Christmas Adventure, part 3: Barcelona & Valencia

Saturday, December 27
Day 5 – Barcelona, Spain

We had a more relaxed morning than usual since we didn’t have to meet a group for an organized shore excursion.  Once we got off the ship and walked through the large cruise terminal, we caught a taxi and rode just a few minutes into city. Our taxi driver dropped us off at the monument of Christopher Columbus, then we walked up Las Ramblas, which is a 1.2km-long street lined with cafés, outdoor markets, and street performers.  It was a quiet street at this time of day.  We stumbled upon Starbucks and went in for our souvenir mug.  At the end of Las Ramblas we found ourselves at Plaça de la Catalunya, which was filled with fountains.  We saw an Apple Store, and I managed to pickup a wifi signal and send a quick email to immediate family letting them know we were all still alive!  (We hadn’t connected to the internet for several days, and what do you know, the world was still turning :).)

Christopher Columbus Monument
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Next we walked towards the Cathedral.  It felt much colder than we had anticipated, and we stopped at a department store to buy a hat and longer socks for Connor.  Just outside the Cathedral there was a flea market; Charlie was in heaven looking at the old coins, and found two quarters to buy.  Meanwhile, Connor and I were busy watching a cimbalo duo performing outside the Cathedral.  It was the same instrument we had seen on the streets of Rome, and this time there was a CD display in front of the performers, so we finally learned the name of the instrument!  The Cathedral was impressive from the outside, and the inside was incredible.  I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something about this Cathedral that made it even more beautiful than most of the churches we have seen in Europe recently.  Connor has been inside so many churches and cathedrals throughout our travels that he asks to kneel and pray when we go in. We always pray for family and friends near and far!  Charlie took an elevator to the top while Connor and I sat in a pew and enjoyed our surroundings.  Charlie said the view wasn’t that impressive.

Cathedral
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After going outside and watching the cimbalo for a few more minutes, we walked to a metro station and took the train to Sagrada Familia.  Connor fell asleep in the train on Charlie’s back!  It was like vacation for me!  Sagrada Familia was unlike any church we had ever seen.  The architecture, designed by Gaudí, was incredibly ornate.  Construction began in 1882, but it is still incomplete.  The church is supposed to be completed in 2026, the 100th anniversary of his death. We should have bought tickets ahead of time.  The line was too long, so we decided that looking at the outside was enough for us.  With the little man still snoozing, we walked to the Arc de Triomf, wihch was built as the main access gate for the 1888 World’s Fair.  There was a beautiful pedestrian area surrounding the arch, and Connor was awake to watch a few trick rollerbladers practicing.

Sagrada Familia
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Arc de Triomf
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We walked through a nice park and eventually made our way back to Las Ramblas.  The area was now crowded with street performers and tourists.  Being a street performer is a lucrative business in Barcelona!  You must audition and register with the city, and only 15 are allowed on a certain stretch of Las Ramblas at one time.  We dropped coins into a few of their cups so that we could see their “show.”  Next we went inside the Christopher Columbus monument.  We tried to take the elevator to the top of the monument, but the employee told us it was too narrow to bring Connor. There was another flea market along the shore, and we enjoyed watching all the people bustling around this busy port area.

He’s a street performer, not a statue!
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After taking a shuttle bus back to the boat and finding a late-afternoon snack on the boat, Connor was ready to have some playtime!  He was excited to see his friends in the play area, and enjoyed the evening activity for kids.  We had dinner at one of the sit-down restaurants and everyone enjoyed the meal.

Sunday, December 28
Day 6 – Valencia, Spain

Connor was coming down with a stuffy nose and cough overnight. He finally decided to sleep in this morning, of course, on a morning when we need to get up and go!  We had to wake the poor guy and he was basically a mess until naptime. We took one of the cruise line’s excursions today. After a 45-minute bus tour of Valencia, we went to the Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe. We planned this excursion because we thought Connor would really enjoy it.  I think he liked it, but it would have been much more pleasant for everyone if he had been more rested! The dolphin show was amazing, with 7 dolphins performing tricks in a large stadium.  (We also enjoyed the pre-show entertainment, during which the announcer chellenged two audience members to a dance-off!)

Oceanogràfic
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After the dolphin show, it was time to meet our group at the bus.  We decided to take a taxi and stay in Valencia instead of taking the bus back to the boat.  Charlie and I each took Spanish classes for several years, but when we hopped into the taxi and tried to talk to the driver, we couldn’t believe how we both stumbled and froze.  My brain couldn’t come up with anything but German!  My mother would be ashamed!  Fortunately, we eventually communicated to the driver where we wanted to go, and she dropped us off at the Cathedral in Plaza de la Reina.  It was beautiful!  There was a Mass going on, but we were able to enter and take a look. Connor wanted to stop and pray again :).  The tower was about to close, so we weren’t able to climb to the top.  We enjoyed a trio of two violins and a string bass performing outside the Cathedral, then continued walking until we found…you guessed it…Starbucks.  We were the only customers there, which was bizarre.  After buying our souvenir mug, we continued wandering around (with Connor napping) and found two more churches.  Mass was just letting out as we arrived at each of them, so it was too busy and crowded to go in.

Cathedral
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We love to notice the mailboxes in each country we visit!
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Looking towards the Church of Santa Catalina
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Walking around Valencia…
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We found the shuttle bus to head back to the boat and Connor woke up along the way.  After a late lunch and time in the play room, Charlie went to play bingo while Connor and I played in our room.  Later, we headed back to the play room for the evening activity where we got to make a mess with paints again! Meanwhile, the boat set sail for the evening.  As the Captain was making his usual evening updates and announcements, he warned us of rough seas, and advised “anyone who usually takes medicine for motion sickness to go ahead and take it!”  Yikes!  I went to a short class at the gym while the boys stayed in the play room a little longer.  We met for dinner, then relaxed and went to bed.  The boat was swaying a lot that night, but so far so good.

Monday, December 29
Day 7 – at sea

Today is our second full day at sea. Connor woke up before 5:30am and was so stuffy he couldn’t nurse, which made him pretty upset. He tried for a while, then I decided to put him in a hot shower with some toys and he felt much better after that. The boat was still swaying a lot, but luckily none of us felt nauseous yet! We went to breakfast, played in our room, and then Charlie went to the gym for a TRX class.  He came back soon because everyone had cancelled due to the sway of the boat!  The next order of business was a glorious nap for all three of us.

The Captain said the water should calm down around mid-afternon, but it actually felt worse. Charlie went to an art auction and didn’t see anything he couldn’t live without. Connor and I went to lunch by ourselves, where he ate two bites and proclaimed that he was all done.  Luckily for me, he was happy to play with some of his toys while I finished. We met Charlie at the theater for the staff talent show. We sat in the front row and Connor was entertained by a guitar, singers, a flute from the Philippines, and dancing. After the show we went to lunch so that Charlie and Connor could eat, then we all went to the play room. We had lots of fun with our usual crowd, and the big room with the jungle gym was open for us today!  Our lunch was so late that we weren’t ready for dinner anytime soon.  We went back to our room and Connor had a little snack before bedtime, then I went and had some dinner by myself while the boys slept.

Our play room friends…4 countries are represented!
From L to R:  USA, Spain, England, Germany
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