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Liberating Spain – Part 1


Day 1:brc1

The well-deserved break I have been dreaming of for past few days has finally arrived. Visions of self lying down on the beach, with a drink in hand and enjoying the view, kept coming back to my mind.

It is 7 am on a Saturday morning, too early to be outside the house on a weekend. I drag my suitcase out of my house and check all important things that I shouldn’t miss. Everything seems to be OK!! Time to fly.
My friend and I take train from Birmingham to East Midland airport. On arrival at the airport we learn that our flight is delayed by 2 hours. We finish our check in and proceed to security check. A lady officer comes and asks me to step aside. I smile at her but she does not return my smile. I try to communicate to her with my expression ‘Hey see holiday is written all over my face. Sure I am not a threat.’ My telepathy seems to fail. After what seems to be a series of stripping checks (!!!)  She allows me to go. Seriously!!! Do I look like a criminal!! At last we board our flight to Barcelona. The flight is short journey and we land in Barcelona airport. We proceed to immigration counter where the officer looks suspiciously at me and says something in Spanish. Subtitles please, I say to myself and my minds starts translating my own versions of what he is asking me. I assume he is asking me ‘How many days are you planning to stay in Spain?’ I respond four days.  He says something to officer in next counter and questions me again I assume he is asking me ‘Do you have enough money?’  I say yes I have enough money. He says something in Spanish again. I assume he is asking me show the money. I open my wallet and show to him still he does not look happy. He gives an expression as if he wants to just hit me. Oh my now I am scared. I remember seeing something on TV other day where they try to question people like this in immigration if they have resemblance to any criminals.  Do I look like one? This why the officer in East Midlands airport did so many checks on me? Damn! I should not have applied that hair color. I say ‘I have this travel card also if I run out of cash’. He frowns and does not look happy. I am wondering if he wants to see my bank statement next.  Before I could say something again, he says in English ‘Lady I need to see your Visa will you please me give me your new passport.’ Phew!! I just gave him my old passport. I take my new passport out of the bag and present the visa page to him. He responds something in Spanish nods his head and lets me go.  My mind gives subtitles again may be he is saying ‘Tourists!!’  No please stop your subtitles here I say to self.  All I could have done was ask him to speak in English! Any ways there it goes another stamp on passport :)

We find out details on how to reach our hotel. The tourist information desk is very helpful gives us details about 4 day Barcelona pass which will cover travel for 4 days during our stay in Barcelona. We come out of airport and take bus to our hotel. I relax in the bus looking around absorbing the landscape of Spain. If you ask me what is my first impression about Spain, it is bright, colourful and vibrant lit up with sun rays. We reach our hotel do check in and go up to our room in 5th floor. The room is very huge and has a kitchen as well. We fresh up and get ready to explore the city. We go to the reception and the handsome receptionist (I wonder how all Spanish men look so good. May be we need to borrow some of their Genes ;-)) gives us the metro map and told us as this day is Saturday hence the public transport is open all night. I ask him how to reach the beach. He marks a place on the map and tells us to reach there and walk to beach. I must admit I could not pronounce even one Spanish name right. We walk to tram on the way exchange pleasantries with an old Spanish couple not understanding anything of what they said but just laughed along with them whenever they did :P:P Emotion has no language you see ;-). We reach the stop and walk on the spectacular roads of Barcelona. The roads are lit up, handsome men, beautiful ladies, kids running along ah well even hippie looking girls like us :P ( Did I Just call myself a girl !! giggles :P ). My eyes shine and I try to absorb the positivism from the city streets. We walk across the road and see a band performing, a giant wheel, people cycling on the roads( apparently if you are a citizen of Spain u can get annual pass for using government cycles and can cycle around the city)many food courts claiming to provide authentic sea food. We Pass through one of the restaurants, the restaurant guy who is getting people to his place comes to me says loudly I am the owner of this place and whispers may be one day!! I burst into laughter and walk off. Finally we reach the beach. We take off our slippers and run like small kids to the water. There are lots of people in the beach and two restaurants as well. We go to one of them and get ourselves drinks and we go and sit in the beach. There is some fireworks display going on. We settle in the beach bury legs in the sand and watch the fireworks. If you ask me how I feel now? Amazing is all what I can say. Sea breezes, drinks, open space all I could feel is PEACE. We finish our drinks and walk back to metro and reach back our hotel. It is 1:30 AM by the time we reach hotel but still we don’t even feel a wee bit of worry as the city seems to be ALIVE, BRIGHT even at this time of the hour. I doze off to sleep listening to a band performing across the street near out hotel.

Day 2:barcelona

Today we plan to visit Barcelona City by taking Barcelona tourist hop-on bus. We go to nearest stop take the tourist bus which takes us through the city of Barcelona. We see Barcelona’s biggest bank, Football club, Placa D catalunya – which marks the beginning of famous Rambla, Passeig de Gracia, La Pedrera designed by Gaudi – the famous architect who build many land marks in Barcelona city, Sagrada Famailia which is still under construction. The building work began in the late 19th century and is still funded by churchgoers and devotes. It is dream of Gaudi and has become symbol of Barcelona now. Then we arrive at park Guell and but our tickets to the park and our slot is around 6:30 in the evening. It is still 2 in afternoon so we walk back to the tourist bus. On the way we see people standing like statues a headless man and a man balancing himself on his feet. We take the bus and go to a place called Tibidado but to reach there we had to take 100 years old blue tram. We climb the hill in the blue tram and reach to a point and loiter around without knowing what to do. We just take some snaps and see view of Barcelona city from the hill top and when we think to come down is when we see that there is another tram that takes people further up the hill. We run to that place buy tickets and go up the hill. OH MY GOD!! Are the words I uttered when I saw the breath taking view of Barcelona city from the top of the hill. The sun rays falls on the city and the city glows in golden yellow, the blue sea meets the blue sky. We buy a coffee and just sit near the railing watching the view of the city and we are so lost in this beauty that we don’t even utter a word and you know how hard it is for girls to sit in silence unless they are dead or probably alive in situation like us. Somebody rightly said ‘Life is not in the moments we breathe but the moments that take our breath away.’ We get down the hill and reach the Park. We reach 1 hour late than our time. We request the lady at the counter tell her that we lost our way in the new city ( Well it is not completely wrong we did lost our way seeing the beauty of the city) and she allows us to go in says we are very lucky :P :). We arrive inside and see the famous Gaudi lizard which is made of mosaic hmm this Gaudi seems to me a man who tried to make the world a colourful place…literally!! All his architecture work used colourful mosaic something I can compare to what I saw in Italy Well that is another story! We go to top floor and yet again get the breath taking view of Barcelona city in night. The City is lit up with lights, the world trade center near the beach glows in lights I must admit here am falling in love with this city.
By now it is 9:30 PM in the night and we are starving!! We ask nearby shop people are there any place we can get Indian food. One of the shop keepers suggested us to go to a place called LA Rambala where we get lot of good food. We reach the metro and ask everyone how to reach LA Rambala. Nobody seems to understand us at last one handsome looking Spanish guy tries to understand what we try to say. I write the name of the place on paper and show him. He smiles and corrects our pronunciation. The place is called LA RAMBLA and as it is Spanish language is a tongue twister :):P He asks us to follow him as he is also going to same place. we follow him and he shows us the metro line and we get out in a stop called  catalunya we thank him and proceed outside and then there in front of my eyes this spectacular sight of shops, lights oh my what a sight we walk across the streets looking into shops and enjoy the view. We ask few guys and come to an Indian restaurant named Bombay Spices. We go inside and ask for vegetarian food and we settle down in our seats. Across the table we see 3 guys from India who came for trip from India we exchange greetings and make us busy eating food. Once done we again stroll through the streets and come back to hotel around 1:30 AM. I doze off to sleep thinking about tomorrow. Yay tomorrow is a big day for me in life. First time ever I will go for Scuba diving that too in the most beautiful part in the Mediterranean Sea :)

( To be continued in Part 2 )

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Liberating Spain – Part 2

Please read Part 1 before you start with this one.

Day 3:illes

Today Morning we wake up to sounds of rain. Seems to be drizzling outside. We get dressed, pack our bags and ready to leave. Today we have long way to go. We need to take train to a place called Girona and from there bus to L’ESTRATIT a coastal town in Costa brava area of Spain where we plan to do out Scuba diving. We call Aquatica diving center with whom we have booked our Scuba diving in L’ESTRATIT informed them that we are starting and leave to bus stop to take bus to central railway station. We wait in the bus stop then we see the hotel receptionist (yeah the handsome one) comes running to us and asks Are you from room number 513? There is a call for you from Girona. There seems to be alert in the sea so today Scuba diving is cancelled. We run back to hotel and call them back they say that
the weather in sea is not good from afternoon and as our dive is in evening they said it might be 50-50 chances. We said to them that we will come there however and see what happens. We reach central railway station called Barcelona Sans. I got to ticket counter and make that guy over the counter understand the place where we want to go Initially he gives ticket to some other place and it costs us too much so we recheck and go back to counter and make our attempts to make him understand and at last we get the tickets to Girona and we get into the train. After 1 hr 30 min we get down in Girona station. Struggle with language starts again and we find out at last that the bus to L’ESTRATIT is at 2:30PM which will be very late for us. So we take a taxi and try to call Aquatica but they are on sea already and do not take our call. We reach this picturesque coastal town but the cab driver drops us the sea shore and leaves. We fail to find out where is Aquatica center it is already 3PM they would have left to sea by now. We are disappointed and sit on the steps of one of the other diving centers. The owner walks in and we tell our sad story to him. It is already 3:30 PM and day wasted. He says don’t worry I have private number of Aquatica owner and he calls and informs them of our plight. Aqautica guys ask us to wait near the sea. They come and pick us from there and take us in boat to the sea. There were three guys from Aquatica. One was our instructor one to drive the boat and other one to go with experienced divers. We were given diving suits and asked to change on the boat only. It was embarrassing we did not want to change the clothes in front of everyone. Observing our discomfort one of the instructors gave us bath robes under which we could change in to the diving suits. Once we are done we are given instructions on how to communicate under water and how to control our breathing. The experienced divers jump into deeper part of the sea and dive along. We were taken to less depth place. Who goes first asks the instructor I say OK I will but then I was scared, excited and cannot explain what all I felt. Instructor puts the oxygen cylinder and I cannot get up on my feet it is so heavy. I jump into the sea it takes me bit inside and throws me out I panic! The instructor teaches me how to breath under water I try but keep failing slowly my courage seems to drop down I come back to the boat. The instructor asks ‘what is your age?’ I say ‘what?’ He says ‘Yes you heard me right what is your age?’  I say ‘I am 29.’  He says ‘All these 29 years you breathe with your nose so when we ask you to breathe with your mouth obviously it will be difficult do you expect to do this in 2 min? Remember this is your first time and you came all the way from Barcelona took so much effort do you want to go back like this. Give yourself time you can do it. When you go underwater do not panic and all you need to remember is breathe. Each and every
breath u need to feel and take it.’ His words gets into my head I am not going to go back without doing this successfully. I say to him ok am ready to go. All set this time I go into sea. My instructor takes me underwater and I concentrate on my breathing I go successfully underwater and go along with my instructor. He shows me some corals, orange fishes, black fishes, Green Alga. Under water in the sea all I can see is blue colour water and darkness. I feel on top of the world floating underwater. I feel free like a fish. Mesmerised by my surroundings I move across. My instructor takes me to top near boat I come out of water and my instructor starts clapping he is very happy for me and so am I. I feel so happy and as if I have achieved something. Even though my cheeks and legs hurt I feel light as if I’m floating in air. I see light I see sky.  I am filled with energy now and feel so elated. I just sit on the board and immerse myself into surroundings. I just want to take this positive energy I get from nature back with myself. We reach shore and we are driven back to Aquatica center. We change to dry clothes and take snaps with our instructors. We say good bye to our new friends and walk towards bus stop to catch a bus to Gironi. We reach Gironi on time and catch a train back to Barcelona. In the train we fresh up and decide to celebrate our dive in LA Rambla area in any of the Spanish pubs. Once we reach Barcelona we head straight to LA Rambla Street. We spot a lively pub and get in to it and order for Tapas (Spanish starters) a cold soup and some pizza. Our waiter a handsome Italian was all attentive to us and needless to say we got at most attention there ;-) Once we are done with dinner we head back to hotel in cab and reach around 1:45 AM.

Day 4.scuba

Today is our last day in Barcelona. We have our flight back at 3:30 PM so we thought to make use of the day. We just change into shorts. Pack our luggage do the checkout and request the hotel guys to keep our luggage in the reception. We catch the metro and reach the beach by 9:30 AM. When we arrive entire beach is empty and when everybody are busy going to office or working hard in office we simply play in the beach and sleep in the water. I try to remember what I would be doing if it was my day in office. Visions of me holding my laptop and running between conference rooms come up. Bless the lord here I am lying in the beach and enjoying myself. When the time comes for us to leave we try to follow shower sign on the beach and come to know that it is open shower. Nooo!! Break your dirty thoughts!! We just shower in the open shower to wash off the sand and hair. Then we find changing rooms and change to clean clothes. We run to hotel collect our luggage and reach airport. We arrive at gate just 5 min before takeoff and we are the last people to enter the aircraft. Water dripping from hair. Sand falling from slippers and occasionally from hair. People giving us weird looks. Nothing mattered any ways in front of the joy we got playing in the water. The flight takes off from Barcelona I bend over the window to get glimpse of this city. It looks lovely as usual. One of the best cities I have visited so far. It has architecture, modern lifestyle yet charm of old times, fantastic people ever ready to help, amazing language, awesome food. If I have to describe Barcelona I would say Lively, Vibrant, Colourful and energetic. This city has a soul and I am in love with this city. I Close my eyes and retire to my seat. If you ask me if I will come back here again, well you know my answer :)  :)


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