19 September 2009 – fear of flying

Flying

Ironic how much I hate flying

For someone as fond of travel as I am, it’s quite an irony how much I hate flying. Actually it scares me, especially take off and landing when I am usually to be found gripping the arm rests and holding my breath. I’m not exactly enamoured with airports either, all that waiting around. Why exactly do you have to check in two hours before your flight anyway, other than a cynical ploy to get you to buy overpriced food and junk in the airport shops?

Thankfully the flight to Barcelona is a short one, less than two hours. Not wanting to get up at the crack of dawn we didn’t bother with the early morning flight so, by the time we’d picked up our luggage and found a taxi to take us to our hotel, it was late afternoon. Not really knowing much about Barcelona, we’d chosen a hotel in El Prat de Llobregat, commonly just called El Prat, because it was close to the airport. Actually it is quite nice, in a business hotel way and there is free wifi which meant I could check my emails to see if the Mad House had offered me a job. They hadn’t. I think they may have forgotten me. Lets face it, if I’d got the job I would have heard by now.

Neither of us has been to Barcelona before and, with everything else going on, we hadn’t exactly done a mass of research. Turns out El Prat is mostly airport. In hindsight we should have booked somewhere in the centre of the city. I did do a little bit of Googling and El Prat does have a small beach and a nature reserve famed for its blue-legged chickens. Maybe we’ll get a chance to see it tomorrow.

Once we’d unpacked we went straight back out to explore, find somewhere to eat and get as much sun as we could. Sun is in pretty short supply at home. As we didn’t have a map we didn’t want to wander too far in case we couldn’t find the hotel again but we found a pleasant shopping area with wide streets and so many cafes, bars and restaurants we were spoilt for choice. In the end we stopped at a little precinct and settled outside the Cerveceria Cataluña, a Spanish eaterie. The little square was bustling with life, youths playing football, families with children wandering past.

We sat at a table outside and a waiter bought us a menu. Unfortunately this was in Spanish and Catalan with no English translation, I guess it is only a small suburb. Luckily the waiter, Hassan was from the Western Sahara and, although he spoke no English, he did speak French which was handy. He recommended Lomo jamõn pais, a huge slice of fresh bread, toasted and spread with tomato and olive oil then topped with ham, cheese and baked green peppers. I dread to think what the calorie count was but I suppose I am on holiday. Calories don’t count when you’re on holiday do they, or is that one of the reasons I need to count hem in the first place?

We washed our meal down with a glass or two of the local beer and settled back to soak up the atmosphere as the sun went down. The little square was still buzzing with life when we paid our bill at about eleven. Of course getting back to the hotel wasn’t as simple as we’d thought it would be. There were a few wrong turns with a little bit of panic that we’d got ourselves lost in a city where we don’t even speak the language but we found our way in the end. We finished the evening with a nightcap at the hotel bar.

Reuben, the barman, was very friendly and helpful. He spoke perfect English, even though he swore he knew just a few words, and persuaded us to try Cigaló (carajillo in Spanish) a local speciality of coffee with a dash of whiskey or brandy. I’m not a fan of alcohol and I’d already had a beer but I do like good coffee and I couldn’t see a little dash of brandy, which is what we chose, could hurt. The dash turned out to be a more than a normal pub measure in a tiny cup of espresso, it was delicious coffee though and a great way to round off a nice evening. I’ll worry about the calories tomorrow.

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