The first thing I need to say is that there is a huge difference between visiting a city and living there. If we "visit" any city for, even, two weeks, we spend nearly every moment touring sites, eating at restaurants or sleeping. Don't get me wrong. We love doing that and we have done that quite a bit. Living there, to us, is much more enjoyable because you proceed at much less of a hurried pace and you get to know the people and surroundings in a more intimate fashion.
After our scheduled month here in Barcelona we were finishing up the last day of our reservation. All of the normal boat checks were done and all that was left to do before our next day departure was to go over to the marina office to check out and pay our bill. After paying, the marina representative asked us how we enjoyed Barcelona. We quickly responded by telling her how much we loved it in great detail. It was all true. We then both said " I am not sure why we are leaving" to which she responded "Well, the berth is available until November". Oh-oh. We told her that we would let her know.
There is an old saying about boaters: "All plans are written in sand at low tide". This has been especially true for us over the years. One time we were preparing to leave Seattle within two weeks with Seabird, planning on cruising to the Mexican Baja. We had dinner with our friends Ken and Roberta (Sans Souci) who tried to convince us to cruise instead with them to Alaska and Japan. They were indeed successful so we changed our plans and off we went.
Our decision to stay on for a second month was based on a few things:
First, we had heard that the Ballearic islands anchorages were very crowded in August and marinas were outrageously expensive and difficult to get into. In September, everyone disappears and the cruising there is much more enjoyable.
Secondly, our original plan from a year ago was to winter this year in Barcelona where we would have had months to get to know the city. That all changed when Sans Souci, Seabird and Ocean Pearl decided to instead cruise back across the Atlantic to the Virgin Islands. For one reason or another, that plan morphed into loading all three boats onto a ship and sending them that way.
So, in order to get in our "quality time" here, we booked for an additional month, leaving our cruising to the Ballearics until September.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, Barcelona is an exceptional city. Okay, now fast forward. We have been here for over a month now ( yeah, I know, my blog is SERIOUSLY behind schedule!) and we are nowhere near becoming tired of it. As far as large cities go, it is exceptionally clean and well run. They have acres of underground parking, so you don't see the double and triple parking that you see in some other countries. It makes for a less chaotic environment.
Being young here doesn't hurt either (not meaning us!). The evenings for most start with dinner at between 9 and 10pm. After that, there are the bars, the beach and all-around partying and hell raising. I mentioned how clean it is here. Well, it is, but sometime between 11pm and 4am, the beaches and boardwalk begin to look like they were hit by a garbage tornado! Cans, beer bottles, papers and half eaten food strewn just everywhere.
At 7 am every morning, the cleanup starts. Huge garbage trucks and platoons of workers appear with brooms and scoops, and by 9am, everything, save a few malicious odors, is cleaned up. On the malicious odor topic, the Barcelona Clean Team is trying to help that part of it too. Their thought is: if you cannot make it to the toilet, the toilet will come to you (see below).
I imagine that you would have to have a momentary dulled sense of modesty to use these, but, when you gotta go......
Fortunately for us, we are long ago asleep while the hoards slither about in the streets at night.
We are more of the daytime slithering breed. Barcelona has much to offer in the way of cultural activities. We have tried to visit something of interest at least every two days and being that the Metro (Barcelona's subway system) is only a few minutes walk from our boat, everything is easily accessible.
One of the first and most interesting sites was the Sagrada Famiglia, or Church of the Holy Family. It was designed by Antoni Gaudi, one of Spain's most famous architects.
What makes it most interesting (other than it's striking design) is that the construction commenced in 1882 and has been ongoing ever since. The estimated completion date is now set at the year 2026 or 100 years after Gaudi's death. The design is unlike anything I have seen before and it takes on the appearance of partially melted wax. To me, it is incredible that someone could design something like this so long ago and without (obviously) the aid of modern computer software. Gaudi's influence is extensive in Barcelona and his many structures are easily identified, even to the untrained eye.
One day, we also visited the site of the 1992 Olympic Games, held here in Barcelona. In recent years, we have been fortunate enough to be able to visit several of the Olympic Games sites in different countries. The Athens, Greece site is a dilapidated disgrace, overgrown with weeds and its buildings covered in graffiti. The Bejing, China site, while not as bad as Athens by a long shot, is still a sad place to visit, with the government using the facilities for whatever cheap commercial attraction they can find.
Barcelona is different. It is treated like a huge museum. While visiting the pristine grounds, you get the feeling that if the Olympic Committee decided that they wanted to hold the Games next week, Barcelona would be ready.
Three photos of the '92 Olympic site in Barcelona
In Barcelona at night, you have your choice of music in the area of our marina. One night you will see them setting up 1000 chairs and a stage next to the beach for an outdoor opera performance. On any given night you will see impromptu performances of musicians and bands on the boardwalk, with something for everyone's taste and it goes on until the wee hours of the morning. Beach goers seem to have no special hours. We see them on the beaches staking out their spots at 7 am and their are still crowds there at midnight under the bright light of the powerful flood lights that the city provides to keep it safe for everyone.
Safety is not too much of an issue here, as far as I can tell. Pickpockets and unarmed thieves seem to be the biggest annoyance. One morning at around 9am, Carol and I were doing our morning walk next to the beach when we saw a disturbance. Three somewhat out of shape beach goers were screaming and running toward the boardwalk. We then saw why. It looked to us like a guy pretending to be a beach jogger snatched the belongings of some poor woman as he went by them. He then immediately headed for the stairs to the road and was gone in a flash.
Did I mention that we feel kind of old in the city here because of all the young people? Well, to make matters worse, Carol and I went to the maritime museum situated near the marina. It did have quite a display of very old marine related items, but what upset Carol was that a good part of the museum was dedicated to "artifacts" like outboard motors and small boats that we used to have as CHILDREN!!
While we spent a good deal of time in Barcelona, we did do some land traveling on Spain's AVE high speed train system, which travels at nearly 200 mph. We traveled from Barcelona to Madrid, Seville and Valencia on separate trips, which I will get into in my next blog....
A few more pics....
"The Black Madonna" at a church in Monserrat
Guell (pronounced Gway) was designed by Gaudi for a developer who envisioned a high priced housing community. The centerpiece of the complex was to be the public area for the designed city. It was unfortunately canceled because of cost and proximity to the city so it was turned into a park, and a stunning one at that. Only a few houses were ever built but the grounds remain as a tourist site and many times you need to make reservations in advance to get in.
I am always available to help those in distress
Carol said this woman did not appear to be in distress and therefore did not need my help
The beginning of the Barcelona Triathlon
And last but not least........
From what I understand, this boat that was docked a few away from us had a collision with a freighter (notice the mast is missing). I understand that part. What I can't figure out is if the boat was named before or after the incident......