Another travel day.
We organised our flights to get a day of sightseeing. In the morning we visited the local panadería (bakery) for pastries and then headed out on foot. We visited the Gaudi apartments Casa Mila and Casa Batlló but this time without tickets so we could only admire the exterior. Gaudi is not the only architect of note in Barcelona. The Casa Amatller next door is no less impressive.
Today was a Sunday and we learnt a valuable Barcelona lesson. Apart from the tourist attractions, everything is closed – and we mean everything. Not even the high end retailers like Hermes, Chanel or Gucci let alone Zara, H&M or the Apple Store.
With time running out we returned to the hotel to pick up our bags then headed for the airport. Our Pakistani taxi driver talked about the cricket all the way to the airport. “What’s a man from Pakistan doing in Barcelona?” we asked. “At home there are few opportunities for work,” he replied. “Did you know any Spanish before you came here?” “None, but after a year I could speak it well enough. Now my Spanish is better than my English.”
We were mindful of warnings about long queues at Barcelona airport but we arrived with three hours to spare and were able to easily check in and navigate security and passport control. We read newspaper articles later in the week about nightmare queues in the days after our departure. The British tourists complained it was punishment for them leaving Brexit – curious, it is not just the Brits who need to show their passports to leave Europe.
Unfortunately there are no airline operated lounges in Barcelona airport, therefore we had to use the shared lounge in the international section of the terminal. It was not bad, more so bland and very busy. We were able escape the heat and change into a fresh set of clothes, so mission accomplished. Some small children were running around and managed to break some of the fixtures - that travelling family either escaped before detection or were politely escorted from the premises.
The BA flight to Heathrow was uneventful with the predictable coronation chicken or cheese and tomato ciabatta served for dinner. In BA’s race to the bottom, it seems you are either served this menu, or the fish/chicken selection we were offered from Iceland. There’s nothing wrong with it, rather it is just predictable. “More champagne please” is the antidote.
The flight brought us up over Jersey and the Isle of Wight before the inevitable circle for 15 minutes over London due to congestion at Heathrow. We disembarked at Terminal 3 and were bussed to Terminal 5 where we headed straight for the BA Galleries Lounge.
The flight to Hong Kong was already loading from the geographically furthest gate in Terminal 5B, so we headed onboard. BA’s long haul business class seating is curious, to say the least. BA has managed to cram a 2+4+2 configuration into all wide body jets, as opposed to most other carriers employing a 1+2+1. We selected the two middle seats, both of which face backwards. It was a little disorientating to be going the ‘wrong way’, especially while taxi-ing. The other downside of this configuration is that no seat has direct aisle access – everybody has to step over their neighbour in order to get to the aisle. Business class on this flight was only about half full, so passengers re-arranged themselves to avoid disturbance but otherwise this lack of direct access would have been annoying. Having said that, the middle ‘inside’ seats were comfortable and with the partitions raised and the beds folded out it was very nearly like sleeping in a double bed. However, this nest would be a little less cosy if the other traveller was a stranger.
The service from the BA long haul cabin crew was impeccable as always, however the food left a lot to be desired – again. It was all rather bland and tasteless with the beef main course significantly overcooked. It is also strange that a British airline is unable to suitably prepare a full English breakfast.
At Hong Kong airport we again we circled for 15 minutes due to congestion but finally made it to ground. The Airport Express whisked us to Hong Kong Central and we caught the shuttle bus directly to the door of the JW Marriott. We had picked this hotel and a harbour view room specifically to see the Symphony of Lights from the comfort of the hotel. Unfortunately the light display is really designed to be seen from the Kowloon side. Combined with low cloud this meant the performance was a let down.
In all, today was more like a 32 hour day. We had got up at 9am Sunday Barcelona time and didn’t get to sleep in a normal bed (approximately 11pm Hong Kong time) it was approaching 5pm Monday Barcelona time, thankfully lie flat beds in business class makes this a little easier.