Christmas in Barcelona. A perfect way to celebrate. Son and daughter-in-law were there too, and we all stayed in Emily’s flat, since her flatmates had gone away. Perfect times for us don’t make for interesting reading for others: the balmy weather, meandering round the endlessly fascinating streets as desultory sight-seers, coffee stops at the outside tables of bars in picturesque squares, shopping at temptingly- stocked shops and market stalls in the cosmopolitan quarter which is Emily’s home, eating out or sharing tapas at simple neighbourhood restaurants…. Here’s the story in pictures.
So something had to come along and spoil it.
The car and Barcelona don’t go well together. Even driving in and out of the ill-signposted city is something we always dread. With a superb and cheap public transport system, we’d have liked to have left the car at home, but it was stuffed with extra bedding, presents, bits and bobs Emily needed from home, so when we arrived, we unloaded and then took it off to park elsewhere for the duration, since she lives on a square with little parking. She’d taken advice, and suggested a quiet nearby corner of town where a Spanish friend said it would be safe and out of the way. Once there, we checked, and checked again that there were no restrictions. One morning, we popped up and checked yet again. All was well, so we left it until we were packing to go….. walked to the street where we’d left it…… No car.
Stolen! Panic! What to do next? Contact our insurers, see if we could sort out one-way car hire between Spain and France? Would insurance pay? What about replacing the car, which we’d newly and expensively fitted out with snow tyres? How could we possibly afford that? Emily rang the police, who promised to call back once they’d made enquiries. After a couple of hours to-ing and fro-ing, we learnt that the car wasn’t stolen, but had been towed away because of parking infringements. There should have been a notice stuck on the road where the car had been, telling us what had happened: but there was nothing there. We’d need to go in person to the Police. There are three sorts here: those belonging to Barcelona itself, local Spanish police, and the national service. We went to see the Barcelona lot, a 20 minute walk away. Eventually they tracked our car down – thank goodness for Emily’s command of Spanish – to the Spanish police’s car pound at the last stop on the metro line. If we went with ID and 239 Euros, we could have out car back……
Walk to metro. Impatiently sit out long journey. Emily spends time texting Spanish friends. They’ve all had similar experiences: ‘It’s to try to fill the city’s empty coffers’, they explain. Track down car pound. Join disgruntled queue of fellow-sufferers. Pay up. No choice. Receive form on which to write our grounds for appeal. Try to make our way back to Emily’s from a completely unknown part of town – we get good at buying time by circling roundabouts twice. All the time fuming at the loss of precious hours with Tom and Sarah on our last day together.
Heigh ho. Even run-ins with the Police however, can’t take away our memories of a wonderful Christmas break.