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Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2015
Mediterranean Cruise -  Part 5
Introduction to  these two Cruises, Southampton and day at sea Amsterdam Zeebrugge for Bruges Southampton and two days at sea Gibraltar Cagliari, Sardinia Naples, for Herculaneium Civitavecchia for Rome, Italy Monte Carlo, Monaco Barcelona, Spain Cadiz for Seville, Spain Two days at Sea to Southampton

Hover over a Port or Area for more information then click or use the links above

Barcelona, Spain - Friday 16 October

The ship arrived at 0900 and the first shuttle bus from the ship to the centre of Barcelona left shortly afterwards. Our cruise ticket entitled us to free shuttle buses; otherwise it cost 6 euros each way. We also saw the T3 Port Bus which for 3 euros return went into town. Both stop near the Placa de les Drassannes and the Maritime Museum. To the right is the Monument Colon. It is a statue of Christopher Columbus pointing towards the horizon, on top of a tall column in the centre of the Placa del Portal de la Pau and commemorates his first visit to the Americas in 1492.

Ahead stretched the main boulevard, La Rambla, a famous wide avenue with stalls along the side which were just starting to open. After buying our Metro T10 ticket (only 9.95 euros) at Drassannes, giving 10 trips which we could both use, we descended underground. Drassannes is on the TMB line L3 and our intention was to go 4 stops to Diagonal then change for the L5 to Sagrada Familia. Barcelona was the home of the famous architect, Antoni Gaudi I Cornet. He was born in 1852 and was responsible from 1883 until his death in 1926 for the design of many revolutionary and wonderful unusual buildings, including the building of the Sagrada Familia. Unfortunately the train stopped at Catalunya and there was an announcement. Everyone got off the train and we wondered what was wrong. The driver went to the other end of the train and it went back the direction it had come. There was a problem between Catalunya and the next station at Passeig de Gracia and trains were not going through. The best option would have been to walk to Passeig de Gracia but we looked for alternatives to Diagonal and had to change from TMB to FGC platforms. Our ticket seemed to be stamped for the extra journey. At Diagonal we changed back to L5 as planned. This detour meant that we were very late at the Sagrada Familia ticket office, there was no queue, and we were told that the next timed ticket for entry was at 1300. We decided that was too late for our return to the ship. Next time we will order our timed tickets on the Internet. The crypt, with the tomb of Gaudi, is only open for Mass in the morning from 0900 to 1000, and we were just too late.

On previous visits to Barcelona in 2013 and 2014 we spent the entire morning in the Sagrada Familia. We visited the Passion tower on our last visit on the Queen Victoria in 2013, and visited the Passion tower and the Nativity tower, where a bridge is crossed between towers, on Queen Elizabeth in 2014. Begun in 1882, the building has four sides, with three spectacular facades (Passion, Nativity and Glory). The fourth side is the Chapel of the Assumption and two sacristies. The Passion facade is at the ticket office entrance, leading to the two Gospel doors, with texts from the gospels of Matthew and John. Gaudi designed the facade while ill and close to death in 1911, and tried to capture the pain and sorrow of the Passion. The Segrada Familia towers over Barcelona although the lines are broken up by the ever present cranes. Access to both sets of towers was by lift, then walking down the spiral staircase.

Only the Nativity facade and four of the towers were completed when Gaudi died in 1926, run over by a tram. The best view of this facade is from the park in Placa Gaudi and the darker early stonework with its fine details of plants and animals is in contrast to the lighter modern and minimalist recent additions. It is all still an active building site, and the Passion facade and 4 more towers have been constructed, each over 100 metres tall. The Glory facade and another set of towers, are part built, and previous concrete work is being demolished. Estimates are that it will be 80 years before it is all finished.

 

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The basilica is a spectacular design, with lots of light, illuminated through the bright primary colours of the stained glass windows as well as huge windows on the east end. It is a very tall structure with delicate pillars of changing cross-section, made of different materials (Montjuic stone, Granite, Basalt and Porphyry depending on the loads). Gaudi based his design on trees, branches and leaves. The inside also looked like a skeleton because the pillars look like bones.

The Nativity facade was completed in 1936 and as well as the classic nativity scene, with wise men and shepherds, Gaudi devised it as a triumph of life and creation. It depicts the episodes relating to the conception, birth, childhood and adolescence of Jesus. There are three porticos: Faith, Hope and Charity below four towers. The detail of statues, fine stone work of leaves and flowers, leads to a green cypress tree with white doves depicting the Tree of Life. The four towers announce Hosanna and Excelsis, and are clad with Venetian mosaic work of Murano glass. The best view is obtained from the other side of the lake in the Park of Gaudi. The views from the bridge between two of the towers is impressive, and the side fencing reduced the effect of vertigo.

so having visited the towers we were too late to visit, and could only look down onto the space from above. The Museum also had windows which looked directly onto the tomb. A second visit to the museum meant we could better understand the work of Gaudi, and we saw workmen making the plaster models. Our last visit had been at a weekend and there was less activity. It was fascinating to see how the shapes for the vaults had been calculated, using string and bags of sand to shape the optimal catenaries which were then inverted to provide the shape for the best vaulting. A machine modeled the carving of stone pillars which had variable cross-sections, and the main columns divided into "branches" which were inspired by the tree in Gaudi's garden. The bells are tubular bells, another Gaudi innovation. There were also a set of models showing how the original, rather conventional design had evolved through parabolic then hyperbolic designs to his final version which is still being followed nearly 80 years after his death.

In 2014 we had continued in the afternoon to the the Park Guell, another Gaudi Design, which was an easy metro journey from Sagrada Familia to the station at Vallcarca.

This visit we wanted to look at the interesting houses so caught the Metro to Passeig de Gracia. By the start of the 20th century Passeig de Gracia was one of the most desirable residential streets, and includes several famous houses by Gaudi. The most impressive grouping is the Manzana de la Discordia and comprises three Modernistic masterpieces: Casa Amatller, Casa Batllo and Casa Lleo i Morera. They have different and clashing architectural styles and it is special to see the three houses close together in the same street. Casa Batllo, at number 43, is a Gaudi masterpiece, built in 1907. The facade is said to represent the triumph of St George over the dragon, with the mosaics representing the scales of the dragon, the roof the dragon’s back and the balconies representing the skulls and bones of its victims. We enjoyed our Cruise on the Queen Victoria to Barcelona in August 2010 when we had visited the Casa Batllo and La Pedrera; in total 7 of Gaudi's works in Barcelona have a World Heritage rating which is quite exceptional.

The Casa Lleo i Morera offered a short guided tour in English at 11.30 which was only 12 euros and enabled us to see the modernist architecture designed by Lius Domenech i Montaner. The visit was only of the empty rooms on the first floor and our guide explained that the original fine Modernista furniture had gone to the Museum on Montjuic Hill. We admired the door furniture, especially the large round Peep-hole in the main door. The upstairs floors of the building are used as offices by commercial organisations. From outside it was clear that the house had large stained-glass windows facing the Passeig de Gracia and inside the house we could admire the excellent views in both directions. The tall semicircular alcove has curved glass. The entrance hall and corridor have sculptures by Eusebi Arnau depicting the story of the nurse and the miracle of the baby, and the fable of St George. St George is the patron saint of Catalonia. Antoni Gaudi's Casa Battlo is modelled on the shape of the dragon. The floor is of mosaics in the Roman style, by Mario Maragliano. The walls of the dining room are decorated with mosaic panels of country scenes by Antoni Serra who is famous for his porcelain renderings of faces and hands. It is a superb room with a wall of stained glass windows which open onto the courtyard where there is a painting of a large mulberry tree above the laundry.

The tour ended with plenty of time to walk along the road to the Casa Museu Amatller where there was a longer tour at 1300 but it was in castellano (not Spanish and not English). We had no choice since we really wanted to see the building and the next tour in English was at 1530 which was too late. We paid 15 euros each to reserve our place and then walked up to the Casa Mila - ‘La Pedrera’. It was built by Gaudi in 1912 and shocked the town because of its unusual curving facade. There is an exhibition inside about the origins and construction of the building. The highlight here is again a visit to the rooftop terrace, and more of Gaudi’s unusual chimneys. We visited it in 2010. The sun was shining and the building shone in the midday sunshine.

The Casa Museu Amatller is different. It is free to visit on the ground floor so that people go to the cafe and buy their speciality chocolates, and then take photographs of the staircase and the light fittings. The owner, Antoni Amattler, was born into a family of chocolate makers and the house is still well known for its quality chocolate. The tour requires the wearing of shoe protectors because of the valuable original floors. The house is in a gothic style, described as neo-medieval, which seemed to contrast with the pretty pastel ceramics on the facade. One of the hobbies of Amattler was photography and on short tours there is a slide show in his studio. The house is fully furnished and there are showcases full of souvenirs of his travels. Having understood almost nothing of the castellano descriptions we are only able to let our photos explain the building. Maybe on our next visit we will have time for a proper tour in English.

The tour ended just before 1400 and we had plenty of time to walk back to the shuttle bus stop. It was not far to the Placa de Catalunya, at the end of La Rambla, dominated by the stark El Corte Ingles department store. The Mercat of St Josep de la Boqueria, the main covered food market, was still open and we entered through an impressive gateway from La Rambla. La Rambla had now become alive with street entertainment and souvenir shops, and was full of people. It was such a contrast to the peace of the early morning. We turned at the Monument Colon before passing two T3 Port Buses and then walked straight onto our shuttle bus back to the ship.

Cadiz - Sunday 18 October

There is usually a stop somewhere down the West coast of Spain or Portugal on the journey to or from the Mediterranean. Cadiz is an interesting town, and it is also the port for tours to Seville and Jerez. In Queen Victoria in 2014 we took a tour to Seville. This was our fourth visit and we knew Cadiz was an excellent town to walk around, and within easy reach of the cruise terminal. We had no interest in another long bus journey to Seville. This was the right decision because it was raining when we arrived. It was also Sunday and we expected the shops and museums would be closed. This contrasted with our last visit on the Queen Victoria in December 2014 and with our trip in December 2013 on the Queen Victoria Mediterranean Delights Cruise. We have mostly used pictures from the earlier visits as photographs in the rain are not so interesting!

Cadiz is said to be the oldest inhabited town in the western world, with 3,000 years of history. It is a major port, and is near to Jerez for exporting sherry and brandy. Seville is 80 miles away. Cadiz is a compact city, and is almost an island because it is circular with a narrow join to the rest of Spain. The old town is easy walking, and the Plaza de Espana is just outside the dock gates. There are recommended walking tours, each painted a different colour on the pavement, and the orange one is along the city walls, through the Alameda de Apodaca and Alameda Marquis de Comillas gardens, and along the Genoves Park to the Castle of Santa Catalina, then along the Playa de la Caleta sandy beach to the Castillo de San Sebastian. We followed this path in 2013.

We intended a shorter walk because of the weather and had two targets: the Torre Tavira and Market, and the Cathedral. The walk began indirectly, by starting at the Plaza de Espagna, then to the Plaza de Mina with the Museu Provincial and the Museum of Manuel de Falla and bookshop, and finally to the Plaza San Antonio where we looked into the Church of San Antonio. We joined the blue footpath, which led into the narrow streets, passing the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri. By now there were groups with shopping trolleys, and we followed them towards the Market but it was almost empty and the Carrefore supermarket opposite was closed. We joined the purple footpath near the Almeda cake shop which we remembered from 2013. It was 2 weeks too early for christmas specialities but we bought two local Turron di Cadiz cakes (9 euros each but very heavy and presumably very rich) The cake shop is opposite the Torre Tavira and we were surprised to find it was open on a Sunday when so many other shops were closed. In 1778 the Torre Tavira was the highest lookout point and was the official watchtower. From the top of the tower there is a 360 degree view and it was clear there are many watchtowers in Cadiz, by memory 129, and most houses have rooftop terraces. There is also a Camera Obscura.

 

Following the purple line led directly to the Cathedral which was built between 1722 and 1838 so is a mixture of different architectural styles. The high altar is in the form of a tabernacle, supported by paired columns. The statue of the Immaculate Conception dates from the 17th century. The choir stalls predate the construction, dating from 1702. The crypt was the first part to be built, between 1722 and 1730. It is made of oyster stone, a local stone excavated from the sea and containing lots of shells. The Chapel of Bishops contains the remains of all the prelates. The famous composer Manuel de Falla was born in Cadiz in November 1876, but died in Argentina in 1946 and was returned to be buried in the crypt. The cathedrale was closed so we have added pictures from an earlier cruise on the Queen Victoria in 2014 but a large crowd was sitting on the steps listening to 3 nuns presenting a story and singing. We walked to the beach to look at the sea but it was too windy and rough.

Pictures from the Gala Tea in the Britannia Restaurant and 175th Party in the Grand Lobby - Monday 19th September

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Content revised: 24 th October, 2015