Buck3y3nut From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 883 posts, RR: 0 Posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 12976 times:
The Spring Break Trip!!!
A very good day to everyone. I have read many quality trip reports here on A.net and if I can even achieve 10% of that quality with this report, I will consider this trip report as a success. I am not a professional photographer; therefore the quality of some images isn't quite the best. Now that the disclaimer has been given, its time for me to begin this report. So sit back, grab a drink and a snack, and enjoy this trip report
This was my last year at The Ohio State University here in CMH, which meant my last spring break of my college career. Winter quarter usually is the quarter when you load up on classes, since there isn't much to do due to the cold weather. My class schedule looked horrible and I knew that it would be one of those quarters that would require me to put in some all nighters to be successful.
So while smoking some hookah at a friend's place, we were discussing how in our college career, we have never really taken of of those much cliched college spring break trip. You know the usual MTV beach spring break, with Cancun, Daytona beach et al the usual destinations. We decided that after a tough winter quarter, we deserved a nice break and we would go someplace warm to relax. We started looking at airfares into various locations in FL, and some in Mexico. The tickets were kind of expensive and while looking at various websites and then looking at Flyertalk, I found pretty decently priced tickets from IAD to MAD. They were pretty comparable to the ticket prices we were getting to FL and Mexico. Once I found these tickets, the following conversation took place:
Me: So how much do you think we'll spend if we go to FL or Cancun?
Friend: Hmm, I was budgeting about $350 for airfare, plus our personal expenses...
Me: Wanna go to Spain?
Friend: Come again?
Me: Wanna to go to Spain?
Friend: No, I don't think I have $600 to spend on airfare to Spain.
Me: Hmm, ok. How about a ticket cheaper than the ticket to FL?
Friend: Stop joking around. We are trying to plan a spring break trip here, and give me the damn pipe now (referring to the hoohak pipe)...
Me (showing the screen): I'm not joking, but only thing is we have to drive to DC.
Friend: Lets do it.
Other Friend: Yup let's do it.
Me: clicking away and booking our tickets...
So without thinking, we were booked on IB to go to MAD. Now that the tickets had been arranged, lodging and other logistics had to be taken care of. What would we do there? What else could we see while we're in Spain? These questions started popping in our heads. So we decided that if we're in Madrid, then Barcelona is a MUST. Our next option was to either fly to Portugal for a couple days, or drive up north to France and Monte Carlo. I think as soon as I mentioned Monte Carlo, the scence from Casino Royale popped up in our heads and the decision was a no brainer. So one friend was taking care of all the airfare. I was incharge of renting the car and my third friend took care of the lodging. Now it was a hard winter quarter ahead of us that we needed to take care of and we would get our reward. Since the tickets were so cheap, our routing was: DCA-BOS-MAD-IAD with us taking another IB flight to shuttle from MAD-BCN-MAD.
1. Getting to Washington
I have family friends that live in Fairfax, VA and I called them up to ask if we could park the car at their house while we are away to Spain for about 8 days. Without any hesitations, they agreed, and now that was left was to book a hotel for one night near the airport. So my friend Kevin (who took care of all the lodging of this trip) was really excited to tell us that he had booked us for $40 a night using Priceline. So around noon, we got together at Kevin's place on campus. We put our bags in the car and then set off for a 6 hr journey to Washington. We decided on our way there that we would first go to our hotel, put all of our luggage there, and then head over to my family friend's place to drop the car off. We would get a ride back to the hotel from them... Well once we got to DC, we were a bit disappointed to find out that Kevin had actually booked a room near IAD. This would mean the next day, we would have to take a cab and drive all the way to DCA. We dropped off the car, and then got back to the hotel and ordered dinner. I guess all three of us were excited about the trip, as no one really felt like sleeping. We asked the front desk to arrange for a cab in the morning to take us to DCA.
2. Getting to Boston
So, I think we all got about 4-5 hrs of sleep and were woken up by a wake up call we had set up. We got ready and by the time we got down, our cab had waited for us for about 30 minutes... This wasn't any ordinary cab. This was a lincoln towncar which was referred to as a 'limo' by the taxi driver. In fact, he turned out to be Indian, from the same state as I am from from in India. We chatted initially for about 3-4 miles, afterwhich I shut my eyes and just waited for us to get to DCA. I guess this was the first negative in this trip of ours, as we got to the airport, he demanded $100 for the ride, out of which $40 was because he had to wait... Completely ridiculous I'd say...
We proceeded to AA's check-in desk and there was a decent sized line for check-in. There was a couple who was fuming at one of the AA customer service agents as his wife's flight was missed the night before and AA couldn't accommodate him on a flight until evening. The guy really got nasty with the CSA. Meanwhile, our turn came for check-in and me being a US Citizen, was quite easy to check-in, whereas it took a bit for my friends to check-in as their visas etc. had to be checked as well.
We got our boarding passes and were told we had to check-in with IB again in BOS to get our boarding passes for the flight to MAD. We proceeded through security and then headed towards our gate. Since we still have 45 minutes before boarding, we decided to grab something to eat. Well, instead of eating, we decided to grab a beer each. What better way to start our spring break trip than to have a beer at 8:45 am
Woken up by this sunrise near IAD
So after having a beer each, we decided that we can have another one. Just as we decided, we heard our names over the PA system and apparently we were being called for final boarding call. So we paid for our beers and then boarding our plane. It was being operated by Americna Eagle, therefore it was an RJ. My friends sat together, while I took the lone seat on the left. The flight was very uneventful. There was just a drink service provided and the flight attendents were pretty efficient in their work. The weather was really nice. It was pretty much clear throughout our way into BOS, so it provided me with some good picture taking opportunities...
Lining up for the runway (can see the Washington Monument)
After takeoff. Spot the little plane in the middle...
DCA Overview with other Washington sites visible
The Washington Redskins Stadium
Anyone know which airport this is?
Another airport. Any guesses?
Flying over PHL
Close up of PHL
City of Brotherly Love
Another Airport, any takers???
Some rock near BOS. Just prior to landing...
3. Getting to Madrid
We landed in Boston and quickly were outside. There was no bags to claim and we had a 8 hr layover. One of our friends works in BOS, so we had called him in advance. He was outside to pick us up and we were off to his place. Being tired from the night before, we decided to take a little nap. Pretty soon it was 4 pm and it was time for us to head back to the airport. We said our goodbyes and quickly made it to the IB check-in desk. The agent thought we were there to check in for the flight and quickly told us that check-in had closed and we had missed the flight. After a bit of explaining, he issues our boarding passes and we were off for security check. Upon clearing security, we made it to the duty free shop to try and purchase something. We really couldn't decide on anything so we just bought some chocolates and by the time we made it to our gate, boarding had started.
BOS Airport Check-In Zone
The IB Check-in desk with our flight number listed
Our ride to MAD (A343)
We boarded the aircraft and got comfortable with our surroundings. My 2 friends got an aisle and a middle seat together, while I was about 10 rows further back in an aisle seat.
IB J section. Nope, unfortunately not flying here today
The FAs on this flight seemed friendly uptil now. Genuine smiles on their faces for starts, but could this be backed up by service? We would soon find out. Pushback was done on time and the usual safety demo was performed while we were taxiing. This was a manual safety demo (both in spanish & english) as there was no personal IFE on board this aircraft. I believe none of the IB fleet have personal IFE monitors in Y. (please correct me if I'm wrong).
I was seated next to a beautiful spanish girl. She was studying pretty much the same stuff I do, so striking a conversation would have been easy; however seemed like she wasn't too fluent in English, therefore the conversation could not continue on I was pretty impressed by the technical papers she was reading as I had skimmed through something similar in my own line of studying...
The A343 takeoff roll is one of the most boring takeoff rolls in my opinion. Its seems like the plane is going so slow, and it takes forever for the plane to rotate and even longer to climb. It was already beginning to get dark outside, so getting more pictures was out of the question, plus the fact that I was in the aisle seat. It would seem kinda rude and weird to take pictures over that girl's shoulder
Once we were level, the seatbelt signs came off. I went and used the bathroom and got a glass of water as well. I figured that a drink service would be starting pretty soon. After about 1 hr from takeoff, there was an announcement that dinner service would commence in about 45 minutes. So, after and hour and 45 odd minutes, the dinner was served along with the drinks. The crew still seemed friendly enough. I had requested the Hindu Veg. meal prior because of some reviews I read regarding IB's catering. Furthermore, there have been chances where the only option served on the plane is fish or beef. I don't eat beef and not very keen on fish on a plane. The food was surprisingly good. it came with basmati rice, daal (lentils in a curry), a piece of naan bread, and another vegetable curry. For dessert, there was a piece of browny. I had a beer alogn with the dinner and requested red wine as well. I was given a bottle of red wine without any questions asked. After the dinner service was finished, the trays were being collected. While collecting my tray I requested for another bottle of red wine and was soon given one.
Meanwhile, my beautiful seat mate had dozed off and she seemed to be in peace. I went over and chatted with my friends for a bit and then got up to stretch and roam around the plane... Lights had also been turned off for the passengers to get some slumber.
Lights off for the night. No mood lighting here!
Picture of IB Y section from the back
If I remember correctly, the seat pitch wasn't anything to rave about. I seemed the normal 31". I'm glad I had aisle and got an opportunity to stretch a bit. I had my neck pillow and I tried to get some sleep. The wine must have helped a bit as I got a couple hours of sleep, while waking up here and there... After getting up, I got up and went back to get some water and made a couple rounds of the plane to stretch. My friends were meanwhile sleeping. I turned to my ipod to listen to some music while trying to take another nap. About an hour and a half prior to landing, the lights had turned on in the cabin and the FAs were preparing for the breakfast service. Since my meal was hindu veg. I got a croissant along with fresh fruit and a yogurt. I had no problems with this as I've said earlier, I have yet to come across anything tasty that is made of an egg on a plane. By the time the trays etc. were cleaned up, we had begun our initial descent into MAD. The cabin was prepared for landing with the crew making final checks and in about 30 mins, we were touching down in MAD. We made it to MADs 4S terminal and disimbarked. It was about 7 am local time and our flight to BCN wouldn't leave until 8:30 am. So we had a some time to kill. Since our departure to BCN was also thru 4S, we didn't have to clear security or immigration again.
4. Transit in Madrid
First of all, I must say, this is one impressive terminal. So much open space and such a nice architecture. I really enjoyed this airport. Since we had time, we went to one of the cafes and yup you guessed it, purchased 3 beers. So our spring break had started off by having beer as breakfast in DCA, and it continues by having beer as breakfast in MAD. Not too shabby As far as transit goes, this is where I was let down in this entire trip. The FIDS at MAD dont' give you an exact gate number for the flights. They will give you a zone where the flight could depart from. I think 4S has R gates, S gates and so forth. Our connecting flight to BCN would be departing from one of the R gates. So we were hanging out in the general R area, which seemed to be deserted. Our departure time came and went, but still our flight status said R gates. So we finally made it to IBs information desk and were informed that our flight had gone tech and it was canceled. We had been accommodated on a new flight, but we had to change to the T4. And we had to rush as our flight would be leaving in 45 mins. Great I thought. We started running. We had to clear security, take a train to T4, clear immigration, and then clear security again to get to our gate.
MAD in early morning
The empty terminal at MAD
Some more of MAD
Some spotting at MAD. Another IB heavy...
Look at the size difference b/w these sisters...
So we made it to T4 and made it to the gate, only to find out that the gate had been closed. We were assured that these are "shuttle" flights and as long as we have a boarding pass for one flight, and in case we missed it, we would be accomodated on the next one, assuming there were seats. So we were told that the next shuttle flight would depart from the next gate in 45 mins. We made it to the duty free shop and then purchased a bottole of Absenta. Ever since watching the movie Eurotrip, I have wanted to try this out. So we were sitting at the next gate waiting for an announcement of the flight. After about 35 minutes, I saw a flight boarding from the same gate as the previous flight. So we went there and asked and were told that it was final boarding for the next "shuttle" flight to BCN. Immense confusion. We turned in our boarding passes and the flight was half empty so we were given 3 seats in the very last row of an Airbus A320. We were finally off to BCN.
4. Getting to BCN
The safety demonstrations were again done in both spanish and english and we pushed back on time. I was sitting in the window seat towards the right of the plane. As soon as we were airborne, my friends decided to get some sleep as we were really tired + jet lag. I decided to take soem pictures and then take a small nap. The flight was about an hour and there really wasn't any service to brag about. There were options to purchase any snacks onboard. The only advantage we had by choosing IB was that our bags were checked from DCA all the way to BCN. The flight was pretty uneventful. The weather again was great. It was bright and sunny and I took some pictures as we were approaching the city of Barcelona.
A speedway in Spain
Approaching BCN. We would turn around and land here!!!
Motorways around BCN
I believe you can see the stadium of FC Espanyol
Over the city of Barcelona
Can see Nou Camp, home of FC Barca!!!
Overview of BCN
Another overview of the city (sorry about the glare)
Can anyone from Barcelona guess which area this is?
Barcelona's coast line
Making the final turn to line up for landing (sorry for the crookedness)
Another picture (sorry for the crookedness again)
We landed in BCN and made it way out for baggage claim. Only to realize that our bags had already arrived on our originally scheduled flight, which meant we had to change terminals. We then had to clear security again to get to the other terminal. So we went through that entire process again and finally claimed our bags. We got out and got a taxi to take us to the apartment we had rented. It was pretty close to the beach and centrally located. We got settled into our apartment and we were ready to explore Barcelona for the next 3 days.
Some pictures from Barcelona...
Made it on foot to Barceloneta
Checked out the casino
Walk along the beach
Getting tired of walking, we decided to rent bicycles and roam around the city using them. It was a nice idea as we really felt like locals just roaming around. One thing we did was not to do touristy stuff. So we just checked out one or two main attractions of Barca, and the rest of the time, we had fun getting lost in the city on our bikes, and scooters the next day. It was a lot of fun and Barca is a city I'd definitely come back to any time.
Some more pictures...
Went and checked out La Rambla
Riding our bikes on La Rambla
Found this little market area off of La Rambla
Fresh fruit and veggies (so colorful)
The next day, we rented scooters and decided to roam around Barcelona while also making it to check out Nou Camp. Then for the night, we decided to head over to the Barceloneta area and go to Shoko and the club next door.
Roaming around on one of the streets
Trying to figure out where exactly we are
While going to Nou Camp, ended up in L'Hopital (which was outside of Barcelona)
By the time we got to Nou Camp, the tours had closed down, so we just visited the official store for now. We would have to come back the next day again for the tour.
The FC Barca Megastore
Me in front of the jerseys...
After buying a couple of things from the megastore, we decided to go and have a couple drinks before we go out for the night. After driving around, we ended up getting drinks here, only because of the name of the bar
Obama is famous in Barcelona as well!!!
Our three drinks again. Became a nice theme throughout our trip
At night we made it to Shoko and the other club (who's name I can't remember right now). These places were quite interesting as I'd say 90% of the people here were American. In fact, I ran into a person from Upper Arlington (suburb of Columbus) at Shoko. Talk about a small world!!!
The next day, we tried to go to Nou Camp, the Gaudi Park and also Tibidabo. But were only successful in achieving the first 2.
Driving to Nou Camp
Inside the stadium
The stadium again
View of the city from Gaudi Park
After the visit to Gaudi Park, we headed to the airport to pick up our rental car. We had one more night in Barcelona and the next day we were to depart for Monte Carlo. So we decided since we will have a car and a GPS, we will try to visit Tibidabo the next day along with the Sagrada Familia before we leave Barcelona.
On our way to Tibidabo
Some impressive architecture
We got to Tibidabo only to find out that the cable car to take us there would not open till noon. And there was no way we could wait that long as we had a LONG drive ahead of us to Monte Carlo. So we just decided to check out Sagrada Familia and then head on towards Monte Carlo.
So close yet so far
Our rental car
The Sagrada Familia
After visiting the Sagrada Familia, we set off for Monte Carlo. I will cover the drive to Monte Carlo as well as other areas in part 2 of my trip report. Hope you enjoyed it. I really appreciate the comments / suggestions...
Sabena332 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 12500 times:
Excellent report, just by reading I feel like I am in the Bacelona area right now!
Seriously, you guys picked one of the best cities in Europe (in the whole world)! I have spend there the last three "Christmas to New Year" vacations and it is definitely my favourite city for partying and for "have a warm climate in December/January"!
Absolutely. BCN is now one of my fav. cities to visit. I will definitely not hesitate to go back there more often... Maybe next time I can go with my sig. other
Quoting Rogerbcn (Reply 3): I enjoyed reading your TR, it is always nice to see your hometown in the TRs.
Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Maybe next I'm down there, you can show me around a bit and grab a couple of Mojitos
Quoting Jeffrey1970 (Reply 5): I think that airport you were asking about is either College Park airport or Martin State airport near Baltimore.
Thank you... Always nice to spot an airstrip from the flight...
Quoting Semsem (Reply 6): I thought that IB was great. But the crews were borderline friendly / rude. Also they don't give full mileage credit on Y tickets.
IB wasn't too bad. You're right about the crew. They are borderline friendly / rude. The "plastic" smiles seem to wear off 30 minutes into the flight. At least the flights were on time though... As far as miles go, I ended up collected 25% on my AA account instead. As this was a vacation anyways, I considered the miles as a bonus
Quoting RichM (Reply 7): Excellent trip report! I enjoyed the photos. Ty