A few months ago, while planning this trip, we decided to add on an extra day in Barcelona. We had originally thought arriving a day prior to the cruise would be fine; but then realized that our day and a half in Barcelona would be with jet lag and exhaustion, not really getting to experience much in Barcelona, and getting on the cruise still recovering from the time change.
So, we added on an extra extra night in Barcelona – which meant we left Sunday (July 17) afternoon from Baltimore, connecting in Philadelphia, and arriving in Barcelona Monday morning local time for a cruise that leaves on Wednesday July 20.
Surprisingly, everything went as planned. Sunday, we drove to Baltimore around 11 am, after doing last minute packing all morning. We struggled looking for parking at the airport (we’re not familiar with it since we’re new to MD) and some of the lots were full and/or the people looked like they were waiting forever for a shuttle to the airport. Finally we found an “express” lot which was $10/day but the shuttles were waiting immediately to take us to the airport. Lilly happily jumped on board, and was so excited sitting on the shuttle. She was beaming and dancing and grinning and so happy.
We easily checked in – including scanning the passports, checking our luggage, being offered an upgrade to first class for the minor cost of $1500 total for the 3 of us (we declined), and finally we were ready. We got through security with no issues – Lilly is a total pro – she got the baskets for us, took her own shoes off, carried her ticket through all by herself, waiting for me on the other side, and found her shoes and put them back on. We had three carry on’s for the 3 of us: one backpack for each of us. We had to take out our dvd player and computer and “liquids” which were her sunscreen and our toothpastes.
While Lilly was happy as a clam, I wasn’t feeling great. I never feel 100% on travel days, and usually a minor aching head mixed with a little stress turns into a total full blown migraine which often lasts 3 days, so I was weary of how I felt. We had an hour and a half before the flight, so we stopped to get a bite to eat. As soon as we sat down and were ordering, happy go lucky Lilly took a sugar packet, opened it, and poured it on the table – which was our cue to step out for a minute. Lilly and I walked to the store nearby, and I directed her which box was “Excedrin Migraine.” She picked it up, took my credit card, and walked to the counter to pay for it. She did everything herself, except sign my name, and was so proud of herself.
By the time we got back to Jon in the restaurant, happy-go-lucky Jon was drinking a beer and watching golf, relaxed as ever. I took my headache pills and started feeling better myself, and Lilly’s grilled cheese and fries made her happy as can be. When we were finished eating, we got a to-go container for Lilly’s food, and she put everything on her plate into it: including the pickle and parsley. I love how independent she is.
We walked through the airport to our gate, which was one of the last ones. We were on a puddle jumper, a 30 minute flight to Philadelphia. Lilly and Jon got settled together, and I was across the aisle. We didn’t need to take out any of Lilly’s “tricks” for the flight – literally the 3 of us just read the US Airways magazine, and I did the Sudoku puzzle in the back.
We arrived in Philly with 3 hours to spare, but it was worth it. We arrived in F terminal and A terminal was a long walk, followed by a decent shuttle ride, followed by another really long walk. Once in A terminal, but not near our gate yet, we found a playground for kids, so Lilly spent a half hour going down a slide, playing in a fake plane, and shyly making friends with a couple kids.
Then, we began the super long walk to our gate. Along the way, Jon discovered there was a bar with a soccer game, so once we arrived at the gate and found seats, he disappeared for awhile. Lilly watched Elmo on the DVD player, and I read a book on my new Nook. I texted Jon at one point to bring me a McDonalds caramel sundae, and he readily appeared with it, before disappearing again.
The next hour went by fast, and finally it was time to board. We were able to pre-board with families with kids “5 and under” and Lilly was happy to be on a plane again. She hadn’t napped all day, so she was a little exhausted, but still in a good mood. We sat on the plane for about an hour as it was delayed taking off, so she was a little restless – it was bedtime (bc she hadn’t napped) and also dinnertime (which was delayed bc of not taking off on time), so mostly we just played with her “baby” doll, read books and magazines, did stickers, etc. Finally we took off and the flight attendants were quick with starting dinner service. We were in row 9 – just 3 away from 1st class – plus Lilly and I had special meals – kids and vegetarian – so we were eating in no time. Lilly’s meal was perfect for her – chicken fingers (the real kind, not processed nuggets) and ketchup, corn, tater tots (which I stole), a roll, grapes, and milk. My meal was good, rice and vegetables and artichokes, salad, a roll, and fruit with coconut sprinkled on top. I had a diet coke instead of beer/wine because it wasn’t included on the flight (unlike our flights to/from New Zealand with great local complimentary wines); plus I was hesitant about adding anything to the jet lag. In retrospect I think a glass of wine would have made me sleep better, but oh well. Jon got some kind of chicken and I’m not even sure what else because he ate it so quickly! But he did share his brownie with me. Lilly and Jon settled in watching the personal tv’s on the back of the seats – the kids programming had nothing of interest for Lilly, so instead she watched an old episode of Glee. Jon watched some kind of movie. I read my Nook book. Finally, as dinner was cleaned up, Lilly and I headed to the bathroom and brushed our teeth, and by about 8:30 or so, she settled down and fell asleep. I fell asleep about a half hour later.
Jon went to sleep at some point, and slept for the majority of the flight, as did Lilly. I woke up about 2 hours after I originally fell asleep, and try as I might, couldn’t fall asleep. We had a row of 4 – with no one in the 4th seat – so Lilly spread out into two seats, and Jon and I were on each end with an aisle, so we couldn’t put our heads against anything, it wasn’t very comfortable. Plus the guy behind us had his overhead light on the whole flight – which shined brightly into our eyes all night.
Spain is 6 hours ahead of the US East Coast, so we were set to land at 8:30 local time, which meant it felt like 2:30 in the morning to us. Lilly and Jon woke up an hour before landing, and we had coffee, water, and a Danish.
Officially I guess sometime around then, day 1 ended and day 2 began. We got off the plane around 9, and waited awhile for our stroller to arrive. Then we went through customs which was easy, just a short line. We waited awhile for our luggage to arrive, but they provided free carts – and we found a cart for Lilly that had a kids seat so she was happy. We played with stickers and hung out, and finally all the luggage arrived. We finally exited and easily found the Disney Cruise Line representative that greeted us. She checked our name off, and introduced us to our driver, who was friendly but spoke no English. Jon and I practiced remembering Spanish words and phrases we knew better a decade earlier.
We arrived at our hotel around 10 am, the Hilton Diagonal Mar. We picked it because it was one of the “Disney” hotels we could book with our package, and it wasn’t in the middle of everything, which sounded nicer to me – it was in the business district a little further away from Las Ramblas. When we got here, the staff was so friendly, and we had to wait a little bit to check in but when we did, our room was ready so we were happy. We got up to our room, and I was bracing myself for a small European hotel room… and surprise! We had a suite! It was a living room with a sleeper couch, two side chairs, and a desk, and a king sized bedroom on the corner of the building, with a huge marble bathroom, including a bidet (which has just confused Lilly, but she certainly likes it – she keeps wanting to wash her hands in the “kid sized sink.” And, the view from our corner view is amazing – facing the beach on one side and the city on the other. Lilly loves looking outside the windows.
Anyways, good start to the day, with our big room (I guess we were upgraded?), and a not-too-hard travel day behind us. We were exhausted though, and decided to get a quick bite to eat before taking a midday nap (which is our goal each day for the trip – at the beginning to help get adjusted to the time change but mostly to help Lilly stay up for all the nighttime events on the cruise). We walked outside where we knew there was a McDonalds and came across a little bakery with croissants, coffee, etc. We got chocolate croissants (which somehow Lilly didn’t like) and a fruit cup (which she loved). We came back to the room, took baths and showered, and by 12:15 all of us were lying in the bed, ready for a good nap.
We set the alarm for 3, because we didn’t want to sleep all day, and wanted to make sure we were getting adjusted to the time change. I woke up a little after 2, somewhat refreshed but feeling kind of nauseous and disoriented. Jon felt great though, and headed out to get a few things from the local store. There’s a mall across from the Hilton Diagonal Mar, with the McDonalds (with free wifi – that we’ll have to try out soon) and bakery, and tons of restaurants, stores, etc. It has one store in it that’s a multi-level store with one floor that’s like a grocery store, and another that’s like a Target. Perfect. He picked up a few bottles of water, a jug of milk, and some kids yogurts for Lulu.
Meanwhile, I got ready and got Missy Moo up at 3. She ate a yogurt right away, and Jon and I realized we were starving. He went down to the pool area café to check it out, and I got Lilly in her bathing suit. When we met him down at the pool, he had ordered a veggie sandwich and side salad for us to split, with an order of potatoes bravas, and chicken nuggets and French fries for Lilly, which happened to come with side of roasted veggies. The food was all amazing, surprising for hotel food. Literally the best veggie sandwich and side salad I’ve ever had, I think.
It was super windy on the pool deck (floor 2 of the hotel) because we’re a couple blocks from the ocean. Lilly and Jon went in the pool for a little bit, but it was chilly, so we came back up to get dressed to go out. We were trying to decide what to do, so we walked a couple blocks to the beach, and Lilly asked for a bucket and shovel to build a castle, so we decided to walk to the superstore at the mall near our hotel, that Jon had gone to earlier. We found a perfect Disney Princess shovel/pail set and got her a Mickey Mouse beach ball.
But by the time we were done with walking the mall, it was 7. Too late to go back to the beach with Lilly’s new toys, but too early to call it a night, and with our 4pm lunch, we weren’t thinking about dinner. So, we hopped on a local bus for $1.45 Euro’s per person and took a mini tour of the city, and got off near La Rambla, in the tourist area. We walked around a fountain area for a while, and Lilly took pictures of the pigeons. She was extra happy because there was a huge billboard of a gorilla, and said it was the best part of her vacation so far.
We got on the return bus back to the hotel, and got back to the hotel around 8:45. Lilly said she was happy to be back “home.” We stopped in the hotel lobby bar to inquire about sangria, which apparently is a tourist thing – locals wouldn’t order it – but the guy behind the bar said he makes the best sangria. Sold! He took 15 minutes mixing things and chopping and arranging the fruit perfectly – and I have to say, it was in fact great sangria. I was finally feeling less exhausted and out of sorts, so it was nice to relax and unwind. Lilly enjoyed sitting at the bar next to daddy.
Two days down, no complaints so far. However, the best is ahead.