Ah, sunrise in Paris. Probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.
Too bad it was seen through an airplane window. At a gate at the airport, and going nowhere fast.
But it was a sunrise in Paris, so it counts.
I get ahead of myself. Should probably start at the beginning.
Up at wth?? o’clock. I’m sure most angels weren’t even up at this hour. Mine was not terribly happy about it.
Daughter Dearest, bless her heart, was up on time and took us to the airport with absolutely no complaint. Was it the prospect of having the house to herself for two weeks? I do not know. Whatever–she deserves much gratitude.
Nothing special at the airport–except I broke a revolving door. Well, not really, but when I banged my luggage into it accidentally, the thing stopped. Ooops.
By the way, COFFEE PEOPLE ROCKS! That place has got to be the best coffee shop in the universe. Too bad I only get it when I’m at the airport.
The flight was some five hours to JFK airport in New York–and that was where the fun began. If, that is, you define “fun” as sheer panic coupled with total frustration, with a mad dash around the airport without knowing where you’re going.
Let me elucidate. First, a little advice: Never, NEVER give yourself a 45-minute layover at an airport you don’t know.
We got into the airport terminal after the usual “open the door don’t you even think about getting in my way” mad trudge off the plane. So…our flight is our of…hmmm…
WHERE IS IT?…Oh, okay. TM1. We’re in…where are we? Look around for directional signs, maps, whatever. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Okay, time to think about this–while careering at top speed through crowds and searching frantically for something–ANYTHING–that could be interpreted as TM1.
No luck. We finally asked someone–what a novel concept–and found out that TM1 was the next building over. Which meant another howdy-do at TSA (security). We dashed over, and then couldn’t find TSA anywhere.
Finally asked again–we had to go upstairs. Again, signage would have been a totally brilliant thing to add to the environment. Gotta go upstairs…where are the stairs?? Encountered an elevator that didn’t seem to have any buttons or means of use–but hey! there’s the escalator…
Speedy thing, that. I’ve seen dead things move faster.
Then, the dreaded words over the loudspeaker: “Final boarding call for Flight Blahblahblah to Paris”. Oh, well, now isn’t that fun. Stuck in the security line, and we haven’t been through the strip-search and hose-down yet. We did the “let us through please that’s our flight” schtick, and surprisingly everyone was very accommodating. The TSA guy assured us that the flights did that all the time–they put out that announcement and then just sat at the gate for a half-hour.
We found this to be true.
After the security thing (the scanner found something on my left ankle that set it off–no idea what that was all about. Same thing happened in Portland. I don’t remember any Borg assimilation–well, there again I wouldn’t, would I?), we ran pell-mell to the gate. Fortunately, they were holding the flight for us, so we got on, loaded our bags into the overhead (which was too small for regular bags, but we stuffed them in nonetheless), and sat as fast as we could.
And went nowhere. For at least a half hour.
And Paul lost his watch when we went through security. Someone owes us a new Timex. Poor guy–he kept looking at his wrist to see the time, then kinda sighed…
No kids either flight, by the way. The quiet (relatively speaking) was music to my ears.
I watched one movie on the flight over – “Shawn the Sheep” – but the others didn’t interest me. I tried to sleep, but that was a waste of time. Whoever makes the “ding” over the loudspeaker for no understandable reason: I will find you some day, and it won’t be pretty.
Traveling tip: when you get our of your airplane seat, DO NOT use the back of the seat in front of you to help yourself up. Especially if I’m the one in said seat. I fantasized about what REAL ladyfingers might taste like…restrained myself because I didn’t have enough money with me to make bail. Let’s put it this way–I didn’t put my seat back–ever–but it was all the way back by the time we got to Paris. Grrrr….
We got into Charles de Gaulle Airport with little or no bloodshed. We had a couple of hours before our next flight, which went pretty fast. Just getting from Point A to Point B, and through Customs, took that time up pretty fast.
I find it amazing how much French I could decipher. If I don’t try to translate, it comes to me and I can respond. But if I filter the words through English, it get bogged down. However–the guy on the loudspeaker on the plane to Barcelona? I couldn’t understand him in English, French, or Spanish.
Of course, the Spanish spoken in Barcelona is very different than the Latino I hear in my part of the world–the same as the dialectic difference between Statespeak and Britspeak, or Brazilian vs. Portugal Portuguese. This I learned pretty fast.
The airport in Barcelona looks more like a shopping mall than an airport. Two floors of shops–and most of them with titles in English. And not a Starbucks to be seen! Hooray! (I don’t like Starbucks.)
“Dunkin Donuts” is “Dunkin’ Coffee” here–that’s a hoot!
After that glorious Parisian sunrise and the hour-or-so trip to Barcelona, and after the walk though the shopper’s wonderland there, we got to the baggage carousel to watch the luggage go round and round–along with everyone else. The crowds eventually cleared, leaving about twenty of us still waiting.
The belt stopped–and no luggage for us. As a flock, we all trooped over to the “Where The Hell’s Our Stuff??” desk, where Paul and I learned that our luggage had decided to stay in New York. Not surprising, considering how we ourselves were almost left there too. The guy at the desk assured us that it had caught the next flight, and that they would deliver it to our hotel.
Hooray! We were off–caught the shuttle to the next terminal. I was amused by a little boy in the seat ahead of us. His mother wasn’t sitting down fast enough for him–he kept patting her butt and her leg, then patting the seat. It was so cute–she wasn’t really paying attention, and the expression on his face was priceless! I think he was about two years old.
After we got off the shuttle, we hopped on the train to where our hotel was. Actually, it was nice not having to pull two suitcases around…it turned out okay that way. Great set-up, this train. Worked wonderfully well, and I was grateful for its speed and efficiency. The biggest problem was the lack of oxygen in the lower levels of the underground (when we had to transfer trains). Of course, the lack of sleep and the pain in my foot didn’t help matters.
We came up out of the ground less than a mile from our hotel, located along a street called Calle Pintor Fortuny, right in the historical section of town. Oh my goodness–the architecture! This is known as the Gothic section for a reason. Architecture, not lifestyle, folks…Incredible–the old buildings with the frescoes and gargoyles.
We reached our destination, Hotel Ramblas, and checked in. I loved it immediately! This was a rather narrow section of building (there are no alleyways here), but the room was adequate, as was the lobby/bar section and the breakfast room.
A tiny elevator took us to the 10th floor (9th according to the buttons, because the first floor was “0”) and our room.
Very sparse–just a bed, a desk, and some shelves on a bare wood floor. Kind of weirdly shaped–one side was at an angle. However, we had a wonderful balcony. A really good size–with astro-turf.
And a view. An absolutely stunning, take-your-breath-away view. We couldn’t ask for better.
All those times when our hotel window showed us other buildings’ windows with air-conditioners sticking out of them–this more than made up for them.
A quick comment–like Brazil, it seems folks don’t have dryers. As we made our way to the train stop, I saw many, many clotheslines between windows (on the same building, not strung across) full of drying laundry.
Plus–green awnings everywhere. The same color on every building. Someone made a killing on green awnings…
Once we’d gotten a little bit settled, we wandered on out again. It felt so good to not be dragging that luggage around. We got on the train again and took it to see the huge church called La Familia Sagrada.
The thing is so huge that it has its own train stop! Made it easy to know where to get off.
A bit of history about the place, thanks to Wikipedia:
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona,Catalonia (Spain), designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, as distinct from a cathedral, which must be the seat of a bishop.
Construction of Sagrada Família had commenced in 1882 and Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Sagrada Família’s construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death.
The basílica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona: over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona’s cathedral, over Gaudí’s design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí’s death disregarded his design, and the recent proposal to build an underground tunnel of Spain’s high-speed rail link to France which could disturb its stability. Describing Sagrada Família, art critic Rainer Zerbst said, “It is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art” and Paul Goldberger called it, “The most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.”
We came up out of the underground and turned the corner–I have never seen a building so big in all my life!
People had to buy tickets to get inside, so we opted out–figured we’d come back again another time and do it all up right. After checking it out from all sides (I liked the older side the best), we went back to our hotel.
Still no luggage. Well, no matter–there’s the bed. I decided to take a nap.
But first, another trip out to the balcony. I sat there for awhile, with a seagull for company, and listened to the crowds below. I could hear some Hare Krishnas parading and chanting down the street, and wished I could see them. However, the trees below hid them from sight. Oh well.
After that, I went back in and hit the pillow. I took a pretty good nap, getting up only to shut the balcony door and when we got the call that the bags had arrived.
Good–PJs, shampoo, conditioner are here. Time for a shower, so I could stop smelling like the intake section of a busy laundry room.
After that I was up until 10pm with a pounding headache. I’d taken some painkillers (by the way, the tap water in Barcelona is awful), but the headache never really went away until some time in the middle of the night.
Once 10pm hit, the lights were turned off. I heard the bells ringing out on occasion from the various towers throughout the city, but not for long. I knew nothing after that until 8am the next day.
Tomorrow–a morning in Barcelona, and our first day on board the NCL Spirit