“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
– Mark Twain
My friend Ruth Ann and I are still friends. We were together for fifteen days in Barcelona and never left each other’s side. There are changes I will make the next time I travel with a friend.
My friend Ruth Ann
I usually travel alone but this time a friend wanted to join me. She had a taste of Barcelona on a cruise she took a couple of years ago and wanted more. I was the unintended travel guide.
We arrived in Barcelona and waited one hour for our driver to pick us up at the airport. I booked a driver through booking.com. He arrived and with a brisk “Hola”, grabbed my bag and started walking at breakneck speed. My friend who is ten years older than me was rolling her suitcase along at a brisk pace
I called him and asked him to take my friend’s bag. He grabbed her bag with a huff and continued walking ahead of us. We sprinted about fifteen minutes to a vacant parking lot away from the airport. There sat two black SUVs. We were going to be kidnapped. He loaded our bags and we let ourselves into the car. After exchanging unwelcoming glances we were off.
The driver never engaged in conversation with us. His answers to my comments were terse.
How far is it from the hotel?
I later learned from an official taxi driver That he was an uber driver and was operating illegally. He was not allowed to park in front of the airport as the taxi drivers were.
Lesson learned: Take the black and yellow taxis in Barcelona. They are legal and cheaper. The drivers are friendlier. When the green light is flashing you can flag the driver with your hand. If the light is red, the taxi is not available for hire. Support the local taxi drivers.
I booked our hotel room at Europark for ten days. It is a local hotel, boutique style, and close to the Passeig de Gràcia.
Photo by Carol Kubota
Our room had two beds pushed together and no more than one foot off the floor. The mattresses were IKEA futon mattresses. Most furniture in Spain comes from IKEA.
Ruth Ann and I learned after shopping in the Christmas Market across the Street from La Sagrada Familia that Spaniards shop at IKEA. Ruth Ann purchased a creche and dropped her credit card. We realized it after returning to the hotel. The hotel made the call to the credit card company and within one hour someone had purchased $1,000 of furniture at IKEA.
Nightstands stood on each side of our beds, a TV with CNN in English, and a desk in front of the room under the TV. We both had a closet and two drawers each. There was enough room to hang our clothes and store our underwear and other items. The bathroom was spacious enough to take a shower and use the toilet.
A dorm-size refrigerator was stocked with sodas and anything you drank would be charged to the room. Neither one of us drink sodas. We bought yogurt and water and shoved them in the frig.
A balcony with a round blue mosaic table sporting an ashtray, two metal chairs, and enough room for two people to squeeze in overlooking a quad where you could peer into the windows of the neighbors and observe them eating, dancing, and hanging out the wash waited for us outside. We never used the balcony because it was always very windy but we left the window open for fresh air.
Lesson learned: The room was small for two senior-aged women who live independently and in bigger spaces.
Sleeping quirks. Snoring, coughing, sneezing, growling stomachs, midnight raids to the frig, and frequent bathroom runs. Sleeping was hard to do. My roommate liked to wake up early and I just wanted a few more minutes of sleep.
There was minimal privacy.
Lesson learned: Book an apartment not a hotel room. Each person would have their own room.
Eating was a problem because we did not have access to a kitchen or eating utensils. We asked for two spoons to eat our yogurt. They gave us one metal spoon and one plastic which we used for ten days.
We didn’t have access to any knives. I wanted to buy fruit from the markets but was only able to get oranges and bananas. They didn’t require utensils. There were times I would have preferred to eat breakfast in our room than go out and hunt for breakfast every morning. You can only eat so many chocolate croissants.
Photo by Carol Kubota
I like to eat a healthy breakfast, fruit, oatmeal, boiled eggs, and coffee. I always forgot to take my medication and vitamins because they need to be taken with food.
Lesson learned: Book an apartment with a kitchen.
I wore the same clothing almost every other day. I pack lightly. I took enough underwear but not enough socks. I washed my socks and my roommate washed her underwear and socks in the bathroom sink. We hung them up on the racks in the bathroom under the sink. There was no clothesline to hang our clothes. Underwear and socks were everywhere.
Lesson learned: Book a place that has a washing machine and space to dry our clothes.
I wore a pair of new shoes. I usually spend my days in tennis shoes because that is what retired people do. I didn’t want to wear tennis shoes in Barcelona for fear of looking like an American. I bought a new pair of shoes and didn’t break them in before going to Barcelona.
On the first day, we walked 15,000 steps. We spent time getting lost or exploring. I want to think of it as exploring the unknown. I like to walk but this time I got back to the hotel and my toes were bleeding. The next day I bought a pack of twenty Band-Aids and continued to limp along for the next four days. I finally felt comfortable.
Lesson learned: Don’t wear new shoes when traveling.
I suffer from arthritis in my shoulders. I am persistent in performing exercises twice a day at home. I neglected to do this in Barcelona. My shoulders ached and it became difficult to put on my coat and carry my backpack.
Lesson learned: Carry my equipment with me and have enough space to continue my workout.
My overall experience in Barcelona was good. Ruth Ann and I are still friends.