Entry 84, June 7th, 2011, 12:14am (ship time GMT +2)
I think Barcelona may be my favorite port on the European run. It is my favorite on the Spanish leg, certainly, while its competition on the Italian run is Rome. Rome, of course, has much more to offer from a historical and cultural standpoint, but when it comes to liking the places I visit Barcelona may have it beaten. Rome is still too big a concept to hold in my mind all at one time, while Barcelona is becoming somewhere I feel comfortable.
The city reminds me of Chicago in a lot of ways. The long straight coastline that the city is built on is reminiscent of Lake Michigan, and there are lots of big avenues. The difference, of course, is that Barcelona doesn't have a cluster of massive skyscrapers at its center, and isn't surrounded by the rusting remains of America's manufacturing might. The city is surprisingly metropolitan despite containing only 1.5 million inhabitants.
Today was a good day ashore. I expanded my sphere of exploration Eastward from where I left off last time, following one of the streets to the plaza St. Jaume (many of the names in Barcelona are in Catalan, which is mostly like Castillan Spanish but seems to have a little bit of French mixed in) and eventually the Santa Maria church. The church was beautiful inside, not as large as the cathedral, but with a smoother, more Renaissance-influenced style. I then picked my way through a series of narrow alleys to the Picasso museum (closed because it was Monday), the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (closed to set up a new Incan exhibition), and to the Merkat de _____ (can't remember), (closed for renovation). Despite my lack of success in achieving my original goals, I did find a number of other small interesting places that made the day worth it.
I've inherited one of my dad's traits – apparently I look like I know where I'm going even when I don't. Today two different groups of people asked me for directions, despite the fact that I've been in the city of Barcelona for less than twenty four hours in total. I was able to help one group, but not the other . . . it was a definite first to be asked, “Do you speak English?”
After a pretty good cup of coffee I wandered to the waterfront and made my way back to the ship. On the way there I got to witness the Port Vell pedestrian bridge in action; when sailboats need to get out of the marina two different sections of the bridge actually rotate out of line with the others to create a slanted opening. Much more artsy and hi-tech than the Curacao pedestrian bridge, although I bet the Curacao one is cheaper by a long shot.
Still, I wasn't ready to return to my plastic, air conditioned cube quite yet so I loitered around the marina for a bit watching the ships come and go. Since I was unable to get into either museum, I spent my admission money on some postcards (long overdue, I know, you'll be seeing them soon) and used them to get into a conversation with a cute girl sitting by herself on the dock. Turns out that she's a German student here in Barcelona for a week for class, and was waiting for the rest of her group to head back to the town they're staying in. She pointed out the new cathedral that's been under construction for over a hundred years. It is absolutely wild and insane from an architectural standpoint, and was designed by Gaudi back in the 1800's. It might even be done in my lifetime . . . is there some sort of law that says cathedrals have to take forever to build?
Anyway, I'm exhausted, and I can see it affecting my writing voice, so I'm going to wrap this one up. Better entry tomorrow.