Yes, we were in a Barcelona last weekend. Barcelonata, to be precise. Now before you go all 'ooooh', stop. Cease and Desist. For after the tale I have to tell you, you'll be going 'Awwwww' . Unless your struck dumb in Horror. Trust me- that is a very real Possibility.
The weekend started pretty much normally- Driving down to the airport Bleary-eyed and catching an early morning flight to Spain with a screming Toddler who decided he wanted to stop the plane in mid-flight to romp in the clouds. Normal.
Arrival at the hostel too didn't give any warning of the nightmare that lay in store. Centre of town in Passeig de Gracia- Just a hop skip and jump away from La Rambla and a stones throw for the gothic part of town. Nice. Especially when you planned to walk or use the public transport.
So, with a well-fed and duly freshed up Pickwick and a similarly content Baa-lamb, we set out to hit the Beach in Barceloneta, before it got too chilly to enjoy the sea.
Unfortunately we underestimated how throughly 'firang' we'd become- all that sun gave us a headache! Hence we trooped to a nearby cafe - empty at that point of time- because everyone was out basking in the sun.
As Baa lamb turned to get the coffee, while I entertained a restless Pickwick, he called out ‘grab the bag, will ya’. ‘what bag?’ I ask. ‘The bag.’ He say. ‘Our bag. The only bag we have. Haversack.’ he says making this absolutely clear.
‘erm… from where? ‘ I ask. ‘There’s no bag.’
‘eh? On the buggy! Look, will you!’ he said, a tad annoyed at my sudden lapse into obtuseness.
‘I am!’ I insist. ‘At the buggy. An empty buggy.’ I felt it was only fair that I should be as clear as he was.
He goggled. ‘but… where… there… no!’ ah. Not so clear now. But still, I grasped all. In case you, dear reader haven’t, since you don’t share the same telepathic connection with the baa-lamb, let me explain.
The bag- which I must add contained all out travel documents, passports, cards and cash- along with a smattering of Pickwick’s paraphernalia was missing. Gone. In an empty café. Someone had swiped it. Clean as a whistle!!
After some frantic searching up and own the beach- which included some very nasty discoveries in the trash cans around the area- but no bag, we resigned ourselves to the fact that the bag was gone for good.
Then began the nightmare- first cancelling cards (this was apparently so common, they had printed leaflets informing tourists what to do if they got robbed. Credit Card Company numbers, police station numbers, embassy numbers, the works!) , then heading out to the police station- the main police station, since the local once was shut for the weekend- a pity crime doesn’t take a weekend break.
Then of course we got to know that the Indian embassy in Barcelona was an honorary one- they can only advise. Eh? Advise? What do I need an embassy for advice- I have every man on the street doing that. What I needed was help. Action. Is that such an alien concept? Apparently, it was. The only ones who could help us were seated in Madrid. Also shut for the weekend. What is this? An international conspiracy to make it easier for thieves to rob tourists? Emergency Services!- surely if it could wait til monday, it wouldn’t be an emergency, now, would it?
Having lost all hope and all faith in the system, as a last ditch effort, we headed to the airport to see if EasyJet would manage to give us a refund on the ticket- or at least get us to Madrid in one piece.
The lady at the counter took one look at the passport copies (yes, the baa-lamb, that wonderful, meticulous planner, him- had scanned our passport and visa pages and kept it secure on the mail) and said… ‘well, I’ll speak to the Immigration Authorities and I’ll let you know if you can go back’
Eh? Were we hearing right? They’re letting us travel? Letting us get out of here? Back to London? We don’t have to travel to Madrid? And wait for the Emergency Services (ha!) to wake up? Really?
There was a glimmer of hope… ten minutes later she gives us the thumbs up… that’s it... we got outta there like bats out of hell before she changed her mind. Literally raced back to the hotel room, threw together our meagre belongings and rushed back to the airport- and checked in 4 hours before the flight.
We landed in London a bit past mid-night. The immigration authorities we expecting us. No- really. They had all our details and drew up emergency papers on the spot that would hold good until we got proper documentation here. Wow. And this was for people who weren’t event their citizens. While our embassy had emergency services shut for the weekend.
For the first time in my life, I was glad I didn't work in India. Forget 'Atithi Devo Bhava' - lets learn to treat our own guys right.