|08 May – Wednesday
Our Lufthansa flight in an A330-300 to Barcelona will transit at Frankfurt, and we have a window seat. The seven hour flight leaves at 1am, arrives at 7am. Pillows and blankets are issued, but for now it is warm enough. The first challenge is the headphones. We look everywhere to find where to plug in the double pin audio plug, and can only see a single one to use. The trick was that one of the pins folds back, there is even a wee diagram on the plug, black on black, and at 1am bloody hard to see! It is difficult to sleep properly, but we are well looked after on this flight. There is an extensive entertainment system (who needs sleep), which when it starts up shows you how to fold back the pin to plug in the headphones! Free internet is available, not sure how they figure it is free, as when we turn it on we have to register, and then they ask for money, lots of it. Meals are also included in the flight. Tony dozes off and on, and thinks he didn’t really get off to sleep, but Cynthea assures him he did, about four hours.
Flying over Europe at night is a wonderful sight, the only thing lacking on this flight is proper “where are we” information. At some parts of the journey there is nothing below but lights as far as we can see. And it is so clear, wouldn’t think that we were 11,500 metres up. Tony tried taking photos, but they were not very good. It was a smooth flight, but around 5.30am it is getting a bit chilly in the cabin, we think they are waking everyone up for breakfast. Tony starts watching a movie, The Upside, it is hilarious, but he only gets half way through before we land at Frankfurt. Never mind, he will catch it on the next flight.
Contrary to what we had been told in Dubai, we are not in transit at Frankfurt, and are required to enter the EU here. It all goes without a hitch, Cynthea is asked why we are here, but not how long for, and the guy barely speaks to Tony, he is waived through as soon as his passport is checked. We wonder what will happen with customs, as our bags are checked right through to Barcelona.
We walk for bloody miles, and that is just to go through security again. Tony gets a bit annoyed at security, and tries not to show frustration. He is directed to a line and told to wait at the right, he is getting things ready for scanning, and puts them down on a clear section of bench. Security tell him to wait his turn, and to pick it all up. He no sooner does that, than they call him forward, and then proceed to harass him for taking too long and holding everyone up. Grit teeth, smile, and think nasty things that will go unsaid (for now).
Through the other side the personal scan goes ok, but everything is checked and swabbed. What the hell is going on here. They go over the laptop and phones, and then swab everything else. They leave aside his jacket, and when Tony asks for it the guys sighs, and proceeds to swab that too. Tony thinks that the guy was pissed off not to find anything!
Then we have the trek of all treks, we walk for ages, and ages… Should have checked the phone to see what that airport alone recorded, but he forgot. A new gate for the flight is issued, hooray, it is closer than the old one, and still in the same area. We find a water fountain and fill our bottles, bottled water is bloody expensive, €5 for litre bottle in one shop, and only slightly cheaper near the gate. We will get a breakfast snack on the plane, a two hour flight to Barcelona.
This flight is on another Airbus, an A321, we leave Frankfurt at 7.30am, and we have not got an entertainment system, at all. Not even something that tells us where we at in our flight. “Free” internet is available, but again you have to sign up and cough up big bucks, or Euros even, to actually do anything. Tony is disappointed he does not get to see the rest of his movie, bugger. At least it is a short flight… there is time for a wee nap.
We arrive in Barcelona just before 10am, and as we cannot check in until 2pm we decide to check out sim cards at the airport and have a bite to eat, well just a coffee, while we use their power to charge the phones. Tony is so tired that he doesn’t realise that there are usb slots for the phone charger, and uses the adapters, the penny only drops when he is unplugging everything.
Sim cards are expensive, not only to buy, but also the plans. We are looking at €25 and up, and the plan resets every month. We think we will see if we can get by without until we can pick up a cheap sim in the UK. We ask at the information counter which is the best way to get to the hostel, and are told the metro, gives us maps and the route to take. We look at getting a pass for a few days, but decide to wait as we don’t plan on going anywhere tonight. Two single trip tickets are €9.20 (about $16), at that price the passes are looking good, but are also expensive. At least the system is simple, tag on only, and the whole city is one zone. Piece of cake.
The metro here is quite old (we have been spoilt in Singapore and Dubai with their flash new trains). No glass walls here to stop people falling on to the tracks. We have to make one change, and at that station we are directed outside (temporary signs out). We are a bit wary, because we are going through the turnstiles, and hope that they will accept the ticket to continue the journey when we go back in. No lift available, so we have to lug our gear up three flights, and we get moved on because we are standing in front of the signs. We ask where we are supposed to go to connect, and are told go out. But we don’t want to go out, we want a connecting service. There are no signs up explaining what is happening, but there are signs directing us, and we end up following those, along with everyone else. Another long march, at least it is not raining, nor is it stinking hot (a cool 23 degrees, compared with the mid 30’s we have had recently!).
We walk a couple of blocks to the station entrance, down stairs, no lifts again!, and there we have the ticket gates. We are sure our tickets won’t work, but don’t get the chance to try, as the gates are open for us (maybe they saw we were holding tickets?), so we head off feeling relieved. When we surface, we cannot see street signs, forgetting that they are on the sides of buildings. It takes a few minutes to see them. Tony did think he had booked in an older part of town, but that turned out not to be the case, even so the area is quite nice. A short walk towards the beach and we are at our hostel. Tony checks his phone, we have walked over 8km today, most of it at Frankfurt airport!!
Amistat is a great place, warm welcome, and there is an activities board chocka with things to do, many of them free. Tonight there is a sunset beach party, so we sign up for that before heading up to our room for a nap. Eight beds in our room, and there is plenty of room in here not jammed in like some places we have stayed. €107, NZ$297 for three nights, expensive compared with what we normally pay for a hostel.
After we have rested we go down to the lounge, and meet the others for the sunset beach party. Put on by the hostel, we are provided wine, sandwiches, orange juice, water, blankets, beach balls and music. It is great time, but (thankfully) not the raging party that we expected. Sunset is quite late here, around 9pm (yay). There is a lot to do around here, and we learn it was redeveloped in 1992 for the Olympics. We go down to the water, but it is quite a steep drop off, and the waves are a bit rough. We go in for a paddle, a very quick one! The water is freezing!
Back at the hostel we sign up for a walking tour in the morning, Talking to others we hear that we were lucky with our metro tickets, others had the same ticket, and same problem with the staion that was being renovated. They ended up having to fork out about €5 to get back in to the metro. They said they couldn’t make themselves understood, and couldn’t be biffed arguing about it with metro staff. Bugger that, I would have made myself understood.
09 May – Thursday
A good nights’ sleep, and we are up in time for breakfast. The usual cereals and muesli, ham, salamis, croissants and “plastic” cheese. We have a coffee machine, yoghurt, toast, jam and tea, and a staff member is making us smoothies. There is also a bowl of fresh fruit. €4 each, not a bad price.
It is another nice day, about 24 degrees and sunny, Around 11am we head off with Lu, one of the hostel staff, on a walking tour of Poblenau, the district where we staying. It was an old industrial area, mostly abandoned factories, until the 1992 Olympics when the area was transformed into a “smart city”. There are a lot of open spaces, and buildings have been designed to allow free pedestrian movement underneath, as well as around them. There is a good community vibe here, with the intention being to encourage residents to use the open areas. Some of the ideas look a bit strange to us, like the windows in the hedge surrounding the park. Yes, there are large oval windows about every metre. Inside the park are stainless steel sun loungers for people to use, one would think you would bring a towel to use, you might would burn ya botty in summer! We are out for a good couple of hours. Normally free these tours are run by a company, and you tip the guide. But this was run by the hostel, and there was nothing to pay.
We decide that there is a lot more to see and do here, so we book the hostel for another two nights. Barcelona is expensive, but we feel we will be missing out if we leave early. NZ$194 for the extra two nights, over a weekend, so even more expensive.
Tonight the hostel is putting a meal on, €6 each for tapas. We have a great night catching up with people we have met over the last couple of days. Phillipe who made the tapas is thrilled we all helps with the dishes. He says a lot just eat and run. He is running a tour to a bar and night club, but we decide not to go, we did a lot of walking today, and have a big walking tour tomorrow morning. We regret that later, when we hear about the music at the bar, right up our street, and we would have enjoyed it. Some got back from the night club in time for breakfast.