Exploring Barcelona by bus was a fantastic way to get a taste of the city and its sights from the comfort of my seat. The architecture in Barcelona is an absolute highlight with cathedrals, Gaudi-designed casas and labyrinths of lanes stacked with apartments; washing lines are threaded between terraces with laundry hanging out to dry in the morning sun.
A must-eat in Barcelona is the ham sandwich at Cafe Viena, on Rambla dels Estudis. This sandwich was named the best in the world by the New York Times and is made with jabugo, produced only in Jabugo, near Seville, and the flauta has a crunch to die for.
DAYS AT SEA
Cruising the Mediterranean gave me the entire day to explore the Viking Sea.
Sea days are also a perfect chance to master my own ice bucket challenge, going from sauna to snow grotto repeatedly at Liv Nordic Spa. The spa also offers a brilliant Swedish massage.
One of the best parts about a cruise ship is the constant supply of food. Following dinner in The Restaurant, we indulged in all of the desserts possible, including peanut butter pie icecream and strawberry shortcake.
We felt the Atlantic rumble as we sailed into Lisbon, the city of seven hills. Portugal has a fascinating history and Lisbon is a display cabinet of statues, sculptures and grand buildings. Our tour took us around the city to the Jeronimos Monastery, a stunning piece of Manueline architecture, and Belem Tower. At each of these places there are plenty of tourists and plenty of women who will stop at nothing to sell visitors shawls and scarves.
After I suffered through a rough night of food poisoning, the ship sailed into Cadiz. This is the oldest continually inhabited city in Spain, home to Catedral Nueva, the third-largest gothic cathedral in Europe, although I'm not entirely sure how they could make them any bigger. The building itself is incredible, with several chapels inside to various saints, a beautiful crypt and the grandest altar I have ever seen. The serenity was overwhelming.
"In Porto, everything is up a hill or down a hill," said our tour guide, and I couldn't have put it better myself. Portugal's second-largest city was a breath of fresh air after Lisbon's cram, and its baroque architecture, and granite and tile covered buildings made it a candy land for the eyes. Porto was prosperous when wine shipments made passage along the Douro River.
The Old Town is a fantastic place to shop, admire the Romanesque cathedral or find time for a cheeky glass of local wine.
It was a Sunday morning when I arrived in A Coruna, and the city's empty streets whispered historic tales. This stunning city is home to Hercules Tower, a Roman-era lighthouse that has been in continuous operation since its construction in the 2nd century, and is a must-see to enjoy the coastal views. The row of houses along Agenda de la Marine are Galacian buildings from the 19th century, fronted by glazed glass balconies that form a massive wall of white when viewed side by side. Below, the promenade makes for a pleasant stroll, and the gelato here is incredible.
This port, which was founded by Vikings, is an ideal base if you want to explore the beaches of Normandy. I took an excursion to the sites of the D-Day landings along the coast to Colleville-sur-Mer and the American cemetery.
A highlight was the village of St L'Eglise, where a patisserie serves the most incredible filled baguettes, and the town's modest church pays tribute to US paratrooper Private John Steele, who found himself in a spot of bother when his parachute was snagged on the church spire.