Monday, December 7, 2009

Dec 3 & 4 – Barcelona

We didn't get into Barcelona until 3pm, so we had a lazy morning, getting ourselves ready for the city, Tracy removing all jewellery and precious items from her person, "just in case". We walked into town, and explored the atmospheric Gothic Quarter, while Tracy went in and out of all the trendy shops and I loitered in a supportive manner. We visited the Christmas market in front of the Cathedral (which wasn't completely covered in scaffolding for the first time in years), and looked at all the Christmas decorations they were selling.

The Spanish are particularly keen on Nativity scenes, and in Catalonia they also have a peculiar addition to all the figurines of the Holy Family, Shepherds and Wise Men. He's a statue of an old man called the "Caganer" – he's dressed in traditional Catalan costume, and he's pulling down his trousers and squatting, doing a big Number Two on the floor. It seems quite unlikely, but nearly all Nativity scenes on show in Catalonia, do contain the Caganer, who's meant to bring good luck. Not wanting to look a good luck charm in the mouth, no matter how disgusting, we bought the smallest and cheapest Caganer we could find.

After some more shopping and sightseeing, it was time for one of Barcelona's chief attractions (for me, at any rate) – eating and drinking. We went to one of our favourite bars, El Xampanyet, in the Born district. It's a traditional old cava bar, with bright lighting, tiles on the walls and a lively atmosphere, where they sell phenomenally cheap cava by the glass, and lots of fishy tapas. After this, we stumbled over to La Mercat de Santa Catalina, where the old market has been renovated, and a trendy restaurant and tapas bar have been added. Having gorged on more delicious tapas, we got a cab back to the port and slept like babies.

Our second day in Barcelona was disembarkation day, so, the announcements for passengers to get off the ship started pretty early, which made us get up earlier than we'd have liked to. We blearily made our way into town again, to meet our friend Claire and her Mother, who were on a weekend trip to Barcelona.

After much catching up, we walked them round some of Barcelona's main sights - the Ramblas, La Boqueriea (Barcelona's colourful central market), the Gothic Quarter, the Cathedral, La Ribera, the Born. We'd totally forgotten that they'd been up since 5am for their flight, so when we finally worked out that they were flagging, we took them to a nice restaurant in the Gothic Quarter that we'd discovered the day before. Many people think that Barcelona is an expensive city to go to, but if you choose the right place, there's some excellent value out there – a good quality three course dinner, plus a glass of wine for €10.90 a head.

So, after much catching up, we said our goodbyes, and made our way back to the port for our final cruise of this session – a two week journey across the Atlantic to Miami.