Underground Barcelona

This morning we slept in a bit.  I got up at 8 and went up to the Club level and sample some of their very impressive breakfast spread.  They made me a couple great cappuccinos and I had them make one for Margaret to take back to the room.  She was just waking up and was more than happy to start the day off with cappuccino with a little Baileys.  Did I mention that they have a fully stocked bar available pretty much 24/7 and that included Baileys!

Once Margaret was up and dressed we went back to the Club and had breakfast together.  Like me she was impressed with the breakfast spread and service. You couldn’t go more than 5 minutes without one of the good looking young men and women coming up and asking if they could help you somehow. After another latte or two we were ready to go out and start exploring Barcelona.

We had heard that there was a historical museum fairly close to our hotel that had some ancient Roman ruins that were buried underneath the city as it was redeveloped so we decided to check that out.

We had been there for a day a few years back and had booked a driver who took us around to see the popular sites.  I had another day to explore than Margaret since she had contracted some type of stomach issue just prior to arriving.  But, we were still able to see all the top tourist attractions including the Sagrada Familia cathedral, La Rambla, Casa Battló, Casa Milà, Palau Güell and Park Güell. In a city most widely known for Gaudí’s modernistic architectural style – undulating walls, colorful chimneys and eye-catching building facades it can be easy to overlook the City History Museum’s glimpse into Barcelona’s past. Since we had just one morning in Barcelona we chose to check it out.

Since we wanted to get a feel for the city we decided to walk instead of taking a cab.  It was a very nice day, the city was still a little sleepy and not too hot so why not?  My iPhone gave us directions and off we went.  Things were going well until we started smelling some not so pleasant smells.  I said it smelled like a zoo or barnyard animals.  And, sure enough, right in front of us was a big sign that said ZOO.  Unfortunately, there was no way to avoid it unless we turned around and went back so Margaret told me to just breath through my mouth and we continued on. Lesson learned.

Located in the central Barri Gòtic or Gothic Quarter, the museum sits adjacent to the 13th and 14th century Royal Palace where, in its medieval courtyard known as the Plaça del Rei, it is believed King Fernando II and Queen Isabel welcomed Christopher Columbus upon his return from the New World.

As it was only 10:00 am, most of the shops we walked past were still closed and when we reached the museum it took us a while to figure out how/where to purchase the 6 Euro tickets, but we succeeded and soon found ourselves approximately 30 feet below the street in what once was the city of Barcino.

They had headsets with recorded messages in several languages and it was very well done.  Dating back to between the 1st and 6th centuries AD, the ruins were once buildings housing aspects of the Romans’ everyday life.   They include a factory where fish was chopped and salted, and a wine-making facility where grapes were pressed and wine fermented in open vats.  Hot and cold baths refreshed Roman citizens.  Well-defined pits once served as dyeing and laundering centers.

Very interesting and really amazing the amount of work that they have put into creating this exhibit. It took a little less than an hour for us to go through the entire museum which was nothing short of amazing. You could probably spend all day there 30 feet underground where we could reach out and touch history.

Our only challenge was figuring out how to exit the building.  There were mazes of displays and ropes to keep you moving from one exhibit to the next and we joked that the guard at the door was actually there to keep us in!   We finally asked where the exit was and the guard pointed to the door behind where he stood.  The centurion had rescued us as we needed to head back to the Arts Hotel, pack our bags and get to the ship!

Back above ground the temperature had gone up at least 10 degrees and there were now a lot of people walking around. This was the kind of thing that Margaret isn’t so much into.  We considered taking a cab and decided it was an excellent idea. 10 minutes later our female cab driver dropped us off in front of the hotel and within a few minutes we were having a snack in the club and going to our room to get packed.  We figured we could have a proper lunch at La Veranda on the Mariner.

We went downstairs, accompanied by another good looking student, collected our other bags and were assisted outside in flagging down a cab.  I confirmed with one of the kids that they have an intern program and use a lot of students, which we thought was an excellent idea.  Certainly gives the hotel a youthful look and all of them, bar none, were incredible.

The cab ride took longer than expected and it turns out that we should have made the trip to the ship a bit earlier as the airport busses were arriving chocked full of people in a hurry to get on the ship.  That being said, it really didn’t take that long to get through the process and we headed to Deck 11 at the back of the ship for lunch.  We went with our old standby Pouilly Fuisse (French Chardonnay) and the normal buffet fair.  It was a nice relaxing lunch with a beautiful view and we took as long as we could before heading up to our room, 885, to see if it was ready.  Of course, it wasn’t but within an hour we were all settled in our room, relaxing before the normal lifeboat drill had us crowded into a room with about 1/4 the ship and then outside on the lifeboat deck after donning our life preservers.

Before our dinner at Signatures, the French restaurant, we made our way to the Observation Loungeon the 12th floor and met Mihaela, who is a cute, bubbly bartender on the ship from Romania, and asked her if it was possible to get fresh squeezed grapefruit juice to make the “pink flower” drink that we learned about while traveling with our friend Judy on the Crystal cruise line.  She said it was possible and she would have fresh juice for us the next evening!  We were very excited.

We met a fellow cruiser at the bar named Chet and had fun talking to this character.  He quickly volunteered that he had a beautiful wife named Mary Ann but, since they just arrived, she was sleeping. He was a real hoot and we look forward to seeing him and meeting his amazing wife in the next couple of days.

Later at Signatures, the French specialty restaurant, for dinner, we met a very nice young lady named Maria who reminded us of our daughter Jenny…well Jenny with a French accent!  She was a lot of fun and we enjoyed our experience so much we decided to get a Reserve wine.  We found a Duckhorn Merlot magnum which they decanted.  We drank half, putting the other half into storage to have the next night.  It was a very nice dinner and a fun day as we looked forward to sailing to Marseille and onward.

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