Trip: New York to Barcelona

The plane ride to Barcelona was, well... a plane ride. I was very excited, though, because I hadn't been anywhere for a long time. I hadn't even had a vacation for 2 years, since summer was my high season and my lack of time off was then forgotten during the planning season. I was also excited because here I was flying around on business, and even though I was stuffed in the back of economy, I felt pretty important.

I like long plane flights. They give you the time and the freedom to collect your thoughts. You're in no particular country, so if you choose, you're not bound by any particular convention. I find it's easier to think Big Thoughts, and life's course-changes are easier in mid-air. I've never used the on-board entertainment because I always supply my own. And, I'll never get over the thrill of taking off. It's indescribable.

At the beginning of the flight I was ambitious, since I was traveling with a laptop computer. I tried to finish a piece of writing that I'd started the year before. I got some ideas, but it was clear that nothing concrete was going to come out of it. Even though a trans-Atlantic flight gives you plenty of time, the objective of the staff is to make you think that the flight took no time at all – and unfortunately, that's what they leave you with.

There's the safety demonstration, the drinks, the meals, and a lot of general fussing around. They pass things out, they collect things, and of course, they leave you trapped in your seat under a tray when you have to use the toilet. I find that US airlines generally fuss over you more, and the rule certainly held true this time.

The one novelty was that because this was a flight to Spain, they had a Spanish-speaking flight attendant (Cuban, I believe), with an unusually screechy voice. When it came time for coffee, she went around bleating, "Café con leche? Café con leche?" Now, everyone knows that airline coffee is swill. It's a foul, brackish-looking liquid that everyone avoids even though they're giving it away. Café con leche, on the other hand, doesn't sound that bad. It sounded pretty good in fact – that is, until the takers got the same airline coffee that they swore they would skip. "Hey! What is this?" everyone said. It goes to show that even the best of marketing will only take you so far.

The next morning we had a brief stop in Lisbon, where a bunch of burly security guards got on the plane and searched it. They all had earphones with coily cords, very similar to the "glasses-on-a string" that were the rage at that time. Airplane bombings, unfortunately, were also the rage, and TWA wasn't taking any chances. We all had to get up out of our seats while the security guys looked underneath, and they were being very, very thorough. Even though they were big and burly, they were quite friendly, and I made a note that everyone in Portugal might be this nice.

We were fully awake at that point, so when we took off again I read my guide book to Barcelona. I'd read a lot about the place, I had met a lot of people and I used Spanish quite a lot, so I was actually pretty well-prepared. And besides, I had people to see.

Barcelona airport is medium-sized and pretty tasteful for an airport. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and this is how the weather stayed for the entire trip. You may have a lot of choice in Barcelona, but bad weather seems to be an item they omitted from the menu.

One observation: the taxi drivers in Barcelona are not that talkative. In New York or Madrid, taxi drivers know everything (except the directions), but in Barcelona they're strangely quiet and respectful. This was too bad, because at best, taxi rides are a good source of information. The trip to my friends' house was as uneventful as all the other taxi rides I took, but I did have the advantage of getting there in one piece.