Tag Archives: Barcelona

Post-Grad Eurotrip Part 6: The Grimaldi Ferry

If you ever find yourself planning a trip that requires you to travel from Barcelona to Rome—or just Spain to Italy in general—you may consider flying or taking the train.  Now flying will be quick and is going to cost a pretty penny and the train will require station switches and come to a total of about 12+ hours.  There is another means of transportation that gives you a relatively cheap option, a good dose of scenery, and an enjoyable time: ferrying.

For about $150, you can take a Grimaldi Ferry from the Barcelona Port to the Civitavecchia Port and then you take a quick train from there to Rome.  This option provides a place to sleep for the overnight ocean ride, 2-3 meals, and great views of the Italian coastline to cram the memory of your camera.

IMG_2130

Make sure to locate the Grimaldi port during your time in Barcelona so that you don’t have to do so last minute.  The Barcelona Port is south-west from the Christopher Columbus monument and goes in alphabetical order.  Just keep walking along the port coast and you will eventually find Grimaldi.

The ferry ready for the embark process.  The port is very beautiful at night.
The ferry ready for the embark process. The port is very beautiful at night.

After a quick boarding, the ferry jetted off from the port and I was on the way to Rome.

The 2nd cheapest option for sleeping on the ferry is a soft cover airplane-esque seat (cheapest is a hard pull-down seat); if you are lucky, you will have an entire row to yourself to lay down on.  Otherwise you can purchase a cabin, but it’ll cost you much more money.  I would not recommend the cushion seat for those who have trouble sleeping, suffer back problems, or those who cannot handle the snoring of other passengers.  I personally just went to the upper deck and put my head down on a table to sleep; it was much more peaceful and I got to see the sunrise.

The soft cover seats.  Cheapest option for sleeping on the ferry.  Loud snoring included in the price.
The soft cover seats. Cheapest option for sleeping on the ferry. Loud snoring included in the price.

I will also recommend that when you purchase your ticket online, purchase your meal tickets as well.  Grimaldi gives you a fair discount for the online purchase and you have a guaranteed meal or two while you are on the ferry.

After we set sail for Rome, I decided to grab dinner and Grimaldi gives you a healthy amount of options to choose from, so you won’t be disappointed.  At first, I thought I was going to be eating alone when I was approached by a young woman my age asking if I was solo-traveling as well.  We decided to eat with each other, which made for a great and memorable time.

One of the many options for dinner.  Pretty solid meal for a great price.
One of the many options for dinner. Pretty solid meal for a great price.

Enter Ruby Bisson: blogger, craftswoman, traveler, and an all-around fantastic personality.  Make sure to check out her blog here: http://ruby-claire.com/ as she is an engaging writer who speaks in a personable tone that makes you craving more.

Relaxing on the top deck.
Relaxing on the top deck.

The conversation made for a very enjoyable 3 hour dinner where the topics included our life stories, our futures, my world rank #82 in Harry Potter Quiz Up, a few of our travel stories up to the ferry, and what we had for us back home.  I would say this was one of the most memorable nights of my entire trip because I fulfilled a goal, while seemingly small, that I set for myself when I embarked on my Eurotrip: I made a great friend who I still talk with to this day.  Again, check out her blog; you won’t be disappointed. 

After dinner, I took advantage of the tranquility by strolling along the top deck and star gazing for awhile.  Depending on how much sleep you need, you can do this for hours and the staff let you wander the ship whenever you want.

In the morning you can treat yourself to a great breakfast that’s both cheap and filling.

You can pick and choose your breakfast to make it as American, British, Italian, etc. as you want.
You can pick and choose your breakfast to make it as American, British, Italian, etc. as you want.

At about 10-11am, the ferry staff will set up lawn chairs and fill the pool on the top deck so the passengers can enjoy the glaringly sunny and warm weather.  I am pretty sure I lounged on the top deck for a total of 8 hours.  During that time, Ruby and I were treated to a flash mob with the dance leader (or should I say master) dressed in a neon yellow tank top, speedo, and Nike kicks; I swear they danced for 3 hours straight.  It was uh…interesting? entertaining? to say the least.  Otherwise, I either slept or read Game of Thrones.

It started with 3 people. Then it became 15 dancers.
It started with 3 people. Then it became 15 dancers.
As I said, the dancing was...interesting.
As I said, the dancing was…interesting.

Unfortunately—and I don’t know how—the ferry ended up being 4 hours late getting into the Civitavecchia Port, which had me a bit anxious since I had to be in Rome by the end of the night for my hotel reservation; as soon as I was able to disembark, I sprinted off of the gateway and down to the shuttle bus to the train station.  The bus driver waited 10 minutes after the ferry disembarked before shutting the doors with the bus comprising of me, an American family of 6 (4 kids under 14), an English traveler, and two Austrians.

As soon as the bus closed its doors, it began  its hell-bent mission to get us to the train station for the last train to Rome for the night.  The bus twisted and screeched through the narrow streets—I swear the bus went up on two wheels at one point, but probably not—shouting into his communicator to hold the last train.  What should have been a 20 minute shuttle turned into an 8 minute roller coaster ride and I could not thank that driver enough; he also wouldn’t accept tips and just told us to run for the train.

All of us bolted through the station, not even bothering to stop at the ticket terminal.  We even crossed the tracks to get to the train—a huuuuuuge no-no—instead of going underground to pop up on the other side of the platform.

It was actually a pretty funny scene that I still have in my head with all of us, our backpacks and roller luggage hindering us, screaming for the train to hold up as it started to go.  Thankfully banging on the sides beckoned it to stop and we had made it.  We didn’t even have to pay for the train to Rome!

Sunset as we approached Civitavecchia Port
Sunset as we approached Civitavecchia Port

Overall, I believe the ferry ride to Rome is a much better experience than flying or taking the train.  You have a full day to meet some great people, it’s a scenic ride that allows you bear witness to a vivid sunrise and sunset, and it feels like a small cruise, albeit not as luxurious, but not any less enjoyable.

Advertisements

Post-Grad Eurotrip Part 5: Barcelona, Spain

After a jam-packed and busy three days of sightseeing and exploring while being surrounded by two great friends, I slung my backpack over my shoulder and walked to the eastern Gare de Lyon SNCF Paris train station in the early morning to board my 10-hour train to Barcelona, Spain.

Hands down, Barcelona is one of my favorite cities that I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit; I was sad that I only had 1 1/2 days—July 20th (arrived at midnight)-July 22nd, 2014—in this sunny, animated city.  The weather is hot, but comfortable and I found the vibe of the city to be similar to that of Hawaii’s.

Port la Barceloneta.  Nice marina to walk through on the way to the beaches.
Port la Barceloneta. Nice marina to walk through on the way to the beaches.

If you are only able to do three things in Barcelona, the first thing you should do is stroll on over to La Boqueria: an affordable, unique, and a energetic market area that will satisfy both your tastebuds, and your curiosity.  100% real fruit smoothies, freshly caught seafood, sit-down bar and restaurants, hand-made stuffed crêpes, candies of all shapes and colors, and local meats are just a few of the many wares you will find lining the stalls. 

Entrance to La Boqueria.  Check the video for a look inside (apparently I was too distracted to take photos).
Entrance to La Boqueria. Check the video for a look inside (apparently I was too distracted to take photos).

The area was quite packed when I visited, but it doesn’t detract from the experience.  I actually preferred walking this expansive bazaar at a slower pace as it allows you to soak in the food and its scrum-diddly-umptious smells.

I personally purchased a chicken, pepper, cheese, and spinach crêpe and I am thoroughly convinced that I’ll never come across one that could match its price (~5-7) and finger-licking goodness.

Oh the crêpes you can get in La Boqueria.  This was pretty basic compared to others that I saw made.
Oh the crêpes you can get in La Boqueria. This was pretty basic compared to others that I saw made.

Secondly, you need to purchase a ticket for a time slot and enter the famous and yet to be completed, La Sagrada Familia. This remarkably detailed church is the most beautiful building I have set foot-in; it is the first building I have stepped into and stood there peering up, my mouth agape, just soaking it all in because that’s the thing; there is so much to appreciate about this building both inside and outside.

The entrance.  The detail of the facade is impressive.
The entrance. The detail of the facade is impressive.
Closer look at the entrance
Closer look at the entrance

WARNING: YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ENTER THE BUILDING IMMEDIATELY AFTER PURCHASING YOUR TICKET UNLESS IT IS AN EXTREMELY SLOW DAY.  YOUR TIME SLOT WILL LIKELY BE 1-3 HOURS AFTER YOUR PURCHASE. Save yourself hours of insanity, dehydration, and patience waiting in line(my video shows how long the line is to just get a time slot ticket) and just purchase your ticket/time slot online like I did.

The inside is furnished beautifully with scaling pillars that place you in a giant stone forest (this was the feeling that Gaudí-its architect-aimed for).  Thankfully, most visitors appreciate the serenity of the inside and try to remain quiet.  The pew section is a no talking zone and the staff will not hesitate to remove you from the this area if you are being disruptive as there are many people who use this area to pray.  I myself am not religious, but no matter your beliefs, appreciate its religious impact and respect those who are praying.

Colors produced from the stained-glass windows on the SE wall.
Colors produced from the stained-glass windows on the SE wall.
Spiral staircases.
Spiral staircases.
Ceiling. The forest-y feeling was profound.
Ceiling. The forest-y feeling was profound.
North sub-corner.
North sub-corner.
View from the pews.  Beautiful.
View from the pews. Beautiful.
Sky-window above Jesus.
Sky-window above Jesus.

Take your time and walk around the inside of La Sagrada Familia; you are doing yourself a disservice by rushing through it.

Exit of La Sagrada Familia
Exit of La Sagrada Familia

The third thing on your must-do list is just go lay on the beach all day.  Make a few sandwiches, buy some cheap wine, purchase some extremely powerful sunscreen, and just go lay in the sand.  The sun feels amazing and the water is a soothing temperature in the summer.   If you don’t leave the beach completely bronze, you are a walking enigma.

Beach at sunset from the walkway.
Beach at sunset from the walkway.

Here is a quick rundown for the Barcelona beaches:

  • Beware of the scam artists trying to sell 10 euro little to no alcohol mojitos, other alcohol, and cheap knick-knacks with jacked up prices. 
  • Make sure your valuables are close by and safe.  My friend Chandler (one of my friends that I met up with in France) had her phone stolen by one of these alcohol selling dill-weeds.
  • Post-up by some trustworthy looking people.  I laid down next to some young German travelers and two older British women; both I talked with for a bit.  Whenever I needed to take a quick dip, I just asked them to watch my things.  Again, this isn’t full-proof, but you have to a do a quick judge of character so your things don’t get stolen.  I typically try to lay down by those who have a lot of things with them (so they can’t just grab your valuables and run without taking the time to grab all of their things), travelers who are in the same boat of trying to trust others in a foreign place, or older folks who don’t need to steal from you…or you could just bury your stuff under your towel in a bag, which I also did.

Along the beaches there are piers with cube rocks that jut out from the ends.  These rocks are a lot of fun for climbing on and it was pretty relaxing sitting on them while watching the sunset.  It may not have been the smartest thing to do considering I was only 6 months off from my ACL surgery, but whatever; I consider it physical therapy… yea I’ll go with that.

Climbing rocks just off the pier. I went out farther on other piers.
Climbing rocks just off the pier. I went out farther out on other piers.

Barcelona is the city that I want to return to the most out of any European city I visited on this entire trip.  The locals are extremely friendly, the food and street entertainment enhances the city’s charm, and the nature of the city is relaxed.  No matter what you have scheduled for your visit, you will enjoy the city.

Locations visited: La Rambla, La Boqueria, La Sagrada Familia, Casa Amatiler, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Plaça de Catalunya, Palau Reial Major, Columbus Monument, la Barceloneta, and Palau Güell.

Plaça de Catalunya

Palau Reial Major.
Palau Reial Major.
Columbus Monument.
Columbus Monument.

Barcelona streets

Highlights: Laying on the Barcelona beaches; pure and simple.  Also standing in La Sagrada Familia.  It may not be a big deal to some, but this imposing edifice is an incredible experience that empowers visitors from all over the world.

Favorite memory: Climbing around the rocks off the piers at the beaches.  Again, may not have been the smartest thing—and the pictures don’t show how far out I went—but it was still awesome.  I blame 6 months of not being able to use the rock climbing wall at my university.  Staring into the Barcelona sunset with the wind blowing across my skin, perched on the rocks made me appreciate the city even more.

Favorite food: As I touched on above, the crêpes at La Boqueria are incredibly delicious.  If you are a bigger guy like me, it may not be the most filling thing in the world; that is why you buy two or three.

What I want to do and where I want to visit when I return: 

  • Walk through Parc de la Ciutadella
  • Aquarium Barcelona
  • Difficult hike through Montserrat Mountain
  • Visit Parc Natural de la Serra de Collserola
  • Castell de Montjuïc
  • Parc de la Serralada Litoral
  • Turó de Castellruf
  • Mercat de Santa Caterina

Total money spent: €30 (~€80 including lodging)