Sadly, just a two-day break in beautiful cosmopolitan Barcelona before heading to Genoa on an overnight ferry.
The Schengen clock is ticking so, need to get a move on.
Off we set leaving Reg behind this time. Parking a motorhome in this massive city would be a tad stressful and probably expensive.
The comfortable train (€19.10 return) from Cambrils to Barcelona’s Estacio de Franca is a nice change from the roads.
The first day’s train trip to Barca took around 1.45hrs and the second day took just over 2 hours, not sure why – ‘Spanish time’.
The train travels through many orange orchards, olive groves, vineyards, and many vegetable farms until nearing Barcelona.
Travelling along the Mediterranean Sea for snippets of the journey provides stunning water vistas – flat as a millpond. Sometimes it feels as if the train track almost kisses the sea in some parts, whilst moving close to the water’s edge.
Our first stop is to the Port of Barcelona to find out information about the ferry from Barcelona to Genoa (Italy).
Finding the Grimaldi ferry building along Ronda Litoral, this houses the ticket counter for the Grandi Navi Veloci ferry.
Trying to buy the tickets we’re told we can’t as we don’t have passports or Reg’s registration papers with us, so we bought the tickets online instead.
Around the port
Beautiful architecture graces the port, so take some time to explore.
Walking about 15 kilometres around the city on the first day as there’s so much to do in Barcelona that it makes you giddy just trying to choose a day’s sights to visit.
A plethora of options awaits, in this amazing city: art galleries, cathedrals, city walks, tours, museums, wonderfully superb architecture, and theatres.
The list goes on and this is just in the city centre, not the surrounding areas.
Barcelona is a massive sprawling metropolis and even if you live here, you can probably still spend every day of the year experiencing a new site. And then when you think you have finished seeing everything, there are still countless restaurants, bakeries, cafes, takeaways, and eateries to try.
Sagrada Familia (Gaudi’s masterpiece)
Didn’t know what to expect with this cathedral as I’ve heard quite a bit about the gaudiness.
Well, it doesn’t disappoint – they say you either love or hate this cathedral. I’m not sure which one it is for me. It’s massive, loud, and un-uniformed pieces that fit together to form the cathedral could stand alone to make separate buildings -everything looks disjointed.
It’s almost as if there were too many architects in the making – all with their own ideas and designs – fighting to have their piece built.
To think this is still not finished 100 years later, is incredible in itself.
Apparently, the cathedral won’t be finished until 2020-2040! At €14.95 entry fee, which does not give you access to everything, decided to give the look inside a miss although I hear it is worthwhile.
Las Ramblas is the main and bustling tourist strip with many tourist shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, side-show human statues, expensive prices, and a sea of heads!
Although you must walk down this street to see what all the hype is about, as soon as you have and you’re like me, you’ll want to get out, quickly.
Plaça George Orwell
An interesting square in Barcelona’s Barrio Gotico with a few bars scattered throughout – although some say it is a little seedy, I like the square.
Named after the British writer who penned Homage to Catalonia, which is a personal account and experiences during the Spanish Civil War.
Although the square is named in honour of George Orwell, the irony of this square is that for years a security camera has been mounted next to the plaque with Orwell’s name.
Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia
Constructed from the 13th to the 15th centuries, this cathedral is certainly impressive from the outside. I wasn’t prepared to pay €7.95 to enter. I refuse to pay a church an exorbitant fee to enter – goes against the grain.
The fabulous Port Vell is Barcelona’s waterfront.
With a major revamp for the 1992 Olympics, the city’s once disused empty warehouses and factories were rethought to an urban playground for all with tourist attractions, pedestrian bridges, restaurants, and a pleasant area to sit and relax.
Mercat – La Boqueria
This market is amazing and you can buy every imaginable thing here…
Frequented by many locals, you just know this is an excellent find.
Love wandering around looking at all the interesting and varied produce on offer.
If you are feeling peckish after all the hard work of shopping around the city, then why not stop at one of the many delicious fresh seafood or food bars within the market, to stave your cravings.
Drinks are also always on offer here, so you won’t die of thirst.
Nestled on C/Sant Antoni Abat 42, this is the best place for inexpensive dried fruit and nuts. Everything is charged at a kilo rate and a very good price.
Other groceries available such as spices and different cereals and rice in large sacks – great for stocking up Reg.
This street is kind of a dingier road than the main cleaner tourist strips of Barca. Very multi-cultural and loads of Graffiti.
I didn’t see any tourists here so we received many sidewards’ glances. A mostly north African, Asian, and a migrant populace, this doesn’t bother me at all, but some may find this street a little seedy.
Forns Del PI
Great bakery, coffee shop, and serves local meals also at very cheap prices on Carrer de Ferran, 12. Excellent service and cool ambience. Heavenly warm pastry smells linger through whilst you eat.
Try the mouthwatering freshly baked local pastries – divine! Many locals here and I didn’t see any tourists…yet.
Cambrils to Sitges
Distance: 95 kilometres
Diesel: No fill
Roads: Ap-7, C-32, B-211
Campsite: €19/night including power (with ASCI Camping Card)
Although we provisioned Reg at the Mercadona in Cambrils as there is open-spaced parking and enough parking room directly opposite, still manage to walk about 3kms to the Mercadona in Sitges for a couple of last minute things.
This Mercadona is right next to the train station and also has a bakery section selling wonderful fresh bread. Hate saying goodbye to the Spanish supermarkets and hope Italy has similar.
Sitges to the Port of Barcelona
An early start today as check-in for the Grandi Navi Veloci ferry trip is at 11:00hrs.
Only a 45-minute drive from Sitges to the Port and Lizzy gets us here without any hassles or becoming lost.
Arriving half an hour early, we check in, have a coffee in the lovely new modern building that’s not even on Google Maps yet, and wait to board.
Distance: 40 kilometres
Diesel: No fill
Roads: B-211, C-32, C-31, B-20, B-10
Ferry: Grandi Navi Veloci (19-20 hours – overnight)
Ferry cost: €344 one-way for a motorhome and cabin for 2 people
What you can expect on a Grandi Navi Veloci ferry
Whilst at the ferry terminal, we’re told to get in our cars to board to set sail at 13:00hrs, we wait…and wait. Remember, this is an Italian ferry in Spain.
The only reason the Captain gives for the wait is that he does not give permission to load the cars or to leave the loading area. No one knows how long before the ferry will leave. So, 13:00hrs came and went, and still we wait at the ferry’s loading area on the wharf, none the wiser.
Finally, after a 2-hour delay, we’re told to start our engines, everyone makes a mad dash onto the ferry – vehicles everywhere.
The guys loading the ferry motion us to proceed. But Reg is not allowed to be driven on. As with all the cars, Reg has to reverse up a very steep ramp, revving the engine whilst trying to go over the large steel domes that vehicles are clamped onto. Thought we would burn the motor out as there was so much smoke bellowing out of Reg!
The 4 guys directing us onto the ferry each had a different idea on which way Reg should go, so, 4 sets of arms were directing frantically in every direction, but none in the same direction – very confusing and stressful!
Finally, in place, I was expecting that Reg (and all vehicles for that matter) would be chained on, which is typical practice on Brittany Ferries. Vehicles were not chained on. Loads of vehicles were rammed together with only half a foot in-between as a walkway.
Staff on the ferry
All the workers seemed to be from the Philippines.
Asking a worker in Spanish but he didn’t understand, so I opted for English, whether the cars are clamped on. Responding: “no, it’s a calm sea tonight”, to which I responded: “yes, now it is calm but this can change at any moment during a 20-hour crossing”.
Without clear instructions on how to get our cabin key or directions to the cabin, I wondered over to the boat’s reception desk and asked in Spanish first (we are still in Spain after all) then Italian (it is an Italian ferry) but no one understood either.
Instead, we were motioned upstairs to yet another Filipino guy sitting at a small table handing out cabin keycards. This must be our guy. He couldn’t speak English or anything else apart from Filipino.
Collected the key and found the cabin down the very long narrow corridor. Not a slick and efficient operation as with Brittany Ferries.
Although the cabin is for 4 people, 2 bunks were folded up against the bulkhead and so, this became a 2-person cabin with an ensuite – enough room and larger than the cabin on Brittany Ferries.
The ferry has 9 decks and many long narrow corridors with hundreds of doors, it seems (more like a massive hotel than a ferry). Oh and the walls between the cabins are paper thin – you can hear everything in adjacent cabins.
There’s also a restaurant, cafeteria, a couple of bar/coffee stops, a couple of praying rooms, an indoor pool (closed as it’s autumn), a Duty Free shop, but not much else…you get the picture though.
After wandering around the ferry, can’t but notice all the North African males (only a few women and children) on the ferry. From the sideward glances received, they couldn’t but help notice us westerners as there are only a handful on board this ferry. After all, this ferry started at Nador (Morocco) and finishes in Cittavecchia, Italy.
I was also surprised to see that blankets and pillows were strewn around the floor in corners, and some foyer areas around the ferry’s seating level. Guess this is allowed as it’s a long journey in a seat from Morocco.
The ferry announcements are in Italian, French, and Arabic.
All food signs advertise “Halāl Certified”. There is a Mosque room for praying, the communal TV is always on an Arabic channel (and I dared not change this). And Arabic males make themselves at home in most of the prime areas, permanently – kind of paints a picture in itself really.
Quite surprising for an Italian ferry. I wish the ferry caters for all paying guests equally as we have paid to be on the same ferry and expect to be treated equally.
Back on deck, it was fun watching cars being offloaded on the port.
We finally left Barcelona at 14:40hrs – we are on Spanish time after all and on an Italian ferry.
To be continued: The Grandi Navi Veloci ferry experience.
Onwards to Genoa.
Hope the Balearic Sea (Mediterranean Sea) is feeling kind tonight and everyone can enjoy a smooth sail!