Friday, 19 August 2016

August 10, 2016- Checking Out of the Grand Hotel Central Barcelona, Private Car Service from the Hotel to BCN, Duty Free, Air Canada Rouge Premium BCN to YYZ, Air Canada Premium YYZ to YYJ

This morning we woke up exhausted after not enough of a sleep. We packed.

When we checked out of the Grand Central Hotel Barcelona, we asked about their private car which was advertised in our room. They said that it could take us to the airport for 30 EU (a taxi is 35 to 40 EU normally the front desk woman said). We hired it and were whisked out the door with our bags by several staff.

As we drove to BCN, the lovely driver, Alex, told us about his time in the Spanish Navy and the many countries that he had lived in. At the airport, he took us to the right terminal and then left his vehicle and carried April’s bags and took us to a screen, determined where we had to check in, and then took us to the check in place. We’ve never had service like this before. The hotel may have rough spots like its room service, mattresses (at least in our room), the weird perfume, and street noise, but the service and location make it probably almost impossible to beat.

We had checked into our Air Canada flight online the night before, but we had to show our passports for verification and hand over our two checked bags to an agent. The lineup was not long. The woman took our two bags and put a priority tag on them (we think it’s because we ended up in Air Canada Rouge Premium, either through some upgrade because of Bill’s status, or because that was what was left).

We went to the VAT office to get the receipt for the scarf that April bought stamped to get the tax back (it was put on her credit card at the department store in their duty free office, but if you don’t get the receipt stamped at the airport and then send that to them, they reverse the credit card refund). There was quite a long lineup to get this stamp and we contemplated whether or not it was worth it in the future. We think that unless you're spending a lot of money or you don't mind standing in long lineups, it's probably not really worth it. We didn't spend that much money, so we don't really think that it was worth it. After the form from the department store which resembled a receipt was stamped, we were directed to put it, in the envelope provided, in the box at the end of the line.

We then had to go through the exit visa line. We asked the airport employee directing the lineups which would be faster, EU or non-EU, since sometimes non-EU moves faster. She said it was a gamble, but probably EU, so we took that lineup with April’s Irish passport. The lineup moved quickly and after we were out we went to the duty free shop to spend our last few Euros.

We then found the area where our gate was located, had a late breakfast at a café, and then went straight into the priority boarding lineup for zones 1 and 2 (there is no zone 1 on this flight and we were in zone 2 at the front- shi shi shi baby).

Only two seats side by side in the premium section of Air Canada Rouge. And the seats are bigger with more leg room.
Neither of us has ever been in priority before. In Air Canada Rouge Priority premium it is only two seats at each window and two seats in the middle. They are larger seats and have more legroom. You are given a welcome bottle of water and a drink before take off. We also were given a pack that contained an eye shade, earplugs, and socks.

We left almost 30 minutes late from Barcelona, heading for Toronto first (almost a 9 hour flight). We would have a layover of about four hours, before catching our second flight to Victoria in Air Canada Premium seats (so since it's Air Canada and not Rouge, there would be a business class in front of us, then the premium section, then coach). The second flight, YYZ to YYJ, is about 5 hours.

After takeoff, for the first snack with a drink, we were given a drink in a real glass or mug. The meal was served on porcelain with metal cutlery and a drink in a real glass. The food seems somewhat fancier, though still an airline meal.

The view out the window leaving Barcelona.

Real glass and porcelain.

Our main meal.
Silverware with the Air Canada logo on it.
We were given an iPad each for entertainment. April watched a couple of episodes of a TV show. Bill played some video games on the iPad.

For the duration of the flight, Bill and April fought to stay awake to try to get back on Pacific Standard Time. Bill dozed once for about 20 minutes, while April worked on the blog on Bill's laptop. We worked on choosing pictures for the blog to post later. We listened to a Harry Potter audiobook on Bill's computer, sharing a set of microphones.

Towards the end of the flight, we ate a "sandwich" which was more like a burrito in a cardboard box heated up. All in all the food on this flight wasn't that bad (certainly better than Delta last year).

The flight was actually quite rough at many points and we were both glad that we're not nervous flyers. The seat belt sign kept going on as turbulence made the plane bounce through the air high in the sky. But we arrived safely.

In YYZ (Toronto's Pearson International Airport), we did not have to meet our bags, as they would go through to Victoria themselves, but we did have to clear customs (paper forms still). At  one of the kiosks, April's passport would scan (N.B. her Canadian passport- Canadians are supposed to enter and exit Canada on their Canadian passport even if they are dual citizen of some other country), but Bill's brand new 10 year one wouldn't.  We tried again. And again. We asked for an airport employee. She tried it at several other self serve kiosks. It didn't work. We were not impressed as Bill's passport is one of the new 10 year passports that cost more, while April's is an older five year passport. The airport employee finally routed us into the Nexus lineup (Bill has a Nexus card). An agent said it was fine that Bill's passport didn't scan (it seems to be not unheard of). He marked up our customs form and sent us on our way. We then had to clear another lineup to hand in our marked customs form.

After, we walked towards the connecting flights signs, branching off from those meeting baggage. We followed the confusing signs to find our gate area (others were lost and asking for directions, not  good signage). When we left an elevator, in our gate area, we discovered that we had to clear security again (we did this in Barcelona already and had been stuck inside two airports and a plane ever since).The airport employee told us that the next floor up had more doors so it was better, so we went up another level. We were able to use the Nexus lineup (Bill has a Nexus card, but April doesn't, nonetheless they allowed it). The Nexus lineup took quite a while (not as long as non-Nexus though, those lineups were massive). April went through screening first and of course set off the alarm that indicates that extra screening is needed. The agent ran off to grab the special paper to rub on April's hands and her belly to check for explosive making trace residue (ah is good to be back in Canada where April is targeted at almost every single airport screening she goes goes through). Not unsurprisingly, no traces of explosive making were found and we moved on to find our gate.

By the time we found our gate, we were feeling sick. It was far past bedtime back in Spain and we had been up a long time already. There wasn't much to choose from to eat in the area, so we had sandwiches from Tim Horton's and a couple of huge cups of steeped tea (stay awake!!!!!!!). We also had some chips (the salt is so much more pronounced in Canada than Europe. We really do have a love of salt here). We worked on the blog and fought to stay awake.

We boarded our flight from YYZ to YYJ (Victoria, BC). We were a little late leaving. When the plane took off the noise was very strange and Bill and April cast several nervous glances at each other, wondering if the plane was going to make it (when we had boarded the flight, the technician was telling the flight attendant that it was an old plane that was very fragile, great).
Let's get this flight over with. We're tired.
This flight was about five hours. We were in the first row of the premium economy section, behind the poorly drawn mini curtain over the top of the business seats in front of us. We were assigned to aisle and middle. No one showed up for the window seat which we were pleased about. It's three people across in the premium economy section on an Air Canada flight. In the first row of premium where we were seated, the middle person has no pocket in front of them (there are only two seats in the business class rows, but three in premium) and their screen is a pull out one from the seat arm. We don't really understand how Air Canada can charge more for these seats. Yes you get a free sandwich and snack, yes there's a bit more leg room, yes you're almost first on and first off, but for the amount more that they charge (when you're not assigned or upgraded for free), it seems kind of disappointing (or at least it is especially for the person in the middle of the first premium row who doesn't get a normal tray table, entertainment screen, or seat pocket).

Plus, there were only two bathrooms at the back and one at the front of the plane. We were screened off from business class by a curtain, so we had to walk all the way to the very back of the plane from almost the front to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, the flight attendants were blocking the aisle most of the time on the flight, so eventually they just sent April up to business class, where the flight attendant there warned her that the seat belt sign was on and she would have to use the bathroom at her own risk. Don't worry about it, buddy, I can handle myself in a bucking airplane toilet. Better that than having an "accident." And it was a very rough flight. One of the roughest we've ever felt in a bigger plane (besides that previous flight, which was also really turbulent).

We fought to stay awake, listening to Harry Potter for a while, but then both drifting out and missing most of the chapter, drool dripping out of our slacked jaws. We tried to drink more caffeinated beverages and lots of water, but it was no good. It was nearing our normal wake up time in Spain and we had still not slept. We had almost been up 24 hours by the time we neared home (other than Bill's 20 minute nap and the few stolen moments on that flight).

The views coming into Victoria were gorgeous and we were relieved that we would be in bed soon with our kitty, Lamont.

Mount Baker was visible above the clouds.
Mt. Baker with the faint outline of Ranier in the background

North Saanich at sunset.

We met our bags at the Victoria Airport (they were priority tagged, so they were some of the first out). Both of our bags arrived, which we were very happy about (better than our honeymoon night where we arrived at our destination, but neither of our suitcases did. Funnily enough, the exact same thing happened to April's sister on her honeymoon night).

We took a taxi home, then took our car and drove to April's cousin's place to pick up Lamont. Lamont was very pleased to see us and we drove home with him yowling his displeasure at the car ride.
Lamont knows how to show his displeasure.
We were home, with our kitty, and the trip had all in all been good. Success. Oh, and we won't be taking a cruise ever again.
And now we sleep. . . . 

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