A Dramatic Trip through Barcelona

Danielle is studying at the Alliance Fran├žaise and acts as an au pair to two girls who live just outside of Lyon. One day she and a new friend decided to eat at the ENS de Lyon cafeteria. They were behind me in line, and I couldn’t help but eavesdrop when Danielle mentioned Toronto. I was in one of those “I want to meet everybody” moods and decided to interrupt. I asked if she was Canadian and she said yes. We exchanged phone numbers and the rest is history!

I liked her instantly. We had lunch twice before we decided we would travel together. She suggested Italy… I suggested Norway.

We planned together for about a month what we do on this trip and added Stockholm to our list of destinations. All of the flights from Lyon to Stockholm were routed through Barcelona and we took this as an added perk, planning to spend 24 hours there before heading north.

October 25, 2012:

The day of our trip, we had almost everything prepared: travel documents, backpacks, directions and contact information for Couchsurfing hosts, flight and hostel information, and lists of places we would ideally liked to have seen. We were ready.

We exchanged our money for Swedish and Norwegian kronar at the Lyon Part-Dieu train station, were right on time for the bus to airport, checked in to our flight and had plenty of time to spare so we sat down for a pizza at Pizza Hut just outside security. Looking back, this was the most expensive slice of pizza I’ve ever had.

When we finished, we mosied over to the airport security and started the process of taking off belts, unpacking our liquids, taking out our electronics, etc etc. Suddenly, we heard our names over the loudspeaker being told that we were requested at our gate. Our tickets said we had to be there 10 minutes before departure. It was still 25 minutes prior to departure.

The woman in front of me was moving so slowly. I tried to go through security quicker, explaining that we had just been called on the loudspeaker but they made us wait. When we got through, we grabbed our stuff without putting it back together and flat out ran to our gate. Our gate was a good 15 minute walk from security. We got there just under the wire — or so we thought. The airline had sealed the gate 15 minutes prior to departure. We were two minutes late.

Having never missed a plane before, I didn’t know how to get out of the secured area. After three treks back and forth between security and our gate (thanks to bad directions from the men at security), we had to wait half an hour for another airport staff member to let us into the arrivals hallway. Seriously exasperated at this point, we turned to bitter humour as our only reprieve. We tried to find the desk for our airline to put us on the next plane or to refund us, but they were closed for the day and the only other flight to Barcelona that night was with Air France for over 300 euro. All the trains were on strike (it’s France!) and none would take us all the way to Barcelona.

We found a flight on Danielle’s iPhone for 9:40am the next morning and booked it. Our pizza cost us each 125 euro. We opted to spend the night in the airport rather than paying to be transported back and forth again, and having to wake up at a ridiculous hour. We bought some chocolate and other munchies to keep us “happy” for a few hours. We slept under the escalators, using towels as blankets and backpacks as pillows.

October 26, 2012:

We felt well-rested and happy grumpy and sore the next morning, but we easily made it onto the plane and effortlessly fell asleep for the duration of the flight to Barcelona. It was raining when we got there, but by the time the bus took us to the city centre, it had stopped. We only had about 6 hours, so we opted to walk around at our own pace and to make sure we had plenty of time to get back to the airport and through security. Barcelona is a seriously beautiful city, and obviously more than four hours are needed to do it justice, but we did the best we could. Every street that we looked down seemed as though it had been built to be photographed.

The one attraction that we knew we had to see was the Sagrada Familia, and so we found it and took all the touristy photos. We ate lunch at McDonald’s (which is Danielle’s self-imposed “International Bingo”… eat McD’s in every city), which was not my greatest decision, and we walked and walked. The area surrounding Las Ramblas (where we found ourselves) is like a maze. The best way to see it is to get lost in it. But not too lost, or you could miss your flight.

We made it back to the airport with plenty of time and it started raining again. We found dinner at the airport, which was authentic Spanish…. or rather, really synthetic guacamole and cheese on stale nacho chips.

While we were eating, we realized we’d been reading the wrong side of the map and that the “Sagrada Familia” we had visited, was in fact, another cathedral. It was still designed by Gaudi and it was still beautiful, but we felt a bit silly.

Our flight was with Ryanair, a really super cheap budget airline, and the crew had a sense of humour. They announced that they would be lowering the lights for take-off, and at the end of the announcement, the captain said in a mock-dramatic voice “Darkness” and the lights dimmed. Epic. We were so tired. When we arrived, a loud trumpet sound announced that we had participated in on-time flight… funny, but disconcerting. It was 11pm. We realized that we were in the middle of nowhere. We had to take an hour and a half bus to get into the city for 125 Swedish kronar. This number is hard to wrap your head around. It was freezing cold, but the air was fresh and we were excited about our trip again.

We got a taxi ride from a lovely Egyptian-French-Swedish man to our hostel, and got our first glimpse of Stockholm at night. We were already in love by the time we arrived at the hostel. We had to pay extra for our reservation since we weren’t “members” of the hostel and one of the girls in the room had stolen my pillow. This didn’t even surprise me. Regardless, we settled in for the night and tried to prepare for the next day with a bit of rest in a real bed.

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