This is the fourth installment of a story I wrote about the zen of traveling. I am using it for DBC blog posts as part of the Boys of Summer Series but also to inspire single people to follow their dreams and dare themselves stretch a bit. After all, that is what living is all about stretching and growing, right?
Two weeks later I am on a flight to Barcelona. A paid off credit card in hand and the prospect of a local and possible state wide stories negotiated. The day before I go, the SARK quote pops up in my daily reading. This quote brings the realization of physical travel contributing to the mystical experience of the spiritual journey.
This is the quote:
“I am much more comfortable staying put spiritually. If I allowed myself to travel, where might I go? I believe it involves the ability to put comfort aside, and boldly investigate new spiritual territory” SARK
I fly Delta to New York from National Airport in Washington, DC then onto Barcelona from there. Every airline seems to do things differently so I will go into a few things to look out for when using this particular airline.(Please note that this story was written in 2009 and things may have changed.) Things that are bad: there is no power for electronics in Economy but there is in Business Class. I did not know this and had a deadline to make with another story I was writing and the battery on my laptop died out in the first hour of the flight. A steward said he would take my computer up to Business class and never returned. When I asked another attendant she said she would investigate the situation she agreed to and also never returned – during an eight hour flight! Things that were good: The food was edible. The flight was on time even though we spent more than an hour on the tarmac waiting to fly out. There was a reasonable selection of movies and the entertainment was free.
Upon arrival at Prat in Barcelonca I realized that I had left my hotel address at home and had no way to retrieve it because although I had purchased an international phone service through AT&T I did not get a technology package. (Good tip here: If you have an iPhone make sure to turn your “Fetch New Data” setting off so you don’t get charged for all that international data transformation which can be really expensive. You should also set a “Passcode lock “ on your phone to prohibit any misuse of the phone that could result in a costly bill.) I looked for a Wi-Fi space in the airport which I was told by my AT&T representative would work for free abroad but a code was needed to which I had no access. I ended up waiting for thirty minutes for the airport information booth to open where a lovely young woman supplied me with the address for Market Hotel (Passatge Sant Antoni Abad, 10, Barcelona).
Since I had no idea where to go I was forced to take a cab rather than cheaper modes of transportation of bus or train. Since it is Sunday morning and I have not slept in nearly twenty-four hours (I lack the blessed ability to sleep sitting up in a cramped airline chair.) I decide to just check into the hotel and get a little sleep before going out to see some of the city in the afternoon. Market Hotel is so named in honor of the San Antonio Market which is about two blocks away. Though the hotel website claims it is in the heart of L’Eiaxample area of Barcelona according to my guidebook it is actually in El Ravel. The hotel is known for its restaurant which has a separate entrance on Compte Borrell. It is a bit difficult to find the hotel entrance which is located around the corner on a side street that more resembles an alley way. The hotel décor is contemporary Euro-Asian. Rooms are minimal chic and quite comfortable but like most European hotels, the typical room is tiny by American standards. The first room I was put in was so small that access to one side of the bed was completely blocked by a small waste basket that just fit in the space between the side edge of the bed and the wall as the double bed sat in the center of the wall. The other problem with the Market Hotel is the noise which is the result of two issues. The interior of the hotel boasts tall ceilings and large heavy doors for rooms and other access. Keeping with its minimal look there are lovely hardwood floors in the narrow hallways where the guest rooms are located. The sparceness and lack of any artwork or carpet to help absorb sound coupled with the apparent habit of Catalunyan house keepers to let doors slam themselves shut makes the hotel very noisy. Its location next to a construction site and the sounds from its own construction work (a fifth and six floor being added) keeps the noise levels at cacophonous levels from early in the morning until late at night.
If you can get past the noise it is really a great deal. There are few affordable esthetically pleasing hotels in Barcelona and even fewer in convenient locations in the city. Just bring earplugs and something to help you sleep if you are a member of the light sleeper club.
Exhausted after twenty-one hours of travel and no sleep in more time than that, I was able to get in about two hours of decent sleep as my room was located across the hall from the house keeping room and staff were constantly banging doors and other equipment for hours. I awoke conveniently before Spanish lunchtime which is between 2:00 and 3:30pm, showered and asked the front desk staff if I could switch rooms. They were very nice and accommodating. In fact all of the staff were friendly and helpful. The front desk staff in particular go out of their way to help guests find restaurants, provided directions and arrange for tours, cars or whatever. English is the standard tourist language which makes it easy for Americans. My second space in the Market Hotel was much bigger featuring a large bed with floor to ceiling beams for posts a space where I could work and a dressing area with big picture windows on two sides. Once settled into the new space, I decided to get lost in the city just to see what would happen.