Saturday, 10 November 2007

De excitement La Catalunya

Packing the world

One might say, wonder why one would be visiting Barcelona for a week for a conference without taking in the weekend. Well, I decided to sandwich the busy week into two weekends so my trip to Barcelona today and returning next Sunday.

I finally packed my bag after having just about an hour’s conversation with my brother in Nigeria, I still have not mastered the art of travelling light; I take so much and almost always end up forgetting what I want and packing what I never use.

Just because I thought I might run late, I called a taxi which turned back 5 minutes into the journey because I had forgotten my phone – all my appointments and contacts are in that thing, so I was glad that I did not use public transport or else that situation would have been impossible to redeem.

The comfort of having a Flying Blue Silver card – need to travel more – and the trappings of business class meant one could jump queues for check-in and security.

Cane must hit head hard

All went well till one jobs-worthy customs oaf said I could not take my cane on the plane because I did not need it to walk with the metal detector – how much of a foolish talk is that?

I have been through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport about 30 times this year and each time I have take my cane apart into its 4 constituent parts and put it all in the check-in tray, no complains, but today they had a chiropractor loafing around checking people’s backs I suppose.

Here I was mouthing through every ailment I ever had along with the occasional back pain that compels me to use the cane as if I now have to carry around a doctor’s certification that allows me to take a cane through customs.

Anyway, after such vehement remonstration bordering on anger as one begins to recognise the atrocious constrictions of this stifling war on comfort named war on terror, I got my cane, put it together, did the revise strip-tease of putting my things back on and walked away with a huff – as one of the customs ladies who had a semblance of humanity in her sinews gave me a smile.

Then off to the KLM lounge where the ladies at the reception succoured me and told me the fact that they had to suffer these indignities twice a day as part of their working at the airport, I suddenly did not feel too sorry for myself.

It was night to be addressed by name as I was served on the plane, a bit of turbulence and the view over the Pyrenees was as magnificent as you could get of any view from the air and then 10 extra degrees of Celsius warmth, one would not want to be anywhere else but in Barcelona.

Hotel, not hell

When I arrived at the hotel which was fully-booked from the Microsoft contact site but available through a full package booking on lastminute.nl which is become a neat way to book holidays lately, I was informed I would have a top-floor room with amazing views of Barcelona, I suspected I was being sold crap, but I had to see the room first.

I could hardly get my luggage into the room and this was with the help of the bellboy, single-bed and window only a balcony I could not reach, views of Barcelona – my foot! There was no way I would spend 8 nights in this shack of a pretend-penthouse squeeze.

Meanwhile, the reception had called up for my passport which the bellboy took away for a photocopy to be made; I called reception and asked for a bigger room, first I was given the spiel about standard single rooms and I offered to pay the extra cost to be upgraded; I think the bellboy informed them that I had offered a generous tip so I got another room, probably triple the size with a balcony that I could access and even sit 2 other guests – at no extra charge.

As usual, if you do not ask, you might as well suffer in silence and be eaten up by the utter inconvenience.

Wireless helpless

I got online as reception feigned complete ignorance about the WiFi service which had me calling the Swisscom helpdesk where a competent lady called Barbara took my call from Portugal and we both did the troubleshooting that indicated there were problems with DNS which we resolved after about 20 minutes on the phone.

I decided to go for a walk and had reception give me an idea of my bearings, the metro station was just across the road and getting a ticket required a bank card which I swiftly retrieved from the hotel.

And the ticket machine swallowed my card – I consciously said to myself, this is not want I need in order not to say the clich├ęd “Just what I need”.

Thankfully, the transport security guys were there and they got to station supervisor to retrieve my card before my holiday went tunnelling into desperate despair.

The night had only begun, I should be out for dinner soon and one can only say Barcelona would be fun.

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