Cruise Flashback; Galveston to Dubai 2013
Barcelona, Spain; May 6, 2013
FEB. 5, 2021, DALLAS — Eight years ago our Barcelona port call held significance for two reasons. It was the midway point of the 30-day cruise from Galveston to Dubai, and it was the last of the familiar ports for me. Up until now I had explored our European ports on my own, confident in my ability to navigate and frugally save my tour fund. From here on it was unexplored territory.
Because I booked the cruise late and couldn’t get the same cabin for both segments, I had already packed up my belongings. My cabin steward would move them down the hall while I was away for the day.
More than two-thirds of the 3,000 passengers disembarked in Barcelona. As I recall, many paid as little as $500 for the 15-day crossing and saw it as cheap and relaxing transportation to Europe. Those of us sailing on just had to swap our cruise cards for new ones. What promised to be a smooth process instead resulted in lines snaking through the ship. I have no idea why the delay, but a couple of hours later I finally was set to leave the ship and explore.
On my previous stop in Barcelona in 2011, I had taken a highlights tour that included stops at Antoni Gaudi’s amazing basilica La Sagrada Familia and his Parc Guell, with buildings that reminded me of Dr. Seuss, as well as the site of the 1992 Olympics and the Gothic Quarter of the old city.
This time on my own I thought I might catch one of the HOHO buses (hop on, hop off), but when I saw the lines I went to plan B – exploring nearby on foot. I set off on La Rambla, the wide pedestrian promenade leading slowly up the hill from the port.
I was glad I had secured my money and identification in a waist belt under my pants, as this area is famous for its clever pickpockets. Street performers entertain in large part to distract tourists as sticky fingers stealthily commit their crimes.
Most of my photographs from the day come from La Boqueria, a delightful food and flower market partway up the street. The amazing array of colorful fruits, interesting meats, unfamiliar seafood and hundreds of tourists enchanted me.
I continued on to the Plaça de Catalunya, the large square at the center of the city, where I enjoyed coffee at one of the many cafes.
From there I headed slightly east for my return to the port, passing through the Barri Gòtic, or the oldest part of the city. Here the traffic disappeared as I walked down narrow and winding streets. Near the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlias, the seat of the archbishop of Barcelona, I ran into friends from the ship. We wondered about the meaning of a “universal” sign that left everyone confused.
Back at the waterfront I enjoyed the beautiful weather along La Rambla de Mer, with its wide boardwalk leading out to the aquarium and marina. All in all it was a wonderful exploration of the heart of Barcelona.
On the ship I found my new stateroom, which while considered an inside cabin had a window looking out on the ship’s interior promenade. My usual small cruise ships could never offer this feature.
Looking back, I somewhat regret that I didn’t explore farther afield in the wonderful city of Barcelona, but I knew that exciting ports were ahead – Cairo, Luxor, Petra and Dubai. It would all be new territory for me.