We caught a shuttle from the pier (which is less than a mile away but seems to be a challenging walk, as the pier is heavily secured and is NOT geared toward foot traffic.) We had a bright winter morning and the crowds were light, so we wandered all over the old part of the city, soaking in the sights, with no particular schedule or plan. We start, as everyone starts, at the Christopher Columbus Monument. Most photos you see of this monument highlight the immense obelisk, with the man himself high above in the sky. But I liked the lions better: regal and black and each in a different majestic pose:
Any tale of roaming around Barcelona must include a stop for snacks at the La Rambla de Sant Josep Boqueria which was definitely open for business two weeks before Christmas.
This is quite a bit more than just a street market (it won the prize for the best market in the world, awarded by the World Markets Congress held in 2005 in Washington DC.) so you find fruit and meat and nuts and candies and drink and spices and things you never imagined might be edible in December.
Even early in the day in the winter, the crowds were growing and the lines were long.
Because we arrived on a cruise, we had been well-fed for weeks, and yet the fruit vendors were irresistable, especially the row of berry sellers with their luscious wares set out in small serving trays, with personalized forks, clearly just waiting to be eaten by hungry tourists. (See below for typical ecstacy experienced by said tourist)
After we ate our way through the market, we ambled back through the narrow alleys leading into the Gothic Quarter, one od the most ancient parts of the city. This is the rose window of Santa Maria del Pi (St. Mary of the Pine Tree), the neighborhood Gothic church built between 1319 and 1391.
There is an artist's market here every week and we wandered through the exhibits, admiring the variety. Then we followed the meandering alleyways back farther off the main road, and found small restaurants and tiny shops and hostels, mixed in with apartments and train stations and miniature grocery stores.
The Dali museum is upstairs here. We were able to resist the deluge of Gaudi, but Dali we could not ignore.
Port Vell is the gorgeous marina area which has been modernized into a clean, sleek, walkable tourist attraction. It is filled with super yachts, even in winter, so all of the services are beautiful - even the gas pumps are pretty. We mostly gawked and wandered along the water front, watching the kite flyers and the rollerskaters. There was a small circus holding rehersals, so the music saved in my memory from this day is the song the horseback rider practiced her stunts to. The sun was weak but bright and we walked until the afternoon sun started to slant our shadows longer and longer.
And then we started back, to hot showers and cold wine and stories in the diningroom about an excellent day in Spain.