Our Magical Westbound Transatlantic Voyage Sept 2010. (Day 15 & 16 added 29/5/11 )

TotallyAngelic

Disney Addict
Joined
Aug 14, 2005
Our Magical Westbound Transatlantic Voyage Day One: Barcelona !!

Before I start on my trip report for real, I feel obligated to justify why my poor old pre-trip report died a death and disappeared into the doom and gloom of everyday stress and strife. There now follows a sad and sorry tale of desperation and woe, so if you want to bypass this and jump ahead to the actual trip details then feel free ….

For probably the first time in my life, I was probably adequately prepared for this trip about a week before we left, with only a few little tasks to complete ahead of departure day. But before I had chance to realise this and for once allow myself to relax and actually enjoy the pre-holiday week, an unwelcome health issue reared its ugly head. This was partly of my own doing, as in a last ditch attempt to shift a few pounds, I had being doing the “Slim Fast” diet for about a week. I was thrilled to find out I had lost 4 lbs in a week, but began to feel the nagging doubt that all was not well in the bladder dept, and when I investigated the side effects of Slim Fast on the internet it appeared that I should have seriously increased my fluid intake to counter the potential problem it could create in the waterworks dept. ( without going into too much detail I have a bladder condition which flares up form time to time, is incredibly painful and I really have to drink loads to stop it from dehydrating, which triggers the pain. ) .

So off to the GP I went, and picked up a script for some antibiotics, and began consuming my weight in water to try and offset the problem. However the antibiotics were ineffective, and the pain began to worsen, so the night before we were due to fly to Barcelona I basically was ready to cancel the trip which I had looked forward to and anticipated for almost 2 years. To say I was devastated was the understatement of the century, and even though Tony was putting a brave face on things I could tell he was equally gutted. I managed to pack our bags just in case I felt up to it, and went back to the GP for a course of different antibiotics. Another very painful and sleepless night followed, and I was still convinced I wouldn't be able to travel … we were due to catch our train at 09:30 am the following day, and basically my mood was that low I couldn't have cared either way at that point.

I woke early on the Thursday morning, departure day, and decided to go back to the GP once more to see if I could get some stronger pain killers, which might make the difference. I managed to get an appointment at 09:15am and she gave me 2 weeks supply of diclofenac, and then I made my decision. We would go to Barcelona, we had 2 days before the cruise and we had 5 days before Gibraltar. If the antibiotics worked I would know by then, if they didn't and things became worse I figured I could fly home from Gibraltar.

I returned home and by now we had missed the train that would get us to the airport on time, so the only option was to drive and leave the car at Liverpool airport, which meant that when we arrived home to Manchester airport, we would have to get a train across to Liverpool to pick up the car. I quickly booked airport parking on-line, and started throwing the rest of the stuff into the bags. We needed to check in at 11:30 am and it was now about 10 am, so we threw the bags into the car, said a tearful goodbye to Taryn and Danny, and off we went to the airport.

We made it to the airport in about an hour, found the long stay car park and experienced number plate recognition for the first time when the barrier opened for us as we approached. We ended up parking as far out from the terminal building as was possible for on-site parking, and then had a long walk back, but once we got there check in was painless and both our checked bags came in at 18.5 kg, a whole1.5 kg under our allowance, which basically translates as how much we can shop for which by my standards translates as NOT VERY MUCH! Once rid of our bags we picked up our pre-ordered euros at Travelex and went through security and went in search of a sandwich for lunch, and a few gallons of bottled water for me. We bought a fairly acceptable sandwich in Boots and I tried to use WiFi on my Ipod touch, and I think by the time I connected it was time to go to the gate, so that wasn't much use.

We boarded the aircraft which I think was an Airbus 319. We had an initial delay because they had more people on the plane than on the boarding list so they counted everyone about 10 times, we had to show our boarding passes about 10 times, and then our passports. This delayed us by about an hour but they must have sorted it out, or thrown the person off, because eventually we were allowed to take off. The flight was uneventful, Tony had a coffee and I stuck to the water, and we landed at Barcelona none the worse for wear.

I was relieved to see our bags made it too, and once we picked them up we headed to find the aerobus ( thanks to Laura for posting photos of the bus directions a few days before, as we found it easily ). The aerobus was straightforward and we arrived at Placa Catalunya in about 30 minutes. Once off the bus we knew to look for the Banco Espana building, and to take the road to the left of it. and we spotted this easily and headed off to find the hotel. However we were a bit confused as the road to the left of it had a different name to the one we wanted. After walking a few blocks down this road we realised we must be wrong and we returned to Placa Catalunya feeling rather confused, only to realise there was a second Banco Espana building on the square. This time the correct road was alongside it and we headed a couple of blocks along until we found the Hotel Praktik Rambla.

We had booked this hotel after reading the reviews on Trip Advisor and it had attracted us mainly because it sounded quite unique and quirky and also centrally located to the places we wanted to visit and it was a good price at 90 euros per night. The following is taken from the Praktik Rambla website, and it was this description of the architecture which also attracted me to the hotel:

Architecture & History

Praktik is located in Barcelona’s nerve center, on 27 Rambla Catalunya. It occupies one of the most emblematic buildings in the Eixample: the Climent Arola house. The property, which is listed today, was designed at the beginning of the 19th century by the Catalonian architect Francesc de P. Villar i Carmona, author of such emblematic works as the monasteries at Montserrat and Sant Cugat, constructed at the end of the 17th and at the beginning of the 19th centuries.

This historic palace is on the Catalonian Modernist route, and has been exquisitely restored. Its exterior mixes original classic elements, such as the Ionic columns that support the gallery and the balconies on the first floor, along with other columns that are more Baroque in style. The interior, on the other hand, contains all the comfort, design and technology of the 21st century
.


We would not be the only ones booking this hotel, it ended up with about 80% of the occupants being DISers cruising on the Disney Magic and I was really excited about bumping into friends from our cruise meet thread!

We checked in and were given a room on the 4th floor. We squeezed ourselves and our baggage into the tiny elevator and up to our beautiful room. We had a room facing the Rambla Catalunya with a small balcony, and I stood out on the balcony for a while just wanting to absorb the atmosphere below us.

Views from the balcony:







The bed:



The bathroom:



We didn't have time to linger for long as we had planned to meet up with our cruise buddies Lynne, Len, Morag and Angus at their apartment down by the harbour, so armed with a trusty street map and a mobile phone we headed off down Las Ramblas in search of the sea.

It was a long walk down Las Ramblas, especially when some idiot ( ie. me ) decides to wear new sandals, and before we even reached the harbour I had blisters forming, so I had to dig around in my bag for some plasters. We reached the harbour and headed in the direction of Lynne's apartment, but when we found the right street there were lots of buildings with balconies so we sent a text. We were in the correct place, as Lynne and Len appeared from one of the buildings and we went up to their apartment in an even smaller elevator .. you really had to be close friends if you got into that elevator! If not you certainly were when you got out !!

We spent a lovely couple of hours on the balcony chatting, enjoying a few local beers and some cheese, watching the boats coming and going in the harbour. It really was an ideal spot! I was relieved that the pain killers I was taking were taking care of my bladder discomfort, and I was really pleased I had decided to go ahead with the trip. I was finally starting to enjoy myself!

We decided to head back to the hotel at about midnight, so after arming my feet with new plasters, we walked back up the Ramblas. This place seemed a bit seedy after dark, with lots of dodgy looking men and teenagers lurking and offering you cans of beer when you walked by. We also came across some people offering something a bit stronger, so we just hurried along and made no eye contact. I was relieved to get back to the hotel. At the hotel all was quiet and I couldn't see any DISers about, so we decided to go to bed as we had a busy day planned the next day.
 

florida sun

Mrs Christopher Eccleston wannabe!
Moderator
Joined
May 2, 2004
Fantastic start Sarah, Im so glad you felt well enough to go after looking forward to it for so long, cant wait to read more:goodvibes
 

Tinks1984

<font color=red>We're having a mini party!<br><fon
Joined
Mar 17, 2007
Glad you were beginning to feel better Sarah! And I hate it when new shoes do that, very annoying!

Looking forward to day two :goodvibes
 
  • mandymouse

    Bahama Mama Time !!
    Joined
    Mar 8, 2003
    Great start Sarah, and I'm so pleased that you were feeling better. Lovely photos too hun :thumbsup2
     

    PJB71

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 24, 2009
    Oh Sarah you poor thing, I am so glad you were well enough to travel in the end:hug:

    Really looking forward to reading morepopcorn::popcorn::
     

    cannp123165

    <font color=green>Very Quizzical<font color=teal>
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2005
    A great start Sarah! I hope you are feeling better soon and you were able to fully enjoy the cruise! :)
     

    suzycute

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 30, 2005
    Really looking forward to reading the rest of your trip report - glad you were well enough to go in the end :thumbsup2
     
  • irongirlof12

    <font color=blue><marquee>Am I the only one who lo
    Joined
    Nov 3, 2006
    thank goodness you felt well enough to travel :goodvibes, love the view from the balcony.
     

    granmaz

    Dis Veteran and Old Geezer
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2005
    Great start Sarah. I should of taken a photo of the view from our room at the Praktik Rambla, at the rooms across that could view us in the shower and on the loo!!!:lmao:
     

    TotallyAngelic

    Disney Addict
    Joined
    Aug 14, 2005
    Fantastic start Sarah, Im so glad you felt well enough to go after looking forward to it for so long, cant wait to read more:goodvibes
    Glad you were beginning to feel better Sarah! And I hate it when new shoes do that, very annoying!

    Looking forward to day two :goodvibes
    Great start Sarah, and I'm so pleased that you were feeling better. Lovely photos too hun :thumbsup2
    Oh Sarah you poor thing, I am so glad you were well enough to travel in the end:hug:

    Really looking forward to reading morepopcorn::popcorn::
    A great start Sarah! I hope you are feeling better soon and you were able to fully enjoy the cruise! :)
    Really looking forward to reading the rest of your trip report - glad you were well enough to go in the end :thumbsup2
    Thank you all so much. I did feel really rough for a few days but the pain killers helped and the antibiotics and lots of water worked after about a week.

    thank goodness you felt well enough to travel :goodvibes, love the view from the balcony.
    It was a brilliant view .... but maybe not as good as Marilyn and John's neighbours! :rotfl2::rotfl2:

    Great start Sarah. I should of taken a photo of the view from our room at the Praktik Rambla, at the rooms across that could view us in the shower and on the loo!!!:lmao:
    Oh no ... really. They definitely had a room with a view then.
     

    granmaz

    Dis Veteran and Old Geezer
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2005
    It was a brilliant view .... but maybe not as good as Marilyn and John's neighbours! :rotfl2::rotfl2:



    Oh no ... really. They definitely had a room with a view then.

    :lmao: Now if we had both been 30 years younger then I might have agreed there!!!!!

    I just couldn't understand why the top of the bathroom window wasn't frosted over or had a blind. Goodness me.:scared1: At least when we had showers the window did steam up pretty quickly.

    The rooms that overlooked us were from other buildings and I guess apartment blocks, not the hotel. If we stay there again next year I will be putting in a request or two!!!:rotfl2:
     
  • TotallyAngelic

    Disney Addict
    Joined
    Aug 14, 2005
    DAY 2 : Barcelona.

    We woke fairly early at about 7:30 and once we were dressed we decided to head out and find some breakfast, before popping into the big department store El Corte Ingles on Placa Catalunya to purchase a few toiletries which we had left behind due to the baggage allowance. The weather was overcast and it looked like rain, but it did not dampen our spirits. We decided we wanted to try somewhere local and traditional for breakfast, so we found ourselves in the nearest Starbucks !!! Two lattes and a couple of warmed croissants hit the spot! While in Starbucks we spotted a couple who looked familiar, and I was dying to go up and ask them if they were from the DIS meet thread …. but bottled out in case they thought we were some sort of crazy people. I wish I had been more determined as it turned out to be Marilyn and John !!

    We wandered to El Corte Ingles and once again seemed to be the target for opportunist street sellers who were now selling umbrellas! Very enterprising, considering it had just started to rain. There seemed to be no life in the store, and after examining and translating the opening times, it appeared we were on hour early, as the store opened at 10am. Not to worry, we decided to bring forward our touring plans of visiting some of the Gaudi sites, and we would pop back to the store at some point later in the day.

    I had a mental image of how to get to the Gaudi houses, and I managed to get it spot on. About 5 minutes walk and we found ourselves outside Casa Batllo. This house was truly stunning and I loved the architecture, the colours and the way the balconies looked like alien's eyes ( well they did to me anyhow ) I stood in the road and nearly got run down by traffic trying to get these photos as I didn't want anything else in the field of vision:













    A short walk along the road and we came to Casa Mila or La Pedrera. I didn't find this house as interesting or as inspiring as Casa Batllo, that is just my very humble opinion but I took a few photos so you can make your own minds up.





    After the two houses we set off in our quest to find Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. This time my mental image of how to get there wasn't quite as accurate, and we did end up wandering the streets a little, trying to spot the cathedral spires in the distance. Some of the spires we spotted turned out to be the wrong ones, but still worth a photograph:





    Eventually we found it, and once again my trusty camera sprang into action and I took one ot two photos …....

















    The Sagrada Familia was totally awe inspiring, stunning, evocative, incredible … in fact you could run out of superlatives just describing it. There was a very long line to get into the interior so we just walked around the perimeter so that I could photograph it from all aspects and be amazed at every turn. The cathedral is very much a work in progress and I got a few photos of the building in action ….. on this one you can see a cement mixer being hoisted up to the top by a crane:





    This installment will continue in the next post due to the glut of photographs and I make no apologies for this .... this IS the Sagrada Familia we are talking about here !!!!
     

    TotallyAngelic

    Disney Addict
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    Aug 14, 2005
    I tried to take a lot of close up photos of the carvings and the statuary on the Cathedral as this was truly stunning:











    The detail to the windows was incredible:





    In this photograph you can see the contrast in the colour of the stone .... I imagine one bit being either a lot newer, or just having been cleaned or something:







    We saw lots of cruise tours at the Cathedral, and it made us giggle seeing long lines of tourists following behind a flag held aloft by a tour guide. (needless to say we would be doing the same thing ourselves in St Maarten) After I had photographed the cathedral from every angle imaginable, we decided to find the Barri Gotic ( Gothic Quarter ) and explore that area, which is the oldest part of Barcelona.

    On the way back to the Gothic Quarter we came across a commotion at the metro station, where large numbers of television cameras and crew were interviewing a chap who looked like a fire officer or something. There were also large numbers of emergency services milling around: police, paramedics, fire personnel etc. No one seemed to be bothered that we were there and I even snapped a couple of photos. I never found out what it was all about.





    Eventually we found ourselves in the Gothic Quarter, after passing the Arc de Triomphe on the way,



    and really enjoyed wandering around the winding streets. To me this is what being in a city is all about, getting lost in the back streets and absorbing the atmosphere.











    We stopped off for a bit of lunch in a beautiful square, and had a couple of delicious toasted sandwiches and lattes. Why is it that simple food tastes so delicious when eaten outside in a Mediterranean city. We sat a while and watched the hustle and bustle in a small market nearby, before decided to continue with our exploration. Our next stop was Barcelona Cathedral,



    and we were able to enter inside this stunning building. The architecture once again was incredible and atmosphere very peaceful and relaxing.










    It was interesting to see that the cathedral had replaced traditional wax candles with electric versions, which I found rather strange, but probably due to some safety consideration aimed at preventing fire. It did somehow detract from the atmosphere a little though, having these little cases of electric candles everywhere.



    There was even a courtyard with a pond within the cathedral building, complete with resident geese, although my camera had annoyingly decided to run out of battery at this point so I was unable to take any photos of the geese.

    At this point time was getting on and as much as I would have loved to wander though the streets until sunset, we had a DIS date at the Hard Rock to go to, and we still needed to do the bit of shopping in the department store, so reluctantly we headed back to Las Ramblas and headed up towards Placa Catalunya.
     

    TotallyAngelic

    Disney Addict
    Joined
    Aug 14, 2005
    We walked up Las Ramblas to El Corte Ingles, where we headed inside and picked up the toiletries we needed, although I did have a hard time working out what conditioner was in Spanish. In the end I gave up and decided to wait until Gibraltar and good old Morrisons! We then headed back to the hotel for a freshen up, and a camera battery replenishment, just in time for me to take lots more photographs in the hotel.


















    Nothing like photo overkill in a trip report, and we're not even on the ship yet !!! We wandered into the courtyard at the back and in the library area we encountered the couple we had rudely ignored earlier in Starbucks. This time I was more forthcoming and I introduced ourselves …. to our now lovely friends Marilyn and John. Not long after that some more people came in who looked absolutely exhausted …. it was Melodie, Amy and Dave. I think at this point they headed off for a rest before the DIS get to-gether.

    Before too long the DIS meet was upon us, and we headed down to the Hard Rock Cafe on Placa Catalunya. We gathered outside the restaurant and met up with lots of the lovely people we had been chatting to on-line for nigh on two years.




    We had a group photograph taken and then we were bustled into the basement, where we snagged a table with Lynne, Len, Annie and Howard, and then Woody came over to join us. We all had a great time chatting and making acquaintances with new friends. We were all very excited about the cruise. We had a drink, but didn't get any food at this point as we were planning on making pizza at Lynne and Len's apartment. When we left the Hard Rock Cafe the rain was bucketing down, and by the time we reached the harbour end of Las Ramblas we would have been less wet had we jumped in the sea. We then visited the supermarket to pick up some pizza and beer and by now we were wading in puddles 6 inches deep, and had really lost the will to live with the weather like that. We arrived at Lynne and Len's apartment and after dripping all over the floor I borrowed some shorts from Lynne and managed to get a bit drier.

    We had a lovely meal of pizza and pasta washed down with beer and watched an epic thunderstorm outside as the rain continued to fall. I went on the balcony .... a bit of a different view from the previous night, and I tried to capture the delightful rainy ambience.











    Morag and Gus arrived back at the apartment, and at about 10:30pm, when Gus was looking through his binoculars, he suddenly said he could see the Disney Magic. Of course we all thought this was a wind up, until we all had a look through the binoculars to see that he was indeed correct, we could see the two funnels lit up and the Mickey head logo and we were all beside ourselves with excitement.

    Before long we decided to return to our hotel in anticiaption of a verty exciting day ahead tomorrow. The rain had stopped falling and our walk up Las Ramblas was at least dry, although the same dodgy characters from the previous night were still very much in evidence. There seemed to be a more visible police presence this evening too. We were in bed by midnight, and went quickly to sleep.
     

    TotallyAngelic

    Disney Addict
    Joined
    Aug 14, 2005
    You must have been very excited to see the ship.
    Understatement .... after looking forward to this cruise for almost 2 years, to actual see the ship, even as a blur on the horizon, was immense. We were jumping around the room and I know I had a bit of a blubber :goodvibes
     

    jns

    <font color=cc3366>Tries hard to get the jelly off
    Joined
    Jul 2, 2004
    great start to your report
    have been waiting for it
     

    cannp123165

    <font color=green>Very Quizzical<font color=teal>
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2005
    It sounds like you had a brilliant day in Barcelona - the architecture looks stunning! Looking forward to the next installment and the ship! :)
     


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