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Nicole721

13 Days, 8 Ports and One New Ship: Nicole721's FULL PICTORIAL Horizon Review

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I'm baaaaaaaaack 🙂

 

((Not from my cruise. I got back from my cruise months ago. But I'm back on CC! Hi friends!!!!!))

 

If we haven't crossed paths on this board or...onboard...HI! I'm Nicole. I live in Chicago. And I love cruises. They're my absolute favorite way to travel and see the world. I don't even know if I could put into words why. But every year since my freshman year of college, my family and I have taken at least one cruise (sometimes two...or three!). And even though my sister (Stephanie) and I are all grown up, we still try to cruise with our Mom every year. It's kind of our family tradition. And I've been posting reviews on here for nearly that entire time (holy cow -- I've been posting reviews here for, like, fourteen years :classic_ohmy:). See, I went to college to be a writer. And then I got a fancy journalism degree...and promptly went in to a career in digital marketing and merchandising and did nothing with it. So writing these reviews fills that piece of me that needs some creative outlet. And they serve as a pay-it-forward for all of the reviews I read before we visit new places or cruise on new ships.

 

Obligatory family photo of us on the Vista a couple of years ago:

 

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So if you haven't read one of my reviews before, let me lay it out for you: these are long. Really long. And they have a ton of pictures. I've been writing this particular review and posting it on my blog for the past six months or so. I wasn't sure if I was going to cross-post it over here because the Horizon isn't in Europe anymore, but then Carnival announced new Europe and Mediterranean itineraries for its new ship and I figured some of you might it useful. Or, at least, I hope some of you find it entertaining! I write these in journal form because that's mostly what they are: my cruise journal (which also lets me re-live my trips when I share them with all of you!).

 

And if you're not into long reviews but you're seeking Horizon and/or Mediterranean cruising info, I have the Carnival Horizon menus posted here, the 13-day Fun Times posted here and a ship walk through here.

 

But I do hope some of you will follow along because talking about cruising is so much of the fun in writing these, and if you are following along, drop me a note below and let me know!

 

And with that...let's go back onto the Horizon!

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Days 1+2: Chicago to Barcelona

 

These trip journals usually start the same way. Work was busy, the trip just snuck up on me.

 

Not with this one. Not this time.

 

The time leading up to this trip passed by in slow, languid motion, each day that dragged on bringing us one step closer to our first steps onto the Carnival Horizon. It couldn’t sneak up on us because the anticipation dragged on with each passing day, moving us closer but not fast enough.

 

Then again, nothing about this trip was on script.

 

First of all, we didn’t book this trip – I won it. Yeah. When Carnival announced their new ship was named the Carnival Horizon, they ran a contest on Instagram and asked their followers to post pictures of their favorite horizons. And you know me – I’ve got pictures for days. I didn’t enter it to win, I just wanted to post one of my fave pics of the Breeze. And maybe Carnival would like it or something, but that was it.

 

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And then a month or so later, a random comment popped up onto my post, asking me to contact a marketing agency about my prize.

 

Like WHAT?!

 

That kind of stuff never happens. It certainly never happens to me. I posted a picture on Instagram and won a cruise for four on the inaugural voyage and airfare to Barcelona. Well, the package was for four. We travel as a pack of three, and the idea of adding a fourth and trying to cram four adults into an Oceanview cabin for 13 days just seemed like…not my idea of vacation.

 

So I won our cruise. That was different. We were traveling in April instead of May. That was different. We were going to do an inaugural on a brand new ship. That was definitely different.

 

But what’s different is exciting, right?

 

We added an extra day to our itinerary so we could have just one more day in Barcelona because I’m convinced it’s one of the greatest cities in the world, and we left on a Thursday evening for a Monday cruise.

 

I tried something new this time to try to combat any jet lag: I went to bed early and woke up at 3:30 in the morning. And I just about jumped out of bed. I was ready to get my day started because getting to this point of even leaving felt like it had taken years. I’d taken the day off of work so I could have a leisurely, relaxing day. Brunch, maybe. Watch the Cubs game. Do nothing at all. I’m so good at doing nothing.

 

I showered, blew out my hair, cleaned my apartment, made some breakfast, watched the news. And by 8:30, I had nothing left to do. So I went to work. On my day off.  

 

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To be fair, I was going to stop at work on my way to the airport anyways, so I could touch base with my boss, who was on vacation right before me, and to see my team, but I wasn’t planning on a full day. But hey – I like my job, and going in made the day go a little faster.

 

I hopped on the Blue Line to meet Mom and Stephanie at O’Hare and suddenly, everything was moving at hyper-speed. I couldn’t fathom the adventure we were about to embark on. All of it felt entirely surreal – like I was watching it happen but not really living it. I kept waiting for something to go wrong. I checked the forecast for Chicago, London and Barcelona obsessively for the two weeks leading up to our departure. I tracked our inbound plane starting two days out. I was convinced something was going to go wrong.

 

But it didn’t.

 

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Our flight to London not only boarded on time, but left early and was not even close to full – to the point where we were able to move Mom to the row behind us, where she had a full row of Main Cabin Extra to herself and Stephanie and I got to reap the comfort of having an empty seat between us on an otherwise cramped Dreamliner. We hit some unexpected and rough turbulence as we entered the airspace over Toronto (and intermittently throughout the flight from there), but we waited for it to pass as we sipped our red wine and picked through our dinners of Cajun chicken and pesto pasta. And, sidebar, I was pretty proud of myself for how I’d come in coping with turbulence. Ten years ago, I would have been near tears, breathing into a paper bag and gripping the arm of the person closest to me and now? I just sipped my wine and ate my dinner while that big ole airplane went bump bump bump.

 

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I made it through half of Eat, Pray, Love before I started dozing off, but I couldn’t stay asleep because I had the aisle seat and people kept bumping into me when they’d walk up and down the aisle. Stephanie suggested I switch to Mom’s row and take the empty window seat and I made a poor man’s business class seat with a foot hammock (Amazon for the win), some ear plugs and a plush eye mask.

 

I woke up three hours later feeling much more rested, but strong jet winds were working in our favor and we were scheduled to land an hour ahead of schedule – a relief because we had a connecting flight that boarded an hour after our originally scheduled arrival time! The standard American boxed breakfast was handed out shortly thereafter – a blueberry muffin top with granola, dried fruit and blueberry yogurt.

 

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Edited by Nicole721

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We landed at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and followed the purple signs to connecting flights. Thankfully, we didn’t need to change terminals like we did the year prior, but we did need to go back through security and collect our boarding passes from British Airways. Since London was the final destination for many of the people on our flight and there weren’t any other planes landing alongside ours, we made our way through all checks in plenty of time to enjoy the shopping at Heathrow.

 

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The first time we flew into Heathrow was a mess. Our flight from Chicago was delayed so much that we missed our original connecting flight and the second connecting flight they had rebooked us on, and I was so stressed out about losing a day in Barcelona that I didn’t get to enjoy the airport. I love airports and I really love international terminals where there’s a ton of hustle, bustle and SHOPPING! Heathrow’s T3 is like a high end shopping mall, with Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Tiffany & Co lining the corridors. UK staples like Boots and Harrods are also there, and I spent all of the extra time we had from our early arriving flight trapeizing through the terminal all Come at me duty free shopping. My credit card has no foreign transaction fees ka-ching.

 

 

 

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I bought a new Longchamp bag because the prices were much lower at the airport than they were in the US and we settled in with some breakfast sandwiches from Pret before we left to make our connection. Unlike the US where you’ll know what gate you’re at hours (and sometimes days) before your departure, at Heathrow, they assign it, like, 10 minutes ahead of boarding. Some gates can be up to a 20-minute walk away, but thankfully ours was a brisk 10-minute walk from the waiting area.

 

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And get this: our British Airways flight? That boarded on time and took off early. There had to be some kind of vacation karma on my side, but to be fair, after all of the delayed and cancelled Oneworld flights I’d suffered through in the past year, I like to think I was due for an easy one. I fell asleep as soon as the safety demo was over and woke up to the captain announcing we were approaching the Pyrenees mountains just outside of the window as we began our descent into Barcelona.

 

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We landed just on time, we had no wait to pass through immigration even though we were walking off a full flight and our luggage was quickly off the carousel. We made a quick stop at the ATM outside of the luggage claim (where the Dollar to Euro conversion is far more favorable than at the currency exchange inside the luggage claim area, even with foreign transaction fees and my bank’s ATM fees) and then we hopped into a taxi. Many people on our cruise group had booked private transportation, but we’ve always found the taxi service in Barcelona to be efficient and reliable. The 25-minute drive from the airport to our hotel in Eixample was around 35, which was just under €12 a person.

 

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Edited by Nicole721

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With the Horizon’s inaugural voyage scheduled on the same weekend as the inaugural voyage for a new Royal Caribbean ship, hotels in Barcelona booked up quickly, including the Olivia Balmes, where we had a wonderful stay the last time we were in Barcelona. We knew we wanted to stay in Eixample again because the area is so beautiful and centrally located, so we ended up at Hotel Casa Fuster, which was located off the Passeig de Gràcia, which is like the Rodeo Drive of Barcelona, with its high end designer shopping and numerous cafes. A bellhop greeted us by our family name and whisked away our luggage as we checked in. I had booked us in a junior suite and it was one of the most well-appointed, luxurious hotel rooms I’ve stayed in, with a private balcony overlooking the Passeig de Gràcia, a bathroom with a marble Jacuzzi bathtub, a separate shower and Chopard amenities and a separate bedroom and living room. The staff was beyond friendly and accommodating, making sure we had enough bottled water, power adapters, maps and offering recommendations and safety tips for our time in Barcelona.

 

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By the time we settled into the room, it was nearing the late afternoon hours and it would have been so easy to crash for the rest of the day, but I’m incapable of getting any kind of rest when there are cities to take pictures of and coffee to drink, so we freshened up and headed outside to walk through Eixample and see Casa Batillo and Casa Milà, two buildings designed by renowned Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudí. And they are magnificent and beautiful and a very short walk away from each other. I won’t dwell too much on Gaudí – I’ve waxed enough poetic about his works and my fondness for Parque Guell and La Sagrada Familia, in particular, in my other Barcelona posts, but if you go to Barcelona, you need to experience some of his work. It’s a must. Gaudí is an integral thread in the vibrant architecture of Barcelona, his use of color and the intricate details so captivating that people literally just stand outside his buildings and gawk. This was our third time in Barcelona and I still found myself outside of two of his buildings -- two buildings I’d seen in person before – and gawked.

 

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We wandered around the neighborhood, noting fun cafes, shops and bars we wanted to stop at over the course of the weekend and taking pictures of everything and anything because the city of Barcelona is just so pretty. If you asked me to name my favorite city that I’ve ever been to, I’d probably give you a different answer each time you asked, but Barcelona would always be on the list. I love everything about this city from the architecture and the dialect to the sidewalk cafes and markets and I had to keep reminding myself that this was happening and I was here *again* because it still felt so incredibly surreal.

 

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Mom crashed after our walk and Stephanie and I ended up on the rooftop deck to watch the sunset. Dusk in Barcelona is like something out of a fairytale, the sky splashed with shades of cotton candy pink and mystical purples. I say this in just about every trip journal I write, but I couldn’t fathom how anything could get any better.

 

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We scrapped our plans to go to Balmes/Rosselló, a tapas place we fell in love with the last time we were in Barcelona and went to a little café just across the street that served pizzas and freshly squeezed juices. At 8:30 in the evening, the café was full of people enjoying espresso and I couldn’t say no to that – it was only 1:30 in the afternoon at home, which is perfectly acceptable coffee time.

 

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Stephanie and I roamed the streets a little more after dinner, lingering in the brisk spring air for as long as we could. All day, I couldn’t help but feel like the city was far less crowded than we remembered it to be, maybe due to us traveling in just before high season kicked in, or maybe because it was Good Friday and the Easter weekend are some of the holiest in Spain and filled with a ton of events.

 

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We ultimately made it back to the room and a half hour in that bathtub was like the holy cure to spending ten hours on airplanes. We planned for our next day and everything we wanted to see, but it still felt so bizarrely surreal to even be in that hotel room, in that city, waiting to spend two weeks on a brand new cruise ship.

 

But you know, it was and we had so many adventures ahead of us over the next two weeks!

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Day 3: Barcelona

 

We were up bright and early for our first full day in Barcelona, and the wind was absolutely howling outside our balcony window. I guess we brought some of the Windy City with us when we flew in. Sorry, Spain.

 

One of these days, we’ll take a vacation where we, you know, treat it like a vacation and actually get some rest. This wasn’t one of those days. We had 9:00 AM entry tickets for Parc Güell, which meant we were up by 7:00 so we could get ready and get going.

 

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The forecast for the day called for highs in the low 60s, but anything above 55 is like summer weather for this lifelong Chicagoan and so I went with a light sweatshirt. But with those winds? Even the sweater left me a little chilled.

 

We grabbed a quick breakfast of cappuccinos and scones across the street at Buenas Migas, a perfect quick start to the day, and then we hopped into a taxi headed up to the park.

 

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Parc Güell is another Gaudí marvel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Barcelona’s La Salut neighborhood, which was only a ten minute or so drive from our hotel in Eixample. The park was commissioned by a man named Eusebi Güell, who commissioned Gaudí to design a sort of community within the park, with houses, gardens and gatehouses. And Gaudí did what he did best: he designed a mosaic wonderland of swirling colors and patterns that somehow compliments the vibrant city it looks out over.

 

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We visited Parc Güell on our first trip to Barcelona and got the full guided tour then, but it’d been three years and we wanted to just wander through it solo this time. We booked tickets in an early morning slot, one to avoid any harsh lighting that would come as the sun rose and two, to see if we could get ahead of the crowds. Parc Güell is one of Barcelona’s most visited attractions, with more than nine million people visiting every year. We faced a few crowds from some large groups that came in, but that was mostly exacerbated by the fact that half of the outlook area was cordoned off for construction and everyone was vying for pictures in the same spots. It’s a good thing we went early, too, because the park ended up shutting down early in the afternoon because of the high winds.

 

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After we left the park, we figured we’d pick up one of the Hop On Hop Off buses. We love the HOHO’s because they’re often some of the best ways to acquaint ourselves with the cities we’re visiting and they’re such a fun way to pass the time on a nice day. So we walked down to the main street nearest to the park and, for the life of us, could not find the pickup spots. We walked up the street. We walked down the street. We walked over to other streets. And we saw the buses – plenty of them – but we could not figure out where they stopped. So we scrapped the bus idea (and at 30 a person for a one-day pass, that would have been a pretty pricey ride anyways) and we hailed a taxi. We probably could have saved ourselves a half hour and a lot of wrong turns by picking up a cab outside the park, but there are worse cities to lose yourself in.

 

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The next stop on our list was La Boqueria Mercat, a bustling food market off Las Ramblas. I visit the Boqueria every time I’m in Barcelona. Stephanie hadn’t been since our first time because she had awful jetlag the last time we were here, and she was really looking forward to taking her new camera out around the market.

 

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A guidebook I once read said that the Boqueria was a place where people gathered to eat, drink and gossip, and since those are the three things I do best, it’s basically my mecca. Add in that it’s an amateur photographer’s dream with all of the colorful produce and I could spend all day wandering through the stalls, eating cured meat out of a paper cone and snapping pictures of smoothies.

 

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After we wandered through the stalls (and sufficiently grossed Mom out at the meat stalls by pointing out the goat heads and eyeballs and all the gory parts you never see at the Whole Foods butcher), we decided we needed a real meal and headed up the street to Luzia, a restaurant we discovered on our first visit to Barcelona. Luzia serves up brunch, tapas, amazing pizzas and cold pressed juices. We caught the tail end of brunch and warmed up with freshly baked pastries, cappuccinos and the best little sandwiches with tomato rubbed baguette filled with freshly sliced Iberian ham.

 

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Nearby the restaurant was a Carrefour, a European grocery store, and we stopped in to grab some snacks to keep at the hotel, as well as shampoo and a bottle of cava to bring onboard the ship. Most stores in Barcelona shut down on Sundays, and with this coming Sunday also being Easter Sunday, we wanted to make sure we could grab anything we needed without worrying about finding an open convenience store before we boarded the ship on Monday.

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Taxi’s were inexpensive, so we decided to bring our bags from Carrefour back to the hotel before heading out to the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Gothic Quarter – Stephanie’s picks for the afternoon. But then we laid down for *just a minute* and the next thing I knew, I’d napped for most of the early afternoon and Stephanie decided the hotel bed was so comfortable she didn’t want to do more touring. And I wasn’t going to fight with her on it because I was starting to feel a tickle in my throat, which I was hoping was allergies from all of the pollen blowing around with the wind because I had two weeks on a new cruise ship ahead of me and I was not going down for the count with a sinus infection.

 

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But with that, too, we don’t really rest much on these trips we take. Even on sea days, we get up early so we can cram as much into our days as possible. We can sleep at home, right? Except I don’t sleep at home, either! I don’t sleep at home. I generally don’t relax on vacation unless we’re on a cruise and it’s a sea day. And even though we were halfway around the world in one of my absolute favorite cities on the only free day we’ve ever really given ourselves to fully explore it? Sometimes, you’ve just got to take a nap.

 

Later on in the evening, we decided to walk to Balmes/Roselló, a café that Stephanie and I absolutely fell in love with the last time we were in Barcelona. The café was all but empty in the early evening hours and we had the full attention of the staff, who chuckled at the fact that we barely looked at the menu before placing our order and told us they made our pitcher of champagne sangria with extra love.

 

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We leisurely strolled up the Rambla on our way back to the hotel, stopping up on the roof to watch the sunset while housekeeping turned down our suite for the evening. Mom was getting antsy that it was taking so long, but the view off the rooftop of the city out to the sea as the setting sun filled the sky with all shades of pink was enough to keep me absolutely mesmerized.

 

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And the reason it took so long for housekeeping to turn down the room? Because they went through every corner and detail to make sure the room was perfect, including setting slippers on top of linens at the side of each of our beds, replacing the fresh flowers on the bathroom vanity and leaving a box of gourmet chocolates on the pillow. I can’t say enough about the accommodations and service at Hotel Casa Fuster – it was a class onto its own.

 

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With an early morning excursion, we called it an early evening. I spent at least an hour soaking in that ahhhh-mazing marble whirlpool tub and we watched CNN International until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore.

 

 

Back with more later tonight! Happy Sunday, y'all! 🙂

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Hi Nicole, I have read many of your reviews & love all the pics you post. You must have known I was looking for you on CC...LOL. I was going to read your Vista again because I may be going to Barcelona on a cruise in 2020. Carnival Radiance & your Horizon review pops up....this is great. I'm glad you decide to post on CC for your latest cruise.

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8 hours ago, bettyboop16 said:

Hi Nicole, I have read many of your reviews & love all the pics you post. You must have known I was looking for you on CC...LOL. I was going to read your Vista again because I may be going to Barcelona on a cruise in 2020. Carnival Radiance & your Horizon review pops up....this is great. I'm glad you decide to post on CC for your latest cruise.

 

Ha! Crazy timing 🙂

 

I've been eyeballing the Radiance, too 🙂

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Day 4: Three Countries in One Day

 

The light off of the Passeig de Gracía filtered into the master bedroom of our hotel room through the gauzy curtains. Loud whoops echoed up from the street below of bar patrons crawling home from their bunny bar hops.

 

It was 3:30 in the morning, and I could not sleep.

 

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As much as I tried to shortcut my way through the jet lag, it was there, and it wasn’t getting any better.

 

I watched the tail end of the Cubs game from my phone, deciding not to try to get back to sleep to only have to wake up an hour and a half later. It was still, after all, the late evening hours at home, and there was plenty of activity on my social media feeds to keep me entertained.

 

Remember when I thought our wake up call was early the day before? I had another thing coming. We had to be dressed, ready and in a taxi no later than 6:30 AM. We had a big day ahead of us.

 

See, on Sundays, most of Barcelona shuts down anyways, and with this particular Sunday also being Easter Sunday in a very religious country, we figured it would be best to take a tour. We usually do the Montserrat tour from Barcelona Day Tours (and if you’ve never done it, I can’t recommend it enough), but Stephanie really wasn’t digging on the idea of a third visit to Montserrat in three visits to Barcelona. I, on the other hand, could go up to Montserrat every single Sunday to stare out over the Catalonian countryside and never, ever tire of it.

 

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So Stephanie found a tour on Viator that visited three countries in one day: small villages in Spain and France and then a visit to Andorra, one of Europe’s smallest countries. I was all for it. One, I could get my passport stamped in a new country and two, I could check it off my list because Andorra is largely known for skiing and I’ve been skiing exactly once in my life and there’s a reason I haven’t been back on the slopes since, so the likelihood of me opening up Google Flights and saying “Hey Google, book me a flight to Andorra” is in the slim to never category.

 

The tour met up at the Explore Catalunya’s office just outside of the Palau de la Música Catalana, our taxi dropping us off down an alley where a large group was already forming waiting for the office to open. Once it did, we checked in and were told there would be two groups touring this day and we were assigned to Enrique’s group. Enrique was an older gentleman with a hearty laugh and a joke in his back pocket. We knew we’d be in goods hands for the day.

 

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Carolina, our bus driver for the day, pulled around a small mini bus and we began our drive out to our first stop of the day, Bagá -- a small town in the north central region of Spain. The population is just over 2,000 in Bagá, which is less than double my graduating class in high school. The drive from Barcelona is just over an hour and a half, past those grand mountains of Montserrat (which are even more beautiful with the sunrise, in case you were wondering).

 

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The town square in Bagá was all but empty as we climbed off the bus and walked down, sometime around 8:45 in the morning. Luckily for us, two cafes and a patisserie were open, and on Enrique’s suggestion, we bought pastries at the patisserie and took them to one of the cafes to enjoy with a coffee. The perfect Spanish morning.

 

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We had about a half hour of free time before we met back up with Enrique, who guided us on a tour around the town’s center, regaling us with the tale of Wilfred the Hairy, who may or may not have repopulated the region.

 

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After our walk, we hopped back on the bus, where we had another hour and a half drive to Ax-Les-Thermes, a French commune just over the border from Spain with a thriving spa industry, thanks in large part to the thermal hot spring that runs through. The ride to Ax-Les-Thermes wound us through the mountainside and I must have slept for most of it. I don’t get motion sick, a blessing given how much we travel, but I do get sleepy from heavy motion, and the winding roads and elevating altitudes were a winning combination to knock me out. Stephanie tells me the ride was beautiful.

 

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Once we arrived at Ax-Les-Thermes, Carolina parked the van by a church, which would act as our central meeting place after our hour of free time, and Enrique led us on a short walk to show us some of our options for our time. There was the casino, many shops and boutiques (all of them, surprisingly, were open!) and restaurants and cafes, but we ducked away from the group the moment we spotted a French pharmacie. If you haven’t read our previous Europe trip journals, we are ob-sessed with French skincare and pharmacies, and we didn’t think we’d have a chance to visit this year because we didn’t plan on a Paris trip like we’ve usually capped off our Europe adventures with. Needless to say, Stephanie was pretty jazzed. I, on the other hand, had a one track mind: baguette.

 

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We popped into a few shops to look around and took a walk through a small garden with some blooming cherry blossoms before heading back to the bus ahead of our meeting time. The rest of the group quickly reconvened with us and we headed off to our final stop – Andorra.

 

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As Enrique told us, Andorra is a small country (the sixth smallest in Europe), located up in the Pyrenees mountains, nestled quietly between France and Spain. It’s known for two things: the skiing and the shopping. Andorra does not have a sales tax, which means prices are lower than they are for most of their European counterparts. As we drove in, cars were lined up at the gas station because people would drive in from France and Spain to get the cheaper gas. The grocery store (where, of course we ended up, because I ran out of the soup mix I bought in Paris last May and I can’t, for the life of me, find it anywhere online that ships to the United Sates) was super crowded, too. But it’s not just basics – luxury shops line the main street in Andorra La Vella, the capital city.

 

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Enrique came through and collected the passports for anyone who wanted them stamped – he’d run them into the customs office if they were open and sure to his word, when he came back to the bus, there was a brand new stamp in my passport.

 

I couldn’t keep my eyes open for the drive up to Andorra. It was probably one of the windiest drives I’ve ever been on. I don’t even remember falling asleep, but at some point, I woke up, we were on the top of a mountain and my ears were plugged up from the altitude. Carolina pulled over so we could take a photo stop with the beautiful mountain backdrop and, looking back at it now, climbing on top of a pile of snow on the top of a mountain when I was disoriented from sleep and altitude to take a picture? Probably not the smartest idea, but totally on brand for me. Thankfully, Mom stayed on the bus and didn’t witness the latest display of dumb things I do for the Instas.

 

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From there, we made another quick photo stop near one of the ski resorts (where, by the way, we could see dog sleds as we drove down the mountain). I stayed on the bus because at this point, I literally could not stay awake and I was feeling crazy disoriented from the clogged ears.

 

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Thankfully, when we arrived down at Andorra La Vella, it was flat, level and far enough below altitude that I could stand upright. Enrique showed us our meeting point in the parking lot for a mega grocery store and set us free for another hour of free time. Our first stop? The fragrance stores and pharmacies. The prices weren’t as low as we found them in Paris, but the VAT exemption helped offset that.

 

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Andorra La Velle had plenty of cafés for us to choose from when we needed an afternoon pick-me-up. We ended up at Starbucks for coconut water and cappuccino freddos. The hydrating coconut water and the caffeine jolt from the foamy cappuccino were exactly what I needed to pep up enough to finish my shopping at that giant grocery store, where I bought enough mushroom soup mix to last me at least a month or two.

 

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We hopped back on the bus with the rest of our group and Enrique explained to us that as we crossed back into Spain, we’d have to go through border patrol, which meant seat belts on for everyone and that an agent may ask questions about how much money we have and what we were carrying back. Sure enough, the agent asked the man seated in front of Mom to exit the bus with him, where he asked him questions regarding how much cash he was carrying on him.

 

We cleared the check quicker than Enrique thought we would, as traffic is generally bad on Sunday’s as is and he was worried we’d face more traffic with people coming back from the holiday. Thankfully, everyone seemed to be out enjoying the beautiful day, which meant we faced none of the traffic he’d feared on our two or so hour drive back to Barcelona.

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Enrique and Carolina put on some music for everyone to relax to and Stephanie marveled at the shifting landscapes outside her window and I…passed out again. I couldn’t tell if it was the jet lag, the change in weather or my allergies – in all likelihood a combination of the three – but I slept for hours on that bus across this tour. This time when I woke up, we were pulling into a restaurant, where Enrique had offered us our choice in cava, wine, sparkling water, still water or Cokes. I opted for none of the above because my face felt like a balloon that was about to burst, but in spirit, I was lifting a glass of cava and toasting to the feat of exploring three countries in one day.

 

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The bus ride back took another two hours, with traffic coming in mostly as we approached Barcelona. I, unsurprisingly, slept for nearly the entire thing and before I knew it, we were pulling into Placa Catalunya and saying goodbye to our group, Enrique and Carolina.

 

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Mom and Stephanie were contemplating dinner, but I could barely stand up, so they grabbed some food to go and we hopped into a taxi. When we got back to the hotel, they set out to fill out our paperwork for the ship and set up our luggage tags and I took a really long bubble bath, hoping the warm water would open my ears back up.

 

The rest of the night was spent packing and getting ready. I couldn’t believe our time in Barcelona was coming to an end. It flew by faster even though it went on for longer than our previous pre-cruise stays here had, but even beyond that, I couldn’t believe that the day had come and we’d finally be meeting the Horizon in the morning.

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