Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath


Had a quick trip to Barcelona for work a week ago. I did zero research before I left, so it was a bit of a rush. Here’s a quick summary:

  • This was a work thing, and 90% of it was strictly work, and I don’t talk about work here, so this isn’t as all-access as I normally am with summaries. Anyway.
  • I did not pack until the last second. I was not sure what to do about camera stuff, because I broke my arm and I didn’t think I could carry a DSLR. So I brought my Sony a6400 mirrorless and a couple of lenses.
  • I left on the afternoon of Memorial Day, which meant I’d arrive in the late afternoon on Tuesday. This meant I absolutely had to sleep on the plane on the way out. Of course, I didn’t.
  • I was lucky enough to have a window seat on the left side and nobody in the middle seat. My broken arm was maybe 80% better when we left, but It would have been problematic to have someone jammed next to me for twelve hours.
  • I think eight or ten people from my company were on my flight, which is a bit unusual for me. I generally fly alone, or maybe there’s one other person on the same flight.
  • Like I said, no sleep. Then I changed planes in Zürich, Switzerland for a smaller two-hour jump to Spain. Switzerland looked nice from the airport, but I didn’t see much. I also didn’t get to eat. I did buy a Coke Zero and totally forgot they use the Swiss Franc. I passed customs there in about two seconds. They have a very nice tram connecting the airport terminals.
  • The airport in Spain was fine, with no baggage drama. The company had shuttle busses for us, so it was pretty painless to get from the airport.
  • The whole thing was at a Hyatt that was right next to the University of Barcelona. I had a narrow room but in good shape and I had a fridge.
  • We had 400 people from 20 countries there, and like I said, I won’t get into work, but the whole day was work and the whole schedule was work and there was lots of work, work, work.  (I was not “working” though; it was “tourism.” I don’t have an EU work visa.) On Wednesday through Friday, my schedule was pretty much all work stuff from six AM to one AM every day.
  • Spain has never really been on my radar and I did not know what to expect. I mean, it’s a European country, and the base things are all European: the money, the voltage, the general look of the thing. There’s old architecture that’s definitively Spanish, but the area around the university looked and felt like any European suburb built after the war.
  • One thing that threw me was Catalan. My two semesters of Spanish in an Indiana public school 40 years ago basically taught me that people in Spain spoke Spanish with a lisp. That’s incorrect. Catalan is a different language, and about 40% of people speak it there. So everything was written in Spanish, in Catalan, and maybe in English. It also meant the default outside the hotel was usually rapid-fire Spanish, and I had to just act stupid. I know maybe 200 words of Spanish, when it’s at glacial speed. I know zero Catalan. So that was fun.
  • I did get a brief look at the university each morning, as I went for a quick walk before breakfast. I think UB is like twice as big as IU Bloomington, student-wise. It’s also like two or three times older. We were staying near the hospital facilities, and I think the main part of the campus is like a mile or two away. I absolutely could not figure out the layout of the thing, and I just tried to google it and I still can’t.
  • Aside from the meetings in the hotel, there were three dinner/evening events. One was a rock band at a castle. Another was a beach event with a DJ (which wasn’t an actual beach on the water, but was an event space with sand), and the last was a sit-down dinner with flamenco dancers.
  • I did have Friday off to spend with my team, so we went to Park Güell, which is this freaky park designed by Antoni Gaudí. It’s way at the top of this hill, and it’s a municipal garden with natural park features like trees and such, but it’s framed by trippy bridges and houses and stairs with tile mosaics and almost surreal shapes to them. The top of it has a terrace with a bench seat wrapped around it that’s in the shape of a sea serpent, its scales being an ornate tile mosaic. It’s way north up a hill, which was a back-breaking hike for me, but worth it.
  • On that trip, I also got to use their metro system, which was not as nice as Singapore’s, but it was pretty good. I also got to stop at a Polish restaurant and get some pierogis.
  • I had to check out of the work hotel Saturday morning, but I was not flying out until Sunday because I extended my stay, so I moved across town. American Express hooked me up with a room at The Cotton House in the Gothic Quarter, which was absolutely insane. It’s rated as one of the 30 best hotels in the room, and Amex was paying me $300 to stay there. I got a room on the top floor of the hotel. I had my own balcony that looked south over the Gothic Quarter.
  • After settling in and eating a stellar lunch, I went walking and went to the Picasso museum. There’s a lot there, but if you made a list of the top ten Picasso paintings, I think one of them is in Barcelona and like seven or eight are at MOMA in New York.
  • Spent a lot of time wandering the gothic quarter and taking pictures. It was nice to just wander. I was slightly on edge about walking on cobblestone and uneven sidewalks with the fear of falling again. I also didn’t get any great photos, maybe because of the arm. Lots of blur; I probably should have switched to S and moved a stop faster on the shutter.
  • Went walking the next day and looked at the Casa Battló, another Gaudí design. Unfortunately I didn’t get tickets, so I just looked at the outside.
  • Stopped at a McDonald’s, just to be the ugly American. It was largely the same there.
  • Flight back was direct, 12 hours. I stayed awake the whole time and forced myself to watch five movies, so I would collapse when I got home and get back on regular schedule.

Of course, I caught a cold or something on the way back. I’ve been dragging all week, but I’m back. Good trip, but I wish I would have had more time and more research. 20 countries down. Back to work.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *