Monday, June 18, 2012

Kathy joins our band of weary travellers

On the 17th, Anna, Gillian and I made a very enjoyable TGV journey from Paris to Barcelona. It was a welcome 7 hours of resting in co fie seats and enjoying the beautiful scenery as we headed south toward Valence, Nimes, Montpellier, and then westward to Peripgnan, Figueres (imagine, we are now in Spain). We oohed and aahed over our first glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrennes mountains. Pinch me now! My camera was buried in a securely locked and stowed pack but we are travelling back to the south of France on the 20th via the same route and I look forward to many photo opportunities. It was a great day-happy companions experiencing the beauty all around us. And then we had our wakeup call! We arrived in Barcelona around 10pm and began to negotiate our way to the hostel via the metro. Something happened on the metro that set off a warning in my mind and I kept my eyes on my girls and our belongings like a hawk. I could see that with the crowd we were becoming more separated with each metro stop. Sure enough, at our stop, Gill was hemmed in by the two women that had initially set off my radar, and while one kept Gill from moving, the other tried for her handbag. We all did get safely off, the two women were not successful, but it was scary and a terrible way to begin in this city. Our walk to the hostel seemed long and we were very wary. I felt so badly for Gillian! Now I had anticipated we would have some inconveniences along the way living in youth hostels, and our first night in Barcelona was one we will remember. We arrived at the street no and questioned if we were in the correct place-nothing about this address suggested a place of lodging. A tiny piece of tape near the buzzer had the word "hostel" handwritten on it and after buzzing, we were let into a huge, carved wooden door. We discovered we had 5 other roommates, both genders. No lockers for our valuables, everyone was there playing cards. They were friendly although curious as to how the girls would go clubbing with their moms in tow. Toilets and showers were communal so there was not one place I could see that you could have any privacy. I asked to move to a room of 4 (we were switching to this room anyway when Kathy joined us the following morning, and it was empty), but they wanted so many extra Euros for the move that I could not bring myself to pay it. Then we discovered they had misplaced the key to the linen closet and could not provide us with bedsheets. Nice touch. The lights went off finally sometime after 2:30, Gill and Anna stayed up googling traveller blogs on how scary it is to travel in Barcelona and frightened themselves very thoroughly, Gill stayed dressed all night in her street clothes and finally fell asleep after 5am. It was a bad, bad night. Sleep deprived and discouraged we headed back into the streets (which looked much friendlier in the light of day) to meet sister Kathy at the airport shuttle bus stop in Plaza Catalynua. bus after bus arrived with no Kathy, but finally... It was a lovely reunion. I think Gill was so happy to throw herself into her momma's arms. And naturally, Kathy's enthusiasm and confidence fired us all up again and in no time we were ready for the day's adventure! And what an exceptional day we had! Barcelona is a beautiful city and when the sun is shining and you are feeling safe, it is easy to enjoy it. We did our first hop on hop off tour and went everywhere on the sunny top deck of a tourist bus, audio commentary teaching us so much about Barcelona. We finished the day with a late visit to the iconic landmark Sagrada Famillia. Incredible! Today we are going to the Picasso Museum, the Barri Gotic area, chocolate museum and "sweet tour" the Cathedral and Las Ramblas under lights in the evening.

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