Thursday, April 15, 2010

marrakech to barcelona

4/15the beginning of the end



I wake up around 5am because I have packed my watch with the jewelry so it is at the bottom of the bag and will require repacking. I lay there trying to somehow psychically predict the current time, in a room that is pitch black with only the sounds of a few birds chirping. I have to go to the loo, so I get up and take care of business. Then I decide I better figure out what time it is or I will lie here awake when I could be sleeping. I am afraid that the riad owners will sleep in. Obviously I have a control issue, being without an alarm clock is fine until it’s time to catch planes.


Once I locate the watch, and plug in the computer to charge for the journey, it is about 5:30 so I lie down again for a few minutes until I hear the knock knock on my door. Funny, Moroccans kiss 3 times, and Italians twice in greeting. French I think twice also. Wonder why. I jump into the shower, or rather hobble into the shower area, and clean myself for the day ahead. I take one last look around, and at the clothes I am leaving behind, and head downstairs into the interior patio for my petit dejeuner. There are 3 little cakes, some sort of chocolate bread, some OJ, coffee, butter, jam, yogurt and the fromage that I thought was yogurt and have been eating since I arrived.


Before entering the room I gently set down my large daypack by the front door, as the newlyweds are housed in a room down here and I don’t want to disturb them. There are long stemmed roses on all the tables. Roses are blooming everywhere here, perfect climate for them. I finish up and see Roselyne heading down from their room on the top floor, and I get up and head towards the door. She makes some gestures to make sure I had enough to eat, and I nod oui!


We throw the backpack into the back, and today I have my purse, computer and dirty clothes inside the Rancho La Puerta tote I brought along for shopping. I hope they will allow this all as hand luggage. We get to the airport around 7:10, for a 9:10 flight to Barcelona via Royal Air Maroc operated by Atlas Blue. I look at the departures board and note that check in is at queues 12 and 13, but when I look it is a flight to Paris Orly. I figure it is too early so I go and join two other girls on a metal rail around the departures board, near the trolleys. They are young and have small butts; I have to lean into the rail to keep from sliding to the floor. Charming.


I watch the line go down, and then check again and decide to go over to the line 12-13 and hover around the area. I note that many people are filling out customs forms and other forms, and all I have is my passport and the paper from the travel agent about my flights. Because it is a funny fare, I have to check in and can’t confirm on line, and this makes me nervous. I stand there for a few minutes and then beginning chatting with a cute young man from San Sebastian (is that Spain?) who has been traveling in south of Morocco with 2 friends. I tell him about Jamila and the caravan of books, and he asks me to write down her name because he and his friends are talking about what they can do for the children of Morocco. He said they ask for money, and when you say no, they ask for pens and paper. Education is their only hope for a future.


He is very thoughtful (and cute) (and youngish- probably late 30ish ) and has a bag full of dried fruit and spices. I tell him I bought saffron powder and he said he did too. I told him I wanted the flower but it was too dear. He agreed that he wanted the flower also but couldn’t afford it. We talked about the spices exploding in our luggage and having saffron or some other spice scented clothing for years to come. He triple bags it, I told him about the cool bags I got at REI. Finally we notice that we are the only two in line 13 so he goes to ask where to go, and we join a massage therapist from Dallas we met a few minutes ago in line 12. When we get to the front he lets me go first, and I get my boarding pass and go to exchange the dirham since if I don’t do it now, it’s mine forever since no one else will change it. I gave Roselyne all my change for the airport parking charge, and so I’m 20 dirham short of 40 for my Euros. Oh well, it’s enough for a cab to Hotel Colon in Barcelona, and then I’ll worry about spending money for dinner tonight, and the cab tomorrow.


I see cute San Sebastian boy get on the plane, and he waves as he goes to his seat. Dallas lady is sitting behind me. She came to Marrakech on her own and is a tiny girl, she stayed right in the medina and got hassled too much by the local vendors so she is leaving early. Barcelona then Paris. She has Rick Steve’s book and is staying on Las Ramblas. I tell her she will love Barcelona.


It is a two hour flight and they give us a yogurt (I can’t face another one right now) a croissant (stale), and a baguette (stale) some butter and jam. I choke down both the croissant and the baguette, and take the first glass of tea offered, then doze during the rest of the flight. I keep waiting for them to ask us to fill out papers for entry into Spain but it never happens.


We arrive in Barcelona, and after maybe 20 minutes in passport control, I am in the main terminal. I decide to ask if anyone at airport will cash traveler’s checks, and no luck. Again, don’t ever waste your money buying travelers checks from American Express. It is a pain in the @@@#. I decide to take another $150 Euros out of my checking account to be sure I can eat, and get back to the airport in the morning. I walk out to the taxi rank and head for the city.


This driver is great and takes the small alleys and gets me within a ¼ block of the hotel, with is on the plaza facing the cathedral. It is a very old historic hotel with lots of famous guests. The staff is odd and sort of helpful sort of not. The d├ęcor is very old school. The fare is 23 Euros plus change so I give him 25. I go into the hotel, and they are expecting me, and yes, my big bag is still here. I ask where there is a bank, they say next door but it closes at 230 or 3 and it is 220 so I scoot out the door and into the front of the bank, where a very tall guy sends me back out the door, and in the other door for the money exchange area of the bank. Whew. Cleared closing by 10 minutes. Friday night, and I’m out of here before they open tomorrow.


Back to Hotel Colon and up to the room. I unpack everything and make sure I do have all the photos I thought I’d lost because I forgot about the thumb drive. Traveler’s amnesia. Kind of like currency conversion when you visit too many places, and time changes. I am so glad I brought the Ethernet cable, because when I couldn’t get wi-fi that worked (at least outside the boat).


I tried to confirm my flight even though I know I can’t because it is that weird Iberia cheap fare that uses several partner carriers and you have to check in. I turn on the TV, (the second time during vacation, the first time last night, which was all in Arabic, but was comforting somehow as I packed) , and CNN is doing nonstop coverage on how the volcano in Iceland has shut down air traffic from Europe. Great. I watch for an hour or so, and hope that I get out of here tomorrow. I have a feeling I will at least make it to Madrid, and may get stuck there or in Chicago, but I’ll be ready to go in the morning.


While I’m sorting through the stuff, I order spaghetti bolognaise from room service, because I desperately needed to eat and believe it or not I loved it. Probably would have hated it in a restaurant, but I was so hungry and didn’t want to go back down stairs or out to find food, so it was perfect.


I finally decided that it would be impossible even if I could check in because I don’t carry a portable printer for the boarding pass. I know there is a restaurant downstairs so I throw on some shoes and a brown sweatshirt (charming, really) and head down to reception to see if they will print my boarding pass. Of course not, they are sending people up the street to some internet, Kinko’s kind of place. I tell him I have a computer but not a printer, and he gives me the email of reception so if I am successful I can email top reception and they will print it out. I also ask for a 6am wake up call. I hope they remember. I remember some of the ladies saying they never got calls when we were here before but the staff insisted they did it.


I asked about the restaurant and it opens in 10 minutes so I sit down in the lobby with a very motley crew of people. An old man who looks like he is going to throw up any second. A pretty girl who eventually reveals herself to be French during a Skype conversation on her Mac, a couple of guys who are sitting on top of each other, the odd touristy couples who hover insecurely around the lobby, and the girl waiting for someone, walking around and around.


The restaurant opens and I go in, the only person in Barcelona eating at 7:00pm but I don’t have the strength to go outside in search of a meal. The dining room is very elegant and I order seafood paella and a glass of red wine. They bring me a glass of cava and some bread sticks, (on the house) then bread, and my wine and a bottle of water (ca-ching, ca-ching). Then the grand piano goes off, and I am being serenaded by a guy playing very melodramatic romantic classics, as sit in this old hotel, in the middle of Barcelona at sunset, looking through the embroidered mesh curtains and people strolling the plaza in front of the cathedral, and a young couple making out on the wall in front of the hotel. Ladies with dogs, tourists taking pix of each others, a herd of “tour Barcelona by bike” tourists ride by following their leader. A candle is lit on my table, I eat my paella that is served with some sort of Cray fish that is staring at me (it was good but not oh my god great), drink the cava, drink the little bottle of Spanish wine (3 glasses) and finish off the expensive water, - give a $5 euro tip to the waiter and the piano guy, and head back to the room.


I’ve got some sort of bug bites on my arm and my chest, and I’m a little itchy. My henna tattoo is in full bloom on the palm of my left hand. I’ve got a nasty blister on my right foot from two days ago when I forgot to wear socks on my long day in the medina walking the city walls. I’ m a bit of a mess. I decide to take a bath.


I never take a bath. I’m too tall to get under the water and it pisses me off. But I decide with the bug bites, the blisters, and my week in Morocco in the dust and sweaty climate I could use it, so I fill the tub up with really hot water, then have to cool it down because I’m a baby and it’s too hot, and I get in and it is really comforting. CNN still isn’t clear about Spain and flights out, I let my hair air dry (I’ve been without makeup for the last week, and it’s OK, people aren’t turning away in disgust, and believe it or not I’ve got the British political debates on with the top three candidates for prime minister I think. The audience is half asleep. It’s very boring but the accent is a nice accompaniment to my writing. I look like a whale. I don’t care. I’m tired. I want to go home. Look at that henna tattoo. All for now.

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