Monday 22 August 2016

Post-Cruise: Braving Barcelona (Part II)

We had reservations for Sagrada Familia on our last full day in Barcelona. We had a sneak peak the day before, and we were very excited to see the interior of the basilica. We had one day left on the hop-on-hop-off bus, so we decided to take advantage of it. We walked to the Placa de Catalunya stop to see if everything in the centre of Barcelona was closed on Sunday, sure enough, everything was closed except for a few souvenir stands. It was still busy though, with lots of tourists wandering around. NB, everything really is closed on Sundays in Barcelona, with the exception most restaurants (I say this because La Boqueria is closed on Sundays), and Maremagnum, a mall at Port Vell, which is opened year round.

Our tickets had a time window for entry, so we wanted to get there early to check out the area. We arrived at Sagrada Familia an hour before our entrance time, so we had time to shop around. There are many street vendors in the area, and many of them were better priced than the actual souvenir shops in the area. I highly recommend purchasing tickets prior to arrival. We purchased our tickets about 6 days in advance, and there were still plenty of time slots to choose from. If you purchase them on the day of at the basilica, you may have to wait a minimum of two hours for your entry window. There are several types of tickets, you can choose from a basic ticket that just gets you inside, or you can choose to have a tour guide or there is the panoramic package that includes a walk up to the towers. I had purchased tickets for the self-guided tour (€24) so we can move at our own pace. On our way in, we picked up our headsets. The employees are very helpful, and they make sure you don't forget to pick up your headset when they scan your tickets on your way in. It was quite crowded but we managed to see everything mentioned on the tour, and get in a few good pictures as well. I don't want to give everything away, because Sagrada Familia is not to be missed. It's a marvellous work in progress with the completion date of 2026, but the basilica is stunningly beautiful. We will be back!

We ended up spending two hours marvelling at the basilica before we needed to get going for our next booking at Parc Guell. Our Sagrada Familia tickets included a tour of Gaudi House Museum at Parc Guell. We hopped back on the bus and made our way there. Unfortunately, the bus stop is nowhere near Parc Guell. After getting very sketchy directions from a few people, another tourist couple told my in-laws they knew where they were going, so we ended up following them. It was the longest and steepest hill I had ever climb in my life (well, maybe the second steepest). Halfway through, the couple decided it was not worth climbing and turned around! We kept on and after a very exhausting trek, we finally made it to the entrance of the park.

Everyone took a quick five minute break while I tried to figure out where the Gaudi House Museum was. We arrived just in time for our entry time. The museum had great air conditioning, which cooled us down from our sweaty trek, but the house was only two levels, and it did not have more than 50 pieces of Gaudi's work. It was interesting, but it wasn't worth it for us. I personally felt that we could have skipped this tour. We were in there for about fifteen minutes, and then we left to explore the park.

There are public areas in the park, as well as "monumental zones," which require an entrance fee of €8. We didn't know about this and due to time constraints and exhaustion, we didn't end up paying to go inside. Just so you know, the monumental zones include the Dragon Stairway, the famous Greek Theatre or Nature Square, the Austria Gardens and the Pavilions. I would have really liked to visit the famous Nature Square (second, right), but nobody else was really interested. However, it was also quite busy, so it would have been difficult to get a seat in the Square, so that made me feel a bit better about missing it.

On our way back down the hill to our bus stop, we took a much easier route. We noticed direction signs along the way down.. I guess we should have just been more aware of our surroundings!

From Parc Guell, we took the bus to our next stop: the Magic Fountain. By the time we arrived at Plaza de Espana, it was around 7:30 PM. We grabbed a snack inside Las Arenas Shopping Mall, which was down the street. Only the food court was opened. The mall also had a sky deck, which offered a 360 view of Montjuic, for the price of €1. We skipped it because it was getting dark. The light show started after 9 PM. The show was beautiful, but you have to stand by the fountain to hear the music, and that meant being in the wet zone. We crossed the busy road to watched and listen for a few minutes, but the winds were strong and we were getting pretty wet. Eventually, we ran back to the other side of the road. I must say, it is hard to enjoy the show, because there are hundreds of people watching it with you, so there is little room to move around. In other words, don't get comfortable! There is a lot of pushing and blocking. While it is a very magical feeling watching this beautiful light/water show, I like to call this to the poor man's version of the World of Colour in California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort. The Magic Fountain show runs for two hours on a loop, so after 45 minutes, we decided to get going. It was way past our dinnertime, and we were hungry... Note that the Magic Fountain performance is usually on weekends with varying hours throughout the year. Check the hours before going!

Hailing a taxi was a nightmare. There were hundreds of people leaving the area at the same time, and everyone was fighting for a taxi. We managed to get one after fifteen minutes, and we headed back towards our hotel. The taxi ride from Montjuic to Eixample was about €10. There was a restaurant, Cerveceria Catalana, we'd been walking past everyday that we wanted to try. It was especially busy at night when we walked back to the hotel at midnight so we figured the food must be good. I guess we should have anticipated for the wait! We ended up waiting for an hour for a table, but it was worth it. The food was delicious. I loved the fried green Padron peppers (second, right). Most are mild and sweet, but there can be a few hot and spicy ones! It was like playing Russian roulette, but with peppers! Perfect ending to our last night in Barcelona.

Our trip has finally come to an end. Needless to say, Barcelona was by far my favourite port. Catalan cuisine won me over.

Thank you so much for reading along. I will have one last entry with my final overall thoughts regarding this cruise (and the Vista!) at the end of the week. Stay tuned!

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