Saturday, January 28, 2012

Adios Madrid (SPAIN) and Hello Malaysia...:)

We took the AVE train to Madrid.  I could not remember much of the journey (joking).  The camera was tucked away inside the luggage for 'very safe keeping' by hero. I sat quietly and enjoyed the train ride.
I loved the pillow--neat!
We stayed a night with Bruno and Patricia.  When we arrived, they had friends so both hero and I, we rested.  Both of us went out for our dinner at 7pm.  It was a safe place where we stayed so walking out at 7pm was okay.  I spent the remaining time organizing our bags for our departure the next day. 
It was an easy feat going to the airport.  All we did was dragged our bags and walked to the bus stop.  Bus fare to the airport from Alcobendas cost €1.80.  We had the assistance from a woman who was with us at the bus stop.  She advised us to board the bus from the back door.  That was a good gesture as it saved a lot of hassle moving along the narrow aisle to the back from the front door. The buses have a proper area for luggage bags. 
The bus took us right up to the terminal.  There are four terminals in Barajas Airport (Madrid).  We were fortunate as Bruno pointed that out to us the night before.  We were to leave from Terminal 2.
Adios Madrid. Adios Toledo. Adios Valencia. Adios Barcelona. Adios....SPAIN! :o)

Leaving Barcelona...

We are leaving Barcelona.  The past few days and nights were agonising for me.  I had to return to the apartment the minute the sky got dark.  It being winter, daylight hours were shorter.  That meant we had to spend more time in the apartment than outside.  I took a last look around the apartment. Would I yearn to come back? The answer was 'No'.  It was not the same feeling I had when we were in Valencia where I had wished there was one extra day to enjoy. Barcelona is a nice city but…it was not that safe a place to travel with just the two of us.
We had talked about going on ‘an adventure’ but I (we) did not expect an adventure that was ‘action packed’...the wrong kind that is. Our meaning of ‘adventure’ was travelling on our own and doing everything from booking of flights, accommodation, staying with the locals, food, sightseeing, travelling and going around speaking no/little  Spanish.  We did not anticipate a robbery. Losing a backpack was bad enough.  Then mugged and robbed at knifepoint! To both of us, that only happened in movies.  We were not supposed to be the stars.  We talked incessantly about the incident the next few nights. We laughed (glad we were still able to) and hubby said, "It was worth every Euro lost".  We get to experience fear for real and a valuable lesson learnt. That was not be too complacent no matter how safe a place may seem.  Oh, that would be something we do not recommend trying. LOL. Would I go back to Barcelona?  I do not think so.  The local authorities need to beef up the city's safety and security.  :o( 

Barcelona...The last few days

We were back to the apartment (the day before) by 6pm.  I made the decision as every sight of a black man gave me chicken flesh.  With two more days left to roam the city, I thought that was a day too many. I wanted to leave Barcelona immediately.  I had written to our host in Valencia about the robbery. She replied almost immediately asking us to return to her place.  They are such a nice couple.  We worked things out and due to the cost and time; it would not be feasible.  Reluctantly, I followed my hero and walked out of the apartment.
I can't recall the name of this building
We were going to look for the restaurant that we skipped after the robbery.  I spent most of my time looking out for 'suspicious characters'.  It was agonizing walking the streets but I had to suppress that feeling inside lest hubby got irritated.
I could not recall how far we walked but I was very happy when hero announced...'We are here' after so many stops to ask for directions.  We had a real good lunch and time La Paradeta.  Suddenly, I liked the noise and people around me.  LOL.  I think the meal was heavenly for both of us.  Maybe...we learnt to treasure the moment. 
Sant Pau del Camp 
We walked back to La Rambla and visited La Boqueria.  La Boqueria is the public market we visited almost daily.  There were no pictures taken as hero had cautioned me right from the day I lost the backpack. Despite the safety reason, I still feel that it would be a place 'not to be missed'.  From La Boqueria, hero decided that we should walk to La Raval, the other historical neighbourhood that borders La Rambla. I did not feel comfortable as we walke.  There were gypsies, beggars, a lot of blacks and the street looked dirty.  In addition, there were many blacks not that I am discriminating but after what had happened.  I stood beside hero as he studied the map.  The sky was getting dark even though it was not even evening.
A group of blacks was walking and talking loudly behind me. I had bumped into them as they came out of a mosque (explained by hero later) and I panicked.  I started walking like a 'chicken that has lost its head'.  I walked past the church (above picture taken by hero) until he caught up with me.  He was very upset.  I did not want to linger around the La Rambla area.  I reasoned with hero that the street we have to walk to get back to the apartment usually looked deserted.  It gets very dark even around 7 pm.  The sight of those blacks sent shivers down my spine. That was another evening...we had food wrapped as take-away for dinner...eaten in the apartment!
The next day, we decided (husband's idea) to take a walk to Port Vell.  We were supposed to go there by cable car the day we were robbed.  Port Vell starts at the end of La Rambla from the Columbus Monument (a major city landmark).
Rambla de Mar
We walked on Rambla De Mar, a splendid wooden walkway from Portal de la Pau to Moll d'Espanya (Spain Dock).
Black man (with hood)
On our way, we witnessed a 'crime scene'.  A group of blacks who were plying their wares on the bridge suddenly ran helter-skelter.  There was quite a commotion.  We saw a few of them chased by police in mufti.  It was very noisy with the black shouting.  When it quietened down, hero decided to take some pictures with camera hidden beneath his coat.  It was frightening when I watched how the black man became violent and resisting arrest. 
Officer holding the white bag...inside are the merchandise
Buoy in the sea-Port Vell
Maremagnum shopping centre
We did some serious walking on our last day.  That would be how I described the way hero made me walk...walk.
La Rambla
La Rambla
Palau De Mar
We walked to Can Mano for lunch.  It was quite a distance from Port Vell.  The lunch at Can Mano was superb.  From there we walked to Barceloneta beach.  It was not crowded.  We had no particular agenda, as it was our last day.  We just walked on the beach and just savour the feeling of 'being there'.  The scenery, the people and the sound of the seagulls and sea.  I noticed that the people in Barcelona are not so friendly.
Hotel Vela (background)
Barceloneta Beach (in Winter)
Monument by Rebecca Horn
From where I stood, I saw something shimmering and it looked like a fish.  We decided to walk towards it to get a closer look.
 Peix d'O
It turned out to be the famous statue of La Barceloneta, the Peix d'O (golden fish) which I had read about before my trip. Frank Gehry designed the fish. We saw a group of blacks walking towards us and decided to keep the camera.  We headed back to our apartment. :o)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Montjuic-Barcelona...robbed at knife point

I had seen a man walked up the stairs that I thought lead nowhere.  I decided to take a walk up and found out that it was the rooftop.  Something I had only seen in movies and never stepped foot.  It was the roof top.  I took a few pictures of a school and the rooftops of an apartment next to 'ours'.
School Children playing
Some sort of garden/playground for the school children
What I saw on the roof top
The view fascinated me
Inside view-funicular of Montjuic
The Montjuïc (Mountain of the Jews) is a hill located near the centre of Barcelona. We were going thereWe took the funicular from the Metro Paral-lel station (It is free).  The funicular went right up to the level where it meets the Teleferico (cable car to Montjuïc Castle). We did not use the Teleferico as hubby said walking was the best way to enjoy a place.
Telefèric de Montjuïc
We took a slow walk and initially it was enjoyable.  Then it became tiring as the hill has steep slopes.  I would say we were lucky (actually it was I who was) as the weather was very cooling.  It was foggy.  We walked past a park and I told hubby it would not be a good idea to look for a toilet.  Hubby told me to wait for him whilst he went inside and looked around.  I stood waiting for roughly 15 minutes.  Geez, it was quite scary as there was not a soul in sight.  The whole place was deserted.  Finally, hubby appeared and said we would have to trek up the hill first.  Then, look for a toilet up there.  If I am not wrong, it took us about thirty minutes to reach Castell Montjuic.

Jardins de Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer

Picture taken when we stopped for a rest...almost there!
It took us about thirty minutes of slow walk to reach Castell de Montjuïc. The feeling of having reached the top was wonderful.  The view was spectacular and it was worth every bit of muscle ache suffered. 
One 'cool' seagull
The same seagull--it stood long enough for six pictures

Side View of Castell de Montjuïc

View of the port from the Castle
A well

A bale of Hay
The toilets (both sexes) are located near the courtyard.  Whilst waiting for hubby I fed the pigeons and the sparrows.  It was also a time to take a rest.  
I had the sparrow circled, as it was the only brave one.  It came and stood next to the pigeon.  When food (in the form of chips) were scattered, it took some and 'passed' it to its friends waiting and chirping nearby.  It went on for quite some time and that was when I decided to take a picture.
Sparrows waiting for food.
Entrance & exit--Castell de Montjuïc
One of the Artillery 
Sardana Monument
The Catalonia community join hands and dance in a circle in sync with the drum taps. The dance is known as the Sardana Dance.  The monument depicts dancers dressed in their traditional gear performing the dance. It was the last picture we took of our visit to Montjuic.
We walked down heading towards the red port cable car station.  The cable car would that would take us from Montjuic hill station (in front of the  Miramar Hotel ) across the port to the San Sebastia beach near Barceloneta.  Hubby went and asked for directions and a man who was at the cable car station directed him (pointed in the direction) where we had to go.  That would be where we had to take the red port cable car.  We walked to an area where there was a restaurant (I cannot recall the name) and a waiter told us the cable car ‘is closed’. What puzzled us was why the man hubby asked at the station made no mention of 'the closed cable car'.  Another couple with us had wanted to take the cable car as well. We had to walk downhill as there was no other way to get down.  Unless, as hubby told me, we walked back up and check for other means of transport.  I was reluctant to walk back as it was windy with sand, leaves and all else blowing. The other couple had proceeded to walk down using the asphalt road. They spoke Spanish (could be locals). Hubby looked over a wall and shouted that he could see a road below (through some kind of park).  We decided to use that way. It looked like a shorter way.
As we walked down the steps, a black man suddenly appeared and asked ‘What’s the time’ in English.  I thought he spoke pretty well in English.  Hubby replied ‘2 pm’ and the man asked again.  Then hubby said louder ‘2 o clock’.  We continued walking down the steps.  I commented to hubby that it was weird asking for the time in a park.  Somehow, I had a gut feeling that something was not quite right.  I turned to look at the man.  He had followed us and stopped when I turned to look at him.  I noticed that he had something wrapped up in paper.  I told hubby that I do not feel good about the man and mentioned that he was following us.  I quickened my step and was quite many steps ahead/below of hubby. He remarked that I was paranoia after losing the backpack. I turned to look upwards...Everything happened very fast. In a split second, the black man had jumped down in front of hubby.  He had a knife pointed at hubby’s neck and the other grasping hubby's shirt.  He kept saying ‘Give me all money’ or I stab you’.  The first thing I did was to ask hubby to release the bag he was carrying over his shoulder.  I thought that would be my best protection as the bag was made of thick vinyl.  In addition, I was not willing to give up the camera that was inside the bag.  The black man was struggling with hubby. In the midst of the scuffle, hubby lost his balance.  He fell against a small hill behind and he stood reclined at 45 degrees.  Both of us remained calm.  We were angrier than anything else was.  I was prepared to swing the bag at the robber should he even cut hubby a little bit.  ‘Give me all your money now’ he said repeatedly.  Hubby replied ‘how to take money for you if you do not let me up’.  I shouted ‘let my husband up and he take money for you’.  He released one of hubby’s hands.  Hubby was not going to give him the money just like that.  His quick thinking saved us from further harm. He decided to throw the money and let it fly with the wind.  The robber looked at hubby and hubby asked him ‘you want money or me?’  The robber thought for a while and then went for the money.  It was then that we ran quickly down the steps.  We reached a busy area and sat at the bus stop by the side of the road.  It was then that I realised my heart was beating very hard.  I said this to hubby, ‘Do you know my heart stopped just now?’  It was that scary as the knife was about six-inches (blade alone) long. :o(
[I am not from Spain so the location is not quite clear.  However, when I look at the pictures we took, I remembered I saw a monument of Columbus when we were sitting at the bus stop after we ran away from the black man.  It had to be the steps leading down to the area quite near Placa Espanya.  Do not use this route (through a park) as it is really deserted and there is no one around.  It could be due to the winter season.]