A Rant About Spanish Airports

I woke up 36 hours ago a few thousand miles away from my house in Madrid, where I just arrived. I should go to sleep, but I have to write this rant.

In the past hours I flew from Boston to Barcelona via Philadelphia, and a couple hours ago from Barcelona to Madrid. The reason for that itinerary is that I had to do some business in Barcelona, so I decided to fly there from Phily instead of coming directly to Madrid. And this odd journey has made me seen the huge differences between American and Spanish airports. I had thought on writing this post some time ago, but only today, quite pissed off, I finally do it.

Firstly I must say that I travel a lot. In the last twelve months I’ve been to the US 8 or 9 times and flown around Spain and Europe a few dozen times, so I think I know what I’m talking about. I understand that all airports have a P&L account and their owners are free to manage them as they feel more adequate. But in Spain I lately find that the way the owners choose is always terrible for the traveler. And this is completely incomprehensible for me considering that in Spain all the big airports are publicly owned, and tourism is Spain’s biggest industry. We should be taking care of travelers, not making their journey miserable. I think that the problem is that they are public and not used to compete, but I’ll limit to describe the experiences and leave further analysis for another day.

Yesterday I did a stop in Philadelphia for a couple of hours, and the experience, as in previous occasions, was as good as you can expect in an airport. I had a good and reasonably priced dinner: a huge plate full of shrimp in an spicy sauce, fries (I know, weird combination, I can’t defend myself) and a drink which was refilled several times. All for around $17 (around 13€). After that I sat in a rocking chair (yes, a rocking chair, how cool is that?) near an electric plug and charged my laptop while I worked for a while. This time I didn’t connect to the internet, but in many occasions I’ve done so, and most of them I could enjoy it for free.
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About 20 hours later, in Barcelona, my experience has been completely different. I wanted to have dinner, but I didn’t have much time, so I bought a small yogurt and a tiny blueberry juice… and I was charged 9.40€ (more than $12)… for a yogurt and a juice! The prices were there in a small card, but I didn’t look before opening them, my fault. Then I’ve gone to the boarding gate and searched for and electric plug. There were some available, but all them were carefully situated away from any place where I could sit. So I had to sit in the floor, as others were doing, to be able to recharge my laptop for a few minutes. Finally, I tried to connect to the internet, but the prices were ridiculous and I decided to wait until getting home: 4€ (more than $5) for 30 minutes… there was also an option for 15 minutes for free, but they requested so much information that I preferred not to use it (name, email, mobile telephone number, date of birth…). And I know that in Madrid, the airport that I use most, things are similar. Several times I’ve paid high prices for bad food, sit on the floor or been ripped off with the wifi prices.
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Oh, I almost forgot, when we arrived to Madrid, almost an hour late, they didn’t park the plane in a gate, they left us away from the terminal and moved us there in a bus. And they put the luggage in the wrong belt.

Who understands its customer better? Guess where I will prefer to make a stop if I have to choose?


Posted: April 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Travel and Places | Tags: , | 15,510 Comments »

Dropbox, Evernote and Gmail Saved my Holidays

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Shit happens. And it usually happens in the worst moment (that’s why they call it shit). On the night before Thanksgiving, 3,500 miles away from home, my laptop charger died when I only had 23 minutes of battery left. A couple of years ago it would have been a tragedy, but not now, thanks to three wonderful apps I feel I need to mention:

  • Dropbox. It syncs all your files between as many computers you want and it also keeps a copy at their website. And it all happens automatically: everything inside the folder My Dropbox gets synced. And if you are not in any of your computers you can log in to their website and find all your archives waiting for you. There is a free version that gives you 2GB; or you can pay, 9.99$/month for 50GB or 19.99$/month for 100GB. I know the price may seem a little high, but for me it’s a no-brainer. Automatic and almost real time backup deserves some investment.
  • Evernote. Harder to explain, but also great. It’s a huge notebook in which you can throw anything you want: text, links, photos, files, audio… There are desktop, mobile and online versions. And all them sync automatically, so you can access your information wherever you are. Everything is searchable, even text inside photos. It has some features to collaborate and share with others, but it still has a lot of work to do in that area. There is a free version that limits your monthly uploads to 40MB and takes out some functionality. The paid version is 5$/month and it gives you 500MB of monthly uploads. In this case I go with the free version because I use it basically for text notes and links. If it had a better Blackberry version I would probably use it more with photos or voice memos and I would pay. I’ve been told that their iPhone app is great.
  • Gmail. I’m not gonna describe it because everybody knows it. I use standard Gmail and also Google Apps. Since it works offline, I haven’t used Thunderbird in months.

As I needed to work for a few hours I just borrowed another laptop and did what I had to. And a couple a days later, in the middle of Black Friday craze, I bought a new charger and the crisis was over.

Many people say they don’t like their info being on the cloud. I say I don’t like my info not being accessible to me always and everywhere. These three have some common characteristics that make them wonderful:

  • Hassle free. Everything happens automatically
  • Local copy. I travel a lot and I don’t always have connection to the internet, so this is a must
  • Online version. Because sometimes I need to work for a computer which is not mine

Do you use any other app that makes your work easier/safer when switching between computers?


Posted: November 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Internet and Technology | Tags: , , , , , | 16,824 Comments »

Kowloon Walled City

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I’ve just learnt about Kowloon Walled City. It’s a really interesting part of Hong Kong’s history. It was a part of the island disputed between the British and the Chinese, but really ruled by organized crime most of the time. It became one of the places with the highest population density in the world (almost 2 million per sq km). And it was demolished in the early nineties. You should check the wikipedia entry to know more.


Posted: September 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Travel and Places | Tags: , | 14,694 Comments »

Honor System based library in Cambridge, MA

You gotta love this! It’s in Brattle St with Farwell Pl, Cambridge, MA. It’s been open for three years.

 The only bad thing is that the book I wanted (Religion for Dummies) didn’t have a price tag and I had to buy another one I liked less (I just needed to buy something and be part of it!).


Posted: September 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Travel and Places | Tags: , , | 14,662 Comments »