This morning we met out guide for the next week, Aitor Delgado, at the Claris Hotel around 9AM to make our way from Barcelona to Andorra. I found him on LinkedIn through a mutual connection from my time in Bilbao (I think). Leslie, Aitor, and I had written dozens of emails over the past 2 months planning out the itinerary and the trip, negotiating the details, and essentially filling the void of travel agent (we decided to go it our own this time to save money). We took the rental car that Leslie arranged in advance and started on the road not shortly after from Barcelona to Andorra….
The second full day of my Spain excursion was a 3/4 day of work for me, and a city tour of Barcelona, including the Barcelona Gothic Quarter. I got to work early (830AM) after a night of not sleeping, and dreaming wildly about exploding planets. At the Office On the way to the office, which was about a 30 minute walk from my new location at the Claris Hotel, I made a short stop at a bakery for a buttered croissant to go – I annoyed the cashier by not having change and forcing her to break a €20 note. At the office I powered through several espresso grandes until I felt human again, and worked non-stop until all my emails/outstanding tasks, and phone calls were handled. Around 130PM I was finally wrapped up and able to make a beeline back to the hotel to quickly grab my camera bag, and continue walking south on Carrer de Pau Claris to meet Leslie and Marv for lunch at 215PM at the Ohla Hotel Gastrobar, which our guide for the day, Patrick recommended for us. They were coming from a tour of the Palau de la Música Catalan, the major music hall in the city center (and across….
The next morning I found my Travelport Barcelona office easily after discovering the cross-street it was near, the name of the building, and a few landmarks on Google maps (yay!). I spent from around 830AM to 7PM in the Travelport Barcelona office, with an hour out for lunch with colleagues at a cute nearby sushi place called Monster Sushi. They had a wonderful 3 course lunch special (appetizer, entrée, dessert or coffee) for €14, and my Travelport Barcelona colleague was kind enough to pick up the tab. I also caffeinated during at least 4 different opportunities throughout the day, taking advantage of the free Lavazza espresso machine in the office (unfortunately it also kept me awake ALL night). I really enjoyed the Travelport Barcelona office itself – it was in the process of being remodeled, and as such was a bit chaotic, but it had the startup vibe with bright colors (chairs and walls) and open spaces (transparent walls, work benches instead of cubes). The perfect atmosphere for thinking up and creating great new travel ideas. It was a very Silicon Valley/Cambridge look and feel, and the office and my colleagues in the Travelport Barcelona office were proud of Barcelona’s….
This is my second time to the Barcelona waterfront – the first being nearly 15 years ago when I was still a teenager. Last time it was a stopover on a Mediterranean cruise (which of course docked on the Barcelona waterfront) with my grandparents. This time, it’s a starting point for a 10 day journey through Northern Spain’s famous Basque region….
Now that I’ve had a few weeks to reflect on my trip to Central/Eastern Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda) and Ethiopia, I thought I’d share some of the lessons I learned. Here’s my top 10 list of the things that will always stay with me from Africa, indelibly etched in my memory: Don’t like coffee? Sorry, too bad. You will be required to consume at least 2 cups of coffee every day that you’re in Ethiopia at the request of your hosts, friendly strangers, and curious villagers (who invite you into their homes). You will learn to appreciate the intricate ritual of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, performed carefully and respectfully with fresh cut grass, incense and a jebena. Don’t like being pulled into cultural dances? Sorry, this is also too bad. You will always become part of the exhibit with increasing likelihood the less you want to participate. It’s a combination of the locals laughing with you and at you, and sharing (or trying to share) the culture and tradition that’s steeped in them since birth. Of course the outcome is an utter spectacle. Alcohol helps with the shame. (I became part of this performance too a few minutes later. The more….