Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Further proof that I have no sense of direction...

I went to Barcelona last weekend. It didn't start well. We got lost in the airport.

Yes, the airport.
Getting off the plane was simple enough but when we got to baggage control there was no sign of our flight on the boards. We looked longingly at the suitcases that whirled around the conveyor belts behind us. Where was our luggage?
"You just came from London, yes?" said a German man who could obviously read the confusion on our faces.
"Yes," we chorused.
"Me too, you need to go to Baggage Claim B," he said and sped off.
Briefly registering that we were in Baggage Claim A, we hurried after him, but he was too speedy for us and disappeared into the crowd. So we looked up, we looked down, we looked left and right and when we saw a sign that said "B" we followed it.
"Strange," I thought as we approached what looked a lot like the security check.
"Really strange," I thought as a guard asked me to take off my boots and put my bag and coat in a tray to be X-rayed.
"Really, really strange," I thought as my boarding card and passport were checked and I was waved on. "Who knew the Spanish were so security conscious about letting people into the baggage claim area?"
I turned to check that my friend was following me but she was having what looked like a slightly heated discussion with one of the guards. She'd left her boarding card on the plane and he was refusing to let her step through the x-ray machine. We tried to explain, in English (I know, bad tourists), but he wasn't having any of it. A kind stranger stepped in to say that he spoke English and would translate. So we explained and he talked to the guard, then turned back to us.
"You need to go to BA to get another boarding card for your friend," I said.
We exchanged looks.
"To get our baggage?" my friend said.
"Can't I go and get it?" I said.
"No," the stranger said. "You need to get boarding card to get on the plane."
Which is when we twigged.
I'd just been waved through into the DEPARTURES area (with a boarding pass that had already been used to get to Barcelona, not leave it!) and the security guard and stranger thought we wanted to get our luggage off the plane back to London! What we'd done was confuse 'Baggage Claim Area B' with 'Departure Area B'. Finally, looking a bit fed up with us holding up the queue, the security guard waved us both into the departure area and we walked for what felt like miles back to baggage claim area B.
And found our bags.

We didn't want to risk getting lost again so got a taxi to the hotel instead of negotiating the buses but the scene had been set for the rest of our holiday. We got lost several times a day during our long weekend in Barcelona:

- we ended up in the commercial district instead of Las Ramblas

- we ended up at the cathedral in the Gothic district instead of La Sagrada Familia (Gaudi's church) in a totally different area

- we ended up in a very dodgy Brixton-esque area, instead of the beach

- and to top it all a taxi driver dropped us off god-knows-where instead of at the fairytale bar we'd been looking for (and we had to get another taxi to take us to the correct place!)

But we did end up seeing a lot of Barcelona (most of it unexpected). We went to:
- Park Güell (the park Gaudi designed)

- The Cathedral (absolutely beautiful inside. The view from the roof was pretty spectacular too)

- Montjuïc Castle (quite WHY I suggested we jump in the cable car when I'm terrified of heights I don't know. I spent a good 5 minutes gripping the seat and staring at the floor)

- The beach (we got a taxi there in the end!)

- Sarriá (the guide book said we'd be charmed by its bustling atmosphere. It was deserted. Well, it was a Sunday afternoon)

- Various sites including Barcelona football club from the top of the tourist bus (red route)

- Los Carecoles (a restaurant recommended to us by an older English lady we met in Sarriá. She'd lived in Spain for a good part of her life and told us the restaurant was popular with locals and celebrities so how could we not go. The hour-long wait to get a seat wasn't much fun, although the food was gorgeous)

- El Bosc de las Fades (a bar decorated like a fairy tale forest)
- La Sagrada Familia (Bizarrely Darth Vadar and some Storm Troopers were posing outside)

Despite the fact we seemed to get lost every five minutes it was a wonderful break - if utterly exhausting because of the amount of site seeing we crammed into two days! Barcelona was really lovely and there are tons of places still to visit if I ever go back (like the Miro museum - we turned up on the only day of the week that it's closed!) but Paris still remains my favourite city in Europe. Mind you, I still have Rome, Venice and Prague on my 'must see' list so that crown could still be lost...


Bernadette said...

Sounds like you had a great time Cally - eventually! I don't think much of the Spanish security systems though.

I always think that the first time you visit a city you have to 'do' everything and then on subsequent visits you can get a better feel of what it's all about. I've only been to Barcelona and Rome once, and haven't been to venice or Prague yet, so maybe I'm being unfair, but I don't think anything will top Paris for me.

Tam said...

I did like Barcelona and loved Paris (oh, walking along the Seine on a July evening!) but preferred Prague to both and Venice came a close second.
Rome is my favourite city though, I adore Italy. Some bloke stopped me in the station to tell me how beautiful I was - what's not to like about a city where that happens?!

Oh and I notice that the word verification I have to type in today is 'undies'. Tres charmant!

Calistro said...

Bernadette - I agree! I couldn't believe they let me into departures with a passport and spent boarding ticket. How lax is that! I think I probably agree with you about the first visit somewhere. I've been to Paris twice (or is it 3 times?) and definitely enjoyed it more the 2nd time than the first.

Tam - Ooooh your comment makes me want to go to Rome, Venice and Prague even more! And how lovely to be complimented on holiday. :o)

Anonymous said...

At least you're allowed to ask for directions. As a bloke, I'm forbidden to do that.

Debs said...

What a wonderful trip, despite the lacking in sense of direction.

I must make a plan to go to Barcelona.

Gonna be a writer said...

Himself and I were thinking of a trip to Barcelona and despite that fact that you got lost now and then you seemed to have a great time. I love a city break but they exhausting by the time you've seen everything you want to see. You should go to the three places that you mentioned because they are all great. Venice doesn't smell and is very pretty. Prague is beautiful but I understand that it's got a lot more expensive since we were there three years ago and Rome is just the best place on earth. That is of course until I've seen Barcelona.

A Cuban In London said...

Went to Barcelona and did not get pickpocketed? You're very, very, very lucky :-)

As for the rest, it was an amusing tale. Obviously, I was not the one who lived through it, I doubt that you fuond the funny side of it as all these incidents were unravelling one after the other.

Greetings from London.

womagwriter said...

I loved Barcelona too, though we did get a mobile phone nicked...

Agree that nothing beats Paris.

pierre l said...

Regarding Tam's comment, I would never dare tell a stranger she was beautiful, or indeed make any other similar comments; I guess it's cultural differences.

Kristan said...

LOL! A fellow writer, here via What Kate Did next, and am cracking up at the Storm Troopers outside Sagrada Familia. Oh how I miss Spain...