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Old 07-27-2010, 04:15 PM   #1
Kaleigh
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A Trip of Many Firsts (very detailed, Med Cruise)UPDATED 3/8

Cast: Me, Kaleigh, turned 31 on the trip. And James, 32.

Angel daughter, left with the grands, Veronica!

This is the story of our first trip to Europe, our first cruise (a Disney one at that), and many other firsts.
So, honestly I have no idea how long or detailed this will be. I will try to hold it to what is actually interesting, but I find my reactions to being in Europe for the first time pretty entertaining. So, buckle up and hang for as long as you like. I really just don't want to forget a single second of this amazing trip.
Day 1- We took the overnight plane from JFK, and I was so excited that I could barely sleep. Here's the rub: two nights before I had woken up at 3 in the morning, excited about the trip and had a genius thought, "If I stayed up now, and went to bed early and did the same tomorrow, I could get myself on Barcelona time and avoid jetlag." And it worked...until that plane ride. It took off at 6, and they fed us dinner at about 8 (which would be much later in Barcelona), then there was a snack and excitement and discomfort and....very little sleep. Hence, jetlag. But who cares? My feet were about to touch European soil for the first time. And when we landed and saw the mountains in the distance and the Mediterranean, even in the rain, I sighed a sigh of joy and almost had to pinch myself.
So, in order to avoid luggage fees (which are apparently nonexistent on international flights if you only have one bag) and to facilitate easier travel throughout Barcelona as well as an indoctination by Rick Steves to believe that backpacking through Europe and packing light really is the only way to go, we both just brought one hiking backpack each. More on how that worked later...but, for now just know that we both have fairly easy access to our clothes and James changes into long pants and a pink shirt that I had convinced him to buy for the trip. Now, most of you do not know James, but if you did, you would know that he wears shorts EVERYWHERE. In the middle of winter North Dakota, James changed into shorts everyday upon returning from work. In 40 degree football James where everyone else is bundled up, James is in shorts. So this long pants thing was a huge departure for him, and one that actually worked and was useful in this trip. See, not only does James wear shorts, but he wears tube socks up almost to his knees. Our goal was to not stick out in Europe as American tourists if at all possible. Pretty sure that didn't happen, but I bet the pants kept us from being laughed at in Italy. Suffice to say, the shorts would have definitely been out of place as everyone in Europe wears, wait for it.........jeans. And not much pink, which I had been convinced that European men wore. Oh well.
So, James is changing and I am putting on a sweater and we are both a little iffy about being possibly pickpocketed and are concerned about exactly what the bathroom will be like and whether or not it will be our last free public restroom. But, no shady characters around and a perfectly modern, free restroom awaited us. I cannot begin to express the excitement at this point. We get our passports stamped for the first time (SQUEE!) and head out to find our train into Barcelona.
If you are bored, I apologize. Find a shorter, less descriptive report. Just know, that this will probably continue throughout the entire report and I have pictures coming.

Last edited by Kaleigh; 03-08-2011 at 11:19 AM.
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Old 07-27-2010, 06:56 PM   #2
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I am not bored, I love detailed trip reports! I also did the Med and am looking forward to reading another perspective! Thanks for sharing!
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Old 07-27-2010, 07:10 PM   #3
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Trip report

So far the details are exactly what I like to check out-great job
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Old 07-27-2010, 07:36 PM   #4
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Still Day 1- So, to pick up where we left off, James and I are about to set foot actually on Spanish soil. And we get lost looking for the train. But, after a short argument and walking around, we spot the bus needed to take us to the other terminal so that we can catch the train into town. I still laugh/grimace when I think of how protective of my bag I was at this point on that bus. I mean, we were surrounded by mainly Swedish tourists. Anyway, we make it to the train platform and manage to buy the T10 ticket with our newly changed money (from an ATM in the terminal, no issue) and in doing so, purchase the best value of our whole trip. Let me explain... the T10 ticket is good for 10 trips on either the train or metro in all of the Barcelona area and CAN BE SHARED. So this was the only transportation ticket James and I needed in Barcelona and it cost only 7.20 euros. Which rocks. So that trip into town from the airport, 2 trips off our ticket. I'm just sayin.

Had an easy train ride into town, passing graffiti and run-down apartment complexes with satellite dishes on the balconies. The train was very nice and clean; I thought it was nicer than New Yorks subway trains. We finally made our way to our stop at Passeig de Gracia which exits on the "block of discord" in the Eixample and is only a few short blocks from the Placa de Cataluyna which is where our hotel is. Only problem? It is raining. But, who cares when you are finally seeing something that you have watched countless travel shows on and have studied up on in preparation: the block of discord which is called that because it looks like the houses are competing against each other in architecture. The house on the right that looks like a dragon is designed by Gaudi and based on St. George and the dragon.

We walked through the rain to our hotel which was right off the Placa (main plaza in Barcelona at the top of the Ramblas) and I prepared to try out my new language skills on the hotel clerk. See, in Barcelona, the main language is Catalan, not Spanish. And I had looked up a few Catalan phrases in preparation, one of which had something to do with needing to check in to the hotel. Well, James goes in ahead of me and apparently the lady said hi to him, unbeknownst to me because I go in and start with my Catalan... and she looks at me confused and asks, "are you checking in?" So she speaks English, and my Catalan sucks. We are able to get into our room immediately (at 10:00 in the morning!) and drop our backpacks.
The room is great, a little small, but completely modern and clean with a great view.

More to come!

Last edited by Kaleigh; 01-15-2011 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 07-27-2010, 08:52 PM   #5
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Great report so far! Your writing sounds like the way I think when I travel. Looking forward to more, Karyn
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Old 07-28-2010, 12:15 AM   #6
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Old 07-28-2010, 12:38 AM   #7
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I'm not bored...can't wait to read more And the pink looks good on James So do the pants. Where's a picture of you, or are you the one always taking them! Lol.
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Old 07-28-2010, 08:32 AM   #8
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Looking forward to reading more!
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Old 07-28-2010, 08:42 AM   #9
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Hi Kaleigh! Loving your trip report so far .

What hotel did you stay at in Barcelona? We are researching for next May. Thanks!
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Old 07-28-2010, 09:45 AM   #10
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Quote:
Hi Kaleigh! Loving your trip report so far .

What hotel did you stay at in Barcelona? We are researching for next May. Thanks!
Hi and thanks! We stayed at Hotel Regina and paid 130 dollars for the night on Expedia. It was great!

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Looking forward to reading more!
Thank you! I think that I couldn't bring myself to write it until I was pretty sure we were going back. Too sad.

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I'm not bored...can't wait to read more And the pink looks good on James So do the pants. Where's a picture of you, or are you the one always taking them! Lol.
Thank you! Yes, he is rather dashing out of his tube socks. And pictures of me are forthcoming. Actually, he stole the camera and started going crazy and wouldn't let me have it back.

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I'm in!!!
Thank you! I hope you enjoy!

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Great report so far! Your writing sounds like the way I think when I travel. Looking forward to more, Karyn
Which is why it is so detailed. That is obviously how I think. I planned this trip to the tee, which was a blast. Thanks for the complement!

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So far the details are exactly what I like to check out-great job
Great! I knew there had to be other like-minded people out there.

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I am not bored, I love detailed trip reports! I also did the Med and am looking forward to reading another perspective! Thanks for sharing!
Wasn't it amazing? Thanks for reliving with me!
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Old 07-28-2010, 09:55 AM   #11
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can you please explain HOW you fit a 10 night cruise in ONE BACKPACK!!!!!!!????? I love your report so far!!!
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Old 07-28-2010, 11:32 AM   #12
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So, we are still in Day 1, picking up at the hotel, heading out into the rain to explore Barcelona. (I had planned all this in advance, except for where we would eat lunch) A stop to pick up an umbrella is needed at the largest department store I have ever seen. (More on the store later) And, I actually had my only experience with someone who didn't speak English in the store, in Spain that is. It went just fine, although I did not whip out my poor Catalan. Then we head out in the direction of the Gothic Quarter. We are huddling under the umbrella. (Well, I was huddling as her is 6'4" and I am 4'10'.) And I am reading the Rick Steves tour through the Gothic Quarter out loud. First stop was the original Roman gate which is where the old city actually started, and here is where our first taste of how old Europe really is hit us. These bricks have been here for thousands of years. So cool!

We make a quick stop in the old deacon's house and make our way over to the Cathedral. The exterior was under construction, so pictures outside weren't great. Here is one.


Here is the cool thing about the Cathedral: if you get there before noon, admission is free. So we took advantage of that. The church was large and pretty, but stuffed full of people. It didn't knock my socks off like I thought it might. We left and started wandering the Gothic Quarter because it just looked so neat. We got lost on winding streets with little tucked away cafes that advertised churros con xocolata (chocolate) which we should have taken advantage of. We nipped into a little church we had never heard of that turned out to be absolutely beautiful and was just finishing up daily mass.
We found a little square with the same name as our daughter, Veronica, and had to take a picture. And we saw Barcelona's bridge of sighs which connected the old palace and the cathedral.

By now, we were starving even though it was only noon. And people in Barcelona don't eat lunch until at least 1, so we were going to stick out like touristic sore thumbs if we ate now, but we gave in. We found a little restaurant that looked like it might be open, but was deserted. There was a waitress/bartender who said they were open and got us a table. Little did I know that if we had only waited like 30 minutes, we would have been able to enjoy the tapas at the bar for cheaper prices. Instead, we had to order off the more expensive menu. But, it was not too pricey, and we just wanted food and a bathroom. So, now I give you... our food pictures! This is bread with garlic and tomatoes rubbed into it. It is kind of like a Catalan bruschetta.

James ordered meat and potatoes. Okay, it was veal, but still. Adventurous eating is not what James enjoys. I think if there had been a Chick Fila, he would have kissed the ground.

I was more adventurous than James and ordered this which was basically chorizo, potatoes and spices in a tomato broth. Perfect for the cool, rainy day.


More to come!
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Old 07-28-2010, 04:25 PM   #13
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Still in day 1, lunch is over and now we are heading to a church of special significance to me. Well, within the week prior to the trip gained significance to me because I read a book about it. It is called Cathedral of the Sea, and the church is Santa Maria del Mar. The book is amazing and takes place in Barcelona during the building of the church, and the main character is one of the common men who carried the stones from Montjuic, down the beach to the site of the future church. The story is fiction, but the sites are real, and the church really was built by the common people of Barcelona and there were these men who carried these stones on their backs miles to build this church. And it is closed when we arrive. But, I take a picture of the tribute to these men which is above the doors of the church, and James promises that we will try to return.


We walk back toward the Placa de Catalunya through La Ribera, a very neat neighborhood which is not quite as old as the Gothic Quarter, but is just as intriguing. I just loved how it looked.

On our way, we decide to look for the City Museum of Barcelona which is supposed to have an underground Roman city as well as a walk through the old palace. We found it and toured it. Even for newbies to old stuff like us, it was a little boring. We knew what we had coming at Pompeii had to be better. But, we got to step foot in the room where Ferdinand and Isabella received Columbus after he returned from discovering America. So that's cool.
After that detour, we decide to head to El Corte Ingles for some churros and xocolata because I had read some blog where these people ate them there, overlooking Barcelona, and had this idea that we had to go there. Now, let me tell you about this store. It is like a supermarket, Macy's, Home Depot, furniture story, fabric store, liquor store, Best Buy, and cafe all in one. And the cafe is on the top floor, which is like floor 11 or something. I could look it up, but I am too lazy. All I know is that it felt like we took a million escalators up to the top. Then, we couldn't find any trace of the churros. Too embarrassed to ask, we headed down and decided to forego the churros for the time being. Anyway, it is now time for us to head to the most stunning attraction in all of Barcelona- La Sagrada Familia.
This church absolutely defies what you normally think about churches. Instead of stained glass inside the church telling the story of Jesus, it is the architecture on the outside. It is still under construction, has been for over a hundred years, and probably will be for another at least 30. I hope I get to see it completed in my lifetime. So we took the subway up to it, pausing to look like stupid lost tourists at the subway map which attracted a shady character who claimed to need money to call home. Of course, we got outta there immediately and found our way just fine. Again, the subway here rocks. And remember, we are still traveling on our T10 card.
The church is breathtaking and entirely worth the money, even though it is pricey. And I spend the next 30 minutes or so pointing out to James things I am sure he could see for himself. "Look, there is Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss!" "Look, there is Peter denying Jesus by the fire!" "Look, there are the wise men!" and so it goes. As James took pictures, I gawked and so several picture from Sagrada Familia have my butt in the foreground. Fun. And no, I will not post one here. But, I will say "Look, there is Mary and Joseph on the donkey!"
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Old 07-29-2010, 09:40 AM   #14
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Still Day 1- After seeing the Sagrada Familia, we hopped across the street for some churros and chocolate, finally. Unfortunately, we overpaid because we were right next to a major tourist spot. We should have gotten them in one of the more off the beaten path places earlier and probably would have gotten a larger portion for cheaper. Oh, and the way they eat churros and chocolate in Spain is a little different than you might imagine. They get these thick cups of hot chocolate and dip the deep fried sugar donut sticks into them. Yum!
The rest of the evening ended up being a not that interesting mess. So here is the short version- walked the Ramblas in the rain, couldn't find anything decent to eat, went to a boring mall, got soaked getting back to the hotel, capped the evening off with chocolate cake.
And now, we finally make it to DAY 2! We get up, super excited about getting on the cruise, but still very early due to jetlag. So, we decide to hold off on checking out and head back to the Santa Maria del Mar to see it before going to the boat. It was enormous, and just beautiful in its stark simplicity. I was just thrilled to see it after reading the book about it. I think in our entire trip that we didn't see a church that felt older.
After getting back to the hotel to check out, we load up our backpacks on our backs and take the subway down to the waterfront, planning to take a bus to the terminal. The sun is coming out for the first time since we have been in Barcelona, and we wander around by the Christopher Columbus monument for a bit looking for the bus stop, and a bus had just pulled away. The info I had read before the trip claimed that there were at least 3 more bus stops along the way before our terminal, so we decide to walk until we get to the next one. It is a nice day, after all.
After about a quarter of a mile, we see another bus stop, but there is no bus. So we decide to keep walking. It can't be THAT far. We see another bus pass after a bit, but no more bus stops. So we keep walking. And walking. We wonder if we didn't turn when we were supposed to, but we see the Disney ship way up ahead, so we keep going. And are then confronted by where we are supposed to turn: the bridge. Now, this is a huge bridge that is arched so that some ships can go under it. And it is very steep and long. And we still have our backpacks. But, there are no more bus stops, so we have no choice but to hike the bridge. We must have looked so crazy hiking that bridge with our backpacks! Later, when talking to our dining partners, Eliza and Maynard, we find out that they saw us and wondered what in the world would inspire someone to climb that bridge, nevertheless with backpacks They laughed like crazy when they realized it was us. So, hot and sweaty, we finally get to the terminal after a good hour of walking. We are thrilled to dump our bags with the Disney folk and get into line.
The wait wasn't bad, and I kept trying to recognize people from the DisBoards. The atmosphere was festive, and they even had a flamenco dancer in the terminal. We had a bit of a wait which we thought would be much longer, considering how slowly they were calling the numbers at first, but soon it was our turn to board the ship.
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Old 07-29-2010, 01:23 PM   #15
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Middle of Day 2- Just boarded the ship! After boarding and getting announced and all that, we head to Rockin Bar D's to get on the list for a Palo Brunch and head up to Topsiders for the buffet. Finding a table was really difficult, and we ended up letting another couple sit with us. Hi Marty and Allison, if you ever come across this blog! While standing in line at the buffet, I keep glancing at the guy in front of me in line, suspecting that he may be our dinner partner that we had set up in advance. And it is! So that is our first introduction to Maynard and, later his amazing wife, Eliza. These people absolutely rocked, and we were so lucky to find them to eat with every night.
As for the meal...ugh. I ate enough to not be hungry, but am glad I wasn't paying out of pocket for it.
At 1, we head down to our room and WHOA! So, we originally booked a cat 11, I think. It was a military discount and we were just thrilled to get a 10 night cruise for the price we paid. Well, we were upgraded to a freakin veranda on the 5th floor. It was such a great location too because it was so close to the elevators and the atrium. I start paging through the navigator(schedule) and James is drooling over our view of Montjuic and then... he says "okay, let's go back out so we can hit the Maritime Museum." Now, it is unfair to James to say that I didn't expect this at all. He had been talking about it, but I figured that after the bridge debacle, we would just explore the ship etc. James often does this on our trips, and I just have to roll with it, but it is against everything in my nature. When I am on Disney property, the last thing I want to do is go outlet mall shopping, or attend a college football game (both of which he has dragged me to). I don't even like eating off property. The one thing I was okay with was going to see the musical, Wicked down there a few years ago, but we had planned that way out. So, feeling that my heart was being ripped from my chest (yes, I am a bit dramatic), we left the boat and took the BUS to the monument which is right next to the museum.
It was only 5 euros for both of us because it was being renovated, but James got to see what he really wanted which was the replica galley.

It was pretty cool, and didn't take very long, and soon enough we were back on the boat for the safety drill. After that, we headed up for a snack (or full meal, whatever) of chicken fingers and pizza and walked the deck. We tour the ship a bit, and head back to the room to figure out what to do until dinner which is not until 8:30.
So, here is the weird thing. Normally, James is not big on getting out there and meeting people or doing stuff. He is a bid standoffish at first. Not on the ship. He decided that he wanted to get in there and do what was available which turned out to be great. So we plan to go see Mickey Mania, a game show, then the big show for the night. About halfway through Mickey Mania, we realized that we know MUCH more about Disney than the people playing and decide to volunteer next time.
We go to the main show that night which was a combination of the entertainers we would see later, mainly a ventriloquist and a flamboyant magician. We really enjoy the show and are surprised at the level of talent in the main cast. It actually ended up being James' second favorite show of the whole trip. Not even a full day on the boat, and we are already having a blast.
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