The Nagasawa family trip to Italy and France: June 12 - 30, 2008
(the links are the days in purple; click on them to see pictures)
June 27, 2008:
This was the day of disaster. Ming and I had decided to go to Barcelona, leaving John and Zoe in the care of Richard and Mari. We were hoping to grab some tapas, see some buildings by the architect Gaudi, etc. Little did we know what lay in store... But we drove over the Pyrenees Mountains.
We got into the city at about 11am. As we were driving down a major street, looking for parking in the City Center, two young men on a scooter wave at our back tire. We stopped, I looked out, I saw that the back tire is really low and almost flat. We pulled over to a small gas station, where I filled up the tire with air; it rapidly leaked again. The same scooter drove by again, this time with only one guy, who said, "Mechanico" and pointed backwards. I nod, but I get back into the car and Ming drives forward to the next block because someone else had said that there's a mechanic 2 streets ahead. But when we pull over, Ming got out of the car to help me change the tire. At that point, the same guy on the scooter whizzes up and waves in the opposite direction. Apparently, though, when we were both out of the car (and couldn't lock the doors because the Renault car can't lock doors when the back trunk is open), and looking in another direction, the other guy reached into the car and pulled out two small bags.
One of those 2 small bags was a traveler's pouch containing my passport, John's passport, my driver's license, a credit card, and a bank card. The other was a shoulder bag with our glasses, my Sprint cell phone, and my USB drive with most of my Italy pictures on it. That was the hardest emotionally for me!
Unfortunate as that was, what seems strangely providential is that they did not take Ming's traveler's pouch which was also right there and contained her passport, Zoe's passport, her credit cards, her driver's license, and her cash. Nor did they take our European cell phone, my digital camera, or our itinerary papers because we had separated those out from the bags.
So we were able to make phone calls and pay the mechanic to replace the slashed tire. Then, at 12:15pm, while we were at the mechanic, our friend and former housemate Maomei called; we had emailed her because she now lives in Barcelona with her husband Isaac, and wanted to see her, but she had been away for a work related conference until that morning; she had checked her email that morning and got our cell phone number. She was meeting with a friend just around the corner from the U.S. Consulate, which was great because she knew it closed at 1pm (!!). Our phone calls to the U.S. Embassy had not gotten through to anyone. So Maomei gave us their address and walked over to the Consulate to keep them open. We took a cab and got there at 12:55pm. Whew!
If Maomei hadn't called, what would have happened? We would have missed the Consulate's work hours, been unable to get passports, and not able to make our plane on Monday morning! Yikes!
But we had to call Richard and Mari to ask them to bring John to Barcelona so that the Consulate would grant him a replacement passport. Richard and his dad drove John the 2 hours to us. By 4:30pm, we turned in our papers and they gave us passports at 5:15pm. It cost us U.S. $100 per passport.
I've now read Wikitravel, which reports under "Barcelona", "A typical scam is to puncture your tire. While you change the tire, a motorcyclist arrives, offering to "help" you. As you speak with him, another thief steals your purse, wallet, camera, or anything expensive to hand (this can happen within seconds). If you need to remove luggage from your trunk to get at the spare tire, put it inside the car. Also, close and lock all doors. Don't speak to anybody around and be extremely cautious." Other common crimes include: pickpocketing, bag snatching, ATM card PIN number theft, a card game with contrived odds called Three Card Monte, a cashier overcharging you or claiming that you didn't pay the full amount, and a person asking for money by posing as a tourist who's been robbed. We knew there was pickpocketing, but we definitely should have read this beforehand.
We went out to lunch and dessert with Maomei while we waited for Richard to drive John to Barcelona.
I was too deflated and, sadly, repulsed by Barcelona to take pictures of the city. I'm still recovering from that emotion!