Best of Spain

Day 8 – September 10, 2004 – Barcelona Sightseeing & At Leisure

We got to sleep until 6:45 today. We again had a great breakfast - everything was presented so well and with much variety.

Our morning city sightseeing was with our local guide Pilar who told us that the male/female population in Barcelona was 1 to 4. Yes guys, move to Barcelona!

She met us at 8:30 outside our hotel just off Christopher Columbus Avenue, a beautiful area very close to the marina and docks where cruise ships arrive. The wide avenues have six lanes of traffic divided by bicycle paths, sidewalks, palm trees and fountains. The side streets are very narrow.

Pilar gave us a detailed account of the shipping industry. The old city was walled in the 14th century and parts of the wall is still preserved. The old customs house was very ornate and a gigantic statue of Columbus overlooks the pier.

In 1929 they had the International Exposition when they built many huge ornate buildings, plazas, and the plaza of fountains we saw last night. The Summer Olympics were held here in 1992 and we visited the complex, all of the village is now apartments and shops.

We then went to visit Gaudi's 'Sagrada Familia' Cathedral which has been under construction since 1982 and will not be finished until 2022. We also saw many of his other eccentric architectural masterpieces that were once homes and now are office buildings.

Our next stop was at the Gothic Quarter with its impressive Cathedral of Barcelona. We had time to enter and see the building and then to wander a bit.

Our next stop was at the Plaza Catalunya where we tried to use a self service internet in a Subway shop. As the machines did not read the memory keys/disk or our 3.5 disk, we could not send the Day 7 email.

We were shown the Ramblas, a large pedestrian way that runs about 20 blocks where people congregate at lunch and nighttime. Thousands of people are there and so are the pickpockets.

We were back on the bus at 11:15 and on to our next optional tour to the Monastery of Montserrat. Leaving Barcelona, we headed for the sacred mountain of Catalonia.

Ascending this staggering rock formation we admired its spectacular panoramic views before arriving at the 'Basilica Real'. It is at 2400 feet above sea level with narrow winding roads that made some of the flatlanders in our group very nervous.

We went directly to the cathedral were there was a wedding going on. This is a very popular church for newly-weds to pledge their vows to the mystical Black Virgin.

There were over 400 guests at the wedding as well as all of the hundreds of us tourists. After the communion ceremony, the monastery boys choir sang for about 10 minutes while the bride and groom sat there.

We were able to listen to their clear angelic voices. The boys are from 9 to 12 years old and study music here in this cloistered environment only until the age of 12 when their voices begin to change.

After the boys had sung we left the cathedral and had a little lunch at the self-serve cafeteria. We had about 1.5 hours to explore the whole area before meeting Francisco at the bus parking area at 2:45.

Our trip back into the city took about 30 minutes as the traffic was light. When we got back to the hotel, we were able to send out yesterday's journal, do a bit of ironing, and pack as we leave tomorrow at 9 AM.

Tonight we will leave the hotel at 8 PM for our highlight dinner with the group in a restaurant in the Ramblas.


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