May 30

Palma

My last stop on the cruise on the Norwegian Epic was in Palma Mallorca in Spain.  I didn’t know much about this stop before I went.  I had considered doing an excursion, but none of the options jumped out at me.  The most I had heard was from a woman I met at my hotel before the cruise, she said it was pretty there.

I was pleasantly surprised by Palma.  Although the weather wasn’t great the day we were there (I did manage to miss the rain), the island was lovely, turns out there are some rich and famous there.  It was a fabulous marina there was lots of beautiful boats.

The cruise ships dock here near the town, and a shuttle bus is offered for just a few dollars round trip.  But it is walkable too.

The town is one of those places where a map is handy for when you finish, otherwise it’s just lovely to walk around and pop into shops along the way.  It’s a higher end shopping area, and not a great location for cheesy souvenirs.  I had been looking to get some souvenirs from my family that were different then the typical “Rome” T-shirt.  While they did have some stuff like that here, this was a better place to buy my mom a pearl necklace.  They are known for Mallorcan Pearls.

I didn’t spend a lot of time off the ship here, as this was meant to be a more relaxing day in port.  But walking around the town it had a similar style and feel to Barcelona, only wealthier, cleaner and brighter.

In town there was a beautiful large Cathedral, my friend and I opted not to take a tour, it was in such an odd spot though, across a small road/alley from another building, it was tough to get a picture of the front.

Overall, this was not an “exciting” stop on my cruise, but a completely wonderful surprise anyway.  The island is beautiful and on a return trip I would either just sleep late and walk around or take a short tour on the island so I could see more of it’s beauty.

Dec 28

Last pieces of Barcelona

I thought I had written about everything I wanted to write about in Barcelona, but then realized, I had missed 3 things.  So here are the last pieces of Barcelona – Las Ramblas, Barcelona Cathedral and Barceloneta.

Las Ramblas is the main tourist strip in Barcelona.  It is situated that on each side there are stores, then a lane of traffic and in the middle is a wide pedestrian walkway.  The walkway has kiosks, restaurant seating, street performers and pick pockets.  I am happy to say I don’t know anyone who was pick pocketed, but this area is known to have lots of pick pockets so you will need to watch your wallet.

While the strip is loaded with tourists and touristy things, there are also many regular shops, like Nike, and a good atmosphere.  It feels alive (but not early in the morning), and joyful.  Of course you can also pick up any tourist souvenir you want, including a SpongeBob T-Shirt in Spanish (I have a 9 year old nephew).  For the first time visitor to Barcelona you do need to take a walk down Las Ramblas, but if you’re hungry I would take a walk a block or so away from Las Ramblas.  You’ll find better, cheaper food.

Barcelona Cathedral is in the gothic quarter, across from my first hotel in Barcelona.   It’s free to enter and is strikingly different from Sagrada Familia, it’s well – gothic.  If you have more then a day or two in Barcelona it’s worth a visit, particularly if you have seen Sagrada Familia. I went during a mass (does that count as going to church?) so I didn’t have free reign of the church.  But I was able to see the architecture which was very ornate and detailed.  It was pretty dark inside the church, giving the feel of candle light.  With vaulted ceilings and the dim light it had a VERY old feel. I’m pretty sure the lights were electric even if they looked like candles.  There were many small and ornate chaples in the back of the church, heavy in gold and very detailed in their images.  But I’m pretty sure the flat screen TV’s were new though.

Finally, I want to talk about Barceloneta, the beach area of Barcelona.  I didn’t spend too much time here, it wasn’t terribly warm and there is so much to do in Barcelona, but I wanted to see the beach here.  It was a nice beach, and pretty long.  It’s strange to think of such a large beach in a city, and only blocks away from the heart of downtown.

The area has a lot of restaurants, I hear it’s known for Paella, shops but not as many hotels as I expected.  One of the girls I met on the cruise stayed at Hotel Arts (the tall blue one that was formerly part of the olympic athletes village), which is a very nice (and expensive) hotel.  There is also a casino here.  If you’re looking for a relaxing stay in Barcelona this would be a nice place to stay.

Dec 07

Dining in Barcelona

In Barcelona I had the chance to eat at 2 restaurants worthy of mention.  I am no foody, though I can appreciate a good meal.  I also was not terribly interested in Tapas since it was focused around fish, which I don’t eat.  But these two restaurants were recommended by my hotel.  Taller De Tapas was recommended as a less touristy place with good food.  The 4 Cats was recommended as being popular with tourists.  Both were in the gothic quarter of Barcelona.

Taller De Tapas, Pl. Sant Josep Oriol, 9 (Pl. del Pi).  In spite of not being in love with Tapas I had the best food on my whole trip here. It was a special that evening, duck with apple and stuff.  OMG, it was delicious, tender, juicy, flavorful!  The rest of the non-seafood I had was also very good.  My friend got several seafood dishes and she enjoyed them all.  I would absolutely recommend this place!  And it was very busy there and it seemed like there were quite a few locals there – always a good sign.

The 4 Cats, Montsio, 3bis, 08002.  This is known for it’s connection to Picasso and has a little fancier then I would expect from a place that primarily caters to tourists.  But it did have a nice ambiance.  I had a steak here and it was very good, not the best ever, but I enjoyed it.  I did go here with a friend and a local (who seemed to be a little annoyed we were going to such a touristy place).  He didn’t seem to love it, but did often speak with the staff in Catalonian so I wouldn’t be surprised if we got slightly better service.  He seemed to enjoy the night, but I doubt he’ll be returning.  In the end I enjoyed it, but thought it was pricey for what it was.

A word about dining in Barcelona.  I had been told that dinner doesn’t start in Barcelona until 9pm.  These two dinners were on a Sunday and Monday night, I’m not sure if that makes a difference, but I found that dinner does start a little earlier then 9pm.  On Sunday night I found that walking in to the restaurant at 9pm it was very busy, and walking back to my hotel at 11pm MANY places were closing up for the night.  I’m not sure if it’s because the gothic quarter is very touristy or if it was because it was a Sunday night.  Monday night we arrived at the restaurant around 9pm and dinner seemed to just be starting to pick up, but we weren’t the first ones there either.  If you go out at 7pm I think you’ll find only very touristy places are serving dinner, but I wouldn’t be afraid to go out a little earlier then 9pm either.