Saturday, August 31, 2013

Noordam 2013 - Day 1: Traveling to Barcelona

Our car was packed with all the luggage for 19 days: 12 days/11 nights on the Noordam and 7 nights in hotels in Barcelona and Rome. Flying from Brussels Airport has several advantages for us: it is only an hour drive from our home in The Netherlands. Another advantage: they have a reservation zone holiday parking just outside the departure hall of the airport. No bus transfers or taxi’s, just a 2 minute walk.

This is our first time on Brussels Airlines as you could derive from the disappointment with our carry-on luggage we reported yesterday. But to be honest: We had a great flight. No inflight movies, no free meal or drinks, but it is not even a 2 hour flight. In Barcelona we used Click AirportTransfer to get to our hotel. A great taxi driver with some great additional tips for sightseeing and restaurants.

Our hotel was the Grupotel Gran Via 678, right on the Gran Via Corts Catalanes and close to Placa de Catalunya. We had made reservations for a family room (actually two connecting rooms) through Great and luxurious rooms. The girls had a full bath and we had a rainshower. The rooms are overlooking the (small) pool. That is the quiet side of the hotel, since the hotel is on a very busy street. The pool looked very tempting, especially for Kim and Rhodé. But we decided to explore Barcelona.

First it was time for our basic needs, so we bought bottled water. Since the flight did not include lunch, we headed to a restaurant. We picked one with mostly locals on the terrace (a tip Rick Steves often gives on his radio show). After dessert we went to nearby Placa de Catalunya. That’s the square where the tourist information is, where we bought travel cards so we had unlimited use of metro, trains and buses (starting tomorrow).

Travel guides refer to Placa de Catalunya as ‘the heart of Barcelona’. We liked the fountains, but apart from that it was not as special as we hoped. So on to Las Ramblas. Seemingly one long street, all the way to the Mediterranean sea. Actually a couple of successive streets: Rambla de Canaletes, Rambla dels Estudis, Rambla de Sant Josep, Rambla dels Caputxins and Rambla de Santa Monica.

Halfway Las Ramblas is the semi-covered market La Boqueria.

Nice fruit stands and fish stands. You can buy a pigs leg (for the ham: jamón). Great colors and smells, apart from the fish-smell.

La Boqueria
We continued on Las Ramblas, passing the beautiful Opera Liceu all the way to Port Veil. At the end is a monument for Christopher Columbus.

Monument for Christopher Columbus
Nice place to get some pictures of our ladies. Especially the lions at the base of the Colon were popular for photographers. Nice square, kind of like Nelsons monument a Trafalgar Square in London.

Time to refill our water bottles and on to Barri Gotic. That is the old (medieval) part of Barcelona. Mysterious little cobblestoned streets and beautiful squares. Every window has a small balcony and hatches. Great part of Barcelona, a must see.

We ended up on Placa Reial with the Fountain of the Three Graces in the middle and lanterns designed by Antoni Gaudi. 

Fountain of the Three Graces
Gaudi is the designer of the most beautiful parts of Barcelona. Also in the Barri Gotic we visited Placa Sant Jaume with the cute Placa de Ramon Berenguer.

Placa de Ramon Berenguer
Further on to a not to miss sight: La Seu, the cathedral of Barcelona.

Cathedral of Barcelona: La Seu
Close to La Seu is the interesting Placa Sant Felip Neri. You can still see the bulletholes of the executings during the Spanish civil war.

Enough for one day, so we walked back to our hotel. After a long day flying and sightseeing: just the right moment to really enjoy the rainshower.

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