Friday, November 16, 2007

Barcelone-Ta ta

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 cafĂ©. 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.


La vida Loca said...

wooooooooo super scary!
I am going to scan my passport and visa pages like right now.
Heyy take care and hope things get back to some semblence of normal again :)

Instinctive Traveller said...

all the way with you on that one blossommes! emergency services too! and imagine, there isn't one person to put that right. many times when i've felt that the indian administration, is just a circus. you know... clowns and all that. i feels fore ewe blossomes.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God!!!What a nightmare.It was really smart of your hubby to scan the important documents and save it.I shall do that the next time I travel.Hope things get back to normal for you soon.Take care.


Brad said...

Errr...I am traveling to Barcelona next month! Glad that you are back in one piece! Not much of a vacation, I guess!

Ruch said...

when u travel to barcelona...all u must carry is urself, some money, passport, and an extra piece of clothing with u always! thats that. u shud be glad and thank god pickwick is safe.

Sense said...

loca: yeah, went to see Gaudi and got goli!

Bloom: ais! ais! than ewe. ewe plumbing depths of indian bureaucracy

bRad: back from Barcelone in one piece?

ruch: NOw you tell me! where were you afre i left for teh blasted trip??

Dreamcatcher said...

Spain is a place of chors it seems. My dad was pickpocketed in Madrid. Within one hour of landing. Seven credit cards, it was a nightmare cancelling.

Sense said...

wow... hmm... so the next time it looks like we should sew up a lot of our personal documantation in our inner clothes (chor khanas!)

Ushma said...

this is deja vu. a friend and i travelled to barcelona in 2000, and she lost her bag just like that. and we did have to mime our story to the police authorities, rearrange our itineraries and travel back to madrid to the indian embassy to get another passport issued though she had copies of her passport, to return to india! so lucky you are living in london :)