Friday, 29 July 2016

July 29, 2016- AMS to FRA to BCN, Our First Day in Barcelona

We awoke at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m. after less than 4 hours of sleep. We finished packing, had our breakfast in our room, and went and checked out. They removed a breakfast from our bill that we had in fact never ordered or consumed and was a mistake. Other than that, the bill was accurate. They asked for our feedback. We said that we loved the location of the hotel and it’s safe and comfortable and quiet, but the cleaning really left something to be desired. We noticed that the cleaning in our room wasn’t done very thoroughly and they broke a glass a couple of times and instead of replacing it, they’d leave it out in the hallway on the floor. Then we’d have to call down for a glass from the front desk. And they didn’t replace our Kleenex another day. And of course there was the weird electric toothbrush in a glass of water day. But all in all, we’d probably stay there again.

They called a taxi for us and the fellow was there right away. He was very pleasant and chatted with us as he drove us to Schiphol Airport and we discussed polar bears, the north pole, and other important facets of Canadian life.
Bill found the PwC office on the way to the airport.
He dropped us off at the Lufthansa departure section. We had checked in online, but the machines there are only for check in and not for printing baggage tags like in Canada, so we had to get in line with everyone anyways. We sent our bags away and we went through security. April always gets harassed back home and even here, she got the pat down of a lifetime right after being in the screening machine. The woman kept feeling her up and then some guy barked “spread your legs.” Yeah, that’s how you want to start your morning.
Bill was enthralled with the urinal fly and golf hole that you can aim at in the urinals in Schiphol Airport bathrooms.
We walked towards our gate. Bill found a pair of sheepskin slippers at a shop along the way and bought them. They look really snug, but they were too wide at the back for April.
The flight from Amsterdam (AMS) to Frankfurt (FRA) was about 30 minutes late boarding and leaving but made up 15 minutes of time and wasn’t too late getting in. It was a 45 minute flight but they still managed to find time to give us a delicious strudel and a drink (hot drinks were even on offer- hear that Air Canada?).
Strudel doodle doo.

April noticed a drop in the standards of the bathrooms right away from Amsterdam to Frankfurt. No more alcohol disinfecting spray to put on toilet paper to clean the seats and the lighting was worse. It just didn’t look as clean. Still great compared to the bathrooms in a lot of places though.
In Frankfurt we didn’t have to wait long until we boarded, about one hour. There was a stand with many different newspapers for free for Lufthansa passengers to read for free and a machine that made tea, coffee, etc free for passengers. What service!

There is no boarding by zones in these Lufthansa flights so everyone just piles together in a lineup and then merges from various places into one or sometimes two gates. By the time you get on, if you aren’t lining up from far ahead of time, the overhead bin space is taken and you’ll have to put your carry-on luggage under the seat in front of you. It’s not the best system for boarding.

The flight from Frankfurt to Barcelona left around the right time. The flight was about 1.5 hours.
We took a cab from the airport to the W Barcelona, which is right on the water, near where the Olympics Village was.
Cab selfie.

When we arrived at the hotel our room wasn’t ready yet, so we went to the W lounge and had a late, but extremely delicious lunch of local fare. Our server, Marco, spoke English with a textbook middle-England accent. Upon further investigation we discovered that the part of England he was from was Sicily (he had studied in England for four years, however). Our second server was a trainee named Julie who was from the Netherlands (Rotterdam) and was doing a 3 month stint here in Barcelona at the hotel after studying hotel management… we just can’t escape these Dutch people. When April came back to the table and she met her for the first time, Julie did a very visible double take. No April’s not Dutch!

We shared a salad of tuna, chicken, olives, Parmesan cheese, etc. and roasted chicken breast with roasted potatoes and a tomato sauce with perfectly cooked whole prawns. The ingredients were obviously fresh and absolutely flawlessly prepared. And there was good bread to eat with the meal with a variety of different things to dip it in like garlic aioli, tomato sauce, red wine salt, etc… 

We left satisfied and went to the front desk to see if they had our room ready yet. They did not. We sat and waited in the lobby since we couldn’t go far as we don’t have our phones working in Europe for calls when the room was ready. After a longer wait, Bill went up to ask again, the room was finally ready. We were relieved because we were both tired and wanted to get out onto the beach in front of the hotel and have some sun and maybe a little sun and just relax and unwind from the journey of the morning.

Our room had been upgraded to the best available one. This one was on the 14th floor and faced the beach and the city with floor to ceiling windows and a king sized bed. But our bags weren’t there yet. We called down to try to retrieve our bags so we could change into bathing suits. Eventually the bags were brought up, by which time we had discovered two disappointing defects, the note with chocolates was addressed to someone with a name different that Bill’s name (he’s a platinum member, they should know his name- hellllloooooo!!!) and there was a gross long black hair on the soap dish/soap.The bellman sent a cleaning lady to replace the soap.
Welcome chocolates.

We changed and went down to the beach. It was really, really windy and the towels that they gave us at the beach club were blowing around and slapping at us. It was quite warm out, but the wind made it feel a bit chilly, especially when we waded into the Mediterranean. We both dunked ourselves in and then we lied on our beach chairs and dried off a bit. It was kind of cold in that wind though, so eventually we went back to the hotel.

We had a shower and decided that with a view like ours, we should just order in room service and eat in front of the window. The room service came just as April was nodding off. 
Mmm gourmet dog food and a beautiful view. Our night was set to be awesome.
Can't beat this view.
We discovered the fries were stone cold and seemed to have an extra protein bit deep fried with them, a hair. We called down about this. The woman who brought up the replacement fries was so apologetic. She actually came back later with champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries as an apology. But we told her we don’t drink, so she offered to make some other drink for us. We ended up with a Spanish version of a milkshake (more like iced milk, not thick like what you'd get in Canada or the U.S.), one vanilla (real vanilla beans!) and one chocolate that she dropped off on another trip.

Milkshakes and chocolate covered strawberries.
Then there was another knock and a woman showed up with “a tray for Mrs. Hepburn.” We were both puzzled. It was tea. It had a note hoping that April would feel better. We suppose they must have witnessed her in bed earlier in a robe feeling sleepy at dinnertime and thought that she was sick.

Tea makes everything better, even when you didn't know anything was wrong.
Then there was another knock at the door. This time it was the cleaning lady offering turn down service. We refused this and worked on the blog and tried to get ready for an earlier sleep. And we didn’t even mention all of the different calls we received either. Bill became a Platinum Starwood member from all of his business trips and they certainly seem to be acknowledging that they value his membership. They have been very attentive.

And the view out of this room is absolutely stunning.

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