘last’ parties that are planned for the evening’s entertainment.
But we spend the afternoon working and the evening packing, as our (colour-code tagged) luggage must be outside the cabin door before we retire for the night.


  • Connie

    23 Apr 2011

    And deed you ree-zeeest the chocolates, I want to know?

    • Jan

      23 Apr 2011

      Yes! (now, weeks later, I ask myself why).

  • Connie

    23 Apr 2011

    I know how that guy is levitating – geeeve me some chocolate and I weeel tell you!

    • Jan

      23 Apr 2011

      Yes we worked it out on seeing the pics, but it was a great illusion 'in the flesh'...!

  • Allen.

    26 Apr 2011

    ok HOW did he levitate?

    • Jan

      27 Apr 2011

      The staff is attached to a wide steel base hidden below the carpet. At the top of the staff is another support concealed by the yogi's arm and robes parallel to the base plate and which has a discreet platform attached on which the yogi sits. The illusion is revealed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9KMl5-NJ_A Could be a real money earner in 2nd Street Harare!

  • Connie

    01 May 2011

    Beautifully done though – a striking effect, with that costume and all…

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