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Don’t Forget to Pay the Bill, Headed to Barcelona

Sleeping in on holiday is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  Nothing to worry about except for maybe the cleaning staff barging in.  Luckily, we had no problems and got up a little later than usual.  There was no sign of hangover from the previous evening, so that was a good sign.

We went down to breakfast and the same crowd was there eating, and we were eating the same food as well.  The breakfast was just as good, but I think if I was staying longer than a few days it would probably get old.  Kuniko and I were both craving some eggs.  Our flight that day was in the early evening, so we arranged with Julio, the manager, to hold on to our suitcase while we explored some other parts of Granada.  We explained that we had raided the beer cabinet, and he added it to our charges, and presented us with a bill.  Everything looked fine, but then he said something that caught our attention.  He said, “And we only take cash.”

To make a long story much shorter, Kuniko had handled most of the hotel reservations (including this one) and she was sure that she had already paid online via credit card.  The manager assured us that he hadn’t received any money – just the reservation via the internet, and in fact they have never taken credit cards.  So we had to schedule an ATM visit sometime during the day to pay for our hotel.  Kuniko was a little upset because she was sure she paid, and I trust my wife when she said that she had taken care of it, but I figured the guy isn’t going to lie to our faces, and anyway we’d need to pay to get our suitcase back.  So the day started off with some confusion (and a little stress).

To cut through any sense of suspense, later in the trip through a telephone call to Japan we found out that we had not in fact paid in advance for the hotel, and we had just been confused with some other charges to other hotels.  So Julio was all good, we paid him off at the end of our stay in his hotel, and everybody was OK.  But I will say that it took some wine and deep discussions before we reached an understanding and could enjoy the rest of our day. So luckily we were in the center of the local wine region and there were plenty of sangrias available.

So we left our suitcase (hostage) and headed into Granada.  This time we headed to the modern side of the city.  The city center was very different from the old Arabian district where we were staying, and it seemed like just about any other modern European city.  The streets were lined with tourists, the weather was beautiful, and it felt very busy and very safe.  We walked around in sort of a random pattern taking pictures, enjoying a park where we watched a group of older folks playing bocce ball, and walked through a semi-abandoned shopping mall looking for lip balm.  I finally found a pharmacy to sell lip balm, but I couldn’t remember how to say “lips” in Spanish, so I fumbled through the transaction.  Lips in Spanish is “labia” which reminded me of some of the antics we got into during our Spanish classes in high school.

As part of our research into our hotel miscommunication we stopped at a small café boasting free Wi-Fi and tried to do a little research over the internet with bocadillos and sangria.  For some reason the staff spoke to me in French – I look like an out-of-towner but not that far out of town, I guess.  We also went to a tapas bar that was listed on the internet as one of the best in the city.  It was so packed, but we bumbled into a corner to stand, and enjoyed a plate of spicy chorizo, bread, and a half bottle of a really nice Rioja (that I had been wanting to try for the last year).  The tapas bar was a lot like a pub in the UK – more of a community meeting place, but this had been taken over by tourists like us, and it was next to impossible to have a conversation with all the activity in there.  Still, the place had plenty of atmosphere and I’m glad we stopped by.

We slowly made our way back to the Arabian district, stopping at the ATM to pay off Julio on the way.  We made a final stop at one more tapas place, and unknowingly shut it down (lunch service ended at 4 pm).  This was almost our dinner, but they were just wrapping up lunch.  The food there was excellent – especially the veal in a rich, meaty sauce and some montadillos.  They had some good wines by the glass there as well, and I could try a local white wine that was recommended in a guide book – a sherry-like buttery white that I couldn’t imagine drinking for more than one glass.

Finally we went back to our hotel and paid Julio.  He was a little concerned that we might feel bad about the whole thing, and to his credit offered to let us go without paying and to pay him later if we liked.  We did insist on a receipt, but that turned out to be a difficult maneuver with his printer failing during the print.  That made for an awkward delay as we and the taxi driver that we had hired waited Julio to fix his printer and print the receipt.  But finally we were on our way, and the taxi to the airport was an easy and smooth trip.

Unfortunately, our next bump in the day happened when our flight was delayed.  They wouldn’t give us an ETA on when our plane would arrive, so nobody had any idea if it would be 90 minutes or 9 hours.  The staff seemed to sense the angst, and gave everyone vouchers for dinner at the airport.  The vouchers (strategically, I think) didn’t have any amount on them, but there was a secret cut-off point that the cashiers knew.  Passengers who overloaded had to give up some items, and that made people more cautious as they selected their dinner.  We got a beer, a soda, and a couple of sandwiches and had no problem at all.  We weren’t all that hungry, really, but it was a good way to kill time until the plane arrived.  When it did, everyone was very relieved.  The flight departed around 9:30 pm – about 90 minutes later than expected, and after 45 minutes we arrived in Barcelona.  We picked up our luggage, found a taxi stand, and from there we caught a taxi and got to our hotel just before midnight.

Our hotel was located in the lively (and maybe a little dicey) part of town called La Rambla – a big thoroughfare through the city lined with markets, shops and nightclubs that open in the evening.  The hotel itself was down a side street directly across from a building designed by Antoni Gaudi that brought a lot of traffic.  The hotel was a little old, the room was a little small, but it was very comfortable and clean.  We didn’t waste too much time before crashing out for the night.

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