Buenos dias. I just flew this week-end on Virgin Express from Brussels to Barcelona, I left with a few friends on Friday nite and just flew back this Sunday nite. We left out of the brand new Terminal A at Brussels National Airport, it's a very modern terminal. It's the new terminal for flights within Schengen countries. There is no passport control, it's like flying on a domestic flight within the United States. The aircraft was a 737-400, registered OO-VEP. That particular 737 was leased to Virgin Blue. Virgin Express operates a total of 15 B737's, 300 and 400 series. Only one of them comes from Virgin Blue, it's the 400 I had on the outbound segment. Unlike on other Virgin 737's where the seats are leather beige, the seats on that particular 737 are leather blue. We departed right on time. I had a middle seat on row 21. We took off out of RWY 25R. Weather was partly cloudy. After a left turn we climb to our cruise altitude of FL 330 (that's what the captain said, I figured flying from BRU to BCN at FL 330 is flying in opposite direction!). The captain announces the route plan, climbing out of Brussels then heading South to Paris, Clermont-Ferrand, passing the Pyrenees and descending to Barcelona. Weather all over France was mostly cloudy. We had a cheese sandwich packed in a little red bag along with usual beverage service. It's the first time I receive food for free on Virgin Express, they charge you for drinks and cereal bars, only water is free of charge. Although I had a middle seat I still had a good view out of the window, I could barely see the top of the Pyrenees because it was mostly cloudy down there. Descent into Barcelona was great, I had a magnificent view of the city and the surroundings. Weather was crystal clear in Spain, after passing France mostly covered with clouds! After an uneventful landing on RWY 25, we quicly park near the terminal. We deplane on the tarmac and a bus is taking us to the terminal. There was no immigration and customs control, needless to say.
So we are in Barcelona, it's a grrrrrreeeeeeeaaaaat city! We take a bus to the city. We arrive at Placa de Catalunya, a popular place from with there is the Las Ramblas, there were lots of people on the streets, bands, concerts in bars and cafes....a lot of fun. Las Ramblas is a very popular avenue in Barcelona , it's full of people walking and full of little stores around. After checking in at the hotel near Las Ramblas and putting our stuff in our rooms, we go out and have dinner at the Placa Reial, it's a square in Barcelona near Las Ramblas, a square with palm trees and many good restaurants around. We finally have dinner at one of those restaurants, I had mushrooms and cheese as an appetizer, then I had a catalan sausage with back beans, it was a great dinner. As desert, I had almond ice cream with creme brulee and melted chocolate, it's a typical desert from Catalunya (Catalunya is a province in northeastern Spain). Add to that two Spanish beers we each had during the meal. You can eat very well in Spain.
Saturday morning, after a quick walk on Las Ramblas to Catalunya Place, we take a tour bus around the city. We pursue our visit with houses designed by Antonio Gaudi, a very famous architect, he was famous for his particular designs. Then we continue on to other places before passing the Olympics Stadium where the Olympic Games were hosted in 1992, and we finally arrive down to the port of the city near the Colombus Statue from which the Las Ramblas begins, it goes from the Colombus Statue to the Catalunya Place. Down there, there is a big port with lots of leisure boats and again, modern shopping malls and cafés. After walking around, we decide to have a dring just near the sea, we order tapas as well, tapas are little appetizers you can order before having a main course. We just had tapas because we weren't so hungry, we were especially thirsty. We were seated just opposite of the World Trade Center of Barcelona, a modern building. After a quick walk along the port, we go to the beach. From the beach in Barcelona, you can see all the aircrafts approaching BCN on final for landing on RWY 25. Then we have another drink near the beach after having a look at various art paintings and sun glasses being presented on the street. We have a drink just between the two tallest towers in Barcelona, one is made of apartments and the other one is made of business offices. We finish the day walking on little streets in the city before getting showered and have dinner at the Placa Reial. We ordered just tapas again to share but we had great beers. We were thirsty all day long, temperature was over 30°C (that's over 77°F). After that we go dancing down in the city until past 3 O'Clock in the morning.
Sunday moring, we pursue our visit on the other side of the city. We visit the Sagrada Familla, a very beautiful cathedral with four towers pointing up, two by two next to the main facing wall of the of the church. It's an important landmark, you can't miss it if you spend some time in Barcelona. Then we continue to the Guell Park, a park with neat designs made by Gaudi. If you like colors and architecture, this place is worth to be seen. From the Guell Park, you can have a splendid view of the city all the way down to the sea. After the Guell Park, we head back to the hotel and we have one last drink at the Placa Real near our hotel, we dedice to eat because we were sort of hungry. We order a few tapas and paella. I had paella with chicken, it was delicious. Have you ever had paella, it's safran rice mixed with vegetables and whatever you want, meat, shrimps or chicken, I chose chiken. Have you ever had paella? It's great Spanish dish. You must try that if you go to Spain. After our last drink and meal, we go to the hotel, take our staff, check out and grab a cab on Las Ramblas to go to El Prat, the Barcelona airport. In no time we were at the airport. I knew better than my frinds what terminal we had to be at. "Terminal A" I say to the driver. "Are you sure?" one of my frinds asks looking at me strange, "Yes, I'm positive!" I respond. We check-in in no time, we were lucky there were not many passengers at the time of check-in. We had no luggage to check, only had luggage. There was in Terminal A only one desk for Virgin Express but the one for Swiss next to the Virgin desk opened. "Anybody for Brussels?" a beautiful brunette lady asks. After clearing the security check-point, we still had one more hour to kill so we go shopping. I bought a couple of boxes filled with Torron, it's a Spanish cookie. My friends take a seat while waiting for our flight, but I decide I would rather walk around and look at all the aircrafts on the tarmac. I had already found out the Virgin 737, parked at gate 34, that would take us back to Brussels was a 400 but it was not the one coming from Virgin Blue. I saw many Iberia and Spanair aircrafts, BCN is Iberia's second hub, first is MAD.
So we board the aircraft, a 737-400 in the regular red livery, registered OO-VEK. I knew that way before boarding because I could read near the nose gear well the letter K. My friends already take their seats but I decide I would rather have a look in the cockpit. I couldn't look at it long because the F/A, a pretty blond one, had to shut the door. "I have to shut the door now!" she says. I ask her politely if I can come to the cockpit during the flight, approach and landing. "No way!" she says. "It's not possible?" I insist. "No" she says "for security reasons". The door was already shut, she tells me that it will be shut during the whole flight. I go to my seat, join my frinds, I had again a middle seat, this time in row 17. The flight was full, load factor was over 95%. We are being pushed back right on time. We leave out of RWY 20, weather is mostly clear. While climbing, we turn right towards the North, after a decent view of Barcelona, we continue to climb to our cruise altitude of FL 330. I barely see the two towers near the beach where I was the day before. Weather was getting cloudy over France after passing the Pyrenees, sun was setting. After passing Paris where it was already dusk, we start our descent into Brussels. It was getting dark, I see a bunch of powerful lights lined up, of course I knew we were already in Belgium but I didn't know what it was. Then I realise it is Brussels National Airport. We were on downwind for landing on RWY 25R. After an uneventful night landing, we quickly park at the gate in the brand new Terminal A. So we desembark, ten minutes ahead of schedule. I say goodbye to my friends, grab my car, call up my new girlfriend (her name is Claire, I met her one week ago) and she asks me to stop by iher apartment past 1130 PM, nearly midnite! "Of course" I tell her. So I leave the airport, eager to see her, and a half hour later, I arrive at ther place. I greet her, tell her about my trip to Barcelona, talk about all kinds of things and so on, I stayed with her until 130AM this morning. I was home a 200AM, my parents were coming back from a wedding.
Overall, I just had a great week end. If you have a chance to go to Barcelona, go visit. You'll love that city!