Bienvenido a Barcelona – Part I

Its been the best of trips; it’s been the worst of trips. Welcome back to my life of superlatives. My first week in Barcelona was so eventful that I am describing it in three posts:

  1. The Trip
  2. The Arrival
  3. The Accident

The Trip

My departure from Palm Springs went like clockwork. My weeks of planning had proven worthwhile, as I arrived on-time to LAX and had forgotten nothing.

The flight itself was very pleasant. Air France business class is comfortable and luxurious. I had a private mini-cabin (cabinette?) with all amenities.  As a former Air France employee (1978), I knew that the food would be great and the service excellent. I didn’t expect the card with the name of the chef who created the menu.  (Keep in mind that Air France First Class was once rated a five-star restaurant.) 

Small courses with wonderful sauces (and French butter) gave me a Proustian moment. In his most famous novel, when Marcel Proust ate a pastry which his grandmother had made him when young, he not only remembered his long-dead grandmother- but he also experienced the same feelings of joy and comfort as he had then. I felt the enjoyment I had felt when in France during the seventies.  I loved the place, the food and the language, which I once spoke like a native.

I thought of my very first trip to France. A group of us took a student charter from NY to Reykjavík and then to Paris Orly. (Charles de Gaulle hadn’t been built yet.) Arriving very early in the morning, we took a bus to our hotel on the Left Bank, where we were served breakfast. There were baskets of baguettes and croissants on a table covered by a large white paper. We were served coffee and, not seeing any plates, we broke bread and added confiture, dropping crumbs on the table. I noticed that one of our group, a proper young lady, had managed to find a plate. I was curious why only she got one; it even had little grooves for the butter.  After a moment’s scrutiny, I realized that she was eating out of the ashtray.

Hilarity ensued.

And I couldn’t imagine what the waiter must have thought of us. The poor girl never lived it down; but it’s a great story 50 years later.

My only disappointment during my flight was with my airline seat.  Air France Business is known for its shell seats, into which one leans back in order to create a bed.  As a seat, it was wonderful; as a bed, though, it was not wide enough for an adult human male who sleeps on his back. My arm kept falling to the floor until, several hours into the 10-hour flight, I figured out how to wrap the seat belt around it to keep it at my side.  Unfortunately, it was too little too late.

My connection time in Paris was just one hour. I had worried about it for weeks but couldn’t change the reservation.  Luckily, we arrived on time.  Not so luckily, my wheelchair person was 20 minutes late, and the connecting gate was on the other side of the airport. While in my peaceful state on the first flight, I had decided to reinvent myself yet again as the calm, cosmopolitan world traveler. I fear it didn’t last.  After 15 minutes of the lovely young wheelchairperson’s chatting with me and passing colleagues at a very relaxed pace, I yelled at her to run. She ran with my cheering her on, and we arrived to find that this flight was delayed. I made the flight and, soon thereafter, sleepless but well-fed, I arrived at Barcelona Airport.

That’s when the real adventure began.

NEXT: The Arrival