Friday 27th April 2018 and I am having a late lunch at Burger King in Liverpool John Lennon Airport. I am on my way to Barcelona for the weekend. It is the first time since I was diagnosed with renal failure in 2012 that I have travelled overseas on my own. It is also the first time I’ve ever been to Spain. Travelling is something I did for years but what is worrying me today is if my flight home on Sunday night gets delayed a long time and I am not back at Wrexham Hospital by 7:30am Monday morning for my dialysis. I decide the best plan is to just enjoy my holiday and deal with that if it happens.
I am flying with EasyJet, the flight went well though the Friday evening passengers were a bit rowdy! On arrival at Barcelona’s El Prat airport it takes quite some time for the wheelchair assistance team to come and get me off the ‘plane so the pilot came to have a chat with me.
Having negotiated the airport and got outside in the warm Spanish night air I see a sign for the Metro and tell the assistance guy I will be OK now. Bad move! It eventually turns out, after asking someone for directions, that the Metro station is about half a mile away… You really need to take the shuttle bus to Terminal 2C. I eventually find the station and it is an easy ride to the Fira stop where on exiting you head along the street in the opposite direction that you exited the lift and about a 7 minute (st)roll away is the Travelodge Fira where I checked in and bought a couple of bottles of Fanta. It was about 1:00am when I got to my bed, about 12 hours later than I go to bed after my Friday morning hospital treatment so I slept well. For further information on using the Barcelona Metro with a wheelchair you can read my detailed blog post about it here.
Saturday morning I awoke at about 9:30am and took my time getting up before going downstairs and getting a coffee latte, or café leche in Spanish.
Around 11:00am I headed off back to the Metro stop and travelled in to explore the city. After two changes of train and about an hour later I found myself at Arc de Triomf. Heading to the right on exiting the station I went around the corner (away from the arch) where I found a news kiosk and bought some postcards then found somewhere to eat while I started writing them. Triomf Restaurant (or Triomf Donner as it said on my receipt) had a level entrance and lots of space for my wheelchair inside. From the menu I chose huevos fritos y patatas fritas (eggs and chips) and a cup of tea. A second cup of tea later and the bill came to a very reasonable €6.40.
I then headed in the opposite direction and passed beneath the Arc de Triomf and down a wide palm tree lined pedestrianised avenue where there were people selling balloons, people making large bubbles using two sticks with string between them which they dipped in to a bucket and then waved about. There were also people selling souvenirs and lots of tourists going about their day. At the end of this avenue was a park called Parc de la Ciutadella.
Continuing through Park you eventually come out the other end directly opposite Barcelona Zoo, my destination for the afternoon. Entrance to the zoo costs €22.60 but for disabled it is only €5.65 (25%). On the zoo’s website it says you need proof of disability but I just rolled up to the ticket office and asked for one ticket and was given the disabled price. I think you could spend an entire day or more at the zoo, I was there for nearly 6 hours and didn’t get to see everything.
There is a dolphinarium in the zoo that has two sessions available, I didn’t go in this time but it is wheelchair accessible. I think you queue up with everyone else and when you get to the front of the queue you are diverted in through the exit as the entrance is up stairs. There is also a sealion show which I didn’t get to see, again it is up stairs but here you press a button to call someone to help you with the stairlift.
The zoo opens at 10:00am and closes at 7:00pm with last entry at 6:00pm. There are many animals to see including zebra, gorillas, orangutans, pea fowl (that roam about the zoo), lemurs, elephants, various big cats and various species of monkeys and apes.
Making my way back through Parc de la Ciutadella there were now many people enjoying the park sitting around in small groups. By the time I got to Arc de Triomf Metro station I decided to make my way to Las Ramblas to find somewhere to eat. This is where I experienced my first problem with the Metro. I got to the station at Universität and needed to change lines but the lift was broken. My options were to get back on the train or go to the surface so I went up to the surface and took a wander down a street. I eventually came to Sant Antoni Metro station that was marked on my map as wheelchair accessible but I could not find any lift, just an escalator to each platform. Continuing onwards I then came to Paral-lel which has four entrances, one with a lift which was again broken!
By now I decided I had travelled too far to return to Universität Metro station and continued on to Las Ramblas where I arrived very tired and with aching arms from propelling my wheelchair so far. I had a bit of a look around and then found a restaurant near to Liceu Metro station (I forget the name) where I had a meal of grilled hake with chips and a salad. To accompany it I had a large glass of ice cold cola. The bill for this came to around €22. Afterwards the lift at Liceu station was working and two Metro trains later I arrived back to my room at the Travelodge where I bought a couple of bottles of Fanta and went to bed.
Waking on Sunday morning I was rather tired after the previous two days and didn’t want to get up. I was eventually up and had everything packed in my backpack by 11:00am and headed downstairs to get some coffee and a bite to eat. Two cups of café leche and a tortilla (an egg and potato Spanish omelette with bread) and I was ready to head off out for the day. I decided to go to the beach.
After riding on three Metro trains I arrived at Barceloneta, the nearest stop to the beaches. Crossing over the road on exiting the station I walked along the harbour where there were many luxury yachts. Along the road here was a market selling various food products. The further I travelled along this road to the beach the stronger the wind seemed to blow. It also blew the blossom off the trees which seemed to get in everyone’s eyes.
When I eventually got to the beach the wind died down. Between the promenade and the beach there was a boardwalk the entire length of it. At a couple of places this extended down towards the waters edge. At various points along the beach there were amazing sand sculptures made by very dark African immigrants, the one I spoke with had come from Senegal in West Africa. It was now getting to time for eating again so when I found a restaurant I went in and got a table.
The restaurant Xup Xup had level access and while not exactly being spacious there was enough space inside to get my wheelchair to a table. From the menu I chose a plate of chiperones (baby deep fried squid), baby whitebait, prawns and calamari with a mustard sauce. With this I had two glasses of Coca Cola and the bill came to €26 which included a small tip. After visiting the wheelchair accessible toilet I decided it was time to make a leisurely return to the airport.
On my journey to the airport I decided to make a brief stop to view Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basilica. Having seen many pictures of it over many years it was nice to eventually see it for myself. It has been under construction for many years and the current estimate it that it may be finished in the year 2024.
When I started back from the beach my Metro ticket failed to work the barriers but a man from the TMB let me through. I didn’t think anymore about it but when I tried to re-enter the Metro after viewing the Sagrada Familia my ticket again refused to work the barriers and there were no TMB staff about to help so I ended up having to buy a single ticket to the airport for €4.60.
The rest of the journey was uneventful and I arrived back at the airport at around 8:10pm for my 9:35pm flight. From Terminal 2B I got the accessible airport shuttle bus to Terminal 2C and checked in at the EasyJet desk. This went smoothly and a lady from EasyJet got me out of the queue and told me to go to the priority check in desk. On arrival at the departure gate it was revealed that our flight was delayed.
About 45 minutes behind schedule we boarded the aircraft where the pilot told us that another aeroplane had declared an emergency at the airport and that the airspace was now restricted. The incoming flight had had to circle the airport for some time and our departure could be delayed for another hour or two so he invited people to go and visit the cockpit and take photos. A long queue formed for this.
We eventually took off about 2 hours late arriving back at Liverpool airport around 1:00am, I was very tired but had had a fun weekend in Spain. An old friend Lewis of Sutton Cars was waiting at the airport to drive me home where I got to bed at 2:00am for the alarm clock to wake me up 4 hours later for another treatment session at Wrexham hospital.