Sunday & Monday April 17 & 18, 2016
Today we passed a lovely day in Barcelona. The weather was most agreeable--mid to upper sixties and sunny. We got a late start after a leisurely breakfast and some morning needlepoint. We opted for a taxi rather than the shuttle bus (5€) to get into town. Our first stop was the Bocqueria (sp?) market. This is a wonderful food market located just off the Ramblas which is tourist central. Consequently the market is also quite crowded but we did not let that deter us. R found a chocolate, nuts and dried fruit vendor where we went, some would say, a little overboard. We also found some more tomatoes to bring to the dining room (as we did last night) and even some mozzarella di buffala (not very vegan of us) to accompany them.
Our second stop was a real surprise -- a clown store! Isn't that funny? This place sold juggling supplies, hula hoops, clown shoes (where can you find those?), wigs, clown hats & bow ties and, of course, red noses that you can squeeze to make them squeak. It also had circus- and clown-themed art which is what attracted us. Couldn't have found this place if we tried but we ended up buying a couple of things (prints & bookmarks) and had an enjoyable time.
Lunch was at a tiny vegan restaurant that was hard to find. We sat at two stools by the entrance where we had a view of both the street and the kitchen. The kitchen was clearly ill-prepared for the noon time opening so we decided to cut them a break and let them serve us whatever they wanted. The result? A tasty puréed soup (squash? carrot?), risotto (leek and asparagus), spinach "burger", seitan Milanese (the weakest dish), chocolate cake (a close second) and carrot cake (v. good). All in all, it was too much food but they were friendly and it felt good to be supporting a micro-business (like our own) and to be eating vegan again.
After lunch we took what was supposed to be a medium-sized walk but which ended up being rather a long one. Not sure how that happened. We must have fallen into some GPS wormhole type situation where distances are longer than they appear. At any rate, our destination -- an English language bookstore -- turned out to be surprisingly good with an excellent selection of classic and contemporary fiction. I was a happy camper and R was very patient with me.
We returned to the boat in time for some relaxation prior to dinner. It's been four days of a different port each day. Yesterday in Monaco we took a tour of "Nice and Eze" or as some comedian in our group called it, "Nice and Easy". We started the tour with a scenic drive along the Middle Corniche to Eze which is a hilltop village straight off a Hollywood movie lot so classic does it appear. We parked at the bottom of the hill and walked up and I was gratified to see that some of the shops along the way were open or opening despite the fact that it was early Sunday morning. We got some tremendous views of the coast down below as well as plenty of intimate Kodak moments with doorways, alleyways, etc. When the tour allowed us some free time R and I visited a couple of stores that we had passed where we picked up some knicknacks including three Limoges boxes: a monkey, a bee and a snail.
Back on the bus it was more scenic driving this time of Nice. The town has more substance than I had expected it would. I was thinking that it was just a beach/resort community but actually it feels like a real place; that is, a place where families live and children grow up. The shops weren't full of tourist junk and the restaurants seemed to still be attracting lots of natives. Unfortunately as we were doing the walking part of our tour it started to spit rain which gradually got harder and harder until it was pretty much pouring. This was an unfortunate development especially since R had chosen not to carry his bag which contained the umbrellas. What are you going to do? Either get wet or do as we did and purchase two more umbrellas. Thankfully these two umbrellas even managed to remain functional for the duration of the rain (60 minutes) despite their incredibly flimsy mechanisms which promised at any moment to give up the ghost (isn't this a fascinating discussion?
We were given free time in Nice also. R and I chose to walk around the farmers' market where we purchased a couple of croissants (also not very vegan of us), crossed the street to the "Promenade des Anglais" (fancy name for the sidewalk) where we found ourselves a bench, sat down and pretended it wasn't wet and that the croissants were better than they were while looking out at the sea.
The drive back to the ship was on the Lower Corniche and again the views of the coast, the various towns and capes were engaging. I enjoyed the day more than I expected to. Plus we did not have to tender in to Monaco because either this ship is a.) small enough to use the dock (whereas our ship last summer was not) or b.) the dock is brand new. Either way it made for a more convenient embarkation/disembarkation procedure and a visit to France that far surpassed our visit last year to Monaco, which is, imho (in my humble opinion), really just a glorified condominium community for tax cheats (with mediocre shopping to boot). Snap.