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On Life and Barcelona

Posted on August 18th, 2017

Dave!A terrorist attack in Catalonia.

Including Barcelona, a city I love and have visited multiple times.

You'd think I'd have found the words to properly express my sadness at these ongoing tragedies from terrorism by now, but I don't think they're ever coming. It just continues to break my heart, and it always hurts to know there is such evil in the world.

But it hurts worse when places I love suffer for it.

And I love entirely too many places on this earth.

   

Thank you to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for your statement on the terrorist attack. It's nice to know there's a true leader left in North America.

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Day Fifteen: Barcelona

Posted on September 18th, 2010

Dave!And then, as quickly as it began, the cruise was over.

Truthfully, it doesn't feel like I had a vacation. With a port excursion most every day, I was waking up at 7:00am, getting back to the ship for dinner at 6:00pm, then working before going to sleep at 11:00pm so I could start it all over again the next day. But, then again, the idea of doing nothing and just lounging around the ship for ten days would drive me insane, so I guess this as good as it gets. I did get to see a lot of interesting and beautiful places, that's for sure.

In the end, I was very impressed by Disney Cruise Line...

The Disney Magic

A few observations...

  • I was never really bothered by a bunch of kids, as I had expected. There are adults-only areas and adults-only shore excursions which keep your exposure to screaming kids to a minimum. Even at dinner they take care to seat people traveling without kids with other people traveling without kids.
  • That being said, there are a lot of kid-oriented activities to keep them entertained throughout the cruise.
  • The staff was, as expected, exemplary. At every turn in every area the crew was at the top of their game. At times I was blown away at the lengths they'd go to fix a problem. The bad internet, for example, was immediately refunded 50% after I complained about it being unusable at times. When my "character breakfast" time was mis-printed on my dining ticket, the head server arranged another for me. The dining staff was insanely obliging for my every request. If I didn't like the vegetarian options on the menu, they'd create something else... or even order me a pizza... rather than have me leave disappointed. Even the retail shop staff went the extra mile to make sure I was happy. Service is usually good on cruise ships, but Disney takes it to the next level entirely.
  • The food was incredible. Just incredible. The vegetarian options were often fantastic and really delicious, and only twice did I opt for pizza instead of the menu. If you could taste their pizza, you'd understand why... it was great.
  • Like most ships, Disney has an "upscale" restaurant which requires a fee to dine in. On the Disney Magic it's Palo, an adults-only dining area with a Northern Italian menu. The food, while truly excellent, wasn't really that much better than what you get from the restaurant menus. The service, surprisingly, was worse. The poor waitress at my table had to take orders, deliver drinks, deliver food, AND bus tables for four groups... two of them with six people! Naturally, she fell behind, and service definitely suffered. This was a really crappy thing to do to the poor woman... they should at least give her a busser to clean off tables for her. If I had it to do all over again, I would definitely pass on dining at Palo.
  • One area where I think Disney falls behind is when competing with Norwegian Cruise Lines "Freestyle Cruising." While I was never disappointed with my restaurant rotation... I still like the ability to choose my own restaurant and dress how I want. With Disney, if you don't like the restaurant your scheduled for (or want to eat at a different time), you can always go to the buffet or order a burger at the pool... but that's a far cry from eating when you want where you want. And I hate... hate... having to dress up for "formal night" and "semi-formal night" in order to attend my dinner. I AM ON VACATION! DON'T MAKE ME DRESS IN A SUIT FOR DINNER!
  • The port excursions were, as with other cruise lines, not run by Disney. They were operated by a local tour company at the port of call. But what makes Disney different is that they usually send one of their people with the tour group. This removes any worry of something going wrong because you never feel abandoned by Disney... even when you're not with Disney. This was entirely unexpected, but a great idea.
  • The ship itself was nice. Very nice. Everywhere was beautifully designed and impeccably maintained. Disney touches and theming were everywhere. Some things I'd expect to find (a library, for example) were missing... probably to make room for all the kids areas... but it didn't really detract from my experience. A big plus with Disney is a separate toilet room and shower room in most of their cabins. This would make traveling with family a much easier experience.
  • Hands-down the absolute best embarkation and debarkation experiences I've had with any cruise ship ever. Given the total mess that most cruise lines make of this, they could definitely learn a thing or two from Disney.

Overall, I thought this is one of the best cruises I've taken. And, while I prefer the "freestyle" aspect of NCL or the flexible options at Princess, I'd take another Disney Cruise in a second. The problem is that they only have two (soon to be three) ships, so their itineraries are really lacking. Unless you want to take the same Mediterranean Cruise over and over... or hop on a short trip through the Caribbean... your options are severely limited. Earlier this year, they had an amazing "Balkan Capitals" cruise that I'd love to take, but it's not available in 2011. Instead, they're going to Alaska, which I've already done. I'd say the odds of me cruising with Disney any time soon are pretty low... not because I don't like the company, but because they're not going anyplace I want to go.

So... if Disney is cruising a place you'd like to see, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. Everything from the ship to the service to the port experiences were gold.

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Day Four: Barcelona

Posted on September 7th, 2010

Dave!Since I've been to Barcelona a couple times before, I've seen all the "top sights" in the city. Rather than hunting for new things to see, I thought that I'd buy a ticket for one of those "Hop-On Hop-Off" tour busses and see some of the place they recommend. This was a huge mistake and a big waste of money. It took forever for the busses to show up, half the places they went were not at all interesting, and I would have been far better off planning things myself with a Metro Pass and an occasional taxi... probably for less money too.

Oh well. Live and learn.

I did spend some time at one of my favorite museums on earth... Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. They have got some incredible, incredible stuff. And you don't even have to go to Barcelona to explore their collection... they've got most everything available online! Here are a few of the coolest things I saw...

Apparently, this guy really needs to pee. I feel bad for him, because he's looking a little desperate. Oh well, we've all been there...

I gots ta pee!

I'm guessing that the poor state of dentistry was responsible for a lot of people being all miserable with toothaches...

Statues with a Toothache

ZOMG! IT'S THE ARC OF THE COVENANT!!

Arc of the Covenant

This is one of my favorite paintings. In the middle is Baby Jesus. Around the outside are Saints and the awesome ways they were martyred for Him...

Pick-A-Death!

I wonder if you get to choose which way you're going to die? There's sawed in half...

Pick-A-Death SAWED IN HALF!

Boiled in oil...

Pick-A-Death BOILED IN OIL!

Sliced repeatedly with a sword...

Pick-A-Death STABBED WITH A SWORD

Or, my personal favorite... nails in the face... IN THE FACE!!!

Pick-A-Death NAILS IN THE FACE

But no worries... Christians definitely got their revenge during the Crusades, the Inquisition, and numerous interfaith and denominational wars. Here's part of a mural showing two Christian soldiers chillaxin on the battlefield...

Crusades Chillaxin

Right before they go out and kill some black people...

Crusades Killin

This is much like I'd imagine a Glenn Beck rally would be like if it took place 900 years ago. Or possibly two years from now. And since we've got dumbfuck Christian ministers burning the Qur'an in "The Land of Religious Freedom and Tolerance" back in the USA, I'd say that a new round of Crusades is just around the corner.

It's so convenient how an increasing number of Christians seem to forget their own bloody past when accusing Islam of being a violent religion. Historically, Christians are among the most savagely violent and destructive people ever to have existed. And when I see all the raw hatred coming out of the so-called "Religious Right," I have to wonder if things are coming full-circle. Obviously this isn't the path chosen by ALL Christians... for now... but if the past is forgotten, I have to wonder what the future will bring...

Monk!

I rode the bus around to various sites taking pictures... blah blah blah... but ended up going to another favorite location in Barcelona. Casa Milá, better known as Le Pedera. This is Gaudi's freaky apartment complex and one of his most famous works...

Casa Milá

A lot of the stuff here is way ahead of its time. Like these HR Giger-esque doors, straight out of Alien...

Gaudi Alien Door

But it's the roof that everybody comes here to see. It's got all kinds of interesting structures stuck to it...

CasaMilá Roof

CasaMilá Roof

CasaMilá Roof

After goofing around Station Diagonal for a bit, I decided to hike up Tibidabo Hill to get a shot of the sun setting...

Sunset Over Barcelona

Then it was time for delicious Patatas Bravas at a tapas bar...

Patatas Bravas and Coke!

Mmmmm... yummy greasy potatoes. Probably the best way you can end a day in Barcelona!

   

Day Three: Barcelona

Posted on September 6th, 2010

Dave!Um. What the heck is happening back home?

Reading the news, it looks as though stupidity has escalated at an alarming rate after I left. Just when I think blatant dumbfuckery has reached its peak, I see that a Christian minister is planning on burning the Qur'an. Forget about the fact that this kind of thing is categorically wrong on every possible level, the people behind this travesty are obviously clueless morons who have no understanding of the consequences of their actions.

The vast, vast majority of Muslims are kind, thoughtful, caring, and wholly wonderful people who want nothing more than to live their lives and practice their faith in peace. Just like most everybody else. But when idiots attack their faith... by ohhh... I dunno... burning their most sacred texts... shit is going to happen. Just like it would for most religions.

Stupidity like this puts American lives in danger. Not just our troops who are serving in Islamic lands, but pretty much ALL of us everywhere. If there is no respect for peoples of all faiths (particularly from those who are leaders of those faiths) then there's no respect for the people who follow them. Without respect, there can be no understanding. Without understanding, there can be no acceptance. Without acceptance, there can be no peace.

And yet I'm sure everybody will still be all shocked when the retaliations hit.

In the meanwhile, I'm going to try and enjoy my vacation the best I can in this sick, sad world.

The symbol of Barcelona would have to be Gaudi's masterpiece... the still unfinished Sagrada Família church. To be honest, it looks much the same as it did when I was last here five years ago, but I'm sure much progress has been made...

Sagrada Família

The interior is just as breathtakingly beautiful as I remember it...

Sagrada Família Interior

Sagrada Família Stained Glass Window

Sagrada Família Interior Columns

Sagrada Família Interior

Sagrada Família Interior

And, despite my fear of heights, of course I had to go up one of the towers...

Sagrada Família Heights

Sagrada Família Overlook

Sagrada Família View

After my pilgrimage to Sagrada Família, I wandered around a bit until I found myself at Parc Güell, another site of Gaudi genius...

Parc Güell

Parc Güell

Parc Güell

Hmmm... that looks kind of like Castle Greyskull!

Dinner was at the Hard Rock Cafe, because I just couldn't help myself.

Tomorrow? More of the same, I'm afraid...

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