April 30, 2022. 68°F/20°C
Gaudi may not have spoken to me, but Barcelona certainly did. Add it to the growing list of places in which we’d like to spend a longer time.
We signed up for the included Iconic Barcelona tour today, knowing that the first half would re-visit the Sagrada Familia, allowing us some time to explore on our own. One of the things we appreciate about many of Viking’s tours is the ability, providing we are responsible adults and come back to the designated meeting place on time, to peel off from the group if we’re familiar with our destination or have already seen a specific site.
The focus of our independent wandering was to help us determine whether we’d be comfortable returning to Barcelona on our own for a winter month or two.
We have several preferences when looking for our longer stays (all of which take second place to decent wifi speed, which is Ted’s only real “must have”): a city setting as opposed to suburban or beach; a university town since it is more likely to have English-speakers; a good transit system since we prefer not to rent a car; walkability to groceries and services; access to arts, music, museums and historic sites; and proximity to rail or air transport.
Barcelona seems to fit the bill, so we were glad to be able to look a tiny bit deeper and check out the “feel” of downtown.
The buildings are aesthetically lovely, even those in areas less posh than others.
I was particularly enamoured with the balconies. I think Ted and I could picture ourselves sitting on a Barcelona balcony sipping coffee – we waved to two ladies doing just that in a neighbourhood not far from the basilica.
Although there are almost no green spaces, there are lots and lots of trees, and lots and lots of pedestrian-only boulevards.
Every quarter has at least one large food market, although prices were high when compared to Canadian supermarkets. The exchange rate from CAD to Euro certainly doesn’t help, but lower than Canadian rents offset higher food costs – we hope.
There was also a shoe store full of ballerina flats. Just sayin’.
We loved that all the apartment buildings are only 4 or 5 stories tall, especially since they don’t all have elevators. We also loved that the street level of every building housed retail establishments : markets, florists, BAKERIES, cafés, restaurants, barbers and salons, pharmacies, and more. It makes it really easy to get what you need close to home.
After our independent time, we rejoined our group and guide for a tour of Barcelona’s oldest neighbourhood, the Gothic Quarter.
Gothic Quarter is somewhat of a misnomer, the area combining as it does Roman, Mediaeval, and 19th century elements…. and a Starbucks (sigh).
The area has narrow mediaeval style streets, which mean that very little light gets into the apartments. That would be a negative for us, as would the fact that most rental apartments are on the top two floors (4 and 5) with the original narrow staircases and no elevators (or clothes dryers, based on the laundry hanging over balconies).
The highlight of the Gothic Quarter is the Barcelona Cathedral (the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia), the seat of Barcelona’s bishop. The cathedral is on the site of the original Romanesque cathedral built between 1046 and 1058 AD. The current church was built between 1298 and 1448.
The original main entrance was typically Gothic, embellished with gargoyles, animals, and multiple sculptures of St. George slaying the dragon. The original façade was on the west side, back when the city had walks which abutted it closely.
Once the wall was demolished in 1854, in order to give the city much needed room for growth, the cathedral entrance was moved to the south façade, facing a newly created square. The new entrance façade was completed in the 19th century in a neo-Gothic style.
Beside the cathedral are three towers along a section of old city wall. The large blocks forming the bottom of the wall date to the Roman founding of Barcelona in the first century BC. Above those blocks are the bricks used to heighten the wall in the 11th century.
Since we were scheduled to sail for Murçia, the port nearest Cartagena, at 2:00 p.m., we returned to the ship for lunch and to enjoy music and lectures in the afternoon, and more music late into in the evening after an enjoyable dinner with Assistant Cruise Director Damian Sollesse.
We love shipboard life with Viking, but also want to spend more time exploring many of the incredible cities we’ve visited so briefly. It’s a conundrum for sure.