Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Honeymoon in Europe - Part II


So, I know you’ve been licking your chops in anticipation and quite frankly, it’s unattractive. Seriously, stop it. To continue the epic journey, here is this weeks installment of My Honeymoon in Europe.

Barcelona, SPAIN - 8am

So we land in Barcelona, and I’m a crotchety mess. My beautiful wife, god love her, claimed she had no problem with the time change. I believe she said, “The sun came back up, and my body’s like, ok, let’s go!”. I love her, but at that point, I could’ve strangled her. Ah, marriage.

Barcelona’s airport is pretty nice. The only thing that kinda sucked was that you had to take a bus from the plane to the terminal. Except this bus had no seats. It was basically a subway car on wheels, with bars sprouting from everywhere for people to hang on to. It looked like something the A-team would’ve built in the last ten minutes of an episode. They overcrowd these conveyances with people who’ve just sat for roughly eight hours straight, forcing them to all of a sudden try to stand on a jostling bus for ten minutes. The ground crew must find it enormously amusing, watching these foreigners make an ass of themselves trying to stay upright. I sure as hell did.

As I said, Barcelona’s airport is pretty nice, and it’s also organized, and we sailed through customs, got our bags, and we we’re ready to move onto grabbing a cab to our hotel. But, first things first. We needed an ATM to get some local cash, that being the Euro. Thing is, nothing is labeled ATM. I was expecting that. What I wasn’t expecting was that no machines had that “these cards accepted here” thing, you know, labels for Mastercard, Visa, Cirrus, those other weird ones that are there but you don’t read… Now, there are machines that LOOK like ATM machines, but they are in fact, exchange machines. Handy device, but no help. Then, thankfully, a native (that sounds awfully primitive, doesn’t it? But it IS the right word, right?) used a machine off to the left, and I saw the flash of pink paper that signifies foreign money. To me, anyway.

As you probably know, most ATMs in the US offer two languages, English and Spanish, in that order. This ATM offered twelve. Twelve! I was halfway tempted to try the one that looked like Sanscrit, just for giggles, but there was a line forming behind me.

Got our bags, got our cash, let’s grab a TAXI!

Ok, I was not that exuberant. (Let me make it clear that in my state of mind at the time, had anyone within ten feet of me been anywhere near that “chipper”, I would have actually put them in a chipper.)

There was a two lane taxi stand in front of the airport and, I dunno why, but I found it weird that the cabbies stood outside their cars while waiting for passengers. They would talk with each other, or lean against their cab and read a paper. I’ve never seen that in Philly or NY. You leave your car unattended, it’ll get thiefed! (I happen to like that ‘not really a word’, so excuse me.)
So, the two front cabbies were of course standing outside, conversing. One was an older, I’d say late fifties, gentleman, and the other, a curly-haired, fortyish woman. Neither spoke English, but between our Frommer’s Spanish phrase book (more on that in a later post), and the two of them deciphering our horrible inflection, the curly haired woman ushered us inside her cab and started us on our journey to the Hilton Diagonal Mar, which by the way is pronounced “Mar”, not “Mar.” You read that right.

I have to say, Barcelona has the nicest cabs I’ve ever seen. Every single one looked brand spankin’ new, and it was so clean I would’ve eaten off the seat… of a CAB, people! Our cab was a Peugeot, a car you no longer see in the U.S. (Once again, more that in a later post)

Also, our curly haired cabbie was extremely nice, and seemed to want to talk to us, even though we spoke nary a word of her language. (I usually hate when people try to talk to you like they know you or something when you’ve just met them and will only know them for like five minutes. That’s why I never got that Taxicab Confessions show. Who the hell shares that kind of info with some dude you just met? Seriously, are all of your friends and family that untrustworthy?) So, I usually hate that, however, in this instance, I found it sweet. She was making an attempt to make us foreigners welcome in her country, no matter what. I found myself lifting slightly out of my miserable, “I haven’t slept at all” mood.

The Hilton is located to the east of Center Barcelona, right near the coast, but past where the major port is. It was about a half hour trip, maybe less, and we drove past one of the coolest/creepiest things I’ve ever seen just as we left the airport. On a cliff side, there was a peculiar engineering marvel. It looked like an Excel spreadsheet built into side of the cliff:



I realized it's hard to see, but look at the top row at those honeycomb looking things. In a moment I realized what we were looking at: a cemetery. But this cemetery used the cliff side as basically an enormous mausoleum. There were columns about seven openings high and rows about twenty long. Columns upon columns and rows upon rows of square openings, each opening housing a casket. Those in use had a pane of glass covering the opening, those awaiting their eternal twinkie filling stood gaping, a horizontal hole in a vertical finger of earth. Amazing.

When I’m fascinated by something, I usually forget the mood I’m in. I tend to dwell on bad things when they happen, and I need something of interest to break me out of my festering moods. Barcelona is a visceral, fascinatingly beautiful city, with sculptures, amazing architecture, and an abundance of greenery that catches the eye. My black mood was slowly being eaten away by this amazing place.

However, that black mood had been nicely masking my exhaustion. I was crashing. Fast. I needed a bed and a nap. Stat. It was still only 9am, early enough that I wouldn’t feel bad for catching a couple hours sleep before really ‘starting’ the vacation. Which is why I was so looking forward to getting to the Hilton, as they allow early check-in as long as you inform them, which we had.

So when we pulled into the Hilton, my eyes felt like lead, and I was giddy. Normally I would never use that word in civilized conversation, or in this case blogversation, but there is no other word for it. Giddy. I was a goofy, uncomprehending mess. We entered the Hilton, whose lobby was beautiful, in hindsight, but at that moment I had tunnel vision for the front desk.

I give my name and checked in. No problems until the attendant goes to give me a room. “Oh, I’m sorry sir, your room is not quite ready yet. Could you come back in a half hour?”

I know what you’re thinking. I went ballistic, didn’t I?

We'll find out after this next commercial break...

I always wanted to do that!

-JQ

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