Sunday, August 8, 2010

Barcelona baggage

Stray and I love to travel, especially in Asia, but I really did enjoy our short stint in the Mediterranean and would love to go back there one day...only it’s so far away and our one time visit left a bit of a bad taste in our mouths. I mentioned this incident in brief, in a previous post, but here’s the whole story.
This was only our second trip overseas and our travel package included flights and a seven night cruise, leaving from Barcelona (Spain) to France, Italy and back again. We cruised with Royal Caribbean and the ship, Voyager of the Seas, was truly spectacular, dwarfing the others docked along side in port. It took a couple of days to get over the jet lag, but we had a ball. Every day was at racing pace, with only one day to see which ever city we had cruised into.
While we were still in Australia I had booked a private apartment in Barcelona, for our few days stay after the cruise. So on our return we caught a taxi to the address provided on the Internet printout. The taxi pulled up outside a big, but insignificant looking, set of locked doors. He insisted that this was the correct address so we paid him and retrieved our large luggage from the boot/trunk.

There was no apparent sign of life to be seen or heard, even though I had made it quite clear when I booked it that we would be arriving earlyish! 9.30 a.m. precisely.

We strolled, lugging the luggage, a short distance around the corner to a park area. More of a very wide street, which was closed to general traffic and lined with trees and seats down either side. I sat myself down on one of the bench seats, with my large suitcase upright and in touch with my feet. I proceeded to rifle through our paperwork which had been in my backpack, in search of the apartment agent’s contact phone number. I managed to find it, dial it and actually have a conversation with him. I expressed my disappointment in having to wait an estimated three or four hours as he suggested, especially as I had notified them of them of our earliness. Usually this wouldn’t have been a major problem, however we were very restricted due to our enormous baggage. I concede and end the conversation.
The park like area around the corner from our apartment.
I go to return our paperwork to my backpack. I go to return our paperwork to my backpack. I go to return our paperwork to my backpack...I keep looking and looking...I only have an area of about one square metre to play with here...I get up and look from a different angle. By this time Stray is looking on, probably wondering why I'm acting like a headless chook. We both search our small area over and over again.

I think I just repeated ‘my backpack, my backpack, my backpack’. It was so surreal, it really did take a while for the blood to stop rushing to my head and for it to sink in. The backpack was gone.

Moments prior, we had been approached by locals, gypsies. They didn’t come unusually close, but did cause a bit of a friendly commotion (a decoy)...some rubbish about wanting to carry our bags to a hotel for a small fee. In the middle of this hullabaloo, my backpack, which had been looped around the pull up handle of my luggage, was lifted. I won’t give you the exact logistics because we both remember it slightly differently.

Our camera was gone. Our photos were gone. We were DEVASTATED. Other things had also been stolen, including my purse and bank cards, but the loss of our photos was soooooo upsetting.

Stray tried to communicate our dilemma to some locals nearby and then to some police passing by on foot, who advised us to file an official report, particularly if we were going to claim it on our travel insurance. I phoned the apartment agent again, explained what had happened and insisted that in some way he was to blame and to let us enter the apartment as soon as possible...which equated to entering an hour earlier than first advised.
After we relieved ourselves of our luggage, we made our way to the local police station off Le Ramblas. By this time I had what I reckon was a migraine and were both in mild shock...just so sickened by the loss of our photos. The classic holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa pics and shots of the palace in Monaco were gone. But both of us were thankful that our passports had been in the paperwork on my lap, at the time of the thievery.

We spent around three hours at and loitering around the police station, as part of a never ending queue of ripped off tourists and locals alike, all there for the same reason, but with slightly different stories. After we filed our report, we returned to our apartment.

The whole experience left us cold and quite frankly feeling rattled and unsafe. Not a great feeling on our first night in the beautiful Barcelona.

Over the next few days we tried to get on with enjoying the remainder of our stay and pretty much did, but were reminded of the event every time we took a photo with our tacky disposable camera. Now, a little more on the paranoid side, Stray almost removed the arm of a small, older women at the markets when her handbag inadvertently touched his back (wallet) pocket.
Our trip back to Australia was not uneventful either. Due to bad weather, the airline in its airline logic flew us from Barcelona, to Amsterdam, to London, to Hong Kong and finally Brisbane...without our baggage! Apparently it was one flight behind us, which didn’t worry us one iota because we were heading home.

The last leg of our journey, from HK to Brisbane, was a night time flight. After the cabin air conditioning temperature had been raised for the evening I commenced coughing....for about 6 or 7 hours straight. I have no idea why, it has only ever happened this one time and my only relief could be found by sitting in the toilet cubicle where the air con was still at full force.

We disembark at Brissie, I am clearly not a happy or attractive woman by this stage. So much so that our daughter, who is collecting us, enquires about my health. Our luggage! I make my way to the lost baggage counter and stand in a queue of three people. A man comes from behind and clearly has no understanding of the queuing phenomenon, he pushes to the front. Is he kidding?????? I tap him on the shoulder...OK, it was more like poking!

‘Excuse me, please go to the back of the line’ I said while jabbing my finger in that direction. Poor guy, my eyes must have looked like pools of blood, because he quickly moved and apologised in (of all things) SPANISH.

Our friends and family who know this story, also know that I scoured the world wide web for photos of the places we had visited, ordered prints of them and compiled a photo album of our (other people’s) trips. Pathetic? Maybe, but just my way of sticking to the bag thief.

There is no moral to this story except for perhaps, travel light when you can and don't make a target out of yourself with a giant purple suitcase in the middle of a tourist mecca.


Tom Yam said... Best Blogger Tips

It's crappy when you remember a trip for all the wrong reasons. Just try not to let it taint your opinion of a place.
I spent some time in a district of Barcelona called "Barrio chino" . It was a bit rough but i never had any problems. Maybe you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Tom, yes... I am sure I would approach the whole situation differently these days and can't wait to go back and give it another go.

According to Google maps, Barrio Chino is just around the corner from Carrer De I'Hospital, where our apartment was situated.

A beautiful part of the world!

Swiss said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Snap! Thanks for checking out my blog! yours looks excellent - I will have to spend some time reading.

You are right by the way about the introduction to Asia. That's so funny, it was kind of like Baptism by Fire ..going straight to the landfills. It was good though, I learned so much in a short amount of time. Now I look back on those first days with such amazement. I was so lucky to be where I was when I was.

What you've heard is true about Cambodia. Cambodians have been the nicest people I've met in my limited travels, really it's like going home. If you make it there, let me know. I want to hear about your travels!
: ) m

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

Hello Swiss, thanks for visiting. I'm still reading your blog, from start to finish. I will definitely contact you should we make it to Cambodia.

Catherine Wentworth said... Best Blogger Tips

I soooooooooooo feel for you. Losing passports on a trip is a pain, but losing photos is forever. I went through three passports in a short time - 'misplaced', Frankfurt pickpocket, Paris pickpocket (?) - but each was an adventure, not a disaster.

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

My goodness Catherine, THREE passports! By the way, to this very day, I can't part with my handbag, keeping it close by at all times. Even when dining out I keep it (oddly to others) on my lap.