This was the last day of our vacation.
Our flight back to Singapore was at around 6pm but we intended to leave for the airport at around 2 plus. In fact, I had arranged for taxi driver Juan, whom we met on our first day in Barcelona, to pick us up at 2.15pm. Reason why we wanted to go early was because we thought there would be a long queue for the tax refund facility at the airport.
Before we left Barcelona, there was a place I wanted us to go and there would be no excuses for not heading there – Parc Guell.
From the map, it appears that Parc Guell is within walking distance from our hotel. We estimated we would be there in 15 minutes. Along the way, we grabbed breakfast from a bakery along the way.
What we didn’t know was Parc Guell is located uphill. So we were huffing and puffing in no time and to make things worse, we were wearing clothes we wanted to wear on the plane for our 13 hours flight home. What’s worse was our clothes were a tad too thick for the hot weather in Barcelona. Two-thirds of the way to Parc Guell, we were kinda melting. 😡
So we gladly took the opportunity to oooh and aaaahh over this property. It looks spacious!
I wouldn’t mind the daily climb to a house like that! 😛 On the assumption that the staircase leads to a huge private house at the top.
Finally we reached Parc Guell!
We actually entered through the rear gate of Parc Guell. And from where we were, we could tell the popularity of this park. There was definitely a crowd.
We looked for shade immediately and stayed for a few minutes under the shade. 😎
We wandered around and found this pretty pink building.
If I remembered correctly, it houses a museum and a souvenir shop.
Lavender?? I can’t tell from this picture. 😕
And we finally reached the main entrance where the famous gecko lies amongst the stairs. It was very crowded!
And the famous gecko!
There’s an elderly ‘caretaker’ for the park. And please, do show respect for Gaudi’s works. There were people sitting on the sides of the gecko (which are also part of the grand design) and grabbing the gecko and these antics made the caretaker upset. He was asking for people to please get off Gaudi’s works. He mentioned something that probably meant ‘This is not your home’. His spanish was at such a rapid speed, I could only guess what he really meant. On hindsight, its really not very nice to sit on Gaudi’s works and with so many butts sitting on the ’tiles’, its inevitable abrasion would cause a tremendous part of the wear and tear. So with that in mind, and also because its very crowded, we were happy not to pose next to gecko but to just take its photo. 🙂
I love these Hansel & Gretel type of buildings. They are sooooo lovely!
So glad we entered the park through the rear and saved the best for the last.
Oh, by the way, one of these two buildings housed a souvenir shop while the other appears to be the caretaker’s shelter.
We were so impressed with Parc Guell, we decided we had sufficient time to go to Casa Batllo, another Gaudi masterpiece.
We got a cab easily outside Parc Guell and ‘Vamos a Casa Batllo, por favor’ to the driver. The driver ‘Casa Batllo. Muy bien, muy bien’. My spanish is PERFECT! 😀 The taxi ride was fast and we reached Casa Batllo in about 10 mins.
Casa Batllo looks so very pretty!!!
And there was a backyard of some sort within the casa. This backyard was bursting with colours, especially with the bright Barcelona sun shining down strongly.
Back into the interior and we started going up and the audio guide explained on the tiles on this piece of wall. When designing this, Gaudi kept in mind the light that would filter into the premises. The intensity of the blue tiles increased vertically up as the strong sunlight that enters would counter it. We were lucky to have the Barcelona sun shining brightly as the intelligence of Gaudi’s work was then apparent.
And we eventually reached the rooftop.
Apparently the orange details are part of a dragon. The play of colours by Gaudi is simply outstanding!
So then we hurried back to our hotel where driver Juan was supposed to pick us up at 2.15pm. When the clock ticked past 2.40pm, I knew we were not going to see him, so we hailed a taxi from the road.
On the way to the airport, I wondered what went wrong in the conversation with Juan. El domingo is sunday and the time was said correctly. He did mention something about calling him but I thought he meant to call him when we need his services for the duration we were in Barcelona. Was I to call him to confirm the pickup to the airport? Anyway, luckily we got a taxi fairly easily on a sunday. 😯
So when we reached the airport, we headed to the check in counter to get our boarding passes without checking in the luggage. And proceeded to find the tax refund area. We found the area and there was a staff at the entrance of the tax refund office. Someone got her attention and I slipped past her, unaware I was to get a queue ticket. I was halfway in when I turned back to talk to the husband and found out he was stuck at the entrance. So I returned and got the queue ticket I was supposed to get and realised there was about 100 people in the queue.
Luckily, the queue went relatively fast. It was about 1 hour and 15 mins later when it was our turn and I was surprised, when we entered the office, to find only two counters for tax refund. I wasn’t surprised by the number of counters but rather the speed at which the two counters cleared the queue. Most tourists managed to get their stamp without having to show their items but we had to!!! 😡 We had to show some of the high end items we had bought in Paris and luckily, we had packed things neatly so we know where to get the items the staff wanted to see. While we were being served, the other counter had served at least three other tourists. In case if you are wondering what happens if you had managed to slip into the office without a queue number, this is what happens. The staff will insist on seeing your queue ticket. Without it, its a no-go.
So we still had time to spare after getting the custom stamp. We had to get our tax refund from two separate places. One was from GlobalBlue and the other, I can’t remember. Just as well we had allocated lots of time for the tax refund process. After getting our refund from one place, we checked in our luggage and cleared immigration and once past immigration, we saw the travelex office to get our tax refund from GlobalBlue. Queue was short! 😛
Someone in the queue ahead of us wondered if she needed the customs stamp to claim her refund and I told her its a definite. Just to triple confirm, she still checked with the staff and yep, no customs stamp, no tax refund. #itoldyouso! 😎
Our tax refund was not without problems. For some reason, the lady wanted the actual invoices and luckily I had them in my hand carry bag. There was a problem with an invoice, something about Lafayette not filling it correctly, and I had to fill in another form for the refund.
I really have no idea which tax refund location is worse; Barcelona or Paris. The problem with Barcelona was with the travelex counter itself while in Paris, the problem was with the queue which moved so ever slowly that lots of people gave up their tax refunds so they could make it for their flight.
And what was our last meal in Barcelona? Of course, it was the ubiquitous McDonalds!! 🙄
And with a sigh of relief that our tax refunds were secured, we headed back home.
It was a great trip back to Paris. Paris now feels like its our second home. And it was nice to encounter Barcelona and the warmth of the Spanish people. I just wished we had found better food in Barcelona.
Till next year then, Europe!