Wednesday, November 1, 2017 – Travel Day
This year we are again doing the westbound Transatlantic voyage from Barcelona, Spain to Miami, Florida. This time it will be on the Azamara Quest.
We are taking a different route to Barcelona today. I found a flight combination that takes us to Miami and then onto Barcelona:
AA334 ORD to MIA – 737-800 – 14C and 14D (Exit Rows) 11:55 AM – 4:00PM
AA112 MIA to BCN – 777-200 – 38J and 38L Last seats on the outside (two across) – 6:05 PM – 7:55 AM
The connection is good (less than two hours) and the whole itinerary for both of us was 60,000 AAdvantage Miles (a bargain).
Our cab was scheduled for 9:30 AM and the American Taxi “Special” Van (a no-charge bonus) arrived right on time. No traffic and we were at the airport before 10:00 AM. We checked in at one of the self-serve kiosks and took our bags to the counter. I wasn’t sure about the tags (did we put all the bar codes in the right place) but the agent said the bags were good and checked all the way through to Barcelona.
AA334 Loading to Go
We walked over to H17 for our first flight. I had purchased exit rows because I wasn’t sure how my newly injured back would do in an airline seat. The flight took off on time – overall, the flight was OK with just a bit of medium intensity chop. We landed on time at Miami and our next gate, D17, was fairly close. We had priority boarding – American does it differently these day – Groups 1-4 are priority (no more platinum, gold, etc) and Groups 5-9 are regular boarding – in fact Group 9 is Coach “Minus” with no amenities at all – crummy seats and maybe no free cokes.
We boarded on time – the 777-200 looked brand new – seats and interior. I had chosen two seats (the last two in the rear) that were in the two section (the 777 is generally 3X4X3). The seats had enough width but the legroom was for hobbits. The entertainment system was excellent and we were just around the corner (but not next to) the washrooms. We would find out later that people did not gather at the washrooms on this flight so we were not disturbed all night long.
The plane took off on time and flew near the east coast for a while – once over the Atlantic, the plane passed close to Bermuda, then over a long stretch of ocean, followed by a flyover of the Azores, over Northern Spain and into Barcelona. Our special meals were good but they still contained the horrid stuff they called "cabbage salad". No one can eat that stuff. The meal was chicken and potatoes in some kind of decent sauce...it was good.
We had stretches of chop – in the back of the plane, the chop feels different – more sway and yaw and less shudder. It was a longer than usual flight because we were not flying along the geodesic so it took just about eight hours to get there. What made it seem longer was the tightness of the seats. I watched “Wonder Woman” again and also saw “Baby Driver”. I tried and gave up on some of the other new releases. I guess I must have been hypnotized by the route map because I recall the half way point, then the two hours out point, then initial approach.
My initial concern that my back would not be able to take being cramped in my tiny seat for hours proved not to be an issue. I also did get up frequently to avoid an issues.
I did manage to get a nice picture of the early sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean
A smooth and scenic approach to Barcelona despite hazy conditions.
Final Approach over the Port Area
We made it across the pond again. Didn't get much sleep (at least that I can remember).
Thursday, November 2, 2017 – Barcelona, Spain
Because of our early arrival time, there were very few people in line for Passport Control. This time, the agent spent a little time examining our passport before stamping them (the last time we were here, the agent was on his phone and never even looked at us).
Our baggage carousel was number 16 and the bags were coming out slowly. Most people got their bags but we were still waiting for ours. We did notice that the other passengers who got on in Chicago were still waiting for bags. Our bags finally came out – pretty close to being the last ones – and I noticed that, unlike the other bags, there was no barcode on the bag itself. No matter, the bags were here. We will know for next time.
The Aerobus boarding area is one level down from baggage claim – these busses come every five minutes and make the 35 minute trip to Placa de Catalunya (with several tops along the way). The one-way price is 5.90 Euros per person.
We got off at the Placa and walked the half block to our hotel - Hotel Izaila Placa Catalunya (Ronda St. Pere). The hotel is on the third floor of a business building – there are eight rooms on that level – a clerk is at the desk during regular hours and there are codes to get in at other times. The elevator is pure vintage – wrought iron with double doors. The room is typical Euro Cool – small sink and toilet and an unusually large (but slippery) shower (good pressure and hot).
A very nice young woman - who spoke perfect English - checked us in right away and she knew who we were (I had emailed our arrival time). We paid our bill in dollars (next time, we will go with Euros because we lost a bit on the exchange).
We took a two hour nap (which did and didn’t help). After that, we wandered down La Rambla almost to the end.
We were looking for a restaurant we had gone to a couple of years ago (Bon Tapa -maybe) but couldn’t find it. We were also looking for any sign of civil unrest related to the secession issue swirling around Barcelona and Madrid. No sign of either but that night, there was a noticeable police presence. It was warm – around 70F – and a great day to see the sights and sounds of the pedestrian walkway. I was monitoring my steps to make sure my aching leg was up to the task. After about two hours, we made our way back to the hotel for some more rest until dinner.
We decided that since the weather was go good, we needed to eat outside at one of the La Rambla tapas eateries. We did a lot of comparison shopping and finally settled on a place that said their “portions were larger”. That not only didn’t turn out to be the case but I was pretty unimpressed with the food – we had two tapas, potatoes and the omelet, along with a Margherita Pizza (10.95 Euros). No sangria with this meal. The tapas were disappointing and the pizza was passable. We finished the dinner off with a McDonalds cone (1.25 Euros).
We spent a few minute at the Placa de Catalunya - lots of people out. The latest thing seemed to be glowing parachutes that were shot into the air and slowly floated down. Very interesting against the sky. Lots of vendors selling these. You can see the streaks of these projectiles in the first photo below.
We managed to stay up until about 9:45 PM before running out of gas.