Barcelona, Part 1…Security scare!!!..OMG!!!…

Please stop back tomorrow for the remaining photos of our visit to Barcelona including our visit to Segrada Familia.

The Port of Barcelona.

Before we describe our visit to the bustling historic city of Barcelona, Spain, let’s get the scary story out of the way. Thus, this is the end of the story described in the beginning.

The bridge over the bay by the pier.
On this back-to-back cruise, we were given priority sticky badges to wear when we return to the ship, to avoid the lines with new passengers boarding. On our last back-to-back on Carnival, this process was literally seamless, taking only minutes to board as we were graciously pushed through the lines.
The long dock we observed from the Garden Café early this morning.

As a precaution today, Tom wore two pairs of pants. The inside pair was cargo shorts with multiple pockets closing with Velcro. Over those shorts, he wore a pair of jogging pants with an elastic waistband. 

An animated “headless” man, hoping money will be tossed into his container.

The purpose of the abundant attire was to protect those items from pickpockets for which we have been well-warned by many travelers. It would have required the pickpockets taking Tom’s pants off to get to the stuff. 

An artist’s rendition of the colors of Barcelona.

Ironically, as we departed the ship we noticed most passengers carrying backpacks, purses, wallets with straps and various other bags and containers, all fodder for pickpockets. Barcelona has a reputation for a high risk of being pick pocketed, in many cases rather aggressively. We were prepared. No such incident occurred.

A vendor shop along the boulevard attracting tourists.

Returning as back-to-back passengers, Norwegian Epic’s process was cumbersome and annoying. Returning from Barcelona after the hectic rush of traffic, zillions of tourists in a mad frenzy to see the myriad sites, we were anxious to get back on the ship.

At the entry point, we were steered into a lengthy line with hundreds of passengers of all ages, rolling their carry on luggage and talking while paying little attention to the movement of the line. 

Tom is not the most patient person on the planet, easily annoyed by lines.  Hopefully, as our travels continue, he’ll become more patient. He’s trying. In no time at all, he gets over it and the grumbling ceases. I tend to ignore his fussing. 

This afternoon, around 2:00 pm when we returned to the ship, his patience was wearing thin as 30 minutes or more crawled by as we waited in the long line. Finally, we reached the security checkpoint.

I was a little anxious as we approached security, since while in Barcelona, we stopped at a “Pharmacia” to purchase more contact lens solution. I’d already gone through the small $12.50 bottle we’d purchased on the Carnival Liberty. The Epic’s little shop doesn’t carry contact lens solution. Quite odd, actually.

Security checkpoints do not allow bringing any obvious liquids aboard the ships as prohibited when flying. Along a shelf, I noticed numerous partially used bottles of various liquids, soda, water, iced tea and lemonade. 

Oh, oh. Were they going to confiscate my contact lens solution? (When we originally boarded the Epic on April 20th, we learned this lesson when we had to forfeit our liter bottle filled with Crystal Lite Ice Tea).

As we approached the security area during the mad rush, we decided to share a white plastic bin with the items from our pockets: the camera, one RFID passport holder containing both of our passports, Tom’s plastic pocket comb, my metal tube of  lipstick, a holder for our cabin key cards, a small amount of Euros we’d purchased when we got off the ship and Tom’s jacket. That’s all we had on us.

Pushing the items through the scanner we each walked through the metal detector, one by one, without incident. As we reached the end of the table,  preparing to grab our stuff as our white plastic bin came through, suddenly a bevy of Spanish security guards surrounded us. 

A breath caught in my throat. Tom and I glanced at each other, panic in our eyes. What was wrong? The seated security guard pointed to an item on his scanner, shouting, “What is this?”

Tom and I both crooked our necks to see an item on the screen neither of us recognized. I suggested it was my camera, my heart beating in my throat. Tom was baffled. Obvious confusion was in his eyes. 

The guards surrounding us started taking the items out of the bin, one by one, to discover a closed 4″ BLACK HANDLED BUCK KNIFE!!!!

This was the type of knife in our bin, but with a 4-4.5 inch blade.

Shocked, I looked at Tom wondering if he had brought such a knife, dismissing it instantly, knowing he’d never be so foolish. At exactly the same moment we both protested, panic in our voices,”This is not ours.” It wasn’t ours. 

Someone had placed the knife in our white plastic bin! How were we going to get out of this pickle? Were we going to jail? Oh, good grief! Were they trying to get us to pay some exorbitant fine? Why? Why? Why, had this happened?

We both protested loudly, desperately trying to communicate with the Spanish speaking guards. We kept saying, over and again, “No, no, no.  This is not our knife! We have no knife with us! We are returning passengers to the ship. Take the knife! It is not ours!!!”

The guard talked in muffled tones among themselves. The seated guard looks up at us and says, “Go, go, go.  Not your knife!”

Baffled by the experience, hearts still pounding, we couldn’t walk away quickly enough. As we raced through the walkways toward the ship, we barely spoke, still reeling over the incident.

How did that knife get there? Tom suspects that it was a standard test put upon the security guards by the upper echelon to see if the guards would, in fact, “catch” the knife on their scanner as it came through. I’m not so sure. I suspect that another passenger realizing they had the knife on them, wanting to avoid being arrested, tossed it into our bin.

We’ll never know.  Lesson learned? One of us holds onto the bin as it goes into the scanner while the other waits on the other side for it to come through.  Anyone have any suggestions? Please, do tell.

My contact lens solution went through without incident.

Road trip angst further resolved…

Like a song stuck in my head (an “ear worm”), I have continued to worry about the security of our luggage while on the four day road to the Scottsdale, Arizona beginning on October 31, 2012 as we commence the first leg of our worldwide year’s long journey.

Yes, we now have the “Club”, the window stickers and the warning lights for the console of Tom’s car creating an appearance that we have an additional armed alarm system along with the factory installed system. 

Our plan has been to take our time on a leisurely drive to Arizona for the two month stay to complete all of our paperwork, obtain our second passports, purchase health and emergency evacuation insurance, prepare our 2012 taxes to be sent by email to our accountant, establish residency in Nevada, apply for Nevada driver’s licenses and get Tom’s new eyeglasses.  

Some have asked why we are spending two months in Arizona when in fact we are establishing residency in Nevada. Before deciding on our worldwide journey, we had decided to spend time in Scottsdale, a  delightful climate and city while contemplating what we wanted to do during this last third of our lives.  

We’d committed to the condo in Scottsdale late last year and chose to honor that commitment, although we could have gotten out of it months ago.  Also, Tom’s two, possibly three of his six sisters will be a short drive from us while they spend their winter in Apache Junction.  It will be fun to spend time with them).

During this period, we will also purchase and set up two new laptops, two new unlocked smart phones and other digital equipment. We’ll spend four days in Henderson mid-November to babysit son Richard‘s dog Monty while Richard is out of town.  It will be rather entertaining to spend some quality time with our grand dog, a rambunctious pug who enjoys sitting on the back of the sofa leaning on one’s shoulder and snorting in one’s ear. 

Our long time friends of 25 years, Lisa and Brian, live only a few blocks from Richard.  As world travelers, foodies and health nuts, we always have plenty of lively and animated conversation.  

In December, we’ll spend eight days in another vacation rental house in Henderson, Nevada (will post photos later), have our final dentist appointments, throw a party for Tom’s 60th birthday on December 23rd and celebrate Christmas with friends and family.  Whew!  We’ll need a vacation after all that!

On December 28th, we’ll head back to our vacation rental in Scottsdale, pack up all our bags, heading directly to San Diego on New Year’s Eve to stay with our niece and her hubby, to finally leave the US on our first cruise which will be through the Panama Canal, on January 3rd.  

In any case, my angst is wrapped around the risk of a thief(s) stealing all of our remaining worldly (no pun intended) possessions out of the back of Tom’s SUV while we’re parked at a hotel or while dining in a restaurant along the way. 

Sure, everything will be insured but that’s not the point.  The point is that I have spent a good chunk of the past eight months outfitting our bags for their contents, commensurate with the particulars of each location in our journey; weather, activities, social events, etc.  

It would be a daunting task if we were robbed. The thought of replacing each well-thought out item while dealing with the insurance company in an attempt to recover our losses, and subsequently continuing on with our plans, is nothing short of intimidating. This dreadful possibility has continued to nag at me over the past week since purchasing the Club and the other “security” items mentioned in an earlier post.  

While driving my car the last time to deliver it to the dealer who purchased it last Friday, a thought popped into my head:  What if we were able to link all of the bags together with two “cut proof” indestructible locked cables?

With each of six suitcases weighing about 55 pounds each, plus about 25 pounds for each of two carry on bags, it would be literally impossible for one, two or more thieves maneuver 380 pounds of bulky luggage, tied together, (also anchored to the interior of the car), unload them and walk them down the street to the own vehicles.  

That may deter a theft, ultimately deciding to steal from a more convenient scenario all the while our alarm is blaring.  As soon as I returned home, albeit “car-less” I started searching online for the appropriate cables.  Here’s what we purchased:

Kryptonite Kryptoflex 1218 Combo Cable Bicycle Lock (1/2-Inch x 6-Foot)

Kryptonite Kryptoflex 1218 Combo Cable Bicycle Lock (1/2-Inch x 6-Foot)by Kryptonite

Price: $21.49 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details 
Product Features

  • Integrated, user-set, four-digit combination lock has indexed number dials for error-free combination setting; adjustable spline attachment rotates up to 240 degrees for variety of lock carrying locations
  • Flexible 12-millimeter braided steel cable with protective vinyl cover offers increased cut resistance; patented EZ Mount transportation system is versatile enough for variety of tube frames and shapes

Tying all the bags together, looping the two cables together and perhaps tying them to the steering wheel, should create a secure situation.  Covering them with our over-sized black tablecloth will provide added security.  Ah, I feel better.

Also, we’ll use the same two cables to lock together each of our sets of bags when we’re wheeling them in each of our 250-pound-capacity rolling carts. Doing so prevents a thief from walking by and grabbing a single bag. This provides us with an additional use of the cables. 

Yes, I do feel relieved enough to let this go to free my mind to continue on with the zillions of other tasks at hand, as the countdown continues, 15 days until we move to our friend’s home, 22 days until we leave. Whew!