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Monday, September 7, 2009

Spain -- Barcelona 8.8.09


                      * Palau de la Musica Catalana                                                               * Barri Gotic 

Saturday 8.8.09 -- The show must go on

Not sure how long we had laid in bed, but some rest did the brain good.  D and I were able to think more clearly and discussed some details about the rest of her trip. One of our biggest concerns obviously was the fact that the robber had the keys to our apartment.  The worst scenario would be that he was able to locate our address and break in.  D's iphone had online access and emails of our trip itinerary and apartment booking information. We managed to find her cellphone carrier's overseas contact number and blocked all future phone and internet usage on her iphone.  However, we still could not shake the uneasy feeling that the robber could possibly live in the neighborhood, and D's camera had pictures of the three of us.  Even without Iphone access, there would still be a slight chance for him to spot us on the street and find out where we live.  We realized that we need to call the landlord and ask him to change the lock. 

Fortunately, D had all her US dollars and passport in the safe so the impact to her future travel plan was reduced to the minimum.  However, I realized that it was now Saturday and that banks most likely were closed for the weekend.  We read up the resource pages of our guidebooks and called 010 phone line to get more information we needed. 010 phone line turned out to be quite helpful and the operator that answered the phone spoke excellent English.  In the past,  I usually glanced through all the facts and information portion of the guidebook, and quickly moved on to the interesting parts about sightseeing and dinning.  When incident like this happens, all the boring information became relevant and important.
After taking care of some important details, it was probably around 9 AM.  We finally gave up the attempt to sleep and got up. It was the last full day we had in the city.  There was still so much to see and we were running out of time!

I have enough travel experience to know that despite the best effort to plan the itinerary, One must stay flexible when traveling because some unforeseen events bound to happen during the trip.  However, it is also very likely, in the process of researching the destination, you formed an emotional attachment to something.  It could be some food you must try, some show you must see, some restaurant you must go, some activity you must do, or some site you must visit.... 

For me, it was Palau de la Musica Catalana.  Once I saw the photos of the stunning stained glass ceiling, it was over.  YES, I HAVE TO VISIT PALAU DE LA MUSICA CATALANA. So, despite the fact that D just got robbed, that we had barely slept since we arrived, that I had to take 2 headache pills last night, the show must go on.  I have to see the stunning stained glass ceiling with my own eyes. 

E wanted to come along as D decided to stay home to recoup.  She reminded us to inform the concierge that keys to the building and apartment were lost from our robbery incident.  Once we came downstairs, the concierge was nowhere to be found since it was the weekend and he was off duty.  Feeling uneasy being in the apartment by herself without a concierge in the lobby, D decided to join us.  

Before our English tour began, we had an hour to kill.  D & E went to a nearby internet cafe to check some emails, and I went to an Orange cellphone carrier store to add more credits to the Sim card as last night's phone calls wiped me clean.  I also got some stamps for the postcards from the tobacco shop near by. I was a little puzzled by the tobacco shop selling stamps, but that seems to be the norms according to my European husband. 

Anyway, back to my palau de la Musica Catalana.  It was as striking as the photos I saw.  BUT, taking pictures inside was not allowed! What good is that for??? ugh.... 

After the tour, E was planning on meet up with her sister and spent about one frustrating hour in the phone center trying to get in touch with her sister. (It was probably less than an hour, but it felt like more as patience was never my virtue....) Why both E and her sister had extreme hard time reaching each other through our local cell phones, public pay phones, or her sister's international cell phone remains a mystery to us.  The fact that we had little idea what the operator on the phone was talking about did not help the situation at all.  Finally, at around 2 PM, E was off meeting with her sister.  D and I went to the supermarket to get some groceries.  At the check out counter, I was trying to pay the cashier with my credit card. The cashier requested to see my ID, and of course I did not bring the copy of my passport with me again.  I mean, when would I ever learn???  So, I paid cash, got the change and receipt, helped D to put the groceries in the plastic bags, and carried the groceries home.  

After last night, walking in the El Born neighborhood felt very different even in the broad daylight.  Those quaint small streets with characteristic balconies and charming wall lamps were not so lovely anymore.  It could be a crime scene!! Both D and I have lived in New York since 1995, and I'd like to think we were pretty tough.  We were determined not to let the robbery dampen our spirits or hinder us from enjoying Barcelona, but I had to admit that the robbery was different from pickpocketing.  It is a lot more violent, intrusive, and violating. We got nervous when someone walked a little too close to us. 

We stayed home for lunch and siesta, contacted our landlord about changing the lock, and did not come out again until 5 PM.  
After the siesta, we headed out to Barri Gotic, the historic quarter. We followed the Frommer's self-guided tour and hit all the major sites.  Negativing the small vicinity of Barri Gotic was not as easy as we thought.  The street signs were small.  There were many squares and the same streets on the opposite sides of the squares are named differently.  We were often circling the squares trying to find the right street and getting frustrated.  Based on our experience, I would recommend people taking Barcelona Walks Gotic tour provided by the Barcelona tourism office to save the hassle.  

The fatigue definitely started affecting our intelligence.  At one religious site, we were not allowed to enter because both D and I had spaghetti strip tops on.  We would have to pay 1 euro for a shawl in order to get in.   Both low on cash, D and I were thinking if we should go in.  Then, I came up with this "brilliant idea", and told D that we should spend 2 euros to buy two shawls to get in, once we are done with the site, we could sell them for 1 euro.  So, after we finished the site, we stood by the entrance looking for potential customers.  It was a hot summer day, within 30 seconds, we sold our shawls to another two girls.  Feeling pretty smart ourselves, we moved on to the next site.  Guess what, It was the cathedral!! And yes, you guessed right, we would have to cover up to go in!!!

UGH.... so, we sucked it up again, spent that 1 euro we just made back to buy one shawl.  This time, we would have to share the shawl and take turns to visit the cathedral.  Ya, REALLY smart.  15 minutes later after we both took turns visiting the cathedral.  I asked D, "Should we sell the shawl for 50 cents?"  D answered, "Wait, is there any more churches we will visit?"  We went quiet for a second, and burst out laughing... This is such a dumb and dumber moment. It is beyond retarded.   Ya, we hung on to our shawl....


One of the most impressive sites we saw was four majestic columns, remains of the Temple of Augustus from end of  the first century BC, hidden inside the courtyard  of a medieval building.  At first, we just glanced through the guide and thought the courtyard was all there was to it.  We took pictures of the courtyard, and left.  But D read the mention of the four columns and wanted to go back to the courtyard for a closer look.  We returned to the courtyard, could not find the four columns, until we walked all the way to the end of the courtyard, and saw a couple of stairs down on the right side, there they were.  Four ancient columns, more than 16 meters high, tugged inside the back of some building.   Both D and I were in awe.   

Towards the end of the tour, we decided to take a coffee break.  At that time, I realized that I could not find my credit card anywhere! I was not sure if it was stolen, if I left it home, or what happened to it.  Friends who know me long enough are used to me losing stuff all the time.  Once, I forgot my purse with my passport, airline tickets, wallet in a cafe on a small Greek Island as I was on my way to the airport.  The bus driver had to turn back along with other passengers as I went back to the cafe looking for my purse.  It is a common reoccurring theme in my life and I got a feeling that I probably just forgot my credit card somewhere.  Anyway, D and I took out all the changes we had to get two scoops of gelato and finished the rest of the tour.  

After the tour, D and I went back to our apartment looking for my credit card.  It was nowhere to be found.  I called my credit card company and put a temporary hold on it.  It was not a big loss, but it surely would be a big inconvenience for the rest of my trip.  I  recalled my day and realized that the last time I took out my credit card was in the supermarket.   It was past 9 PM on Saturday night.  Sunday, we will be leaving to Montserrat early morning, and who knows if the supermarket will open by the time I get back.  On Monday, we all have flights leaving Barcelona at 9 AM.  I decided to give it one more try and asked D to come to the supermarket with me hoping the supermarket could still be open.  We went to the supermarket, and it was closed.  All of a sudden, we saw a few workers still inside of the supermarket through the glass door.  D and I bend on the glass door hoping to get their attention.  The same woman cashier who requested to see my ID this afternoon recognized me immediately.  I could not believe my luck!!  A man opened the door for me with my credit card in hand.  Before he handed to me, he asked for my ID.  And guess what, this time I finally had the copy of my passport with me!! hahaha.... Thank you, my guardian angel!!

After recovering my credit card, it was almost 9:30 PM.  We had to head back home by 10PM as our landlord would come to change our lock.  There was no time for a sit down dinner AGAIN.  We decided to go back to Euskal Etxea for some quick pintxos and cavas as they were quick and delicious.  D chatted with the waitress about her robbery incident.  The waitress told us that it happened to a female customer just a few days ago inside of the restaurant.  On the way back home, we passed by the crime scene again.  The street was crowded and seemly harmless, but we knew better now.  We studied every person on the street to see whose purse could be easily snatched like two criminals.  We saw many girls carrying their handbags loosely, and some dangled their purse handles in their hands.  

At 10 PM, our landlord promptly arrived at our apartment to change the lock.  In our phone conversation this afternoon, he told us that replacing the lock would be at no cost to us.  After he changed the lock, he wanted to charge us 50 euros!  D and I made him change the lock back.  I guess we were not that afraid after all.  All it took to cure the fear of breaking and entering was 50 euros!  


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