Roughly once a year, I take what I’d call a “major vacation”. In order to qualify this trip must include three of the following things: A passport, a Tablet-approved hotel, 4 days + in duration, and planning at least 6 months in advance of departure so it can be dreamed about and looked forward to during times of distress.
One of my best friends moved to London, and although she’s been about everywhere, she had never been to Barcelona, the place on top of my list. So we planned to meet there in late May. This took some doing as she had started a new job where early tenure travel was frowned upon; for my part, I didn’t want to spend a gazillion dollars on a hotel and airfare after a shaky professional year.
Luckily, I somehow scored a roundtrip ticket on Air Berlin for $329!, and was able to talk her into sharing a room (the best parts of friend travel is always bedtime banter) at the hotel Primero Primera, which I could not recommend more highly. Might just be my favorite hotel in the world.
But let me back up: To the floor of the Barcelona Airport.
Which is directly related to the world of “you get what you pay for.” For the low low price of $329! I got:
• An itinerary that changed three times, including a grizzly final return departure of 5:55 am, meaning leaving the hotel at 3:30 am, and arriving in Barcelona so early I couldn’t get my VAT rebate from the airport bank, which didn’t open until 6am
• 8-hour layovers for trips to and from Barcelona
• Seats so cramped I couldn’t stash my tabloids in the seat-back or cross my legs without kicking 42A or tripping a steward
• Weak wifi that over-charged every time I tried to log-on, which was a lot since it only worked in 3-minute increments
• Lame entertainment system with no live TV, but instead offered a shitty selection of movies and shittier selection of shows (I need my Housewives and Rachel Maddow to survive this shit!)
• The most horrific airline food I’ve ever poked at, leading me to eat about seven rolls
I finally arrive at the Barcelona airport at midnight, almost 24-hours after I left my house. This is not a good look on me. My eyes hurt. My skin has taken on a yellowish hue. My body is covered in a film of travel funk. My hair is frizzy and flat at the same time. I’m bloated. I smell. I drag my overstuffed carry-on, summer coat and neck pillow piled on top, in search of the exit and cab queue.
Fuck fuck fuck FUCK.
The taxi “door” is sealed off. There are no taxis. There has been a 24-hour anti-Uber strike that ends at 6am.
Audible groans bounce from the shiny surfaces. Locals call friends and family for rides. Others take buses. I call my hotel to learn that a) getting to the hotel on public transit would require multiple transfers (at midnight, alone, with zero knowledge of the City, not going to happen) and b) no, he couldn’t send someone to get me as he was alone at the front desk.
And so, I find an empty seat near fellow stranded strangers, turn my carry-on into an ottoman for my outstretched legs (note the big black furry Chloe slides in the photo, perfectly weathered this travel ordeal), put on the neck pillow, snap on my cheap airline-issued sleep mask, and try like hell to sleep. This does not go well, so I slither off and onto the floor. To my far left, a couple is arguing and fucks are flying, to my immediate left, an older woman clasping Rosary Beads rocks back and forth.
I have never been more tired and bored in my life. There is only so much Candy Crush one can play. I’ve read and re-read my crumpled US Weekly and In Touch 8 times. My Mac Air is out of power and I’m nowhere near an outlet.
Somehow, 6am finally comes and I hop right into a cab. My driver acts natural like nothing happened. 20 minutes later I am spread eagle, face down on the most luxurious bed in the world.
Welcome to Barcelona. Or as Jslow says, Barthalona.
More in the next post. I’m still jet lagged.