Friday 24 May 2013. Last night had been a doozy! As we left Villefranche we ran into the storm that we had tried to avoid by not going farther west to St Raphael. It reached Storm Force 11 and there was a fair bit of up and downing going on, combined with a lot of rocking forward and backwards and side to side for good measure.
We felt the effects but didn't see much as all doors to external decks were locked and going out was not allowed on account of it being a bit suicidal...
We woke the next morning to calm and peace and Barcelona. A few passengers were hobbling about with ankles in plaster...
We were in Barcelona and yet again were just going off on our own to fend for ourselves. We hailed a taxi and had him take us up the hill to Parc Guell, the famous park designed by the artist, Gaudi.
Every direction you look has a pleasing aspect to it, but first task is to climb those steps!
Gaudi had no liking for straight lines! His designs are sinuous curves and lots of colour from fragments of tiles juxtaposed to form a riot of colour and, almost as a bonus, plenty of seating!
Once you have climbed to the large plateau formed partly on top of pillars and partly by the hill itself, there is an excellent view over the city of Barcelona, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea on the horizon.
From the side you can see a different view of the seating shown earlier and the "plateau" from where I took the photo overlooking the city. Clever stuff!
And as we come down the series of steps again we pause this time to admire the sculptures, including the most famous one of the komodo dragon, colours picked out in mosaic and surrounded by school children, who I think were enjoying being on so many people's photographs!
We reach the gates and ignore the row of taxis waiting for a fare to take down the hill. Having looked at the map, the other place we wanted to see - Gaudi's cathedral, La Sagrada Familia - is a downhill walk which should be easy enough. And so it proves to be, if a trifle warm going!
By the time we are getting near the cathedral we are all ready for a drink and stop at a pavement cafe, the owner of which turns out to be a fellow Brit. He warns us against pickpockets in the area around the cathedral but fails to warn of the dangers of sucking in and swallowing the blossom that is falling from the trees lining the road. Fran consequently has a choking fit and, having finished her drink, swipes some of my beer... This not stopping the coughing she goes in to ask for a drink of water, not appreciating the thoughtfulness of the bar owner who insists on running the water for a while to ensure it is cold. [cough] "Just [cough] give me the [cough] glass!" she splutters.
And as if that weren't enough, there's another bit of drama at the next corner as we hear a bang and then see that someone has been knocked off a scooter by a car. Luckily there were no injuries and we hurriedly finished our drinks and got out of there before the third thing could happen...
And just a few yards on from round the corner we came to Barcelona's famous cathedral. It is still a work in progress which makes it all the more interesting as every time we see it there are new things to see. Barcelona is a brilliant place for lovers of architecture and ornate street furniture and I loved this street lamp in the photo above right that stands on a junction facing the cathedral.
Some of the stunning detail on the face of the cathedral - no squared off blocks of stone for Gaudi. Each side of the cathedral presents a different aspect, different styles of carving, little splashes of colour here and there. The distinctive round spires are due to be dwarfed by a central tower and work seems to have started on that since we were there last.
It's getting towards afternoon. We cross by a park and find somewhere to eat some lunch before having a look in a few souvenir shops and adding to the collections of fridge magnets (we need a bigger fridge...) and other essential items. I stay out of the shop - I'm a bit of the proverbial bull in china shops... But it gave me a chance to snap these glass figurines of flamenco dancers in the window.
So we had a look at the map and decided it was just a bit too far in the now considerable heat of the day and also after our long walk of the morning. We agreed a price with a taxi driver and headed back towards the port area and the Thomson Dream.
From the deck of the ship we had a great view of Barcelona, but we ignored it and consigned ourselves to wallowing in the sunshine with a good book and a glass of something. Soon it would be time to prepare ourselves for our final evening aboard. This book is really heavy you know... [yawn] I think I'll just put it down for a moment and..... zzzzzzzzzzzz....