Since I am starting this based on past travels and would be journeys, I shall start with one of the most memorable trips we had – Barcelona. Barcelona is not Spain’s capital although you have to admit, you thought it is. It is the 2nd largest city in Spain and is the capital of Catalunya. It is mostly famous for Gaudi and the Olympics which was held there in 1992. You must know one thing — they don’t really speak Castillano or the Spanish that we know. They speak Catalan.
Getting on with the story — 24th September 2010. We arrived at Barcelona El Prat Airport around 11 am due to a flight delay on KLM via Amsterdam. Since France and Spain were having transport strike, it was expected. We took a cab to our hotel which was located at La Rambla. The guy was quite nice. He was trying to make small talk with us. Unfortunately, he knows no English and I know no Catalan. What I gathered from what he was trying to say was: “Be very careful. La Rambla is not a very safe location. Take care of your belongings and make sure your camera is not just slung over one shoulder.” We have been warned within the first 30 minutes of arriving.
The main reason we were in Barcelona is Gaudi. My friend is very much a fan of his works. First stop, we visited the exterior of La Casa Battlo. I have to say exterior as everyone had the same idea. The queue outside was a long dragon’s tail. Next stop was La Casa Mila, better known as La Pedrera as it looks like a stone quarry. You could say that George Lucas might have been influenced by the sculptures at the top of the building for Star Wars. Last stop, was La Sagrada Familia. This is Gaudi’s most famous work. 200 years after, it is still a work in progress. If you only have time to visit one place in Barcelona, make it La Sagrada Familia. It is like the Eiffel Tower of Paris. It is THE place you really have to see to say that you’ve been to Barcelona.
Visiting Barcelona needs a strategy. You need to know where you want to go and what you want to see before you start walking. There is this famous old hospital way up north near Parc Guell and La Sagrada Familia. Near the middle are Casa Battlo and Casa Mila. Near the port are Palau Guell, La Bocheria and La Rambla — which is nice for a walk or people watching.
Oh I almost forgot! Remember the cab driver’s warning earlier? My friend’s purse was stolen while we were dining at a restaurant in front of our hotel. We didn’t notice as we were so tired and each of us thought that the other was carrying the purse. We only realized the theft the next day. My friend accidentally stashed all our credit/debit cards and identification cards in her purse. O_O You can imagine the horror of not having any way to get money on the first day of your trip. We spent the whole morning calling the banks for cancellation of cards and filling a police report. Judging by the queue at the station, we were not THAT stupid. It was a widespread problem and one of them was even mugged. Good thing we still had our wits with us. I had Jore (my friend) call our friend to wire some money to us via Western Union. To pay the hotel, I asked my sister for my debit card info which is with her via instant messaging. So you wouldn’t see us pouting in any of the pictures. I have to say this — BE VERY CAREFUL IN BARCELONA! The place is nice but be very careful. We were not the only victims. I have a friend who is over 6 feet tall whose wallet was stolen in Barcelona. After that, his iPhone was taken in the Metro. Because he was so upset, he shouted. His phone miraculously was being returned by some stranger who “picked” it from the floor because my friend “dropped” it. My friend noticed the pickpockets calling for reinforcements so they got off at the next stop.
I can only imagine the horror! But having a good friend coupled with a good head is always a great combination in times of disasters!