As of 0700 Eastern Standard time, 1200 GMT and 1300 ship time, the Empire State was moored pierside in Barcelona, Spain and located at 41 degrees 12 minutes North Latitude, 002 degrees 16 minutes East Longitude. The weather was partly cloudy with light winds out of the northast at 5 knots. The air temp was 60 degrees and the sea temp was 60 degrees. Barometric pressure was 1027 millibars of mercury.
We arrived early yesterday and were met by a host of people including the local Naval Attaché, a representative of the US Navy's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Department, and members of the local Navy League. They made us feel very welcome and generously offered helpful and entertaining services that will contribute enormously to our amusement. Then, Commander Domingos, our Commandant of Cadets from Falmouth, MA, and I paid an official visit to the Spanish Navy Office. One might expect to be offered a cup of hot coffee at ten o'clock, but we were treated to a glass of Spain's famous sparkling wine, Cava, which is quite similar to champagne. Of course, our Spanish hosts extolled the integrity and quality of the Cava and boasted that it is far better than the French cousin. It was excellent and after getting up at three in the morning to pilot the ship into port, I was ready for a noontime nap. But there is no time to waste in such a wonderful city. So, off we went.
The weather in Barcelona is amazing. The daily temperatures are cool by local standards, by ours they are gorgeous. Yesterday afternoon, the temperature rose to 19 Celsius or nearly 74 glorious degrees Fahrenheit. It was simply joyful to stroll along the tree-lined streets in "Las Ramblas"; past the colorful flower stands, among the noisy bird vendors, the expressive mimes, and the talented musicians. I particularly liked sitting outside in the pleasant open-air cafes relishing the warm winter sun. Tourists and locals alike wandered leisurely along, taking in the beautiful buildings, enjoying each other, and reveling in the harmonious mix of nature and architecture. The avenue in its entirety is referred to as Las Ramblas. However, each part of it is distinct; Rambla Santa Monica is near the port, Rambla de les Flors is next and Rambla de les Estudis is most northerly. The long walk from the ship to the upper section is easy and pleasant and the boulevard is an attraction that the cadets will certainly enjoy.
Barcelona has grown more continental since our last visit. It has always been an important port and commercial center for Spain but the 1992 Olympic Games really awakened the hometown pride. From my personal observations, many of the older monuments and buildings certainly show the effort and there are numerous newly constructed structures too. According to our agent, the popularity brought by the Olympics changed the basic ways that they do business. Until the Games, stores routinely closed everyday from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM and restaurants closed from 4:00 PM until 10:00 PM. Today, many shops remain open and the restaurants don't close. The Olympic Games clearly made a lasting mark that far exceeded expectations. That pleases us.
Shopping is always a big hit but Cadets often worry about the quality of expensive merchandise offered in local boutiques. We are fortunate to have a US Navy approved dealer aboard, which should allay some fears. The vendor is selling beautiful Majorcan Pearl jewelry and judging by the long lines, many spouses and friends will be pleased with their homecoming gifts.
Well, the time has come to wander down the rope-lined brow and onto the tree-lined streets. I will leave you with this tidbit of amazingly useless information. Barcelona and Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts sit on exactly the same parallel of Latitude. Here, we are enjoying pleasant, warm sunshine while Cape Codders shiver in temperatures expected to reach only 35 degrees. I'm glad to be here yet, I'd like to be there...keeping my wife a wee bit warmer. See you Manana.