I would like to start this post with an apology, as well as an advice.
Over the last few days (coincidentally, ever since I arrived into Spain) it appears as if my blog has turned from “Isaac’s Get Lucky Tour Blog” into “Isaac’s House of Rants”. I am indeed a bit (OK, maybe more than a bit) edgy these days, as things started going somewhat awry ever since I arrived at Barcelona four days ago.
While I could mask some details and rants from you, I chose not to; when all is said and done, a four months journey was bound do take serious ups and downs. I chose to be honest and write exactly what’s going through my mind, even if it’s unpleasant at times. After all, I’m not trying to sell anything here; I’m documenting an experience.
So, here comes the apology: I apologize to you if reading this blog brought you down, made you angry, or made you feel unpleasant.
And now, for the advice: Get over it. My approach isn’t likely to change.
And if you think that the last few days were horrific… let me tell you a bit about July 28.
Woke up in Lisbon at 7:00am, leaving enough time for getting my stuff together peacefully; my flight was scheduled to leave at 9:00am, and Lisbon’s airport is basically just outside the city—not too far. By 8:00am, my gracious taxi‐cab driver dropped me at Lisbon’s airport.
I was very happy that I checked‐in online the night before; the terminal appeared to be flooded with people, and I was looking forward to feeling smart, bypassing lines, arriving at the baggage drop‐off point, drop my luggage and go grab a bite. Out of the holster goes the BlackBerry, loading the boarding pass saved as a PDF the night before…
… Only to realize that I only have a pass for the second leg of the trip (Barcelona—Santiago). Funny, as I don’t recall any message in Spanair’s website, in the spirit of “SORRY ABOUT YOUR LUCK MATE BUT I COULD ONLY DO HALF OF THE WORK FOR YA”. But—you know what? OK. No problem, that’s why you leave lots of spare time—for unexpected things like that.
Lisbon’s airport, terminal 1, has over 90 (!) check‐in counters. This airport is apparently one hell of a mega‐central European airport; who would have known (the answer: whoever bothered checking). Looked for my flight at the departures table, and found something very similar (operated by a different company); this is called a code‐share flight—when multiple companies basically share the same physical flight, so that one particular flight actually has multiple “names” for it. Alas, nobody there could tell me whether I’m looking at the right thing or not. By the time Jeroen got back to me with the answer, I have already taken a bet which turned out to be successful.
Approached the check‐in counter and introduced my itinerary to Her Highness: Lisbon to Barcelona, then connect to Santiago.
She looked at me in such a look that left no room for speculation: she had absolutely no appreciation of my intelligence.
“So, you’re flying east two hours, then west two hours, to make a route that takes 4 hours by car?”, she said.
Well, to be honest I did feel a bit stupid when she laid it out this way. But, that flight was very cheap—I bought it as part of a package containing a few flights—four, to be exact—all costing less than $300 combined. I informed her that yes, that’s OK, it’s not a mistake. Checked my backpack in and went away.
Good turkey‐breast sandwich to start the day, along with some coffee, and off to the gate. Scheduled departure time—9:05am; on 9:10am, we were still lined‐up for boarding when the attendant told us all that the flight is being delayed due to some technical difficulties.
The problem that presented me with was that my connection time in Barcelona was going to be one hour; can’t afford much delay here. I therefore decided to attempt something else—simply cancel my flight, take my luggage and rent a car. Why take the risk?
Apparently, that’s not really allowed, at least not in Portugal. Unless a flight is cancelled, you can’t just decide to pick‐up your stuff and go. If you raise hell, or if it’s an emergency—maybe. I’ve seen it done in North America before. I therefore started planning alternate plans: turned out that there are many flights leaving Barcelona to Santiago, so if I miss my flight it’s not such a big deal.
Oh, there we go. We’re boarding. At 9:40am, about half an hour late, we departed and arrived at Barcelona half an hour late.
As I left the aircraft in Barcelona’s airport, a lady was waiting outside holding a sign with my name on it. She had a boarding pass for me, and urged me to go to the gate as boarding already started.
– “But what about my luggage?”, I asked.
– “There’s 30 minutes left, I believe we can get your luggage”, came the reply.
And that was my crucial mistake, which apparently I had to make just so I learn to never do it again. NEVER EVER BOARD A PLANE WITHOUT KNOWING WHERE YOUR LUGGAGE IS, even if a kind person tells you “I BELIEVE WE CAN GET YOUR LUGGAGE”.
So guess what? The flight to Santiago left 30 minutes late as well; upon arriving to Santiago’s tiny airport, the baggage belts started rolling.
My backpack wasn’t there.
Everybody left, and only I remained. The attendant asked me to look at another belt.
It wasn’t there.
Both belts stopped rolling. Now it was final: my baggage is lost. That’s the first time in my life, ladies and gentlemen; while I always try to keep it down to carry‐on luggage only, I have never lost any checked‐in luggage in my entire life until today.
A claim form was given to me, with instructions what to do—basically “you can’t do shit but we’ll call you soon”.
Now, I won’t get into details here but here’s something you should know, in order to understand why I was so upset. I couldn’t care less about my clothes, my personal care items etc. Those are all replaceable. However, there are a couple of items in my backpack (which I can’t carry with me on the plane) that I can’t really do without for more than, say, a day. No, don’t worry, I’m not going to die, it’s nothing like that. Just bear in mind the knowledge that, this occurrence basically risked my trip, and presented a chance that I’ll have to cut everything and fly back to Canada the next day or so.
Left the airport unwillingly, hopped on a taxi and there we go, a 20 minutes ride through highways all the way to Santiago’s city centre, for my hotel. Beautiful hotel, beautiful rooms, beautiful surroundings—too bad I won’t be able to enjoy it because I don’t even have fucking extra underwear.
From then on, up to the concert, I spent 90% of the time checking for my claim status online, calling the area and whatnot. Finally, at some time in the evening, I got a hold of someone in Spanair: my luggage was left in Barcelona, but it was making its way to Santiago as we spoke—the only thing uncertain is whether it will arrive at my doorstep tonight or the next morning.
That in itself is a bit of good news. Having it the same evening would be fabulous, the next morning—much less so but still much better than “never”. I provided the hotel’s phone number, just in case they couldn’t reach me, then left instructions for the receptionist, and off I went to my room to prepare for the concert.
Shorts, shirt… (well, not much choice there) then, oh, here’s my belt. Yes, I usually go to concerts wearing a belt, used to hold my camera & BlackBerry thus freeing up pocket space. I look like a total dork but I don’t care—it’s comfortable. Tightened the belt…
… And it broke. Torn apart, useless.
Fantastic. At that stage, I actually started smiling. No way I’m so unlucky, with the shit hitting the fan so hard in one day. OK, I guess; walking around is going to be trickier, but we’ve been through worse.
Started walking towards the venue—a 2.0km walk, using my BlackBerry as a guidance. About half way through, I looked at my BlackBerry for guidance and what I saw made me lose a few heartbeats.
I saw the map.
But, the screen also featured five horizontal light‐blue lines.
A clear signal that my BlackBerry’s screen may be dying.
Folks, I literally stood still, looked up and asked “Why?”.
Somehow, it went away after a minute or so. Continued walking towards the venue, eagerly awaiting for my phone to ring with Spanair on the other end. It didn’t happen. As I provided them with my hotel’s phone number as well, I still had hopes that they had contacted the hotel and arranged for the delivery. Deep inside, I had hopes that things will get better. Hopes? Actually, a fantasy, no less. I would prefer seeing my backpack in my room upon returning, more than seeing any other human who lacks chromosome‐Y.
Santiago de‐Compostela (often referred to as simply Santiago; Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santiago_de_Compostela) is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia. The city is well‐associated with religion; the cathedral in Santiago has always been the destination of a pilgrimage route, The Way of St. James. There’s a fair amount of history in this city; as my hotel was right next to the entrance to the old city, I could see that there’s sheer amount of beauty inside. One of the places that, if and when I am back in Spain, I will definitely want to re‐visit; I feel terrible for the luggage incidence preventing me from enjoying more of this city.
Google Maps led me through myriad of narrow streets with steep declines. It was like walking through history:
A short walk further, and I’m out in the open again:
A few cafe‐bar’s along the way, nowhere near as full and bustling as those in Córdoba; a somewhat more relaxed atmosphere, a few people, a bartender, TV is on broadcasting the news and nobody watches.
A left‐turn from somewhere in the city leads you to a large green space—a few hills, where the venue is located.
As I was walking, I became so horrified of the idea of my BlackBerry dying on me that I started again thinking “what if”. The immediate problem was that I didn’t even know the full name of my hotel, so I took this:
A few more steps and I arrived at the venue—Multiúsos Fontes do Sar.
The Multiúsos Fontes do Sar (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pabell%C3%B3n_Multiusos_Fontes_Do_Sar) is a multi‐purpose (Multiúsos) sports arena owned by the city council of Santiago. It is typically used as an indoor‐soccer (AKA “Futsal”) arena as well as a basketball court.
As I approached the venue, the weather outside was actually not bad at all. Up on the hills, a bit breezy… fantastic. At last, some relief from all the heat I have been experiencing recently. Went to the ticketing office and received my markknopfler.com ticket instantly, no problem at all; was body‐searched and entered the door to the reception hall.
As I moved my right (or was it left?) leg into the reception hall area, I felt as if someone has just put me on a toaster and squeezed really hard. Absolutely no ventilation in the reception area, which was, at that time, full of people. I immediately went for some water; memories of Córdoba came haunting me, as I got myself mentally ready for another 45 minutes of waiting for changing money into tickets, then heading to buy some water with the tickets.
Admittedly, I was very surprised. Something here in Santiago must be working differently as the level of aggression required to get one’s attention was significantly lower than in previous Spanish venues. Doing some people‐watching, I did realize that there’s something less aggressive in these people: they weren’t, say, Canadian or anything like that (sometimes even I think that Canadians are a bit too polite) but definitely easier to adjust to. Was a very nice surprise.
As I arrived late to the venue (due to the mishaps earlier that day), I had some vague idea of what I’m going to experience.
There are three sections in this venue: ground floor, where everybody stands; first level of seating; and a second level of seating. All sections were general‐admission for this concert. As you enter the reception hall and just proceed forward, you enter the first level of seating, the views from there look like this:
Remember what I wrote above about entering the reception hall and feeling like in a toaster? Well, once you actually enter the arena, it gets worse. MUCH worse. If Satan does exist, this must be the place he / she sends the worst of us for rehab.
I was pretty content with sitting anywhere there at the first level of seating, but all seats had either asses, or personal belongings, on them. I looked above at the second level of seating, and noticed some empty seats—so I went there, and grabbed a seat. An oxygen mask would have helped as I was in a completely different atmosphere.
Here’s a picture demonstrating what most people did before and during the concert: taking any sort of flat plastic or paper and using it as a fan.
The concert started a few minutes after the posted start time, at around 10:05pm.
The first thing I noticed once the band started playing Border Reiver was that I can’t hear anything right. Sound at the second level of seating was absolutely terrible—obviously, not the fault of any sound engineer but rather of the way this venue is laid out. Tons of echo, and vocals could rarely be heard—reminded me very well of the concert in Wroclaw. Therefore, I decided that I’d rather stand and listen to the music than sit down and hear a total mess—so I bid the seat goodbye and went seeking an alternative location.
First seating level, behind the last seating row, there was space for people to stand and watch the show. That space was marked as if access to it was allowed for certain individuals only—there were also a couple of people with badges there, supposedly in order to monitor who’s inside and who isn’t—but nobody appeared to pay any attention to them. People just came in and out of there all the time.
Traffic at the venue was high with people walking in and out of the arena for drinks, chatter and whatnot; at the very back, where I was standing, exposure to such noise was very high so, just like in Córdoba, I couldn’t listen to much of the music. Same deal with video‐recording as well, as dozens of pairs of hands were raised during most of the show, recording it.
At some point I grew tired of standing and listening to all the bullshit people around me were emitting out of their mouths, so I decided to look for a way to go down to the ground floor. Circled around the main level but couldn’t find a way to go down, until, by miracle, I noticed a couple talking to one of the ushers; they were talking Spanish but I could conclude, by their body language, that they were asking for a way to go downstairs. I then followed them; no wonder they couldn’t find it, as there was no sign anywhere telling people where to go.
Arrived downstairs, and that was the real deal.
Deafening, absolutely deafening cheers throughout the show. Heat? Sweat? who cares. People were cheering, dancing, jumping… true joy, except for morons who kept on talking, chatting on their phones, walk around with huge cups of beer spilling it all over the floor (and on other people). Well, what can you do.
The number one cheer extractor was, as almost always, Sultans of Swing which was performed beautifully. How can this band perform in such heat, I tell you folks, I have no idea. I grew up in an area as hot as Spain—25 years experience—and I can’t bear it. How do they do that? I don’t know, but they do it very well.
You should have seen the jumping and the clapping after Sultans of Swing, it was really wild. Factor‐in the venue with the echo coming from all over the place, and you got yourself one huge noisy sauna.
Occasionally, I made my way a bit forward to the crowd; it may sound weird at first, but it’s true—you enjoy the music more that way, even though it’s more crowded. The closer you get to the stage, the more people are “into the music” and less “into brainfucking each other’s minds with constant chatter”. Alas, the heat made me backtrack a few times. All and all, I found myself moving during most of the show.
A massive‐aggressive Speedway at Nazareth sent everyone to the sky once again. At times, during that song, I had to block my ears as the noise was unmanageable; I was the only one doing so, though—people there appeared to enjoy it, as well as the great performance of Telegraph Road that followed. Brilliant outro solo kicking collective ass, massive cheers and we’re already in Brothers in Arms.
Eardrum‐pinching solo but great keyboard work by Guy; So Far Away followed and I went upstairs to watch the last encore, Piper to the End, from the first seating level, centre.
Massive cheers after Piper to the End that kept going stronger and stronger—some continued after the lights went on, as the show ended a few minutes after 12:00am.
Walking back to the hotel at the same route I took before, revealed a truly majestic city. Things are very picturesque here at night; weather was actually a bit cold (!)—Julio warned me of that before coming here. I had to hurry, then, as I was wearing the only clothes I had—shorts, T‐shirt and sandals.
Tried my luck at some cafe‐bar’s close to the old city, but they were closed.
Back to the hotel, I was praying to meet my luggage; disappointment. It never arrived; nobody called, nothing. Partly due to hunger and partly due to desperation, I demolished whatever it is that was edible in the mini‐bar, regardless of price; attempted to sleep, to no avail.
Signing‐off this post from Spanair’s VIP lounge in Madrid’s airport. Been a long day already, and I was close to breaking down this morning after realizing that the attendant yesterday was actually lying to me—my backpack never left Barcelona. In a few minutes, a flight from Barcelona should arrive, carrying my backpack. Lets all hope for good news.