A visit to Barcelona Spain

We were onboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines Epic on a repositioning cruise from Port Canaveral, FL to Barcelona with various stops along the way - the seventh (and final) stop being Barcelona.

Barcelona is 5,283.5 sea miles from Port Canaveral and 153 sea miles from Palma de Mallorca. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits, its urban area extends to numerous neighbouring municipalities within the Province of Barcelona and is home to around 4.8 million people, making it the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan. It is one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea, located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, the tallest peak of which is 512 metres (1,680 feet) high.

 Quick History Lesson 

Founded as a Roman city ( known as "Barcino"), in the Middle Ages Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona continued to be an important city in the Crown of Aragon as an economic and administrative centre of this Crown and the capital of the Principality of Catalonia. Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today an important cultural centre and a major tourist destination. Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean are located in Barcelona. The city is known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics as well as world-class conferences and expositions and also many international sport tournaments.

Barcelona is one of the world's leading tourist, economic, trade fair and cultural centres, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. It is a major cultural and economic centre in southwestern Europe, 24th in the world (before Zürich, after Frankfurt) and a financial centre. In 2008 it was the fourth most economically powerful city by GDP in the European Union and 35th in the world with GDP amounting to €177 billion. In 2012 Barcelona had a GDP of $170 billion; and it was leading Spain in employment rate in that moment.


 The above information was extracted from Wikipedia.
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If you have never been to Barcelona & either you are planning a trip there, or you just want to know more about it, here are some good sources of information;

Exploring Barcelona

This was day 16 (the final day) of our transatlantic cruise on the Norwegian Epic. The ship arrived in Barcelona harbor very early at approximately 5:00AM. Our game plan was to wait until the last possible minute to disembark and let the crowds diminish. We had a hotel room reserved at the Alexandra Hilton Hotel, so there was no need to hurry. However, even though Norwegian had originally indicated that we could depart the ship as late as 11AM, the "Freestyle Daily" ship's bulletin made it clear that everyone had to disembark no later than 8AM - so our "remain flexible" rule was utilized.

I had visited Barcelona numerous times while in the Navy, and Celeste had never been there. However, in the years since I had last been here, the city had grown considerably and in fact the harbor had been extensively expanded since my Navy days. The port area where my ship used to tie up was converted to a marina (and other facilities) named Port Vell.

 Quick History Lesson 

The Port of Barcelona has a 2,000 year history and is of great contemporary commercial importance. It is Europe's ninth largest container port, with a trade volume of 2.3 million TEU's in 2006. The port is managed by the Port Authority of Barcelona. Its 7.86 km2 (3 sq mi) are divided into three zones: Port Vell (the Old Port), the commercial port and the logistics port (Barcelona Free Port). The port is undergoing an enlargement that will double its size thanks to diverting the mouth of the Llobregat river 2 km to the south. The Port Vell area also houses the Maremagnum (a commercial mall), a multiplex cinema, the IMAX Port Vell and an aquarium.


 The above information was extracted from Wikipedia.
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We had made plans to remain in Barcelona for several days, and had selected the Alexandra Hilton Hotel on Carrer de Mallorca as our place to stay. The hotel is just a few meters away from Rambla de Catalunya, which turns into La Rambla as you get nearer to the harbor. The hotel is also less than one kilometer away from the La Sagrada Familia, which was on our "must see" list. Very nicely situated hotel, very modern, quiet & comfortable.

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This picture gives you some idea of the size of the Barcelona Harbor, it is comprised of; an industrial/commercial (freighter/cargo ships) area, a large area devoted to Cruise Ships, and a marina area for smaller vessels.

Barcelona cruise port is currently ranked the largest Mediterranean cruise port with turnaround operations (roundtrip itineraries) and world's 4th busiest port.

The building in the lower center of this picture is the Barcelona World Trade Center.

La Sagrada Familia

Our first destination (after dropping off our luggage at the hotel) was the Sagrada Familia. The hotel is located one kilometer away, so it was an easy stroll.

The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família ("Expiatory Church of the Holy Family") is a large unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona. Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), his work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the church and proclaimed it a minor basilica.

 Quick History Lesson 

In 1882, construction of Sagrada Família began under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. In 1883, when Villar resigned, Gaudí took over as chief architect, transforming the project with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted the remainder of his life to the project, and he is buried in the crypt. At the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, when he was run down by a tram, less than a quarter of the project was complete.

Relying solely on private donations, Sagrada Familia's construction progressed slowly and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. In July 1936, revolutionaries set fire to the crypt and broke their way into the workshop, partially destroying Gaudí's original plans, drawings and plaster models, which led to 16 years work to piece together the fragments of the master model. Construction resumed to intermittent progress in the 1950s. Advancements in technologies such as computer aided design and computerised numerical control (CNC) have since enabled faster progress and construction past the midpoint in 2010. However, some of the project's greatest challenges remain, including the construction of ten more spires, each symbolising an important Biblical figure in the New Testament. It is anticipated that the building can be completed by 2026, the centenary of Gaudí's death.

The basilica has a long history of splitting opinion among the residents of Barcelona: over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona's cathedral, over Gaudí's design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí's death disregarded his design, and the 2007 proposal to build a tunnel of Spain's high-speed rail link to France which could disturb its stability. Describing Sagrada Família, art critic Rainer Zerbst said "it is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art", and Paul Goldberger describes it as "the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages".


 The above information was extracted from Wikipedia.

The building had a "street fair" kind of thing going on near the entrance, where groups of people were forming "human pyramids", throwing people into the air and catching them, vendors were selling souvenirs, etc. Our goal was to purchase tickets and go inside the building - but watching these groups perform was entertaining!

The Sagrada Familia is one of the world's largest Church buildings: from the entrance to the apse it is 90 metres, the five naves are limited by a 60 metre long and 45 metre wide transept. The four side naves are 7.5 metres wide each, the main nave is 15 metres - exactly twice as wide. The vault of the main nave is 45 metres high, and the side aisles are 30 metres high.

The interior columns are inclined and utilize "tree like branches". The weight is routed directly over the pillars in the ground - all this without bearing facade or exterior buttresses. The result of this ingenious solution is spectacular: the pillars and arches supported by them transform the interior of the temple into a stone forest of palm trees, lots of light streaming in through large windows and the vault.

Our hotel was a very short distance from the Rambla de la Catalunya, which is a wide boulevard with an area in the center for pedestrians and various sidewalk vendors such as small restaurants. We had walked by some of these restaurants during our hike around the city, and decided to have dinner at one of them our first evening.

Casa Batilo

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Our morning's first adventure was a walk to the Casa Batilo, tt was designed by Antoni Gaudí (the architect of the La Sagrada Familia), and is considered one of his masterpieces. A remodel of a previously built house, it was redesigned in 1904 by Gaudí and has been refurbished several times after that. Gaudí's assistants Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, Josep Canaleta and Joan Rubió also contributed to the renovation project. The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), as it has a visceral, skeletal organic quality.

La Rambla Area

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Our hotel was just a few feet from Rambla de Catalunya, which as you walk towards the harbor, eventually turns into La Rambla the famous shopping district.

The tree-lined central promenade of La Rambla is crowded during the day and until late in the night. Its origins as a watercourse are reflected in the paving design, which appears to ripple like water. Along the promenade's length are kiosks that sell newspapers and souvenirs, other kiosks selling flowers, street traders, performers, and pavement cafes and bars. Several notable sights are also located within the promenade, including a mosaic by Joan Miró and the Font de Canaletes, a fountain and popular meeting point.

Along the Rambla are historic buildings as the Palace of the Virreina and the Liceu Theatre (Liceo in Spanish), in which operas and ballets are staged. The La Boqueria market opens off the Rambla and is one of the city's foremost tourist landmarks, housing a very diverse selection of goods.

Montjuic Castello & Area

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After walking south through La Rambla we arrived at the harbor, and decided to take one of those double decker bus tours around the city - this would allow us to see a great deal more of Barcelona than by foot and we could leave the bus tour at Montjuic Castello.

Montjuïc Castle is an old military fortress, with roots dating back from 1640, built on top of Montjuïc hill. It currently serves as a Barcelona municipal facility. The eastern side of the castle sits on a cliff high above Barcelona Harbor, which gave the fortress a commanding view of ships arriving.

 Quick History Lesson 

The foundation stone for the basic fortification of the castle was laid out in 1640. A year later, in January 1641, the fort saw its first battle, during the Catalan Revolt when the Principality of Catalonia challenged Spain's authority. On orders from the King of Spain, Pedro Fajardo, heading an army of 26,000 men, proceeded to crush the revolt. The Spanish recaptured several cities, but they were defeated at the Battle of Montjuïc by Catalan, led by Francesc de Tamarit.

Fifty years later, in 1694, new bastions and battlements were erected and the fortress became a castle. In the Siege of Barcelona (1705) the fortress was captured by the British 6th Regiment of Foot led by Lt.-Col William Southwell, paving the way for the siege of Barcelona itself. Southwell was afterwards made Governor of the castle.

The eastern side of the hill is almost a sheer cliff, giving it a commanding view over the city's harbour immediately below. The top of the hill (a height of 184.8 meters) was the site of several fortifications, the latest of which (the Castle of Montjuïc) remains today. The fortress largely dates from the 17th century, with 18th-century additions. In 1842, the garrison (loyal to the Madrid government) shelled parts of the city. It served as a prison, often holding political prisoners, until the time of General Franco.


 The above information was extracted from Wikipedia.

The castle is surrounded by the Jardins de Joan Brossa, a beautiful large park which you can traverse by a cable car (Teleferic de Montjuïc) or by foot. We choose to ride the gondola, as we wanted to maximize our time in the castle.

The name "Montjuic" comes from Latin for "Jewish Mountain", and there was originally a Jewish cemetary in this area.

The Dogs of Barcelona

We saw dogs everywhere we went in Barcelona, sometimes in groups, most often singly. There was even a dog park next to the Sagrada Familia. Obviously people in Barcelona are fond of dogs, and because we are too, we decided to show these images!

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