Here are some additional photos of our Cabo adventure.
We’ll leave you with another video of the turtle release. In it we see a couple of waves washing the turtles out to sea, but then one large wave, instead of carrying all the remaining turtles out, pushes a number of them back up the beach. There is a bit of chaos and then the staff tell us we can pick up and carry the turtles back to the water. The video ends with me picking up a turtle and putting it back down closer to the water. The sun had set so the video is a bit grainy.
After visiting the Parc Güell, the four of us split paths with the wives opting for shopping and Chris and I deciding to take the Hop On Hop Off and get an overview of the city before meeting the girls later to wander up La Rambla. The Barcelona Bus Turistic has three different routes and we took the western route which took us past the Olympic Stadium as well as the waterfront. One of the first buildings we passed was the Casa Mila, better known as La Pedrera. This is one of the buildings designed by Antonio Gaudi.
The Summer Olympics were held in Barcelona in 1992 and many of the buildings and public spaces are a lasting legacy. The Montjuic Communications Tower is in the Olympic Park and was used to transmit television coverage of the games.
The Olympic Stadium is still used and was home to Barcelona’s football team until 2009. Many rock concerts are staged there. It was built in 1927 and completely renovated for the 1992 Olympics.
Cable cars run from Montjuic to the waterfront and are very popular though we did not go on them. The bus took us past the waterfront where we got off to explore on our own before meeting the ladies.
Barcelona’s waterfront is amazing. Extensive broad pedestrian paths, many shops and restaurants and a lot of intriguing public art. There is a lot of interesting architecture. One prominent feature is a giant sculture of a fish, El Peix, by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Gehry is also known for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Experience Music Project in Seattle.
Another sculpture is of Gambrinus, a giant lobster. It used to be the mascot of a restaurant called Gambrinus. When the restaurant closed down, the city bought and restored the lobster as public art. A right friendly looking chap he is!
At one end is a large public beach. The Spaniards are not as prudish as some and topless sunbathing is common here.
We walked up the beach and out along the breakwater, stopping to dip our toes in the Mediterranean for the first time. The breakwater is popular with fishermen and just for walking along.
We walked back past the Spanish Natural Gas Company’s building and along the boardwalk to the statue of Christopher Columbus to meet the ladies. Along the way we noticed many parked motorcyles as well as places where you could rent bicycles. Bikes and motorbikes are very popular in Barcelona.
The statue is at the end of La Rambla, Barcelona’s famous street market, and the four of us headed out to take in the sights. And sights there were. The street is full of stands selling a myriad of different products. Fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs, to be sure, but also exotic pets – ferrets and hedgehogs, as well as a lot of birds.
There were also a lot of street entertainers. Very popular are the human statues, people dressed in colourful costumes and posing as statues until someone drops a coin in the hat at which they become quite animated.
There were also a number of entertainers dressed as popular cartoon or movie characters. We saw one dressed as Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and another as Edward Scissorhands. Drop a coin in Ed’s box and he would pretend to snip your hair.
Finally we got to the end of la Rambla – the Plaça de Catalunya. A number of hotels and other buildings overlook the square, a central meeting place for many. We had dinner at one of the restaurants near here.
After dinner we wandered around for a while. We wanted to see the Sagrada Familia at night, which we did. Along the way we noticed great crowds outside every pub and bar. The local football team was playing their great rivals, Madrid and everyone wanted to catch it on television. The home team won and Barcelona became a sea of honking vehicles and flag-waving crowds. A fitting end to our last day in Barcelona.
We loved Barcelona and it is definitely on our list of cities to visit again!
Click on the Photo Gallery link below for more pictures, or just scroll on down if you are on the main page.
Our 2009 trans-Atlantic cruise ended in Barcelona. We stayed three extra days there before flying back to Canada and covered a lot of ground in those three days.
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia. Its history goes back to Roman times. Situated on the Mediterranean coast, it is known for its warm climate, beautiful beaches, vibrant retaurants and entertainment and most of all, for its stunning architecture, particularly that of Antoni Gaudi, a pioneer of Catalan Modernism.
After leaving the ship, Janis and I and our friends Chris and Sheila took a shuttle bus to our respective hotels, then met up for a walk around, before settling at a restaurant near the Sagrada Familia for lunch.
Construction on this famous church whose name means Holy Family started in 1882. The work continues to this day with completion expected in 2026, the hundredth anniversary of Gaudi’s death.
We first took a walk around the church, which is huge. The immense scope of the project can be seen from the drawing below. The brown parts are the elements finished so far. The white areas, including the mammoth central tower, are barely started.
The text says: “Drawing of the church showing the completed part and the part that is still to be built. It will help you understand the scale of the work. When it is finished it will have 3 facades (alluding to the Nativity, the Passion and the Glory) and 18 towers (12 on the facades, dedicated to the apostles, 4 to the evangelists, 1 to the Virgin Mary, and the highest one to Jesus).”
Considering they plan to have it completed by 2026, they have got their work cut out for them. The half way point was reached in 2010, 128 years into the project. But the project was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and went slowly for many years. With modern technology, the work has accelerated.
After walking around the outside we went in, first to see where work was continuing inside. We saw massive scaffolds many stories high, as well as artisans moulding giant cement and stone pieces that would eventually be hoisted into place.
After touring the construction zone, we went through an exhibit explaining Gaudi’s style. One of the fascinating elements of Gaudi’s work is his love affair with nature. Themes like giant pieces of fruit, honeycombs, spirals, roosters, a giant turtle supporting a column and so on, abound. Not to mention that the entire church looks like it is a sandcastle with glops of sand dripping off it.
Then another walk around outside to where we could go up the completed towers themselves. We took an elevator up one tower and exited high above the city. The towers soar above the street level offering a fabulous view of Barcelona. And everywhere – work continues.
After wandering around up in the open air high above the city, we went still higher up the spiral staircase in another tower. These giant shafts are layered with scalloped lookout holes.
Then down to the basement for an exhibit of models Gaudi used in designing the church. Some of these models are a good size in themselves.
Without a doubt, the Sagrada Familia is the must-see sight in Barcelona. Even if you don’t tour inside, you must at least walk around this massive edifice. It is nothing short of spectacular. You’ll find a link to an additional photo gallery after this video from the Sagrada Familia website. The video shows a speeded up version of some of the construction so far followed by an animation of the construction yet to be done, ending on the completed structure planned for 2016.
The second port of call on our 2009 trans-Atlantic cruise was Lisbon, Portugal. While had taken a shore excursion on our first stop, Tenerife in the Canary Islands, we opted to check out Lisbon on our own. Upon disembarking, there were free shuttle buses to transport us to the Baixa and surrounding districts which make up the historic centre of Lisbon, much like the 20 arrondissements make up the historic centre of Paris.
Lisbon has a lot of history behind it. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, predating London, Paris and Rome by centuries. The bus dropped us off at outside the Rua Augusta Arch – the gateway to Old Lisbon.
We passed through the arch into the downtown area, a warren of narrow streets with shops and apartments, as well as large plazas. The area was bustling with activity. It is largely a pedestrian only area though there are trams running up and down the narrow streets and some cars as well. Lisbon also has three funicular trams as the city lies on a hillside sloping down towards the Tagus River.
We noticed a large fortress off to our right so we decided to check it out. The Castelo de Sao Jorge is in the Alfama district, one of the oldest districts in Lisbon and the only one not destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. To get there we strolled up some narrow streets, passing the Lisbon Cathedral along the way.
The castle itself is Moorish and was captured by Christian forces in 1147 during the Second Crusade. Lisbon became the capital in 1255 and the castle was renovated and extended over the next hundred and twenty -five years.
We spent a good while there exploring the castle and walking along the battlements which command a panoramic view of Lisbon.
Then we walked back towards the central part of old Lisbon. Along the way we watched as the trams made their way through the narrow thoroughfares.
Up the hill from the Rua Augusta Arch we came across the San Justa Lift. The Baixa district is flanked by steep hillsides, one leading to the Castelo on the right and another to the Bairro Alto on the left. The San Justa Lift takes passengers from the Baixa up to the Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square). Construction was started in 1900 and completed in 1902. Originally powered by steam, it converted to electricity in 1907. It stands 45 metres tall (about seven stories) We did not go up the elevator but did take a funicular later in the day.
Further up the road from the lift is the impressive Rossio Square. The square features a large fountain and a statue of Pedro IV (Peter the Fourth). During the Spanish Inquisition, the square was the site of public executions, the notorious auto-da-fé which saw its victims burned at the stake.
But its most striking feature is the Portuguese pavement. Portuguese pavement is a surface created with inlaid stones of different colours to form intricate patterns. The Rossio plaza is particularly striking because of the optical illusion it gives of waves and motion. You can see in the video below that my camera did not like it much.
We wandered further up the hill and came across Lisbon’s Hard Rock Cafe (seems every major city has one!) And across the plaza from the Hard Rock we found the Ascensor da Gloria, one of three funicular trams in the city. This inclined railway dates from 1885. We hopped the tram and later walked back down to the Baixa.
Walking back down we passed a little shop whose door was flanked by two carved wooden figures. These figures seem to be popular in Lisbon. We saw quite a few of them at various places.
All in all we had a terrific time in Lisbon. A lovely city with many interesting sights.
Cadiz, Spain was the third port of call on the trans-Atlantic cruise we took in April 2009. It lies along the coast of Spain on the Atlantic about 150 kilometres from Gibraltar (119 km via the inland route), not quite two thirds of the way from Portugal to Gibraltar. It lies on a narrow spit of land, a peninsula, jutting out from the mainland to enclose a large bay, though it looks more like an island connected by a causeway to the mainland.
The city is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. It is the capital of the province of Cadiz and is part of the autonomous region of Andalusia.
The port is on the sheltered side of the peninsula on the North end. This is adjacent to the Old Town, the walled part of the city. This part has preserved much of its ancient heritage and differs significantly from the more modern city outside the walls with its narrow cobblestone streets and small shops. But even in the modern part of the city, all buildings are fairly small as Cadiz sits on a sandspit, making the sinking of the foundations necessary to support highrises prohibitively expensive.
As with all ports of call, we had an option to take one of several excursions, including one to the inland city of Seville, but we opted to explore on our own. And we are glad we did. The Old Town is not very large and you can explore much of it during a stopover.
We left the port and followed the road along the wall separating it from the newer part of the city to the side of the peninsula facing the open sea.
The short walk across the peninsula to the ocean took us to a steep sea wall with walk along the top. Part of the sea wall was overgrown with shrubs and we spotted cardboard boxes and other bits of debris here and there. We were surprised to find that these were home to a couple of dozen feral cats.
As we watched the cats, they started running up the wall towards the ledge at the top. A man was approaching and calling to them. As they circled around him, he opened a couple of shopping bags and pulled out tins of cat food which he opened. He spread the cat food out in glops along the ledge and the cats had a feast. He also replenished their water bowls.
This is one of the pleasures of exploring a port of call on your own. You sometimes run into the unexpected and so it was with the cats. After the man finished feeding them, he cleaned up and headed off and so did we.
It wasn’t long before we came to a Roman theatre. This archaeological work was not discovered until 1980 when a warehouse fire destroyed the buildings sitting on top of it. The theatre, the second largest Roman theatre in the world after the one in Pompeii, is still being restored to this day. Roman theatres are different than Roman amphitheatres. Roman theatres are semi-circles and much smaller than the amphitheatres which are full circles enclosing a large area where sporting events and games were held. The Coliseum in Rome is an amphitheatre.
We asked Anna, the woman at the ticket booth, about the cats and she said they were much revered in Cadiz because they kept the rats out. People often feed them she said.
After checking out the theatre we decided to check out the white tower we saw behind it. That turned out to be part of Cadiz Cathedral.
Construction on the cathedral began in 1722 and continued for 116 years. It started out in the baroque style, but because it took so long to build, there are also rococo and neoclassical elements. The building was undergoing extensive restoration and repair work when we were there but still open to the public.
It is beautiful inside with the ornate woodwork and statuary you’ll find in most Roman Catholic cathedrals. It also had a magnificent pipe organ and below the cathedral was a catacomb with numerous plaques and tombs.
We wanted to pick up a few odds and sods before returning to the ship so we crossed through the gates in the huge stone wall surrounding the Old Town and made our way along some tree lined boulevards to a shopping mall. From there we walked back to the ship along the port road, passing by an extensive rail yard as we went. Spain has an excellent railroad system which we would use later when we travelled from Barcelona to Figueres. But that is a story for a later blog post!
All in all, we enjoyed our visit to Cadiz, a charming little city by the sea.