Thank God for the morning (which meant we would soon be departing the all-night flight from hell.) While Rosemarie woke up refreshed from her cross-Atlantic nap, I rubbed my hip and knees, trying to get feeling back into my legs.
We ate (because if we are anything, we are polite fliers) the breakfast food that was passed our way. I doubled up on coffee whenever the steward walked by. Holding my cup up like a Dicken’s street urchin – I’d pathetically widen my eyes and say “more please.” We had an entire day ahead of us and if I didn’t want to crash, I’d need a little help in the guise of caffeine.
But seriously, what’s a little sleep deprivation when you got on a plane in New Jersey and you’d be getting off of the plane in Spain?
Obsessively I watched the travel screen on the monitor in front of me. Increment by tiny increment we made progress to our final destination.
Soon this was the view I had outside my window.
Followed by this one.
We had arrived.
Whenever you go to another country, you have to pass through customs. In Spain that means that you wait about an hour in line to stand in front of a person in a glass booth who takes your passport, holds it up to compare you to the photo, stamps it and then tells you “buenos dias.”
While going through customs, I didn’t have to undress. I didn’t have to take my shoes off. My luggage wasn’t x-rayed or pawed through. I didn’t have to answer questions. Instead, after a quick check, I was welcomed to their country. Rosemarie and I both left Spanish customs with smiles on our faces.
Here’s a pro-travel tip. If you go to a foreign country, go with someone who likes to keep her ducks in a row. Rosemarie had printed out spreadsheets with all of the information we’d need for our trip. She had our tickets and it was all kept in a travel folder. She even watched a video of how to go through the airport to get to the busses.
I am forever grateful for her organization skills. I tend to be more of a “whatever” traveler and there is no doubt in my mind that even now, several weeks after the end of our trip, I think I’d *still* be in that airport looking for those darn busses.
We took the bus to Plaça de Catalunya which in English means Catalonia square (don’t get excited, while I know some Latin, my Spanish speaking skills are atrocious.) The large park/square is filled with people (and we went during the off season, I can’t even imagine how crowed it would be in the summer), statues, fountains, and it is also has pigeons, many, many pigeons. Just like in every movie you’ve ever seen with pigeons in a plaza people were feeding the birds and running through to make them take flight. How lovely, I thought as I was careful to watch where I stepped.
We were met by Rosemarie’s son who was doing an internship in Barcelona. He would show us how to get to our rental (an apartment through Airbnb) and then we’d all have lunch together.
If you do any reading about Barcelona, you’ll discover that there are a lot of pickpockets there. They don’t assault you, they just take your belongings and there are so many of them that the police essentially don’t do anything about it.
The general attitude is that if you are careless with your belongings then you deserve to lose them.
Pickpockets of Spain were my bears of New Hampshire. I made sure that everything I had was zipped or locked. I carried a small bag across my body and I periodically put my hand to it to make sure it was still there. I carried nothing in my pockets. I prepared by taking appropriate precautions for protecting my property.
The lady in front of me at the cross walk, however, might not have been so fortunate if I hadn’t been on the lookout for these bothersome thieves.
While we were waiting for a light to change so that people could cross a major road, I noticed a woman standing in front of me looking intently at a pair of sunglasses that had been casually stuck in a mesh backpack side pocket. Even I (someone with no pickpocket skills) would have been able to grab those. The wanna-be thief moved directly behind the sunglasses and right in front of me.
I knew what she wanted and I knew what she was going to do.
When the light turned green and the crowd started to move, I quickly positioned myself in between her and her potential victim. I tapped the backpack woman on her shoulder and told her that she should probably put her sunglasses away because that woman over there (and I pointed) was planning on stealing them.
The pickpocket, now foiled, turned to me and while I didn’t speak her language, I fully understood that she was passionately cursing me.
Well that was an interesting start.
But like the bear in my New Hampshire walk, I had not only faced my biggest fear of our trip, but I had managed to gain confidence in my ability to stare it down. On day one, I had become empowered. – “Hey look, I can take care of myself and protect my property. Yup, that’s me, I’m a bad-ass.”
I can say that I lost nothing to pickpockets the entire time I was in Spain. It turned out that my fear was little more than that of a buzzing mosquito in the bedroom. Sure, absolutely take precautions to keep it out of there in the first place, but if one gets in, swat it away and it will do no harm.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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