May 07, 2009
BARCELONA: BAD FOR WALLETS
I cannot even begin to tell you the things that went wrong in the 24hours before we arrived in Barcelona, but these are as nothing compared to our arrival in Barcelona.
The flight by Jet2 from Leeds Bradford was perfect, as ever, and I managed to take a little sleep to try and make up for the two lost nights of sleep in UK (don't ask!). Bagagge was speedily collected, we made our way to the mainline station and caught the 19:38 for Estacio Sants. On arrival at Sants we took the long walk into the Metro system correctly arriving at the L3 platform in the direction of Drassanes our intended stop. All is well, but quickly to change!
The train arrives and is crowded, and there is great turmoil as people embark and disembark. A man close to me drops his mobile phone onto the floor and it is broken. He tells me (in Spanish, Catalan or some other lingo) that my foot is on part of his phone, but I dont see it and he tells me again. Then he leaves the train quickly just before the doors close and everybody in the train shouts something at me "your monnai". We don't understand, we think we must have the wrong train ticket. And then I feel in my pocket and there is no wallet.
My trousers have very deep pockets, much deeper than normal, so he must have got his hand into my pocket a long way to get out my wallet. But now it is gone. Many people on the train try to help us, but we cannot understand. Eventually a woman speaking English tells us we should go to Placa de Catalunya Polizia, so we do this.
We enter the Polizia and tell our story, but they cannot believe us; it NEVER EVER EVER happens in Barcelona. It must be a FIRST time that a pickpocket has happened in Barcelona. I try to joke here; the Polizia is soon filled with people of all nationalities telling similar stories, some of them in tears.
I have one urgent priority; to contact my card insurer and get my cards stopped. This is eventually done, only delayed by other people using the phone to make the same call - they should have a hotline from this place. The Polizia try to make us use a phone which will be charged to a credit card, but I insist that I have a UK phone number that is reverse charge.
I am fortunate that my passport was in my other pocket. I also keep a second set of credit cards in my luggage, and with these my emergency phone numbers and membership details.
We stayed at Polizia Catalunya for about two hours telling the story at length. I described the thief in much detail, and eventually they showed me 50 photos and I instantly picked this man out. He wasn NOT attractive! When they showed more photos of the same man, it was definitely this man. A long statement was taken all relayed by Translator. I explained how this happened, and then stood up and enacted the whole drama. All made more entertaining because the translator had to repeat everything. When I re-enacted the man jumping off the train there was applause from everyone in the room and I was asked to encore of this part for their amusement.
Eventually documents were signed and we were free to leave.
So we walked the full length of Las Ramblas with all our luggage, finding our hotel by using TomTom. Those of you who have been to Barcelona will know how many drunks and how many prostitutes (they do not understand it when I ask "Do you have a brother?") we pass on this supposedly elegant street.
The Aparthotel Gutenberg is fine, a good room with balcony, kitchenette, bath and shower and a very good breakfast.
I begin today thinking that things can only get better, but then I consider that I still have some credit cards, a passport, a camera, this computer, so perhaps today I will lose some of these. Bradford almost seems tame compared to Barcelona.
I forgot to mention that whilst we were at Polizia Catalunya the officers had to describe my appearance and there was some disagreement as to whether my trousers were grey, brown, or maroon with almost everyone in the room offering some opinion.
There was no doubt, however, that my lilac shirt matched my lilac socks, and there was some appreciation of this fact across the room. i offered that it wasn't only the socks and shirts that matched, and there was a steady realisation that I must be referring to a garment not yet visible. Yorkshire humour is so much better when it is repeated, as was necessary for the Spanish/Catalan officers in the room.
My description was important because they planned to look at the video tapes of the platform at L3 Sants to spot this pickpocket. It should be possible as we were able to give very precise timings and locations along the platform.
Today we decided to get some supermarket provisions for the next few days and discovered a CarreFour at the top of Las Ramblas. After checking that Tesco Visa was acceptable (of course we have no cash now) we loaded enough goods onto the belt to fill two large rucksacs. As the belt stopped whizzing our goods onto the paid area I offered my credit card and then was asked to produce my passport. Having been robbed only half a day earlier of course I had left my passport locked in my hotel safe. No sale!
Apparently in Spain you can only use a credit card with photo identity, but you dont need a PIN number. We had no choice but to leave our rucksacs and then walk the full length of Las Ramblas to collect our passports from the hotel and then walk back to CarreFour and finally walk back with our provisions. You can imagine the pain in my foot now as I sit here typing this message. I don't mention that my Doctor is already trying to give me two weeks off work so that my foot will recover; this holiday can only worsen my Plantar fasciitis.
Hey Ho. After a little rest and recovery Juris is planning an expedition, and I am checking my insurance policy to see whether I can return by air ambulance - at least this transport system should be free from pickpockets.