I made it to Barcelona all right. And I loved what I’ve seen so far.
My trip was almost derailed at the last minute, because the visa duration was invalid! The Spanish Consulate gave me entry from 20-01-06 to 29-01-06 on 31-01-06, the day they issued me the visa. By then it had already expired. Go figure!
I am embarrassed to admit it, because I did scan through the visa when I got it but still didn’t catch the error. I guess there are mainly 2 reasons: 1. the different date format used in different countries apparently is too much for my brain to handle; 2. the starting date, the 20th, happened to be the day that my flight would arrive.
Anyway, the check-in agent at O’Hare noticed the error. It so happens that she knows the Spanish Consulate. She called him. He then faxed the agent a letter explaining the mistake. I carried the fax with me and was allowed entry.
Now I warn you, don’t bet on having the same luck I had, and please, please double, triple check your visa to any country when you get it. I was really lucky since I got to the airport 7 hours early, because I had something else to do and wanted to get the boarding pass early. At that time Iberia agent had not officially started their day yet.
Getting a visa is a pain and most times a humiliating experience, because you are presumed “guilty” unless proven otherwise. So most people want to get it over with as soon as possible. But considering all the effort you put in, you might as well make sure it is done right.
Now back to the trip. I borrowed 6 or 7 books about Spain and Barcelona from the library. I read most of them on the flight. That really paid off. By the time I got here, I had detailed plans of where I wanted to go, what food I wanted to try, and how to get there, etc..
Also, I met James Luetkehoelter at Madrid airport, who I met the first time at PASS last year in Texas. We had a great conversation. As I mentioned before, networking is the single most important you can get out of this kind of conferences. Thanks for the taxi ride James.
Anyway, I got to the hotel. On the way here, one observation I had is that for all the European countries I’ve been (some just for transit), it seems that European cars are much smaller than their American cousins, which may not be a bad thing. James commented that bigger cars do not fit well on old and narrow European streets, which makes sense.
There are a few things in the hotel that I found interesting:
1. After entering the room, you need to put the keycard into a slot to turn on everything electronic in the room, which I think is a great idea. For one, it is energy-efficient; for another, you will always know where your keycard is!
2. The bathroom has a separate urinal, right next to the toilet. I guess Spaniards really does not want to go through the trouble of lifting the lid up 🙂 Or maybe that is a bidet? I never see a real bidet before, so I am not sure. I remember a scene in “Riding in Cars with Boys” where Drew Barrymore’s love interest drank water from a bidet, and it shot water up. So I thought a bidet should always shoot water up so the reproductive organ can be properly washed. (That is a great movie, by the way. Drew Barrymore was not just a pretty face in it. She really showed a lot of depth in that movie.) Anyway, I don’t see this device can shoot water up:
I then took a short nap, a shower, and headed out to La Rambla. I bought a 10-pass T-10 ticket (6.75 Euro, or 6,75 as in Spain, Sweden, and probably Germany too) at Espanya station, which is a short stroll from my hotel. I consider the ticket a good deal and pretty cheap. I attempted to buy it using my credit card first. After inserting the card, the machine asked for my personal number. I had no idea that I am supposed to have a personal number for my credit card! I panicked a little because I was afraid the machine would not return my card, since it had sucked my card in earlier. Fortunately, I was able to cancel the transaction and got the card out. I then promptly paid in cash.
Walking on La Rambla is very relaxing. I saw people wondering around or sitting on the bench chatting; I saw quaint shops in narrow alleys; I saw vendors and street artists conducting business; I saw a market where fresh produce are sold and people enjoying fruits and smoothies; I saw people enjoying a late tapa lunch, washed down with a glass of beer; I saw beautiful and charming buildings along the street. At the harbour, I saw the interesting bridge, Christopher Columbus statue, and a fancy mall; all along, I could feel the gentle and cool Midterranian breeze. All these gave me the lazy, easy, and worry-free feeling, which is very nice. I heard pickpockets are active here, but luckily I was not affected.
Here are a few pictures:
Got to plan for next day and retire soon. Thanks to Prince Roy for his travel journals. I got a lot of inspriations out of it.