Saturday, February 20, 2010

Busy Day

"I'll sleep on the plane," I'd thought en route to my whirlwind weekend in London with a quick stop in Barcelona. "I'll just have to."

I maintain that I could have done it. IF I'd remembered my nerdy blow-up neck pillow and my earplugs. I had the eye-mask thingy, but that only went so far since a Spanish sports team was on board, along with an older women's travel club from an unspecified southern state. Everyone was chattering well into the night. And when I'd just start to drift off, I'd hear "I can't sleep at all, Myrtle, how about you?"

I'm guess Myrtle wasn't sleeping much either, so long as her pal kept trying to get her attention.

The night was long and I'm sure I never slept for a moment. But at nine a.m., I was standing in line at Immigration for non-EU passport holders in Barcelona in the new terminal. That was disconcerting—I'd forgotten a new terminal had opened and was not in any state to be confused. But I sat down for a morning coffee, then caught the €5 Aerobus to Plaza Catalunya.

I had my backpack with me, so rather than just melt on into the city, I had to jump on the red line to catch the metro to the bus station. I left it in a locker and bought a €12 one-way ticket for later that evening to Girona Airport, where my €39 Ryanair flight left for London Stansted.

Back on the red line to the yellow line to Jaume I. I was on a mission. I wanted to get to the boutiques before siesta came and shut several of them down until 4 p.m. It was about 11:30 by then.

First, I got out of the metro and headed right towards the Gothic neighborhood. The caganer store is just there on a small walk street. On my last trip, I'd scored a Tin Tin caganer, or maybe the Obama caganer. I no longer remember when I bought which—but this time? The caganer selection wasn't too good. My choices were limited to Spanish sports stars and Spanish politicians. One lone Prince Charles sat in the display case in the window, so I bought him.

I reversed course, passed the metro, and headed down Princesa Street. I stopped at Fete, On Land, and Miriam Ponsa. Great sales were happening at On Land and Miriam Ponsa so I dropped a fair bit of dough on Princesa Street, before heading deeper into Born to visit Anna Povo. That store is open during siesta so the pressure was off.

By then, I was getting hungry. And I was carrying a lot of bags. I stopped in a tourist restaurant for an adequate menu del dia, or price-fix lunch. It was a not-particularly great restaurant near Plaza del Pi, and I knew that already having eaten there before, but it was fast and there when I needed to eat.

And I didn't want to stray too far from Pi, because that's where Petritxol is, a tiny alley that features my favorite clothing store in Barcelona AND some of the best hot chocolate in town.

My lunch stop had cost me though. It was too late to get xocolata until after 4 or 5. I couldn't wait that long.

I stopped in Bionic, the Boyd Baten store, picked up a new shirt, stopped by Tomo II for a few more shirts, then headed to a place around the corner for xocolata. I hadn't been there in years and it wasn't as good as the stuff in the alley. I think I've had better even at fast food restaurants. Nevertheless, a gal can only drink so much thick, creamy hot chocolate at a time so that would have to do. Plus, it had the advantage of being open.

By now it was past three, and I needed to check in with work, so I jumped back on the metro and raced up to the Starbucks with the desks and power outlets, just above the main plaza. I bought a cappucino, plugged in my laptop to sign onto my Boingo account and...


Something was wrong with the certificate. I looked around. No one had their laptops out and on.

Ah. Well, maybe there'll be Internet at Girona Airport.

But last time I was there, there was almost nothing at Girona Airport. But that was years ago. I almost never fly out of Girona because it's so far away—an hour by bus. But a cheap fare's a cheap fare, and I've have had a tough time justifying an expensive flight for a whirlwind shopping expedition.

I gulped down my caffeine fix and headed back to the bus station on the metro. I sat on a bench for a minute and piggy-backed on an open wi-fi signal, downloading my mail. But looking at my watch, I could see that I had to hurry onto the 5 p.m. Girona bus, so I raced off to the lockers, got my backpack, and shoved it under the bus. I lugged my pile of shopping bags onto the bus with me. I'd have to deal with it in Girona.

An hour later, I disembarked along with a lot of other disheveled folks. They all headed off to deal with the Ryanair formalities—which are pretty minor now that they insist on online check-in. My flight wasn't until 9, but I'd just wanted to get my bag checked and sit down somewhere with my laptop.

I unzipped my backpack and rearranged all my new clothes into it. I pulled out my boots, which no longer fit in the bag now that I'd stuffed it full of purchases. I placed my shoes in my bag instead. My socks would keep falling down but surely I'd survive this inconvenience somehow.

At check-in, there was no line. In the past, it had always been a nightmare. Maybe this new policy wasn't a bad thing. And almost no one else was checking luggage which was an additional fee. (My base fare was €14.99 and my bag fee was €15. The other 10 were Ryanair fees.)

With just my knapsack, I looked around for a place to sit down. Girona was as sad an airport as it had always been. I went through passport control. Same cafeteria. Was the McDonad's new? Had the hot dog stand always been there? But no wi-fi.

I used my laptop anyway, and then thought, "I'll just have a look at my iPhone." I'd put my UK chip in before I'd left home.

And to my surprise, I was suddenly online!

I didn't stay there. You don't want to be roaming on data, pretty much anywhere. But I was dazzled. My iPhone worked on the phone network in Europe! That's more than I can say for home, where I'm too cheap to fork over the high costs of phone data on a monthly plan. (I use a cheapie prepaid system with an older phone at home.)

Eventually, I stood in a snaking line of Ryanair customers, all wheeling fairly uniform mini-suitcases. Ryanair enforces size regulations and also forces people to carry on one item only. Purses and laptops go inside the carry-on. I don't really have a problem with this. I do have a problem with people dragging their worldly possessions onto the plane. I understand that luggage gets lost but those bins aren't designed to hold your kitchen sink.

There was a mad race for seats when the gates opened, but I didn't mind where I sat. It was a short flight to Stansted and a world of chattering-Myrtles couldn't have woken me up for the ride.

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