I’m standing on the bridge deck as we slowly pull into the marina. A flock of gulls fly overhead and church bells ring somewhere in the distance. There is a faint smell of food cooking and I see joggers, panhandlers and partiers returning home on the promenade.
This is Barcelona. I feel a sense of excitement as we pull into the dock for our first time in port in two weeks.
It’s been a few years since I’ve been here but I remember the skyline well, with its mix of baroque and modern architecture and it’s most famous construction site, La Sagrada Familia.
Barcelona is a quirky and cosmopolitan city that boasts its history and culture and yet has a sense of pride for its relentless movement into the modern. I catch a glimpse of the Cristobal Colon monument at the end of Las Ramblas and feel a sense of comfort that everything is just as I left it years ago.
It must be 8:30 in the morning and the sun is already heating up the streets. I can’t wait to get out and explore this beautiful city once again.
I’ve always known Barcelona as a walking city and Marina Port Vell couldn’t be a more perfect jumping off point to most major attractions in the city.
After work, myself and some other crew decide to go for a walk. We turn left outside the marina and walk the promenade to the beginning of the famous Las Ramblas. The promenade is wide and a great place to exercise or stroll so we aren’t surprised at how many people are out running, biking and skateboarding.
We reach the Cristobal Colon monument and turn up Las Ramblas where the crowd turns into shoppers and sightseers. I remember a strange little bar, known as the fairy bar (La Bosque de Fades) near the Wax Museum so we stop in for a quick look.
Inside, it’s dark and cavernous. There are a multitude of hidden corners and wax fairies dotted around the ceiling. Thunder booms over a loudspeaker on a timer and raindrops fall from various crevices overhead.
While interesting, the weather is far too nice outside to sit in a cave so we continue our journey on Las Ramblas.
On a whim we turn right down a busy road and I see one of the vegetarian restaurants I read about awhile back so we stop for a bite. Maoz is a small, buffet-style restaurant offering falafel and other Middle Eastern foods. We go back for seconds and only stop ourselves because we know we have more walking to do.
We let ourselves get lost among the cobblestone streets of the gothic quarter. There is a contrast between gothic architecture and funky businesses here that reflects the mood of the city perfectly.
Eventually, we meet the rest of the crew in a busy bar closer to Las Ramblas before we head home for the night.
One our second day, I step outside at 8 a.m. and into a wave of heat, and I wonder if it isn’t really noon. I head off to meet a girlfriend studying dance movement therapy at a university here. We meet at Cristobal Colon and she takes me to the Mercado de la Boqueria, a lively market with every type of food imaginable. I let out a little squeal when I find a stall that carries the famed Thai durian fruit. I grab two fresh-squeezed juices and we carry on walking.
As we chat, we pass Placa Catalunya and then stroll through La Ciutadella Park past outdoor yoga, kickboxing, karate and tai chi classes. At the other end of the park, we end up back near the marina where we say our good-byes. I’m relieved to get some cool air on board after a hot walk.
Later that afternoon, a friend and I hike up the hill toward Sants-Montjuic. We never really know if we actually make it up the entire hill because at one point there is some confusion about which road to take.
We decide we’ve hiked far enough and jump in a cab for La Sagrada Familia. As we drive through a wealthy and manicured neighborhood, our cab driver chats to us about everything from trees to an upcoming street party.
La Sagrada Familia, designed by artist Antoni Gaudi, began construction in 1882 and has plans to finish in 2026, making it one of the longest construction sites in history. The public is permitted inside, but we decide against it since the line is long.
Instead, we huddle across the street with hundreds of other impatient tourists, heads tilted back, in awe at the mind that created such a unique structure. As I look around I see a mix of emotions on faces in the crowd and I know I’m not alone when I wonder how I’m supposed to feel about the unfinished Roman Catholic Church.
We catch another cab up a large hill to another of Gaudi’s wonders, Parc Guell. We wind through dirt pathways and bushes, stopping at various lookouts high above the city. The view is breathtaking and offers a panoramic vista across the city to the ocean. Along the way we marvel at slanted overhangs, intricate shapes, and designs made from pebbles and shells. Instead of confusion, this time I feel whimsical and imagine I might see a gnome or two if I’m lucky.
As we pull out of the marina on our third and final day in Barcelona, I realize that I never made it through the neighborhood of Barcelonetta to the beach. I kick myself a little as it’s only a five-minute walk from Marina Port Vell.
Barcelona is not a place to skip through in a day or two. There are far too many interesting and exciting things to see and do. This fact is actually a lucky thing for crew who become bored easily in places they frequent each season.
Angela Orecchio is a chief stew and certified health coach. This article was edited from her blog, Savvy Stewardess, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Yachting, www.savvystewardess.com. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.