Barcelona Freixenet Sitges Tour PhotosWednesday, April 16, 2014. This is our first of three days in Spain. Today's date is in Barcelona. Our plans are to take a tour to first see the Freixenet Cava Winery / Cellars, and then to go explore the artist-famous ocean town of Sitges.
Our concern about missing this tour was even greater, because the tour began nowhere near the boat. It began from the tour office at the center of Barcelona - and only a half hour after the boat landed. So even though the tour documentation gave vague information about being able to walk there, or take busses, we decided to take a taxi. Better safe than sorry.
So we were in line to get off the boat as it was docking and we were one of the very first people off the boat. We got into the very first taxi and asked him to head on out. Off he raced, up over the huge, white bridge that spanned the harbor, and then through the various streets of Barcelona. We saw fountains and buildings, but we were really just watching the clock. We got there only 5 minutes before the tour start date, even with all that racing. And it cost 25 euros. Cash only. Luckily, Jenn had that.
We went into the office and immediately they began gathering up people to walk around the corner to the bus. We pointed out that we'd raced here and barely made it, and that maybe other boat members were still on their way. The guide said he'd go back to the office to check for them. But really all he did was run back, look around, and run back to the bus - and we were off. Their policy is if you don't show up you don't get a refund. So anybody else who was trying to make this tour was out of luck.
The drive to Freixenet was lovely, and then he turned us over to the Freixenet tour guide. The tour was nice. We got to see how cava was made and walk through their cellars. The cellars were massive. But these were only the "display cellars" where they showed you how things used to be done. In their new, modern facilities you have to take a train to move around it, it's so gigantic. Riddling - where they move the yeast down to the neck of the bottle - is all done by huge machines now.
With the Easter holidays, the bottling line wasn't in motion, but usually that runs fairly non-stop. Then we were in the tasting room. We got to taste some for free, and they wanted money to taste more, which we didn't pay :). Then down to the gift shop, and back out to the bus.
Next, we drove on to Sitges. I was so convinced the town was STiges with the ST first! I even showed the brochure to Jenn later on saying it said STiges. My eyes just refused to see SITges. Very interesting. In any case, it's one of the most gay-friendly places on Earth, or so they claim. It's also incredibly expensive. This is where the painter Santiago Rusiņol worked. It's near the northern border with France, in the province of Catalonia. The guide talked a lot about the politics of Spain and how many provinces wanted to break away from Spain.
Sitges was lovely. Lots of pretty, art nouveau architecture that the guide pointed out. It's also fairly full of steps. The family group with us had to break off partway through because their baby stroller couldn't deal with all the steps on the path our guide had chosen. Then we all separated for lunch. I'll note that this guide didn't have the radio talker like the others had, and when we broke for lunch we would have had no way to contact him in case of trouble. We had to ask him for his phone number.
He had recommended a rotisserie chicken restaurant, so we wandered around a bit and then went there. They were just opening for lunch, so we were their first customers. As all the guides so far had been talking about how it is "Artichoke Season" in the Mediterranean right now, and how Easter is always associated with the Artichoke, I ordered roasted artichoke.
When it arrived, I was baffled about how to eat it. Jenn said to just scrape the leaves with your teeth, but the leaves I scraped had nothing on them. So the guy came over with gloves on his hand and demonstrated for me :). You have to get the certain ones that have artichoke meat stuck to them. It seemed fairly tedious, so I only ate one of them. Still, the rotisserie chicken was delicious!
Jenn had fun buying some chocolates for friends and other things, and we stopped by the pharmacy too. Then we did a bit more shopping and by the time we got back to the meeting point, the pharmacy was completely closed! So things seem to open and close at random times. We walked a fair distance back to where the bus had been allowed to park, and then it was the long drive back into Barcelona.
This is where it gets a bit stressful. Again, all the tour information had said this tour office was within walking distance of the ship. So when we were dropped off again, we had an hour and a half before the ship departed. We decided, rather than pay another 25 euros to get back to the ship, we'd walk it.
Here's a map of the route we took. You can click on it for a larger view. The total walking distance is three miles.
We started off at a fast pace, even though we'd been walking for most of the day already. We didn't linger. We just walked, and walked, and walked.
There were lots of people on the streets to contend with and crosswalks with signs to wait for. We plowed on diligently, without stop.
When we got near the water we thought we were all set - but no. There was still another batch of walking. And this was no longer "nice environment" walking. Now we were down in the dock areas with very few people anywhere, never mind tourists. The sun was beating down. I was getting worried about how much time it would take to finish the walk. and then that bridge you see on the map is VERY steep. It goes pretty much straight up one side and then straight down the other. But we only took a brief stop at the top. We could see the ship below us at this point - we could have bungee jumped down to it. But no, we had to keep walking down the other side of the bridge, along to the rotary, and then back again to get to it. I was worried because there wasns't even a stream of taxis and busses dropping off people at this point. The place was just barren.
But, luckily, we did make it in time. We got back to the room and collapsed :).
So, lesson to anybody taking that tour. Plan for taxi fare on both sides of it. Make sure you get off the ship IMMEDIATELY and race there to make it in time. Then take a taxi back.
Jenn slept through dinner, so I went down with just my cellphone and had dinner with Mom and Len. I had the pot roast without potatoes, and the salmon tartare for an appetizer. Then it was time for the spa, and sleep.
Canon EOS40D - 327 photos:
Barcelona Freixenet Sitges Tour Photos Photos
Canon S100 - 421 photos:
Barcelona Freixenet Sitges Tour Photos Photos
Cell phone - dinner photos:
Italy / Western Mediterranean Cruise Travelogue main page
Lisa's Travelogue Listing