Monday, August 17, 2015


We only spent two nights in Barcelona, and on the one full day we had there, we did exactly the same things Martha and I had done during the few hours we stopped there during our cruise. We ate, shopped and visited the Cathedral. But really, this stop was all about the beach.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the kids were missing quite a bit of sunshine and swimming this summer, to come on this trip. And while it was a perfectly satisfactory trade off, there were other reasons to stop in Barcelona...none of which had to do with the charms and/or history of the city.

Admirable or not, I wanted to provide the kids with a truly novel experience aside from the usual sightseeing and exposure to different cultures. For the same reason I wanted them to have a night in a castle, I also wanted them to have the experience of staying on a boat.

And it was definitely a memorable experience.

The sailboat we found through AirBnB was very clean, and had a great layout for 4 people. The sitting area was spacious enough, there were two double cabins, the kitchen had everything we could have asked for, and there was a bathroom.

Best of all, it was a very short walk to the beach. We were really very happy with our time in Barcelona, and it was primarily due to the beach and the boat. However...

What we didn't know until we arrived was that we were only allowed to use the toilet in the bathroom, and that only to pee. Pooping and showering had to be done at the marina bathrooms, which had stalls with toilets or showers in them. Our boat was almost at the end of the pier, so it was a bit of a walk, but not something that caused any of us great inconvenience.

The other thing was, even plugged into shore power, there was no air conditioning. I knew this, of course, from the listing on AirBnB. What I didn't know when I made our reservation, was that there would be an intense heat wave over Europe right at that time. 

Fortunately, there was almost always a decent breeze on the
water. It might not have been quite as nice in the marina as it would have been out in the Mediterranean, but it was good enough, both cabins had very nice ventilation.

Still, I chose to sleep outside in the cockpit. It was really lovely being rocked to sleep at night out in the open with the cooling breeze. We took the slipcovers off the sofa cushions and brought the cushions outside to lay on. Both of the kids stayed out until late, Peri even slept outside too, the first night.

After we dropped off our bags, and were shown all around the boat, the kids changed into their swimsuits and threw tee shirts over them so we could get something to eat. It was already around 6 pm and we were starved, but it gets dark so freaking late in Europe that they would be able to go to the beach after dinner.

Since I hate sand, I passed on the whole beach scene, spending my time in the cockpit of the boat. I am so seriously considering getting a sailboat instead of a camper van. And I really just want to learn how to sail well enough to get out of a marina to drop an anchor. I don't think I have ever been so relaxed in my life, I loved it.

In any case, when the kids finally came back at 8:45 pm, the beach was still very populated. Volleyball games and everything, people stay out there until it gets dark, which is usually after ten o'clock at night. Gotta love it.

We hadn't made it to a store, and it was certainly too hot to be cooking inside the boat, so we got out fairly early the next day and took a taxi into town. We were a bit worried about finding one, and the money to pay for one, because we had come from the UK and didn't have many Euros left from our previous time in Europe.

Fortunately, there was an ATM at the end of the block, once we got out of the marina, and a taxi rank right across the street. Probably because there was a big casino there. So we just zipped into town, and felt a lot better about getting a cab to the airport the next morning. 

We had a very specific destination in mind, only I didn't know exactly where it was. There was a shop which sold lovely lacy women's clothes at really low prices - the Euro was doing us favors all over Europe - and I had sent the girls things from there when Martha and I were on the cruise. I had also bought myself something which I sent back to the States, and Adrienne loved it, so she wanted to see if there was something similar she could get for herself.

I knew the name of the store, but it wasn't coming up on Google Maps or a general Internet search. I wasn't surprised because it was a really tiny shop. All I knew was that it was between the Cathedral and Las Ramblas, the famous boulevard in Barcelona. The cab driver didn't speak much English, so we just asked to get dropped off at the Cathedral.

We got dropped off at the back of the church and started
looking for places to eat. While Adrienne and I consulted our phones, the kids went to get water out of the gorgeous public water fountain nearby. We've seen water available in Italy and Paris, too, which I think is wonderful. Especially since these freak heat waves are becoming more frequent and lasting longer. But some of these water fountains are just stunning.

First stop, though, was a pharmacy. Donovan had all kinds of bites, we don't know where they came from, but they itched terribly and some were painfully huge welts. We see big green crosses with recognizable words for pharmacy everywhere in Europe, but Spanish is one language we don't have, and English is not quite as prevalent in Barcelona as we were expecting. 

So we were a little concerned about finding something helpful. And let me tell you, it is so heartbreaking to have a child in pain to the point of tears in the middle of the night, and not only is there not much you can do but you aren't sure you will be able to get what you need even the next day. That is the scary downside of foreign travel. 

But we were so blessed, as we have been the entire trip. Adrienne hit the jackpot at the very first place she went into, and we didn't have to look much farther for lunch when she was done. 

We found this tapas place with outdoor tables that had a most unusual setup. Everything was prepared, like a buffet, and you just helped yourself to whatever you liked. But everything had a toothpick stuck in it and they were all the same price. 

There was a little metal cylinder on the table where you put
the toothpicks, and the waiter would come count them, to figure out your bill. They were each only about 1.50, so it was not an expensive lunch, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Next up was the Cathedral, which is huge and amazing. I'd seen it once before, but it wasn't any less impressive the second time around.

Soaring ceilings.

So much detail.               

Next up was shopping. It took a bit of trial and error, but I did manage to find the tiny store we wanted. There was nothing like what Adrienne was looking for, but she did find something she liked and so did I, so at least it wasn't a complete waste of time.

We then continued to walk down Las Ramblas. I can't believe I don't have a decent photo of the street, I clearly remember taking more than one. 

Of course, I have photos of individual buildings, the
architecture in Barcelona is every bit as beautiful as everywhere else we've been.

But Las Ramblas is a huge boulevard, lined with theses gorgeous buildings on either side. In the middle, though, is an enormous median with retail kiosks and canopy covered tables belonging to restaurants that are housed in the normal buildings across the street.

Martha and I had paella and Sangria at one of them when we
were there, but this time, we'd already eaten and the kids wanted to get back to the beach. 

Although I did complain about having to eat so much fast
McDonald's Las Ramblas Barcelona 
food at our last stop, I do just want to mention how the franchises can operate much differently in Europe than they do at home. The food isn't any better, that I can see, but the atmosphere can actually be quite nice...not that it would make me eat there any way.

Those are outdoor tables for McDonald's, and if you click to
embiggen, you can see the KFC sign in the background. But why would you eat there when you could have an Arcangel's Burger?

We were all done at this point, so it was back to the beach for the rest of them, while I went back to hang out in the boat's cockpit. I went back to meet them so we could have dinner in one of the beachside cafe's, which was pretty good and not at all expensive. 

This was definitely the right summer to come to Europe, and I hope the exchange rate stays this way for a good long time. I don't see why it shouldn't it. When the currency was first created, it was only equal to 85 cents U.S., so there doesn't seem any reason why it shouldn't continue this low or go even lower. 

And if it does...the Med looks like a really nice place to have a boat.

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