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Monday, September 1, 2014

Part 4: Adventures in Barcelona, Provence and Carcassonne - Summer 2014

On Wednesday, the ladies arrived, but their plane had been delayed , which means hanging around the airport and visiting every store.  Unfortunately, there is really a small selection that is geared towards the tourists who are in and out quickly.  The dull highlight of it all was having to witness an Ugly American.  But the free time did give me the opportunity to check in with Europcar about my rental which I would pick up at the end of the day.  Later, we did enjoy a stroll through Barcelona from Casa Batllo with a stop for tapas and a drink at a lovely sidewalk table of a Basque flavored restaurant.

Breakfast at the Tryp Hotel was lovely.  It's a huge buffet, although some things I don't particularly care for or can't have.  They had a wonderful assortment of cheese and lots of wonderful Iberian ham, and fruit.  But their bread is different from France and they put a weird glaze on their croissants which I don't care for, but the espresso machine made up for everything.  It literally ground the beans, and quickly brewed your espresso, and steamed the milk.  OMG, I fell in love with that thing.  It was the best espresso of the whole trip, and I did have way too much of it, which is not a good thing with the stifling heat and stress of traveling in a foreign country.

The ladies were to arrive at 10:30, so I left about 9:30 and I doubt if it was a 15 minute trip to the airport.  I had tried to get on another shuttle, but it was only going to Terminal 2, and the driver wouldn't let me on.  I, of course, knew how to get from 2 to 1 on the free Green Bus that takes passengers from terminal to terminal, but since we were having a communication gap, I wanted for the next shuttle. 

Shortly after arriving, and seeing that their plane wouldn't land until noon, I worked on keeping myself busy exploring the airport.  Well, like I said there wasn't much to see, and decided to check in with Europcar.  I passed the information booth that is situated in the center of the building, which is open on two sides in an open L form.  A lady attendant sat on the right and a gentleman on the left.  A large American man was standing in front of the lady, literally talking over her, to the gentleman, in a very loud voice.  I was like, 'uh oh, exit stage left' as I didn't want to witness it, but could hear the male attendant respond, 'Sir, I am not responsible for your travel plans.'  The American man, who appeared to be a Mid Western senior citizen of a large jolly,  relentless badgered him, while his little wife made herself as little as possible behind him, with his point being 'You don't even know me and you won't help me...'  I wasn't sure where he was going, but I vowed to keep my voice as low as possible, and slunk off to the car rental booth across the way.

The ladies arrived, late but with their bags, and we set off to the shuttle stop out in the blazing sun and humid air.  Being from California, I cannot deal with humidity, and my last trip to the air twenty years ago had made me very sick with an upper respiratory infection with  a horrendous cough.  The shuttle came, and the ladies put their bags away, and we ended up having lunch at the hotel restaurant. 

After a bit, and true of all my trips, I advise them to arrive early and keep them up until an early bedtime.  It gives us an extra free day to do something extra.  We were going to visit the Sagrada Familia that day, but with the late arrival we decided to visit La Rambla.  True to summer, there were lots of tourists, but not as many street performers as there had been years ago, which I thought was unusual for the beginning of July.  Maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was siesta time, but it was fairly comfortable walking without being overwhelmed by people.  We bought a few tourist things, but my favorite part was La Bouqueria, the outdoor food market with everything, and sometimes a bit uncomfortable looking at animal parts. 

We took the metro/train back to the airport and picked up our car without much effort, except in the few minutes it took me to track down the ladies after I finished getting the keys (which wasn't a key at all, but a plastic credit card looking thing you put in a slot!) they saw me and waved and shouted 'over here'.  As I walked up to them, an older couple joined us, the gentleman saying, "Oh good, you're getting your car, we'll follow you as we don't know where to go." 

I planned on following the directions just like the Europcar rep explained: go out that door (the opening across his right/my left across the thoroughfare of the airport) take the elevator down one floor, and cross over the parking lot to where the rental cars are. 

I had been across the parking lot one too many times as it took me until that morning to figure out how to get to my shuttle pick up area, and when I had been there ten years before the area I remembered was now filled with buses, including the free Green Bus that gets you from terminal to terminal. 

Feeling confident, we headed towards the elevator with the couple in tow, the little lady pushing the cart of luggage, the man chatting away about how he couldn't figure out the instructions.  You actually go out the terminal doors, and you'll see the elevator on your right.  In only really goes to the ground floor and through the parking lot.  (Technically, if you need to use the elevator to get the buses, you could.  The signs actually point to the other side with an escalator to get to the Green Bus, the side of the car rentals.  The escalator takes you right to the Green Bus stop, whereas the elevator will be on the other side of the street on the other side of the terminal thoroughfare above). 

Arriving at the elevator, the man goes in first followed by his wife and their luggage, and pressed a button, and two of us had to jump in at the last second. All of a sudden, it dawns on me that this is the Ugly American from this morning.  Next thing I know the elevator doors are opening and he's proclaiming this isn't it, and he doesn't know where to go.  I said, "Sir, excuse me, but you pressed a button without having any idea where to go, so let's just go back up and we'll start over.  He said go to go down one floor".  The whole issue here is that the elevator floor starts on 0 with the other floors beginning with 1 or -1 going up and down.  So, we go up, we go down, I get off the elevator and tell my ladies to "stay right there, I'll come get you", and he's again saying, "I don't think this is it" and I just keep walking across the parking lot just like the rep told me to do.  The man keeps yelling, "I don't think you know what you're doing.

Needless to say, voila!  Halfway across the parking lot it turns into the Rental Car Parking lot.  The parking lot is divided by barriers, with the traffic ramp through the middle of the structure.  (I believe there are parking structures on both sides of the terminal thoroughfare, so I'm referring to one on the left after you've come in through Arrivals.)

I walked right up to my car, which I was expecting to be more of a van (because us American ladies have luggage) but it was more of an SUV called a Citroen Scenic.  White, manual 6-speed, brand new, with less than 1000 miles on it. Nice but basic with no GPS. You have to rent that separately.  I will insert here, just go ahead and do it.  It will save you numerous heartaches. 

Thrilled with myself, I then am faced with the credit card key and driving the 6-speed.  Put in the key, hold down the break, press the button.  OK!  After searching for the slot, which was not in the dash, but next to my right arm in the console, I got her going, and took off.  So it's a one way, and I go around, but now I've come to the stop sign to get back to the elevator and it's barricaded from the regular parking lot.  I get honked at and go around again.

Next time, I honk for the ladies, long honks as it's a way off, and they can't see into the setting sunlight.  There really isn't any where to park, as it's pretty clear they expected you all to actually go to pick up the car.  But the ladies arrive and take off to our hotel following the road just like my shuttle driver did every day.  You actually exit the parking terminal at the area where you arrive from the walking thoroughfare to where to shuttle picks you up.  In ten-fifteen minutes we were at Hotel Tryp, which is located in a large industrial park.  Parked out on the street which is deserted after working hours, thus avoiding the 15E fee. 

True to the plan, we turned in early, to head off to Collioure, France the next day.

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