Monday, 18 May 2015

Destino de Barcelona

We had spent a day at sea between Malaga and Barcelona and the weather was perfect.  Early in the morning of Day 13 we arrived in port, and were off the ship by 8:00 a.m.  We chose to "walk-off" which meant we were responsible to carry off our own luggage.  As we had arranged to meet our tour guide at 8:30 a.m. we wanted to ensure we weren't delayed looking for our luggage among the piles in the customs area.

It had to be the most quickly and easily I've ever come through customs.  There were no questions, and just a cursory review of my passport, it was stamped, and I was through.  Then we waited.  The ship was unloading at two different buildings and as it turned out, we were at the second.  The bus showed up about 9:30 a.m. and we were off heading into the city.

The bus tour took us first up the mountain for a look at the city view.  Unfortunately it was a bit hazy that day so the view was somewhat obstructed.











The city has 1.6 million inhabitants.  The province I live is only has just over 1 million.  That might explain the haze.



As we wandered about I spotted this plant.  It looks a lot like a huge asparagus at least at the top, but the bottom appeared to be some type of cactus.  If anyone knows what it is, please let me know.








We drove through the city, with the guide pointing out buildings of interest.  Gaudi was a famous architect in Catalan and many of his works can been seen in Barcelona.
(this was taken through the bus window...I would have loved to have seen it close up).

We were driven then to Parc Guell, Gaudi's failed attempt at land development.  Our guide explained the 17 acres of land were planned to hold 70 homes but because of it's distance from the city, only 3 homes were built.  This one, was the most normal looking.


 I swear Gaudi was Dr. Seuss before Theodor Geisel!  Tell me you don't think so too when you look at these properties.

The smaller one on the left was meant to be the guard's house.

The park was busy as we had arrived on May 1, which is Labour Day in Spain. Despite the crowds it was interesting and unique place to visit.








After the park we were taken to Gaudi's final project, Sagrada Familia.  The Cathedral has been under construction for more than 300 years. It is not hard to see why!










The details in the vignettes is truly phenomenal.  One of scenes illustrated a donkey and we were told the artist covered a real donkey in plaster and then removed the plaster for the project.  (No donkey was harmed).


This is the rear view of the church.  There were long line-ups to get inside, and we heard some being told that at almost noon their wait would be until almost 7:30 p.m.  Obviously we didn't go in as we hadn't bought tickets ahead of time.

This is the final part of the construction.  as you can see the cladding (or whatever they call the decorative work) has yet to be started.  The project is scheduled to be finished in the next 10 years or so.
I suspect the glass elevator on the side of the building was not in the original plans!

We stayed on a square just off La Rambla which is a busy city street full of shops, restaurants, tourists and locals.  Because it was Labour Day our bus was unable to deliver us to the hotel.  Instead we were dropped at a taxi stand, where we were packed into a small car, and delivered about a block from the hotel.  It would have been nice to have known that when we booked the tour!
Our hotel was the Roma Reial (our room was on the third floor, second balcony from the right).  It was a quadruple room (1 double, two singles) with a small bathroom and very utilitarian.  No soap in the bathroom, thankfully C had grabbed a bar from the ship!


 We overlooked Placa Reial, a square which held numerous restaurants and bars, with hotels above.

The square was busy day and night with people eating, drinking and ugh...smoking.  That's one thing I'll never become accustomed to in Europe.

The square was much quieter in the morning, though the delivery trucks started arriving about 5:30 a.m.  There wasn't much sleep to be had that night.












This was the street just off to the right of our hotel.  I don't know how anyone manages to drive a vehicle on these narrow streets but they do. (Not the delivery trucks, they came off La Rambla).

C and I were up early that morning, about 7 a.m. and went for a walk down La Rambla.  It was much quieter in the morning...I guess after all the partying the night before everyone was sleeping in!



There were people up and working already though.  The flower vendors were busy cutting flowers and setting up for the day.  This market was bustling, with vendors and shoppers.

I think one could have purchased anything they wanted for a meal here.  There was fresh meat and seafood, deli meats, breads, eggs, fruit and even chocolate!



I must admit I was tempted to buy some but the vendor spoke no English and I really didn't need it after eating on a cruise ship all week!

We met our taxi back at the hotel and headed out to the airport for our 2 p.m. flight.  The Barcelona airport provided lots of shopping opportunities and since neither C nor I were over limit on our suitcases (yet) so we took advantage and spent some time browsing and trying things on.  I limited my purchases to a jean jacket that was on sale, though I lusted over the purses at Desigual!

Our flight to Toronto was uneventful, though as I've mentioned before it was at least half-full of people with colds so I managed to bring one of those home too.  It was about an 8 1/2 hour flight, and we had a 6 hour wait until our flight to Regina.  (C was staying in Toronto to visit friends, lucky girl). About the time our flight was supposed to board we were told the plane had gone mechanical, they were bringing in another for us and we had another hour to wait.

With the 6 hour time difference between Barcelona and Toronto it was nearly 24 hours since I'd woken up that morning, and I had no sleep on the earlier flight. So I was very tired and cranky when the announcement was made so I lay down on the floor in the airport and went to sleep, telling K &  to wake me when it was time to board.  I had no problem sleeping and when we did board the plane, I vaguely remember the take-off but nothing much more than that until we landed in Regina. Sure made the three hour flight very short!

I'd left my vehicle at K & J's so we cabbed it there, I got my keys and drove home shortly after 1 a.m. It was such a long day and I was grateful to get home, crawl into clean pajamas, get into my own bed and cuddle with the cats.

Despite some hiccups along the way it was a great vacation.  I'm not likely to sail with Royal Caribbean again, and especially not on such a large ship.  I loved Malaga, Barcelona less so simply because of the crowds and the lack of open space.  I prove it to myself over and over again, I am not a city girl.

Hope you enjoyed seeing the photos of my latest trip.  Sharing the stories and pictures help me relive the memories.  Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Malaga memories



Our one port before arriving in Barcelona was Malaga on the south coast of Spain.  What a beautiful place!  The sun was shining and it was quite warm the day we were there.  The ship arrived in port sometime in the early morning and after breakfast at the Wipeout Cafe, and a few photos from the top deck, we all headed into the city.

While there were shuttle buses, we chose to walk as it really wasn't far from the dock to the main street and the botanical gardens.

Along the water walkway we saw numerous orange and grapefruit trees.  For someone raised in the Prairies, seeing the tree full of fruit was simply amazing.


From there we walked to the Alcazaba fortification, known as the best preserved such site in Spain.  It was evident it was well-cared for; the frescoes, the tiling, the artifacts were all so beautiful.  AND the views were simply spectacular.

To think this work was created by hand and painstakingly placed over 300 years ago was inspiring.


The view from the height of the fort to the sea was lovely.

To our left, we could see the old bull fighting ring. We didn't take the time to visit there

The formal gardens below looked lovely from above, and the gardens inside the fort were well kept too.









We split up after leaving the fort, as C & I wanted to see the Picasso museum (no photos were permitted...that man was weird!) and K & J were not the least bit interested.

 After the museum we decided to stop for a tapas lunch, which included a lovely glass of gazpacho, paella, and meatballs in almond sauce. Very yummy!







From there we walked over to the Cathedral, which was stunning both inside and out.  We must have been in the church for nearly an hour, simply looking at the various vignettes and sitting in quiet contemplation.




















Once we left the Cathedral, it was time to do some window shopping since most of the shops were closed for the afternoon.  Of course, we found a shop or two that was open and I found a sweet little purse I couldn't live without.






I was impressed with the cleanliness of the city streets.  I wish my kitchen floor looked that clean!

And I was totally envious of the flowers on the balconies!!


It was quite warm by this point in the afternoon, so we bought some almonds from a street vendor and relaxed in the gardens.

While we were sitting there, we could hear the noise of the birds as they chattered around us.

I'm assuming this is some sort of parakeet, as it almost sounded like a parrot and looks much like the parakeets I've seen in the pet stores.

It was busily breaking off a bit of branch...for it's nest perhaps?
The shade from this feature along the waterfront was appreciated too.

We did make a stop on the beach on our way back. Apparently the water wasn't very warm because there were few people swimming.


We had a wonderful day in Malaga!  I'd love to return again someday, but I would definitely need to learn some Spanish first.  We had no difficulties anywhere we went as there was always someone who spoke English.  However, most signs and other information was often in Spanish only and I'm certain I missed out by my own deficiency.


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Entertainment Daily

As I mentioned in the last post, there was lots to do on the ship during the day, and the evenings were no different.  We had options to attend a Broadway show (Chicago), diving/acrobatic shows, comedians, ice skating shows, and headliners.  

We chose to see Chicago the first night, and I have no photos.  The story line was a little predictable, but the set, singers and dancers were great!  A couple of nights later we went to see Ocean Aria....I have lots of photos from that evening.




The pool looks small but is about 17-18 feet deep. After the show we learned there were scuba divers at the bottom of the pool with air for the divers.


There were three platforms for the divers, this was really high! You'll see for yourself in another picture.

What gets me is they're diving into a small pool and the ship is still moving.

The show also featured acrobats on the trampoline. This was built into the platform behind the pool and was rotated into position.

In addition, there were two brothers who were incredibly flexible and very strong!!!

It was very good show, with lots of oohs and aahs and laughs too!




This is the photo I took from Deck 16 looking down towards the pool.  There were two platforms one on either side.

I couldn't do the zip line...I surely couldn't dive from that height!





We also attended three different ice skating shows.  A couple were held mid-afternoon, but this one was after dinner.  Here are a few photos from the evening.













This skater combined both figure skating and acrobatics in her solo.  She hung upside down from the rink with only one leg wrapped around the ring.
 These two were exciting to watch too, especially in this spin.  I didn't get a great photo, but at times it appeared her head was mere inches from the ice.

 It was fun evening especially because we were in the middle of the Atlantic on a ship...watching ice skating!







The comedians were good but the venue was very tiny - I believe it held about 120-150 people.

The night the rest of my group went to see the first headliner show, I was sick with a migraine and didn't attend.  Unlike the other cruises I've been on, we had to reserve the shows we wanted to see.  We were really disappointed when we learned we couldn't reserve the next headline show because we'd seen Amy Adler on the Princess cruise last year and wanted to see her again.  So we stood in the stand-by line for an hour in order to get into the show. She was as good as we remembered!

I would say the quality of the entertainment was better on the Allure than the other cruises, especially when it came to the singers, dancers, and ice skaters.  These entertainers were professional and it showed.  And of course, having the ice skaters on the ship was a unique experience.

As you can tell, I was never bored.  I could be as busy or as relaxed as I liked.  Whether I was reading in the park, working at the gym, walking the track, people-watching on the Promenade, knitting with the ladies, or enjoying the entertainment it was an opportunity to make new memories.

 It's a long weekend here in Canada so I'm going to try to get the posts for Malaga and Barcelona done as well. Perhaps while it rains later today. Have a great weekend everyone!