Personal Impressions

The "Personal Impressions" section is a collection of thoughts and personal experiences.

Taken in Barcelona

Warned and warned again by the Lonely Planet Guide, the hotel receptionist, and our buddy Hernan, we were on the alert for pickpockets, petty thieves, and scams. Our valuables were locked in the hotel room safe. Our daily cash was hidden in inner coat pockets. We were wary of searching eyes on the street.

We expected to find trouble on the street. Not so. Beware of the Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant on Ferran Street near the Barcelona Cathedral. Our bill came to a whopping PTS 10,500 (that's US$59!) for a mediocre meal in a "cheap" country. And why didn't we expect it? Hong Kong Waiter: "Only have Coke and Fanta for drink." Masami and Wes: "Then just water." Waiter: "OK. I can make you fresh squeezed orange juice too." Masami and Wes: "2 please." And so it went with the drinks and food not listed on the menu. Whereas the items on the menu were a reasonable PTS 500-1500 per plate, we got seriously taken for our "special" service.

Spanish Time Difference

Spain is in the same time zone as France, Germany, Italy, and much of the rest of Western Europe, that is, according to the clock. The Spaniards, however, have is different idea about time. Our best assessment is that Spain, in reality, is 3 hours behind. Restaurants start opening for lunch at 14:00. Most people start eating dinner between 22:00-22:30. It took several days for our stomachs to adjust.

Spain Takes the Prize

Spain takes the prize in a number of categories:
1. The most jolting train rides in Europe.
  The sideways jarring of Spanish trains is similar to riding an airplane is heavy turbulence. Forget trying to read a book during the 5 hour journey. And ensure your beverage is sealed. The worst line we experienced was between Valencia and Madrid. Sevilla to Granada made us nauseous as well.
2. The least friendly people in Europe.
   There are friendly people in Spain, most definitely. But the percentage of people disdainful of tourists, or who simply don't care to be helpful or friendly, seems much higher in Spain than elsewhere in Europe.
3. The most likely to ignore traffic rules.
  A green pedestrian signal doesn't mean the street is safe to cross. Most motorists continue through the intersection at high speed after their signal changes from yellow to red. Some motorists stop at red, take a quick look around, and proceed to drive through the red. Our worse case was a motorist who honked at us when we were in the middle of a crosswalk with a green pedestrian signal and then accelerated through his red light as soon as we hurried past the front of his car.

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