Sunday, June 9, 2013

7 & 8 Jun 13 – Day 1 & 2 (Barcelona)

7 & 8 Jun 13 – Day 1 & 2 (Barcelona)

Reached Changi Airport Terminal 3 slightly after 6pm, saw the tour leader, Nancee, who told us to wait at the designated place after checking in our luggage. Saw some other group members at the designated place and then Nancee briefed us about the slight change of plans for the first two days of the tour as well as told us what to take note of during the flight transit.

After the briefing, we went off to look for dinner and finally settled for Japanese food at Itachio Sushi. After that, we took a slow walk to the designated gate and waited. Boarded the plane at 9:20pm, but the plane only took off at 10:10pm. We were given food shortly after the take-off and I watched “Jack the Giant Slayer” while eating. The show wasn’t great. Snoozed most of the time coz was simply too tired and managed to slip to the toilet while the Caucasian on my right was away. We reached Doha after 7 hours. There was no bridge to connect the plane to the terminal and we had to climb down the steps to take the shuttle bus to the terminal. The journey was quite long.

Unlike the airport in Dubai, Doha airport was much smaller and very crowded. After checking the time and gate for the connecting flight, Kim and I went to the toilet and then proceeded to sit near the gate to wait. Finally it was time to board and after the check-in, we had to take the shuttle bus to board the plane which took another 20+minutes. The plane was the older model with 2-3-2 sitting arrangements. We were allocated the left side of the plane with 2-seaters and Kim took the aisle seat as usual. The plane took off about 2:05am and this time round, I didn’t watch movie, I simply tried to sleep as much as I could and didn’t eat much. When it was close to the morning, the cabin crew started serving breakfast and I ate hungrily.

Finally the plane touched down in Barcelona around 8:10am after another 7 hours journey. By the time we cleared the custom and collected our luggage, it was already 9am. Nancee went to look for the local contact to bring us to the coach and by the time we left the airport, it was 9:30am. The temperature was cool like autumn in Seoul but I felt cold coz I had not adjusted to the change in temperature. As informed previously, our first stop was to La Roca Village, the chic factory outlet in Barcelona. Along the way, the sky wasn’t looking great, it was heavily overcast. Nancee reminded us that we might want to bring our umbrellas along. 

We reached La Roca Village after about 45 minutes or so and it was rather quiet. Nancee briefly showed us around before giving us about 2+hours of free time to roam on our own. Wanted to take out my camera to snap some pictures but felt kind of weird, especially when Kim wasn’t doing it. Popped into a few shops but nothing interest me. It started to drizzle about 11+am. Kim didn’t bring her umbrella and so I lent her mine while I wore the light parka. Unfortunately, the drizzle turned into heavy downpour and we had no choice but to seek refuge in the Starbucks café in the village. I ordered a cup of hot Mocha and a slice of carrot cake. While I was waiting for my order, there were three tall China Chinese boys who were also waiting for their orders. They were eating while they waited near the counter and I could see the staff looking at them with disdain. After Kim came back with her cup of hot latte and a vanilla muffin, we chatted and whatsapped our sisters on and off over our food. Kim’s sister asked her to check out the prices of two designer bags from Loewe, a high-end Spanish leather brand.

The rain stopped about 12+pm and the bright sun came out. We left Starbucks to continue our walk and the village started to get crowded with people. Popped into more shops and along the way took some photos using the mobile phone coz I wanted to at least have some memories of this place that I had visited. Towards the end of the F&E time, Kim and I bought nothing whereas we saw some of our group members came back with bags of stuff. While we were waiting for the coach along the bench, three China Chinese boys were seated there as well. I didn’t take a good look at them to see if they were the same group as in the Starbucks. They spoke in mandarin and were discussing if we were Japanese or Korean. They said “Konichiwa” but drew no response from me, and then they tried “Annyeonghaseyo” and still drew no response. By then, I was already laughing secretly and told Kim in English what those boys were trying to do.

Finally the coach came and we left La Roca Village at 2pm to go to La Rambla, the downtown of Barcelona. The streets of La Rambla were bustling with activities and people. Nancee wanted to show us La Boqueria, the public market, which is one of the city's foremost tourist landmarks before she gave us F&E time. So we followed her quickly to the market and we were so amazed by the variety of stalls and the way they display their goods and decorate their stalls. There were many fruit cum juice stalls, seafood stalls, meat stalls, chocolate stalls, snack stalls, etc. So many things to see and buy, yet Kim and I didn’t get any. I didn’t get any because I didn’t want to snack too much or hold the food while shopping around downtown. Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves by taking lots of pictures in the market.

After that, we walked the main streets and I had to carry my haversack on the side and keep my hand on it all the time. Didn’t really go into many shops and we walked towards Port Vell, passing by the Columbus Monument and saw a lot of living statues. Took photos of the Columbus Monument, some parts near Port Vell and browsed through some stalls nearby that were selling vintage stuff like old coins, notes, glassware, pottery and some handicrafts. Then we traced back our steps back to the main area of La Rambla and headed to Carrefour to get water and then popped over to El Corte Ingles to check out the supermarket. We didn’t check-out the departmental store coz we were short of time. Did a quick browse and bought some mini bottles of olive oil as souvenirs since Spain is the biggest exporter of olive oil. Then we rushed over to the nearby Burger King to get dinner before gathering at the meeting point to wait for the coach to take us to our hotel for that night.

We reached the hotel about 6+pm and as usual; I took shower first while Kim ate dinner. After I came out, ate dinner, did some packing for the next day, charged my camera batteries, mobile phone while using the Wi-Fi connection to access Twitter, Facebook and emails. Discussed with Kim if we should go for the optional tour the next day since Nancee said that most shops closed on Sunday. So in the end, we decided to go for the optional tour and prepared the money for it. Finally went to sleep at 9+pm but not without checking the weather forecast for the next day first.

Thoughts: I expected Nancee to give us some basic information about the history, culture and stuff before we visited the places but she didn’t.

We had 19 group members which consisted a Sim family of four who always keep to themselves, a Tan family of three with the little boy, a mother and daughter named Angie and Hui Min, an older couple named Madeline and Alan who is a SMU professor, a young couple named Yonglin and Pearlyn who is a secondary school teacher, another older couple called Mr and Mrs Goh where the wife is a China Chinese, overly friendly and simply likes to snap photos, another couple maybe about early 40+ called Mr and Mrs Chia who is a graphic designing lecturer (I think) and then there were Kim and myself.

It would have been good if we were given more time to explore the area but I guess that is always going to be a problem with package tour. Also because Spain has this culture of siesta, meaning taking afternoon naps, and so some shops was closed and were only opening when we had to head to our hotel.

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