A few weeks before we left for our cruise, Costa Concordia had sunk off the coast of Italy. Everyone that knew me was constantly asking, “You’re not going on the cruise anymore, are you?” “Did you get your money back for your cruise, since I’m sure you’re not going?” So once we boarded our cruise ship for our eight-day adventure, we found our rooms and headed for the main entertainment area to learn about muster calls. I’m sure they were overly thorough given the events of the prior weeks, but I couldn’t tell you what was said. As soon as we walked into the room, we were handed life jackets and told to find seats for the instructional class. I put the life jacket around my neck and within seconds, I was sound asleep for the hour-long course. The life jacket served as my pillow and the twenty-two hours of traveling had finally caught up to me. I was woken by the others in my group and headed straight to my cabin to get a good night’s sleep.
I awoke the next morning to the ship slowing and coming to a very shaky halt. We had arrived in Barcelona! After we showered and had a quick breakfast at the cruise buffet, we headed down the main area of the ship where passengers were gathering into different groups for our excursion in Barcelona. There were different types of tours, each offering multiple different languages. We struggled to find our tour, and fortunately, at the last minute, heard them walking out of the doors to the ship’s exit. We hurried to catch up. After a few different elevator rides down and what seemed like a maze of random hallways through the bottom of our ship, we made it to the exit. There was a very steep ramp that wound around two or three times from the exit of the side of the ship to the concrete platform that would lead us to Barcelona.
We had done ramps like this before, so it wasn’t a concern. But, the staff didn’t think we could do it, and in another language, sternly spoke to me and started pushing me to a different exit a few doors down. The four others I was with followed behind, all of us confused on exactly where we were going. We reached a giant door that appeared to be a service door for food, water, and supplies. There was a big ramp that went straight down to the concrete platform; it didn’t wind around like the other one. About four members of the staff took me, facing backwards, and carried me down the giant ramp, that had only two thin handrails on each side. I knew I had to get used to this method of embarking and disembarking, so I just bit my tongue and let the process be as it was.
Once we made it to solid land, we found the bus that would be taking us around Barcelona for the day. Our first stop was a park on a hill nearby the water but overlooking the city. It was our first view of Barcelona and we may have gone a little overboard with the pictures. My favorite part of this stop was a small river that had manmade concrete pillars protruding from the water. They were close enough to walk from one to the other and get to the other side of the river; but it certainly was not designed for a wheelchair.
After a few minutes of taking pictures with the others standing on the pillars, it was my turn. Matt and Katie, my cousin, grabbed a hold of the chair and picked it up, carrying it over several pillars. And there I sat. On my own little pedestal!
We spent a few more minutes grabbing some last minute photos and headed back to the bus. Our next stop was La Sagrada Familia. Now I should tell you that I have been to hundreds of churches, all over the world. There are few that actually strike me as being something more impressive than the next, but La Sagrada Familia was astonishing. It was under reconstruction at the time we were there, so unfortunately we weren’t able to visit the inside. (I guess I’ll just have to go back sometime…)
After our visit to La Sagrada Familia, we boarded the bus and did a quick city tour, seeing the Casa Batllo, Barri Gotic, and Gaudi’s La Pedrera. About mid-afternoon, we were given a few hours to explore the city on our own. We ventured out into the streets, with no destination in mind, just aimlessly strolling the sidewalks and taking in every feeling we had from the experience. We walked Las Ramblas and the tiny, narrow streets of Barcelona. After a short time, we found a cute and quaint tapas restaurant in a small alley that opened up to a large city center. It was fall like weather, perfect for sitting outside. We grabbed a table on the cobblestone street and waited patiently for a server to assist us. After about 20 minutes we started to think that they weren’t going to serve us. And we were right! I went inside with Matt and asked if they could help us. The young, petite woman, so very beautiful, told us in broken English that she couldn’t take our order outside but showed us a menu of tapas. We picked a few different items from the menu and asked for cinco cervezas as well.
A few minutes later we were all seated around the table, sipping on our beers, laughing with each other and taking in the moment. There’s something about a group of friends just enjoying a drink on the side of the street in the middle of the afternoon, laughing and conversing. No matter what city or country you’re in. It’s one of the things I like most about life.
Our tapas arrived a few minutes later, and we had fun dissecting the different foods and trying each one, all talking about which was our favorite. We finished our snack and spent a few more minutes absorbing Barcelona and watching the sun disappear behind it’s skyline. We would be back on our ship, headed to the next port soon.