Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Barcelona Day 1

Greetings from Barcelona. I don't have internet access in the apartment so these posts are going to be about 2 days behind. As I do the draft offline, edit my pictures and then need to walk over to a business centre to upload everything.

Day 1

As per normal I worked until after midnight, so I found myself in the kitchen making pasta primavera with a white wine reduction at 1AM Sunday morning as I hadn't had dinner yet. The TV was counting down the top 100 funniest moments (UK of course) so I ended up watching the end of that while I ate my dinner. By the time I finished packing my suitcase it was 3AM before I hit the sack. Great, that gives me 3 hrs to sleep before I need to get up.

Had a shower, got dressed and then called a cab to take me to the airport. My flight was scheduled to depart at 9AM so I wanted to get to the airport no later than 7:30 as I was figuring I'd have lots of lines to queue up in. When the cab dropped me off at the terminal I walked through the sliding glass door and was met with a wall of people. I couldn't even get through the second set of glass doors the line-up was so long. I was just about to ask the guy in front of me which airline the line-up was for when I noticed the Globespan counter, with 2 agents, and no line-up. Perfect :>) The crowd of people was for a different charter company. Note to self, don't book with them.

I walked up to the Globespan counter, checked in with no incident. My suitcase only weighted 11.4 kg (way under my allowed 20 kg) and I was even able to choose if I wanted a window or isle seat. I've got my boarding pass, now I just need to find a currency counter to purchase some Euros.

The Glasgow International airport may be small potatoes compared to Heathrow but there is enough there to keep oneself occupied whilst waiting for a flight. There were 3 different exchange counters to choose from and compare rates (the American Express counter gave the best deal & you got a free pen), a number of restaurants, some shopping etc. However, and this is where I always choose wrong. I was looking at the time. I'm supposed to be at the gate for 8:00, it's 7:40 and there is a huge long queue at the security check. Above the line there is a sign listing what shops and services are on the other side and I can see a Cafe Nero sign. Perfect, I'll go through the hassle of security now, then grab a coffee and a bite to eat on the other side.

Wrong, when you get through security and the mandatory duty free shop (I still don't understand how it's a good deal as the prices all look more expensive) you then have a choice of what direction you want to turn depending on your gate number. I was gate 27A which was off to the left. I'm thinking the Cafe Nero was off to the right as there was no coffee shop to be found. I ended up going to a small lounge area and purchased a black coffee from a large thermos pump (oh, you just know it's going to be bad) and a cello wrapped banana fudge muffin. What can I say, I needed caffeine and food and that's what was there.

I found a seat and opened up the cello pack on the muffin and started reading the ingredients.

Sugar, wheat flour, whole egg, vegetable oil, banana pieces - so far it's sounding like a fairly normal muffin recipe. Now where was I, right - the banana pieces. Apparently that does not mean pieces of banana. Here is what the 'banana pieces' consist of: sugar, glycerol, wheat fibre, vegetable fat, gelling agent (pectin) and finally natural banana flavouring - I mean at this point, why bother?

I won't list the remaining ingredients, some of which are number/lettered entities but at the end of it all it says "suitable for vegetarians".

Gate 27A is on the lower level of the terminal and when it was time to board, we didn't board a plane but a shuttle bus. It's about 8:40 now and the guy next to me smells of stale cigarette smoke and alcohol. Ick. As we are driven around to get to our plane I had a smile cross my face as I thought to myself. What kind of trouble did this airline get itself into that it's airplanes are banished to the far end of the tarmac away from the other planes. Kind of like being told to stand in the corner. I know it's not true, but what if it is?

The flight was happily uneventful. As it's a charter the seats are a bit narrower than the major carriers but they seats are leather and comfortable. I'm extremely exhausted so I don't want to do anything other than try to catch a nap. Getting out of Glasgow was pretty bumpy as there was a small storm front moving in. I was kicking myself for not putting my knapsack under the seat in front of me. As once we got up to cruising altitude there were some amazing 3 dimensional cloud formations. Snoozed off and on for the rest of the flight and once we started our descent to Barcelona the plane hit some pretty violent turbulence, but it was only 10 minutes and then we landed.

The Barcelona Airport seems quite nice. On arrival I'm supposed to call the 'greeter' for the apartment we are renting to confirm. I've never used my mobile outside of the UK before so I found the information desk to confirm if I need to add the double zeros to the phone number I've been given. I find the taxi stand, give him the address of where I need to go and away I go.

I realize quickly that the driver speaks no English so it's a quiet ride. At one point he asks me something about the address but I don't have a clue so I'm just going on faith that he drops me off at the correct place. I'm trying to find the street in my guide book to get my bearings. The greeter calls me back to say he's running late and he won't connect with me until 2:00 (it's 1:40 now).

OK, so I'm in a city I don't know, not sure if I'm on the correct street standing there with my suitcase and backpack trying not to stand out. Everything has shut down on the street as it's Sunday and siesta. So I just wander around a bit trying to get my bearings. I find a big cathedral (not the Gaudi) and it's just a few blocks from our apartment. It's weird, the plaza is filled with people gathered in circles dancing. I found out later they are doing the Solada and it is tradition after the Sunday mass in this square.

I connect up with the greeter and he takes me up to the apartment. It looks exactly like the pictures on the website so that's good. I pay the remainder of the rental fee, sign the contract get the keys and he sits down with me and a map and points out where I can purchase groceries, good restaurants, what areas to stay away from etc. A very helpful man.

So now I've got about 6 hours to kill before Mom & Dad arrive. I'm not expecting them until about 8:30 so I wander around, take some pictures, attempt to find an internet cafe (see Barcelona Day 2 for that continuing saga) and basically try to figure out where I am and what there is to see. I grab some lunch at a falafel place and take it back to the room. I scarf it down and decide I need to try and get some sleep as I'm still really tired. I set my alarm for 8PM and snooze. I'm happy to report my bed is extremely comfortable.

At 8:00 I get up and decide I need to go out on the street to wait for the folks to arrive. They don't have a mobile and they won't know what apartment number to buzz. I haven't been in touch with them for a few days so we never really had a strategy in place on how to meet.

Lucky for me there is a gelato place on the corner so I get a coconut cone and sit on the corner and people watch. I must have a very honest face as I had an Irish couple come up to me to ask directions. They were lost and couldn't find their hotel and just knew they were by the Cathedral. Although they thought it was the Gaudi one, but when he showed me on the map I explained that wasn't the Gaudi. Between the 3 of us it was confirmed that the Cathedral on the map was where they needed to be so I pointed them in the right direction.

Dad walked right past me but I was able to get his attention. My folks are such brave souls. They took the Metro to get here after the shuttle bus delivered them from Gerona Airport and then walked down La Rumbla to where I was. They looked exhausted.

Mom is down with a cold so just Dad and I went for dinner to a place around the corner from the apartment. He told me all their adventures from the cruise. By the time we got back to the apartment with some leftovers for Mom it was past midnight.

It was a long day, I can hardly wait for day 2.

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