jueves, agosto 31, 2006

Barcelona for newbies

Now that I've been in BCN / Barca / Barcelona / the capital of the republic of Catalunya for a week, I feel competent enough to release a list of words/concepts that people mostly hear while in Barcelona.

Barceloneta - Mainly talks about the beach. I could go into in-depth details of how good it is, but imagine blue waters and a women's locker room in a gym. You'll get the idea.

La Caixa - Pronounced as La Kaaysha. Ubiquitous chain of banks and ATMs around BCN. There's literally 2 around every corner. Around where I stay, there're 4. I'm not kidding.

Plaza Catalunya - Also known as Centre of the World. Almost everything begins and ends at Plaza Catalunya. The place to get off at to go to La Rambla (see next).

La Rambla - Imagine a secluded, peaceful, wide, tree lined avenue in the centre of the city. Now throw in about 500 people per square foot, and about 1 musician / performer every 2 feet, and you have La Rambla. Place to take a walk, buy beer, gaze at street performers, buy pets, get robbed etc.

El Corte Ingles - Government approved place to get ripped off. Also known to be one of the largest chain of shopping centres in Barcelona. I got a pair of UK to Europe adaptors for 3.5 euros each, only to find out that I could buy a pair of these at my local Chinese store for 1 euro. Sucks.

Ferrocaril - Also called the metro at times, which it is not. Network of (mostly) underground trains that complement the existing metro service. Plus point - you can use your mobile phone despite being underground.

Gracia - THE place to hang out at. Full of pubs and restaurants to satiate every taste. Close to pretty much every other place in Barcelona. Suggested places to visit in Gracia: Plaza del Sol, Plaza de Revolucion and thereabouts.

Afternoon - Any time between 12 pm and 8 pm.

Early evening - Afternoon + 4 hours.

Late night - Early evening + 5 hours.

More to follow.

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jueves, agosto 24, 2006

I have way too many things to say, and very little time, so I am gonna resort to my favourite activity - writing in bullets.

>> First off, I LOVE BARCELONA. I have been to about a dozen cities around Europe, but Barcelona takes the cake. The place is awesome, there is no other word for it. I havent had a chance to go to the beach yet (I think I heard a gasp) but should do it one of these days. The city is cleaner than almost any other city I have seen, so it appeals to me even more.

>> I love the IESE crowd. I never had a chance to talk to people from America, Canada, Spain, Peru, Kuwait, France, Germany, Holland (I could go on for a bit here) all at the same time, so every day is like a new day. Almost everyone that I have met so far has been very easy going, and I hope the rest of the guys are the same too. People are a definite plus point that IESE has.

>> Moving on, three of us went over to IKEA today to get stuff that would make our collective lives a little easier, and came back with 3 people (just us), 1 bed, 1 study desk, a set of shelves, 2 bedside tables and a whole lot of other stuff - all inside one car. I bet our necks hurt from craning, our backs probably might hurt from all the lifting, but we had one hell of a day. That´s one less thing to do before I hit 30: sitting in a car with a bed next to you.

>> And finally, here`s acknowledging the presence of my new friend and reader Sam. There, you happy now man? ;)

To follow - Barcelona in pictures.

lunes, agosto 21, 2006

Saying good-byes has never featured in my top-1,000,000-things-to-do list ever, but over the last couple of days, I've been inundated with good bye calls, messages, texts and hugs, and each one makes me feel like I'm going on a mission to mars instead of an MBA to Barcelona.

Anyways, haven't got no time to kill. Two hours to go until I leave for the aeropuerto, and loads left to do. I particularly despise packing - how're you expected to pack your life into 2 small suitcases anyways? Plus with the recent terror scare, airlines are now asking passengers to carry only a *single* piece of luggage into the cabin. So either you carry 8 kilos of stuff, or your laptop. Or like I've done - put your laptop inside your handbag (backpack in my case), eating up valuable kilos. It doesn't particularly help when you're the owner of the heaviest laptop in the world.

Long distance flights sure make me cranky.

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jueves, agosto 17, 2006

The Adventures of Ashwyn : The Case of the Spanish Visa - Part III.

This is the grande finale, the happy ending, the proverbial icing all rolled into one. I got my visa!! This is how it'll happen to you -

>> Day 0 - You'll be informed that your visa's been approved and that you're supposed to be at the embassy between 0900 and 1000 hours, Mon to Thurs.

>> Day 1 - You stand in the line at around 0800 hrs, show your mugshot to the security guard so he knows you're around, who then moves you to the Enquiries line.

>> Gates open 0930 hrs, people in the Enquiries line go in first. You go to one of the two counters, submit your passport, and walk back home. They'll hand over the passport with the visa only the next day between 1430 and 1700 hrs. (Some extremely lucky souls who shall remain unnamed get the visa the self-same day. You need to have done penance for this in your last birth).

>> Day 2 - You stand in the sweltering heat at the appointed time, only to be told that the passports haven't arrived. "From where?" is not a valid question.

>> You stand / sit / take a walk / watch Mr. and Mrs. Monkey perform some lame tricks, to while away your time until the passports "have arrived".

>> Gates open at 1600 hrs. More sorting. You're in the line for the Long Duration Visas, which needless to say, goes in last. More waiting ensues.

>> At around 1700 hrs, your line starts to move. You go to the counter, collect your passport, check your visa, collect a few more documents (PCC, Medical Certs, Admission letter) and walk out with a huge smile on your face. You don't need to practice this, it comes automatically.

>> It's only after you've had a few beers later that night, does it sink in that it's all over. You decide that root-canals and child-births are less excruciating than the visa process, and decide to give one of the other two a shot (or both, if you fancy).

Voila. Next step? Packing!

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martes, agosto 01, 2006

The Adventures of Ashwyn : The Case of the Spanish Visa - Part II.

Well quickie update as there's not been much action lately. Called up the embassy to be told that I was supposed to call back in a week's time, which, considering my date of departure, is cutting it quite close. Will I get my visa on time? Will I have to cough up extra cash to get my tickets reschedules? Will I get to say "vamos a la playa" before school starts? Will I miss my only chance to bump into Ms. Right at Parc Guell, when instead, I'm actually standing in line for my visa?

Only time will tell. [Note: If this blog were ever to be made into a movie, this would be just about time for a solid crescendo].

My parents were right - I do have a flair for dramatics.

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I, Me, Myself

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