At the End of Our Ropes

Driving to Barcelona, we spotted these.  Montserrat.


So, the last two days we’ve spent a bit of time being lost.  And we are starting to conclude that all further travel outside the U.S., Canada or Mexico must be done with a chaperon.  We need help, people.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to do this travel stuff.  Couple that with language differences and by the end of the day you end up pretty well feeling like you just went through the wringer.  Twice,  Thrice.  Quatro times.  Our traveling companion ( for the week near Durango) Allan has a map for a brain.  Gifted with a keen sense of direction, he was amazing.  But…Rayman and the traveling princess are not blessed in that department.  And presented with two ways to go, we pretty much will pick the opposite of each other’s every time.

But I digress.

Last night we braved driving into to Barcelona to meet Ali, my cousin’s daughter, and her beau for dinner.  A tapas dinner.  OMG.  We narrowly escaped with our lives.  At one point I wanted to get out of the car to see if anyone had painted a bull’s eye on it when we weren’t looking.  One driver barreled across a roundabout and as you can tell by the name of the circle (roundabout), it means you go around it.  Not through it.  Multiple crashes almost materialized with not only our car but two others.  And then there was a motorcyclist who ran a red light.  Luckily I was asleep at the wheel.  Had I not been slow to cross the intersection, the motorcyclist would have been dangling from a tree.

Now this is interesting.  They just announced (I’m at the El Prat aeropuerto waiting to board our plane) that we should watch our screen for boarding instructions as they do not announce instructions.  Now that is a new one.  And I like it because it is relatively quiet for an airport.

That was a giant digression.

So, there we were, back in Barcelona, the city of the robbery.  We have resolved not to speak of THAT unpleasantness again.  But Barcelona has a variety of ways to fleece the tourist.  Firstly, the airport is a long way from the city.  So, if you take a taxi, it is 35 euros.  We stayed all night last night in a hotel that was about half way between the city and the airport.  We asked the lady at the check in desk at the hotel how much it would be to take a cab to the city.  30 euros.  Well, we had our zoom-zoom car.  How much would it be to park it?  18 euros.  Upon receiving that information, we decided to keep the car.  The hotel did not have a shuttle to the airport.  You could walk a couple of blocks and catch a local bus and the local bus would be 4 euro each to the airport.  But our flight was at the crack of dawn and we were not feeling safe about walking with our luggage to the bus stop to wait in the dark.

With the decision to keep the car, that meant we had to drive in.  Driving in Barcelona is difficult.  Everyone knows where they are going…except us.  Glenda was, of course, totally useless.  And anyway, we forgot to bring her.  And I left all the directions which I had written down based on an email from Ali.  That’s because the Rayman and I had a “disagreement” which I will tactfully leave unexplained.  Even with all that, we only got mildly lost.  There are degrees of lostness.

1.  Mildly  2. Hopelessly 3. “We never got there” lost.

So we parked the car in a garage that ultimately cost 18 euro.  Price fixing at it’s finest.  And it’s not cheap given the exchange rate.
So, no more travel to Europe until and unless the dollar gets stronger.   We just felt used and abused.  Although, I guess money was saved by not doing the taxi to and fro.  But still.

Dinner was delightful.  The kids were great.  We had a great time.  I did not drink but one glass of wine since driving sober was a nightmare.  What would it be like a little tipsy?   As you can see from this text, we made it back to the hotel.

An aside.  Ali took us to the mall in the center of Barcelona that used to be a bull ring.  Beautiful building.  But when the Barcelonians decided to ban bullfighting the ring became a shopping center.  Here’s some pictures.   Top picture is the Rayman enjoying a tidbit in a beer bar in Barcelona.  The next two pictures are the bullring inside and out.

IMG_2100 IMG_2102 IMG_2103

Now I must back up and say that the night before Barcelona, we had a completely different experience in the small town of Cardona, about an hour northwest of Barcelona.  We stayed in another parador that sat atop a tall hill.  Here are some pictures of the view and the place.



The most fabulous dining room ever.



Inside the fortress looking up from the registration desk.


Cheese tasting with a chart and explanation. Very clever.

I told you about it in the previous post.  Neither one of us had ever slept in such an old building.  After dinner we took a stroll as I wanted to photograph the outside of it with the uplighting.  This is when we heard the beautiful music.  There was a choir singing behind one of the doors.  We don’t know why they were doing this, but it was beautiful and so befitting the setting.  The next morning we saw them all at breakfast.  With their instruments.

Armed with our instruments of mass confusion, Glenda and the maps, we jumped on the road and headed toward Barcelona.  We managed to get there with only two bad turns but we recovered quickly.  Not nearly as quickly as last night when we left the restaurant and headed back to our hotel.  It was dark, we were tired.  And we were hopelessly lost.  Rayman resorted to the iPhone to help us find our way out of the Port of Barcelona, past the train station that had no trains?, to a dead end road.  Oh, and down a one-way street the wrong way.  Before returning to the hotel, we also managed to have a tour of the zona commerciale, a drive by of a shuttered sports arena and the UPS regional distribution center.  It was about 11 p.m.  We returned to the world’s narrowest car park.  Our zoom-zoom barely fit inside the drive down to the bowels of the building, the underground car park.  And this driveway was 1.  steep.  2.  involved 3 sharp turns  3.  narrow as hell.  But because we had done it earlier in the day, it was easier.  That’s because when we were leaving the garage to do a dry run to the airport earlier in the afternoon, we started out only to be met by a small van coming in.  That’s right.  The going out and the coming in utilized the same driveway.  And given that there were only two cars down there to begin with, what were the chances we would be met by an oncoming car?   And the other thing was that the garage was guarded by a big swinging gate.  You had to be buzzed in.  And, as it turns out, you also needed to be buzzed out.  And the buzz box was mounted on the wall before the last turn.  We missed it.  So, Rayman got out and looked for it, pressed it, got buzzed, raced back to the zoom-zoom car, jumped in and I tried to get up the steep ramp past the gate… in reverse.  Well, that didn’t work.  So, there I am with the hand break on to keep us from rolling backward into the wall while I am simultaneously revving the engine, engaging the clutch and eventually lerching out of the hole in the ground to the street.  It wasn’t pretty.

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