After a room service breakfast in our frigid cabin (we report the problem with our thermostat to Ricky, our steward) we head off to join an excursion called Iconic Barcelona. Sarah’s excursion, A Leisurely Stroll in Barcelona, has been cancelled and we are now going together on this other one. Originally we had wanted ”Gothic Barcelona” which was overbooked so we settled for the included tour. I think included tour means you get to look at the outsides of buildings, paid tours mean you get to go inside.
There is quite a bit of driving around and looking at various buildings and hearing who the architect which include I.M. Pei, Liechtenstein, and of course, Gaudi. With the exception of Gaudi much of the explanation goes in one ear and out the other. We see various Gaudi buildings which are pretty weird and look more like they have been molded out of clay rather than built with stone.
We depart the bus to take a closer look at Sagrada Familia with its famous turrets and facades that have very little to do with one another. Sarah confides in me that she thinks that the Basilica is really hideous. Actually she uses the word grotesque.
We are then granted some free time to use the bathroom facilities and hopefully, to the shop owners who allow us to use their bathrooms free of charge, to buy some souvenirs . We spend the time standing around looking at restaurant ads for some pretty sketchy looking dishes and taking pictures of each other.
Next we walk into a square that is home to the Catalunya government. On top of the building is the national flag of Spain, the flag of the region of Catalonia and some separatist flags that are flying on other buildings. I’ve been surprised that no one talks about the separatist movement of Catalonia and also the region’s position against Franco during the Civil War. I guess politics are not part of the itinerary. Such discussion might lead to political unpleasantness within the tour group.
Next we take a look at the old Cathedral which was constructed from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, with the principal work done in the fourteenth century. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Eulalia, a young virgin who, was martyred during Roman times. One story says that she was exposed naked in the public square and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity. The enraged Romans then put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street. Her body is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt. This would have been a great place to see inside but, as I said, the free tour only lets you look at the outsides of the buildings.
While in the Old city area we see a building that was made in part from the headstones of the old, no longer existing, Jewish cemetery. You can see some Hebrew on the wall of the building. The Jewish quarter was abandoned after the pogroms of 1391, almost a hundred years before the Spanish Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. There had been about 4,000 Jews in Barcelona.
On a happier note, later Sarah and I go to the tea service on the ship. We get to pick a pot of tea each and are served fancy little sandwiches and desserts. We are surprised at how well attended this event is!
Later we have dinner at The Restauant which is quite tasty. We all choose the foie gras for our first course.