I recently had the fortune of being on a Mediterranean cruise aboard the beautiful Celebrity Edge. A cruise through the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea offers a unique opportunity to easily hop between charming coastal towns and less-visited islands that would otherwise require lengthy travel logistics to reach. We got to wake up at a new exotic destination each morning. The journey combined delicious gastronomic discoveries with relaxing pampering onboard the cruise ship. Read on for a look inside some of the medieval towns, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, renowned museums, and postcard-perfect landscapes.
Our journey began in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, where we enjoyed some classic seafood paella before boarding our ship. The rice had absorbed the rich broth, and the heat from the cooking created a nice crust at the bottom of the pan. Tender squid, juicy shrimp, and mussels mingled with the perfectly seasoned rice. The diversity of textures and robust flavors in each mouthful gave us a true taste of the region’s iconic cuisine. We scraped the final grains of rice from the pan. Maybe one day I could make a paella as good as this to recreate this experience.
With only a little time before our cruise departure, we took a quick stroll down the famous Las Ramblas to soak in the vibrant city atmosphere, even though it was difficult to navigate while carrying our luggage. This was okay though as we’ve visited Barcelona before.
Our first port of call was Valencia, known for its impressive medieval old town. We started in the bustling central market, but found out it was closed on Sundays, and instead only saw people outside selling old junk from their houses. The only interesting thing there were Spanish Pokemon cards.
We then visited the 15th century La Lonja silk exchange, a UNESCO World Heritage site noted for its Gothic architecture. Though no longer a center of commerce, this historic building transports visitors back to Valencia’s golden era. This grandiose building with its colonnaded central hall and twisting columns was the center of Valencia’s thriving silk trade for centuries.
As we arrived at the Valencia Cathedral, we were treated to an unexpected scene. Groups of children and adults dressed in elaborate traditional costumes were flocking to the cathedral entrance. We thought this parade might have been part of the annual Las Fallas festival, but it wasn’t that time of the year.
On the edge of the old town, we visited the Torres de Serranos, a part of the city’s medieval fortifications from the 14th century. The towers rise nearly 20 meters high on either side of the gates. They were originally linked by a bridge over the road, from which arrows and boiling oil could be rained down on would-be invaders. Despite some damage over the centuries, the twin towers have survived as an imposing relic of Valencia’s medieval defenses.
One of the more whimsical sights we a cat door built into the wall of a building, and it allows the city’s stray cats to come and go as they please. Another sight was visiting the outside of the bullfighting arena. Even though there was no bullfighting event happening at the time, it still allowed us to see this iconic part of Spanish culture.
We were only able to scratch the surface, and next time we go back, we’ll go to stuff we wanted to go to but didn’t have time for like the City of Arts and Sciences complex.
Another stop along the cruise was in sunny Ibiza, which offers a vibrant mix of beachside relaxation and exploration of historic sights. During our recent visit, we discovered some of the island’s cultural gems, the island’s famous walled old town of Dalt Vila, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the window of our room on the cruise ship, we could see the Dalt Vila.
Strolling through Dalt Vila, the diverse architectural influences are striking, from the grand Catalan-Gothic Catedral de Santa Maria d’Eivissa to the humble whitewashed houses draped with vibrant flowers. We also spotted the 16th century Castell d’Eivissa perched atop the highest point. We could even spot our cruise ship docked at the port far below.
After taking in the impressive cathedral, we continued to stroll Dalt Vila’s labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets. Flower-filled balconies and whitewashed houses flanked our path. The charming architecture and relaxed pace made it easy to imagine life centuries ago within these walls. Before heading back down the hill, we stopped at a cafe tucked within the city walls. There we sipped mojitos (albeitly overpriced), the perfect refreshing drink after ourwalk, and soaked in the ambience around us.
Our day in Dalt Vila provided a beautiful glimpse into Ibiza’s history and culture. Getting lost in its winding alleys while surrounded by medieval architecture was an unforgettable experience. We can’t wait to return to further explore this magnificent walled city.