Wednesday, March 12

A Tale of Two Cities

Roma may have beaten Madrid last week in soccer, but it certainly can't hold a candle to Barcelona…The City That Absolutely Doesn’t Take Siestas!

Barcelona gets more tourists than Rome, but, that doesn’t show. In fact, you were treated, from the free (and frequent) train ride into the city, to the yellow-vested multilingual walking Tourist Info people on every train and nearly on every street, as if they had discovered tourism just the other day.

Sure, things were just as expensive as elsewhere, but, the impeccable service, great food, clean beaches and efficiency made me surely think I wasn't in Catania anymore. Of course, you were constantly warned about pickpockets and so you were a bit more careful with your purse and bags-unlike in Rome, where pickpockets seem to be seen as a smart way to simply spread the wealth.

No waiting on telephone switchboards to find out ticket prices, only to have the line disconnect after 6 minutes (average wait: about 20 mins).
I felt confident-for the first time since being in the Mediterranean – that I could actually count on what I was told. No misinformation, no closed offices, or ‘sold out’ (without the sorry) over here. Even the impeccable underground system beat out snazzy Washington D.C.’s, in all categories.

Of course, in Barcelona the taxi drivers (a breed unto themselves) still lied or refused service, you had to pay to visit popular churches, and restaurants and hotels were (alas!) decidedly anti-pero, with ‘no dogs allowed’ stickers on nearly every doorway. And smoking is still (hack!) a national pasttime.
I thanked my lucky stars (or my dog star, rather) for being in Italy after all, (even though they charge for churches in Verona, Venice and the godawful Pisa). Even the Roman taxi drivers will take Trevor the dog wherever he wants to go.

But after this short trip thru the Twilight Zone, reality hit once again: Back in Rome, the (airport) train was canceled, I had to wait 40 mins. in the place where it would appear they drain the toilets when the trains pull in. Foreigners milled about wondering how to decipher where they needed to go and none of them knew about 'punching' their tickets.

The airport train, aside from not being free, is not designed to hold luggage nor passengers. You have a choice to hoist your bag up or down sets of steps and then fit it in a tight corridor where no one else can pass by.
At the station, you lug your bag down the same flight of steps you had lugged it up on departure, since there are no elevators to the airport train. Once outside, taxis were replaced with illegals, drunks and drug pushers. The bus took 20 minutes to arrive. My friend called to say her wallet had been stolen – actually sliced – out of her bag that same morning.

Clearly, its not the Spaniards who have been taking a siesta on the tourism front.

But, just for the record, Trevor won’t be invited along next time.

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