Paris with Palm Trees.
Running like hell to Penn station I ask myself, why did I just not take a car service!! But I am taking the flight with a working pilot who takes the NJ transit, so I go along with it. Manuel (the pilot) calls me and says ” there is a 4:29 train that I must to get on no matter what.” I look at my watch and realize I have 12 minutes to get from 23rd and 6th Ave to 31st and 7th in gridlock traffic (initial thought: Is this why people travel in those horrible velvet track suits? second thought: Shit, I am going to have to run.) After a quick talk with my taxi driver the traffic light turns green and we have a break! The Cabby cruises and gets me to 29th and 7th where I throw him a saw buck and start to run for it.
The phone rings and I answer while running, “Track 2 darling, go straight to track 2.” – I hang up, throw my phone in my bag and start screaming my way up the sidewalk.
As I see the large MSG sign, I am getting close, I “run” at the “don’t walk” signs avoid getting hit by cars 2 times and manage to hit everyone I pass with my 3 small carry on bags. I get to the top of the escalators at Penn Station and opt for the stairs. (it’s got to be faster.”) Half way down, I realize I am about to fall and break my leg when I pull myself together for one last push! This is the point when I just start screaming “Track 2!!!!!!! Where is TRACK 2!!!!!!!!!!!!”
At 4:28 and 50 seconds, I jump on the train. The conductor looks at me like nothing is wrong and the door closes behind me. I made it. I am sweating but I made it. I start looking for Manuel and have a third thought (Buy a track suit).
Newark Airport which has slowly become my favorite airport is really easy to get to by train and even though I can be spoiled sometimes, it really is the best way to get out of the city during rush hour. With a hop and a skip a quick check in and a breeze through the employee security line we head our separate ways. Manuel to check the weather and do paper work, and me to go to order a saki, take a benedryl and eat some white rice. I feel the combo of starch, antihistamine and alcohol will do the trick to calm my nerves, I forgot to write that I actually get nervous flying and this is my 9th post.
The gate is chaos and I don’t even hear them calling my name, Manuel comes out and hands me my boarding pass. Low and behold! 2F!!! It’s my lucky day!
I check into my seat and head towards the cockpit to say hi to the co-pilots and get the rundown on weather. All looks good so far as I notice all the buttons and lights I try not to think of it. I head to my seat and sit down and buckle up – I opt out of the champagne welcome drink, I had had enough saki.
Staring out my window the announcement begins…… “This is your captain speaking…” and all of a sudden my neighbor perks up!
“I am not a really good flyer you know”… as she says hello and looks into my eyes for a little help.
My response is “ I’m not the best flyer either, but today, you are in great hands…”
“Cuz that’s my boyfriend on the PA and he’s the pilot! He will answer all the questions you have about flying and calm your nerves.”
Meet Karen: Karen is on a much needed break. Her eldest child has chosen to see the world and invite mom for a bit of the ride – which includes this stop in Barcelona. Karen is proud of all her 3 girls and tells me, now that they are getting older she wants to start traveling again. After a few moments, Karen decides it was fate that brought us together. 2 Catholic school girls side by side drinking some wine and just talking. The take off was smooth as silk and our view of NYC was breathtaking. it was dusk, the sky was orange, the bright lights of the city illuminated the ground beneath as we both agree a red wine is in order. Let the vacation begin! We had a blast and enjoyed every thing that biz class had to offer. After the ice cream, I try to sleep a little.
There is nothing better than a good neighbor in the sky. We both attempted a snooze and started chatting again as soon as we woke! We are descending into the Barcelona area and the weather seems to be holding up. We were expecting rain. After perfect landing, a painless pass through customs and a flawless meet with the crew van, we are headed toward the city and there is ZERO traffic! It is Easter weekend and we are expecting it to be a little quieter than usual – most business are already closed! It is Thursday morning about 10AM.
Buenes Dias Barcelona – The first 10 hours.
The tip envelope gets passed around for the driver as we drill her for information on the beat of the streets. We are all relieved that restaurants will be open and same with the stores. We arrive at the Melia Melia Hotel we freshen up and head out to the local mall and market to grab a glass of Rioja and a sandwich before our siesta. As we pass through the open mall and markets I am already noticing all the ham and I need to gear up for. The market is busy and the realization hits me, I am in a major meat eating country. Manuel’s breakfast is Iberica Ham on fresh toasted bread and mine is a melted cheese sandwich with shredded tomatoe on it. A sort of stick to your ribs kind of breakfast. We wash it down with a delicious Rioja. It is about Noon and it begins to pour – we rush back for a siesta before we explore the city!
At 4:30pm, we wake. The rain had let up and after strategic layering of clothing (the weather was cooler than expected!) we head out.
First part of our walk is on the Avinguda de Diagonal. We are headed east toward the old city and the beaches. I immediately feel embraced. The air is cold and crisp and the damp city streets shine. The sun begins to peak through the clouds and the Sycamore Trees’ young bright green leaves dance in the light wind. I particularly notice the Sapphire Palms that line the street.
Their sage colored palms juxtapose the incredibly ornate and classical architecture – then I realize Spain was spared in World War II and what luck for that. Every building has a soft beige hue to it. I decide it is Paris with Palm trees. I see older distinguished couples holding hands, children on scooters, young mothers and fathers, teens and adults, bicyclists, shopper and tourists. I also see lots of Hams hanging in the windows! and when I say Ham, I mean, the Ham is attached to a hoof! But I will get to that a little later. The shops bustle – each window is decorated for Easter and I can’t stop taking photos, mostly of the trees against these beautiful buildings.
We take a right hand turn on Rambla Catalunya and start heading closer to downtown waterfront. Admiring all the windows, there is one store we can’t pass up and it is Pastisseries Mauri Pastelerias Mauri. The windows are filled with huge chocolate eggs, and the most amazing chocolate scenes.
From jungle themes to sport themes and even smurf scenes, this establishment it is busy selling its Easter goodies. The wood paneled store has been there since 1929 and we decide it is a perfect time for a café con leche. Delicious and rich the with whole creamy milk I savor every sip. Starbucks eat your heart out. No matter what you have done, you can never take the place of an old school patisserie in Europe. EVER.
After our coffees and the purchase of small chocolate egg, I snap 100 photos for my mom to see. She being German, she can look that the details of every chocolate and appreciate the work.
Gaudi Influence, Gawdy Buildings. Uno, Dos y Tres MAS!
Barcelona has a playfulness about it. First, there are Art Installations everywhere and the influence of the Gaudi is a way of life. This is where the term “Gawdy” was born, representing an anything goes that is born and bred here. The main public buildings that you visit are much more inspirational than the typical beauty that you find in Old Europe. The Music House is a great example and so are even private balconies that you will see around town. If Tim Burton was on the light side, this town would result.
I can’t put my camera down as we soak in the town. As we start to get lost through the streets and head closer and closer to the water front. Manuel has me on a full tour and this is what we see. This is the First 10 hours of Barcelona, we did not stop walking!
Next stop – Tapas dinner in Barceloneta!