Surprise…an overnight in London sans luggage

Surprise…an overnight in London sans luggage – London, United Kingdom

The flight out of Barcelona was delayed by about 30 minutes…and took a bit longer at take off too.  So, I missed the connection in London and am being put up at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow Hotel Hayes…about 10 minutes from Heathrow.  Big hotel, small rooms.  19.95 pounds allotted for dinner, 14.95 for breakfast and a free room and shuttle from/to airport.  I’m rebooked for tomorrow morning.  Oh…and my luggage?  I suppose it’s getting accomodation at Heathrow Luggage Motel.  Or on it’s way to Chicago…or maybe gone on holiday to unknown parts.  Great.

Waited for the Hoppa Hotel bus at stop 4.  Told Bryan I felt like I was waiting for the night bus (first time I’ve been here since reading Harry Potter!).  We made jokes about platform 9 3/4 and I said I was going to run at a concrete abutment and see if I could get through to Hogwart’s Express.  He laughed.  And so, I too laughed at my own stupid joke–finally feeling a little better after a few surly Londoners put a damper on the already dampened day.

Left side of the road driving, rain, proper English…it’s been a long time.

It seems I’m close to Windsor Castle here.  Interesting.  Early today, I wished to be home safely (to Windsor Avenue)!  I wonder if the “wishing well” got confused?  Ah…just full of fun today.  Actually would love to go to see Windsor Castle sometime.  Also saw signs in the hotel for the Windsor room and the Winchester room.  Odd given our living arrangements last year.

Dinner in the boring little Brasserie with extremely friendly waiters and a fish tank with 4 extremely bored looking fish.  Burger, chips (the British still don’t leave Americans alone with a ketchup bottle), glass of water and wine.  Nice little quiet time on my blackberry to Mama and work.

Bored fish in a hotel restaurant aquarium
Bored fish in a hotel restaurant aquarium
My personal message on the Radisson Edwardian TV
My personal message on the Radisson Edwardian TV
My room
My room

Currently sitting in a borrowed hotel bathrobe.  Wondering if I shouldn’t do a little “laundry”…think it’ll dry before tomorrow 6 a.m.?  I’d really hate to have damp “knickers!”   Listening to BBC…”Naught point 5% decrease”, “paid a visit to 10 Downing Street” — and shows someone ringing the doorbell of the prime minister’s residence/office!

Onward to Chicago

My 7:55 am flight from LHR to ORD was canceled. I learned this after getting up and out to the Hoppa bus to Heathrow at 5:00 a.m. UGH. Rebooked on the 12:15 flight in business class. Had cappuccino and chocolate croissant in terminal 3 and took my time looking at each and every shop…and some of them twice…and WH Smith, Borders 3 times each. Reading, people watching…what an interesting place. And finally at 11:05, the board gave us the gate number for AA #67 home. About 8 hours later, after passing between Northern Ireland and Scotland and skimming the southern edge of Greenland, landed safely in Chicago… No sign of the luggage–filed a tracer and left the customs area for the international greeting area where Bryan met me :)

It’s good to be home!

Barcelona trip route
Barcelona trip route
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Rambling in Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 4/15/08

Barcelona's little cafes
Barcelona’s little cafes
Looking up in Barcelona
Looking up in Barcelona

Right after daybreak, I began walking. It was a brisk, but sunny day. The meetings began at 4 p.m. and I was not going to get stuck inside today. On the agenda: croissant and cappuccino at a lovely little cafe with marble tables, photos along La Ramblas, and I made my way into Casa Batllo and Casa Mila before the crowds got silly. Maybe a little shopping in the afternoon.

I became fascinated with the colorful, circles of glass in windows, doors and skylights. That, and the curves of things…from door handles to building fronts. It paid to look up as you walked…wrought iron balconies, colorful glass, and ornate pastel buildings from the graceful art nouveau period.

Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo

I got into Casa Batllo before the crowds came. Actually found myself alone in the exquisite dining room for about 5 minutes. Parquet floors, carved wood columns, light wooden curvy door frames with circles of glass as transoms. Blues, greens, magentas and pinks mixed with clear glass. Air bubbles frozen in the glass “on the day they were made.” The door handles were even beautifully curved to be easy to grip. Sea themes in the room with “undulating wood” and a whirlpool on the ceiling surrounded by golden sunlike rays. On the roof, a great view and a giant white porcelain cross dome–supposed to resemble a sword going into a dragon (the dragon being the rest of the roof of green and orange terra cotta tiles curving over the top. What a dream of a place. Stunning in it’s uniqueness.

Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo

Casa Mila was not as exciting…but after Casa Batllo, it had alot to live up to! I spent time on the roof admiring the view and the Darth Vader-like (or…maybe they look like something else to you?) chimneys. I think my favorite part of this casa was the apartment set up to look as it once did at the turn of the century. Spacious, delicate and filled with peach and rose colored glass, and door frames with that curving, flowing style.

Cafe Mila
Cafe Mila
Cafe Mila
Cafe Mila

Walked and walked and walked. Lunch was a pizza and coffee on La Ramblas by Casa Mila. I ducked into shops and began to wonder about the presence of long, skinny-legged elephants and horses as trinkets. Dali apparently spent some time here, and these elephants and horses are from this Temptation of St. Anthony.

Look who I found! Charlie has a Spanish twin!
Look who I found! Charlie has a Spanish twin!
Cheese lollipop with Laura and Sarah
Cheese lollipop with Laura and Sarah
Barcelona
Barcelona
Art Nouveau mosaics in Barcelona
Art Nouveau mosaics in Barcelona
Bikes for hire
Bikes for hire

Another interesting thing I learned that day–the cross shaped streets all have buildings with the corners lobbed off. This is designed to let people see around the corner and make the city feel safer.

I took the metro back to the hotel (Eurostars Grand Marina Hotel Barcelona) with time to dress for dinner and a bus top tour. Meetings would begin the next day. Dulces Suenos! (Sweet dreams!)

A couple of days later, past the meetings, I would ramble again. It was a rainy day and I ducked into shops throughout the quaint little lanes of Barrio Gothic. I purchased 2 really cool leather and “silver” bracelets, but mostly wandered snapping photos and watching. I saw a guy playing what looked like a wok, but sounded like a harp. ??? I saw dogs galore and more art nouveau and Gaudi books and art photos. I can’t make out the Klimt presence that I saw here…maybe they just love his art?

I’d like to come back here one day. It’s a great city for walking, seeing unique sites and snacking yourself silly at the tapas bars. On the final night, Lisa and I went walking to see the things she’d missed this week. We ended up with a tray of bad paella and a good pitcher of sangria–e:mailing Sarah who had left Barcelona that afternoon, but had missed the connection in Paris. She was alone in a pub having a pint and a burger. :)

In a taxi to the airport on a rainy day, passed this graveyard
In a taxi to the airport on a rainy day, passed this graveyard.  Created an old “postcard”.
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Barcelona on Business

Barcelona, Spain – Monday, April 14, 2008

I left on Sunday for a few days in Barcelona. For the first time, I flew business class overseas…posh! First though, it was O’Hare to JFK on Delta, then business class from JFK to Barcelona on Air France (operated by Delta…which means it really was a Delta plane…why do they do that??)

So, business class…is it worth the extra cash? Going east–maybe! The seats on the Delta plane let out almost all the way. They provided a comforter and a hearty pillow. Plus the meal was tasty and filling, there was champagne and all kinds of little goodies in a bag at your seat (headphones, lotion, lip balm, socks, blinders, etc). The TV screen was a separate little pull out thing. And there were a hundred buttons to move your seat in various directions for your perfect comfort. The biggest benefit was a few hours of real, good sleep during the little stub of night time that you get going east in the evening.

Business class legroom and bedding
Business class legroom and bedding

I arrived somewhat rested at 8 a.m. Shortly after checking in, Sarah (my co-worker) and I headed out for coffee and to see some sites. We rambled down La Ramblas, stopping for cafe con leche y croissants at an outdoor cafe in the sun. Beautiful temperature compared to Chicago! :)

On La Ramblas, we saw the flower market, the pet bird-hamster-guinea pig market (or was it also the chickens-for-dinner market?), street performers painted into various animals or superheros frozen until a coin is dropped in their waiting tins, and artists drawing from pictures, and giggling tourists. We turned right into one of the narrow alleys of Barrio Gothic with its gorgeous 3-globe street lights dangle down over the street (Calle de Ferran) and it’s cute little cafes. We twisted and turned down the alleys–purposely getting lost.

We eventually found our way to Casa Batllo and Casa Mila for a look from the outside. We were getting tired, the lines were long, and we wanted to see Sagrada Familia this day. Every 2 hours, we stopped for a caffeine boost and kept going.

sagrada familia spires & crane
Sagrada Familia spires & crane
Spires and cranes of Sagrada Familia
Spires and cranes of Sagrada Familia
Unfinished Sagrada Familia
Unfinished Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia…holy cow. What can you say about a place so big, so fantastically ornate with 4 massive spires on each side and stained glass like you’ve never seen before…and that is OPEN to the SKY, the rain/snow and pigeons? Inside, there is construction–piles of stone, iron and wrapped pallets of building materials everywhere. There are construction workers pointing and talking and working, and driving construction vehicles that beep and make the usual noises. There is construction dust. The wind blows inside–whipping the plastic pallet covers around. Pigeons sit on the pallets and coo. And all the while, the clouds pass over the gaping hole in the ceiling…just above a statue of Jesus. ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY SIX YEARS this has been under construction. They are hopeful they’ll have it done by 2026. Hmmm. Good luck with that!

We waited in line for over an hour to go up into the spires. Inside the spires, opened slots on the side are designed to let the wind ring the bells inside. The view is fantastic. The Mediterranean and Barcelona laid out before you. There are workmen on the roof…and more pallets. And cranes vie for your attention among the spires and crosses.

Aside from being fascinated by the unfinishedness…I was amused by the vegetables atop some of the roof ornaments, and by the Judas kiss statue beside the magic square of 16 numbers. 4 across and 4 down….1, 14, 14, 4…11, 7, 6, 9…8, 10, 10, 5…13, 2, 3, 15. It was only after coming home that I found out the significance of the square…each row and each column add to 33–the age of Jesus at his crucifixion. Also, each of the 4 quadrants equals 33, as do the 4 squares in the middle and the diagonal line. Magic squares they’re called.

Judas Kiss and Magic Square at Sagrada Familia
Judas Kiss and Magic Square at Sagrada Familia

We sat at an outside cafe in the sun across the street from the Sagrada Familia for wine and a sandwich of ham/cheese. Took a few photos and headed back via taxi to meet up with other folks from our company.

Carol at Sagrada Familia
Carol at Sagrada Familia
Home sweet hotel
Home sweet hotel
Sarah and Lisa check emails at dinner
Sarah and Lisa check emails at dinner

Dinner that night would be tapas in a great little place. I loved watching the locals at the “bar”–the bar being a buffet-like counter of snacks and olives. One man sat there reading a newspaper, eating from a little bowl of olives with a tiny fork and drinking a coke with lemon. He savored each olive, eventually spitting the perfectly cleaned pit into his hand and into a little dish. We ordered some of the olives like he was having. They were a beautiful light olive green, the size of cherry tomatoes and were sweet–I could have eaten a hundred of them. The sangrias were delightful…I had about 4 of them :). Serrano jamon, cheeses, seafood, potato treats…what a lovely meal. Seven of us…and 7 Blackberrys–periodically checking e:mails….Kind of funny really.

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