Tuesday, May 2, 2017

… to Barcelona for a second day …

… which began auspiciously when we happened on a small antique market just off the ship. We found lots of intriguing things (relics! charms! knives!).

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We hopped on the green bus to make our way toward Gaudi’s Park Guell, passing Barcelona’s many beaches and Gaudi’s masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia.

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The city is filled with quirky buildings and sculptures. Frank Gehry’s shiny metal fish was built for the 1992 Olympics, as was the cell tower designed to look (vaguely) like an Olympic athlete leaning over to accept a medal.

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The Agbar Tower was completed in 2004, and its tiles are illuminated at night. A Joan Miro sculpture graces the harbor, and the Miraestels floating sculptures by Robert Llimos enliven even the water. The sculpture is seen here with a pretty tower for the Port Vell Aerial Tramway.

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Everywhere you look, there’s something interesting to see: a gigantic ball nervously perched on a roof, or a sudden glimpse of “David and Goliath.”

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A several mile uphill walk to the Park got us only the disappointing information that all tickets had already been sold for the day! We decided it was time for lunch, but there were no restaurants in the area. Another long walk brought us to excellent tapas – chicken croquettes, potato bombe, potatoes bravo, an omelette sandwich and ham and cheese – washed down with sangria. Refreshed, we caught a cab to the National Museum of Catalonian Art in Montjuic Park, and had an hour to walk through the Gothic exhibits, featuring works by El Greco, Tintoretto, Rubens, etc. The view of the city from Montjuic was spectacular; Sagrada Familia, clothed in scaffolding, is visible at the top left in the first photo.

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Inside the museum, we found St. Sebastian, curiously portrayed by Spanish artists holding a bow and arrows, rather than pierced by arrows as in Italian art. The lone exception was a beautiful carved wooden statue – by an Italian artist.

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Back on the ship, it was party time! Mia and I arranged a small surprise birthday party for Frank in the Pinnacle Grill, with our tablemates and friends. Some of our guests were a little TOO happy! Laurence and Joy, the outstanding Neptune Lounge concierges, decorated our cabin with balloons and a “Happy Birthday” banner while we were at dinner, providing a second surprise.

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What a day!

Monday, May 1, 2017

… to Barcelona …

… for an overnight stay in this city of incredible architecture and fabulous public art. We’ve been to Barcelona a few times, so we opted for the hop-on bus to get around the city, and headed first to the Spanish Village (Poble Espanyol de Barcelona). We had been there once for a flamenco performance, but wanted time to explore this made-up city thoroughly. Built for the 1929 World’s Fair, it replicates buildings throughout Spain, and includes shops and handicraft demonstrations, as well as restaurants. It was as fascinating as we hoped it would be. Glassblowers created puzzling globe-shaped items which we learned would become dinner plates, while another workshop made unique glass dishes by melting glass. In a small knife shop, we watched a video on damasquinado, the inlaying of gold into a dark steel background. Unfortunately, photos were prohibited at most shops. There was even a shop selling the caganer, the inexplicably popular figure mostly used at Christmas. Why?!

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We visited the excellent Museum of Contemporary Art, whose finest pieces were by Miro and Picasso, and ended our visit to the Village with a great tapas lunch – fascinated by extra-long straws in our sangria, and ogling our neighbor’s jumbo seafood paella.

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Next stop: La Pedrera, the apartment building designed by Gaudi. Unfortunately, my vertigo made the rooftop portion of the tour even more thrilling than usual … 

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The ticket line for Gaudi’s nearby Casa Battlo was long, so we sat across the street to marvel at the exterior and have another sangria. Continuing on to Las Ramblas, we meandered the entire length among the many craft stalls and shops, stopping for a look (and a snack) at St. Josep La Boqueria, a bustling market. Spanish ham is king here, even sold in chunks in paper cones for immediate consumption, or but everything else edible is also on display.

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What is it with these straws? You can drink your sangria from inside the restaurant!

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We were determined to have paella this trip, so Mia located Cheriff in the old part of Barcelona, an excellent restaurant known for its lobster paella. So delicious!

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We headed back to the ship, happy and full!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

… to Palma de Mallorca, Spain …

… playground of the rich and famous, home of the Mallorca/Majorca pearl, and most importantly, the port where Mia joined us for a four day stay on the ship. The first order of the day was to complete the boarding process for Mia in time for a 9:00 excursion. In less than 10 minutes she was aboard, luggage dropped, ship card obtained and once again off the ship and ready for adventure. Outstanding!

Our excursion began with a short stop at the imposing Belver Castle, with a view over the city.

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A photo stop at the Cathedral was next.

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The highlight of the trip was a flamenco performance at Son Amar. Flamenco is usually loud – lots of stomping, clapping and shouting – so I took earplugs and really enjoyed the show! The pre-performance tapas and sangria were yummy!

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Excursion over, we walked around in the old part of Mallorca, revisiting a Gaudi building we had discovered on a previous visit. It has fantastic touches!

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One of Mia’s friends had told her to make sure to have an ensaimada, one of the specialties in Mallorca, so we sought out a bakery and tried one chocolate and one plain. They were much like a big round croissant, with the chocolate one filled with nutella. They were both delicious!

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This seems to be the food edition of the blog! Mallorca is also known for its ham, and the display of baguette sandwiches in a butcher shop was enticing. We also visited a a beautiful church, ready for Easter week.

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Some of the painted doors were terrific!

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The iconic Mallorca windmills are visible from the harbor, as is Belver Castle and the Cathedral. 

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Our day ended with a surprise “Welcome Aboard” cake for Mia at dinner, accompanied by the Indonesian song usually sung for birthdays. Hmmm, wonder what those words actually mean?… 

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