Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Travel day from hell

Casa bonita en Barcelona
I am at this moment depressurizing, and trying to remember that all travelers will, from time to time, experience days like this: a day from hell.

Where to start?

I got moving this morning at about 9am. I had three specific tasks that I wanted to accomplish in the morning so I might enjoy the rest of the day and the evening: 1) Purchase a reservation for the train to Lyon, France, which I will take on Thursday morning; 2) Inform my friend, Tim Hundsdorfer, who will be hosting me while there, of my hour of arrival; 3) Retrieve the laundry I'd dropped off yesterday at the lavandería. Simple enough.

Barcelona's province, Catalonia has a strong separatist movement.These flags (indicating support for an independent Catalonia) are everywhere in the city.
First things first. I got breakfast (coffee, orange juice, and a bocadilla con queso y huevos (eggs and cheese sandwiched in a baguette). Then I hopped the Metro out to the train station, which was about a half-hour ride. Once there, I found the ticket booth and inquired of the pleasant young woman behind the counter if I might buy a reservation for the train to Lyon on Thursday, the 22nd.

She informed me that, yes, I certainly could. Might she please see my Eurail pass? I searched in my backpack and through all my pockets, but could not find it. Then I remembered seeing it lying on the nightstand, next to my bed, back at my room. I'd left it there specifically so I would not forget it. And there it remained. So, no, I couldn't purchase a reservation until I brought my Eurail pass to the ticket counter. Sigh. Oh, well. At least I learned that there was only one train per day that went to Lyon and that it leaves at 825am. Good enough.

Back on the subway for another half-hour ride to my room. I got there and found my Eurail pass exactly where I had left it. Small sigh of relief. But it was still only 1130am; too early to go to the lavandería to get my clothes. They wouldn't be ready until the afternoon.

Guy on the subway with a friendly message on his cap
What the heck? thought I. I'll just bite the bullet and go back out to the train station now and get my reservation. Then I'll have the whole afternoon to enjoy myself.

Back on the subway. Another half-hour to the train station. Now the queues at the ticket counter were very long. So I had to wait. And wait. But I finally got to the window and purchased my reservation without any further complications. Whew.

Half-hour ride back to my room. I was a little footsore, and a lot sweaty. (The air in the Metro is stuffy, plus I'd been doing a lot of walking). I rested for about a half-hour and now it was 130pm. Time to get my clothes. I gathered all my stuff in my backpack, making especially sure to put my laundry ticket in my pocket.

In the process, I sat on my glasses, bending the frames all out of whack and popping out a lens. Now my ire was starting to rise. But I remained relatively calm while I put the lens back in and delicately bent my frames to a shape that would at least keep them on my face.

I couldn't remember the exact location of the lavandería that had my clothes, but that was not a problem. I had my laundry ticket, which had the name of the place on it. From there it was a simple matter of getting directions from Google maps.

And there it was: the location popped right up on my map. It was about a 30 minute walk, according to Google maps, which was a little puzzling. Hmm... thought I, I don't remember it being that far away. But I thought it best to trust Google maps.

So, off I set, eyes glued to the little dot on my iPhone that indicated my location. After a few wrong turns and direction changes I finally arrived at the lavandería. Uh-oh. Problem.

Not this lavandería...
This is not the lavandería where I left my clothes! Frantically, I checked my laundry ticket. Yes, the name on the ticket was the same, but Google maps had directed me to a different branch!

At that point, I had no wifi access, so I couldn't search for the other location. I had to wander around for several blocks before I found a restaurant that had free wifi (for customers). Inside, I ordered a plate of spaghetti carbonara and asked the waitress for the wifi password.

"Yo no lo sé," she said. "I don't know it."

I stared at her, helplessly, and I think she took pity. "Un momento," she said and disappeared upstairs. After a long 10 minutes she returned with a piece of paper on which was scrawled the password. It was about 20 characters long, full of numbers and letters, both upper and lower case. It took me 4 tries to finally succeed in gaining access to the wifi.

By now it was 3pm and time was running short. The lavandería closes at 5pm, and if I didn't get there in time, I'd be stuck in the clothes I was wearing, sweaty and odoriferous, for another day. I had to find that lavandería! I took my glasses off to rub my eyes, and the lens popped out onto the counter.

Put the lens back in and searched. There it was! Right where I remembered it being. Only about 800 meters from where I was staying. The problem was that I had wandered at least 3 kilometers afield. Time to hustle, Dade.

I was gritting my teeth, let me tell you, as I bulled my way through Barcelona's crowded sidewalks. I had a great urge to push people out of my way, especially gawkers and idlers who didn't seem to know where they were going.

In my haste, I made several wrong turns and had to double-back. It seemed I missed the walk signal at every crosswalk. I could feel my blood-pressure going through the roof.

But eventually I saw it ahead. The lavandería!

I had a temporary moment of panic when I pulled on the door and it didn't open. My God! Have they closed early? That was my thought. But then I noticed the sign on the door that said "Empuje." Push.

I pushed my way in, and was nearly overcome with a rush of relief.

One final complication awaited. When the laundry attendant asked me for my ticket, it was not in my pocket! Another frantic search of all pockets ensued.



Three times.

Nope. It was not there. I had lost it somewhere while I was tramping all over the city. I had to explain the situation to the attendant who, thank God, looked on me with kindness and retrieved my clothes without further hassle.

That plastic bag I'm hugging has my clean clothes in it. Never held anything so tight.
At this point it was nearly 4 in the afternoon. An entire day shot just trying to accomplish a few errands. I was exhausted and nearly spent, but relieved.

Like I said, when you travel, you will have days like this. Days from hell. I've never had a trip that didn't include one or two of them. And they make for great stories when you put enough temporal distance between yourself and the events.

And after all, I've got my train reservation and I've got clean clothes. So tomorrow, my last day in Barcelona, my one objective is to relax. With a capital "R."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Adventure = trouble you survive.