“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” - Lao Tzu
Monday, 10 January 2011
Keep Clear of The Closing Doors!
Wow, what a fantastic surprise Barcelona has been!
I had only ever heard good things about it, but for some reason I didn't imagine it to be this beautiful.
And not just a beautiful city architecturally, although the Moderniste architecture of Gaudi and his mates is absolutely a highlight and a lot more widespread than I was expecting. But everything about Barcelona is just so... livable! The weather is fantastic (winter here seems slightly milder than a Perth winter).. the food is great.. the Spanish people are lovely (but of course every culture has exceptions - in this case a particular slimy, low-life Spaniard currently residing in France).. the shops are full of style and quality.. the traffic is bearable.. the metro is great.. the nightlife is great.. the history is fascinating, the contemporary culture is also humming along.. it has an energy and momentum that few cities seem to have.. the cost of living is affordable.. the surrounding countryside is gorgeous.. It's on the coast of the Medditeranean.. What's not to love?
Coming from Paris, the difference couldn't be more stark. It's like a weight being lifted. Paris seems depressing, serious, conservative, heavy in comparison. Barcelona does it all with heaps of style, but doesn't seem to take itself too seriously in doing so. It just seems effortless. It feels like it was built to live in, not just built to look at.
If you asked me which city I've been to that I would recommend people go for a quick holiday, it would be a tough choice between about half a dozen cities. If you asked me which city I would consider moving to permanently, Barcelona would be right at the top of the list.
Having said that, I had my first big near-disaster of the trip when arriving in Barcelona. While getting off the train with my luggage, I had the train door close on me while I was halfway in and halfway out! It's not like a lift door that just re-opens, it just keeps pressing closed. Not enough to crush or bruise, but enough that it won't let you leverage it open at all.
The door closed on my shoulder with one arm outside the train, and although pulling that arm into the carriage wasn't a huge problem, the problem was that at the end of that arm I was holding a bag with my passport, iPad, and about $5k of camera gear in it! And it was now bouncing against the glass on the outside of the door as the train gathered speed and left the station into the pitch black dark.
I managed to pull the shoulder strap in through the door gap so I could hold the bag tight against the outside of the door from the inside of the train, but it was still bulging about a foot out the side of the train, bouncing around just waiting for a pole, a tunnel, or another train to scream past and rip it out of my hands. I instinctively wrapped the strap tight around my wrist and then realized that was a stupid thing to do... If the bag caught on something outside the train, the webbing strap would probably pull my entire arm off with it.
So I just stood there holding it tight but ready to let it get ripped free from my hands and ready to pounce on the train's emergency brake alarm if it did. I was already trying to work out how to explain all this on my travel insurance claim form.
Although the train had been packed just 15 minutes ago, I was the only person left in the carriage at the time.
The ten minute ride to the next station was the most tense ten minutes I've ever spent in a train.
When we got there and the door opened, I was relieved beyond belief! I quickly grabbed my other bag and jumped off, looking around with adrenaline pumping through my veins. There was just one person on the platform, waiting and smoking a cigarette. He looked at me unimpressed.. He hadn't even noticed my near-death experience!
And then I had the humiliation of having to find another train going in the opposite direction to travel the one stop back to where I was trying to get off originally.
The moral of the story. DO NOT TRUST AUTOMATIC DOORS. No matter how friendly they seem or how long they look like they'll stay open for. It's the one time you let your guard down that they will pounce on you.
Thankfully no photos, lenses, blog posts, angry birds, plants, zombies, limbs or passports were harmed in the making of this story.