Trails and trials of the writer who walks
My new South Korean dorm mate has made a charming drawing for me on ultra-thin paper. It bears my name in Korean, together with ‘Barcelona’ and the date (although I’ve got her word for that). She has carried this flattened roll of special paper, carefully wrapped in a bright cloth, halfway across the world so that she can make this little gift whenever she meets ‘good people’ (I’m flattered!). All I can give in exchange are my leftover Carrefour Instant Cappuccino sachets and my good wishes.
I made hard work of getting to the airport today because I will only ask for help as an absolute last resort. As I’d arrived directly from the airport to the metro station Passeig de Gracia, I assumed it would be a simple matter to go back the other way, but the metro station information did not include the line (R2 north) that goes to the airport. I was unwilling to buy a ticket and enter the turnstile if I wasn’t going to be able to get the train I needed. As I had all day to fritter (flight at 8:50 pm), I decided to walk to the next metro station on route which was at Placa Espanya. Still couldn’t find a platform for R2 north but there was an information desk there. (I don’t mind asking for help at information desks quite so much as asking random people on the streets). The ‘R’ in R2 stands for ‘Rodalies’ which is the name of the train company. The trains are integrated with the metro, fare-wise, but are not metro. Metro lines begin with ‘L’ for linea and are colour-coded. I was told to get the metro to Gornal and there transfer to the train. I’m sure if I’d been bold enough to enter the metro station at Passeig de Gracia, I would have achieved a seamless journey (but that would have meant asking for help!)
In view of my time in hand, I continued walking and eventually came to Gornal with the help of maps on my phone (it was off the edges of my tourist map). At Gornal there was a metro station and a railway station about 300 m apart. Airport trains are every half hour and I had just missed one through inserting my ticket upside down in the turnstile machine (I know they’re not turnstiles any more, but I don’t have another word for them).
This is a good point to mention (for all you future Barcelona travellers) that buying the train ticket is not necessarily as simple as they tell you either. The machines (at time of writing) will accept coins and €5 notes, and will tell you that they accept €10 and €20 notes, but in practice they don’t. Only the ‘old notes’ will go through. If you’ve just arrived from the airport, the notes in your hand will probably be brand new and you may not have anything smaller than a ten. You can use a card, but that’s going to be expensive to have such a small amount exchanged and charged. Like everything, it’s only simple once you’ve already suffered the learning curve.
The great thing about walking everywhere is that you see everything, not just a ‘must see’ list. On the way to Gornal, I passed many university faculties and other centres of modern architecture that would have had Gaudi nodding his head in approval I’m sure.
At the airport, I wondered if the cleaning staff were on strike. Two of the three toilet facilities in terminal 2 were out of order and the third was filthier than my blog cares to describe. The floor of the check-in lounge was covered in litter, waste bins overflowing. Much of the litter was in the form of sticky labels bearing slogans that didn’t make sense to me, but they were well glued to the floor. Perhaps the cleaning staff had walked out in protest at this. As I was leaving the revolting loo, an army of women with cleaning trolleys appeared from a secret door like blue fairy godmothers carrying their mop-heads and loo-blues to the far corners of the realm.
This is where my Barcelona blog ends. Next trip will be the Isle of Skye, and possibly on to Harris and Lewis, in March.