David J. Danto


Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion




eMail: ddanto@IMCCA.org      Follow Industry News: @NJDavidD


Notes From A Road-Trip 2 – A Week In Barcelona Part 1


I searched high and low but couldn’t find an article or blog explaining what the experience of Barcelona is like for a business trip.  Sure, there are literally hundreds of posts on what the architecture is like, and the stores, and places to visit etc., but none of the nuts and bolts of what to expect for the first time business traveler.  So, before I left, Joe Brancatelli asked me to write the report I’d wanted to find – for future travelers.  OK, good idea.  Here goes a string of (hopefully) useful comments and notes for the first time Barcelona business visitor.

·    I flew on a United 767 non-stop from EWR to BCN.  That plane has first class (Polaris), Economy Plus and Economy – no “Premium Economy” so no comfier seats for a reasonable price.  I played the United upgrade lottery – 20K miles and ~$500 – and turned out to be 14th on the upgrade list.  It didn’t clear of course, and now I have to go after United for the refund of the money and miles (and as you can see to the right they’re already giving me the run-around with MY money.)  If I can’t lie-flat on a plane I can’t sleep, so it wasn’t an issue being in E+.  What was an issue was the absolutely inedible food they served on the flight.  The chicken was in some sort of stew that I swear was the scraps of all the other meals they had lying around – plus some plus inedible spices.  I took one bite and spit it out, and sadly I can still remember the vile taste.  For breakfast they served yogurt and a cookie.  As I don’t eat yogurt the meals were a clean-sweep into the trash.  Luckily I packed a sandwich, so I didn’t starve – packing some back-up food is probably a good idea for this flight.   

·    When we landed in Barcelona we pulled into gate 221.  The Jetway was full of windows and bright – which was a nice touch.  There was a seemingly endless walk to passport control, and there were no bathrooms along the way (so be sure to go on the plane if you have to upon landing.)  The passport line took about 45 minutes at ~9am, but it was constantly moving.  I was surprised that there was no paperwork to fill-out – just the presentation of a passport.  (I’ve had too many years of flying into LHR and filling-out landing cards I suppose.)  After clearing that line (and finally going to the bathroom) we entered a hall where you had to show your COVID health-check QR code.  If you had one you just had to scan it, if you didn’t you’d have to go through a health screening.  (It’s urgent that anyone flying to Spain go to their website in advance – SPTH.GOB.ES – and upload the needed information to get the QR code.) After that, one grabs any checked bags and goes out the “nothing to declare” exit.  Taxis are one level down, and this airport uses inclined moving walkways to go between levels, so hold your rollaboards tightly or they’ll go for an unwanted ride.  There were plenty of taxis waiting.

·    It pays to be a Hilton Diamond VIP.  Big kudos to the Hilton hotel at Diagonal Mar.  Instead of the standard, European ‘but sir, zee check in is not till zee afternoon, so go away’ the Hilton team saw a (tired) Diamond IMG_9055VIP and pulled-out all the stops.  They said ‘of course’ they have a room ready for me for early check-in, and it was an upgrade from the least expensive room I booked to a large one above their executive floor.  Breakfast was included – even for that day – either in their restaurant or in the executive lounge (which overlooked the beach.)  The diamond level still really seems to mean something in Europe if this is any indication. After landing at 8:45am I was in-bed napping at 10:30am – which was really awesome.

·    The Hilton is across the street from a modern shopping mall (Diagonal Mar https://www.diagonalmarcentre.es/en/ ) which has many US recognizable stores as well as local ones, and has a store called Alcampo – which is like a Target on steroids.  Everything from groceries to big-box items are available.  I was able to purchase the small, re-sealable bottles of water that are a staple for any trip such as this – as well as some food items to keep in the room.  I could eat from any of the local restaurants, or, if I wasn’t so experimentally inclined, get some take-away from McDonalds or Five Guys.

·    IMG_9056I had planned to take Sunday to tour the city (as my only free day) but it also happened to be the day of the Barcelona Marathon – so those plans were killed.  I rested in my hotel room until about 3pm when the streets started to open again and did some slightly lesser touring then.  The lesson: don’t arrive to Barcelona for a conference the day before it begins when that happens to be the day of their marathon.

·    My company travel agent recommended that I download an app called “Free Now” as the local taxi hailing service (because they don’t use Uber or Lyft here.)  So far I’ve found it to be useless.  Every time I call for a taxi when the app says there are plenty available they can’t find one for me.  They make me do two step verification with a text from my bank to reserve the funds, but then don’t have a car.  It is better off to either just street hail a taxi or walk to one of the many Taxi loading zones and wait for one there.  Taxis that are available have little green lights on the side of their roof’s sign (and red on the other side and/or a number of passengers means not available.)  As I write this, masks are optional all over town and at the airport, but are still required on public transportation including busses, trains and taxis.  Not all the taxi drivers speak English, so I found it very helpful to Slide4type out cards with my frequent destinations and have them available as pictures on my phone.  I used PowerPoint to make them, but you can use any text app that you can take a picture of – even the notes app on your phone.  Also – taxi drivers here do not expect to be tipped.  The metered amount is what you pay unless you’ve had really exceptional service.

·    Every taxi, every store, every merchant, and every vending machine takes contactless credit cards.  Don’t even try to use the insert-chip as it will ask you for a PIN that US cards don’t have.  Contactless is the way to go.

On the next part of this report I’ll go into my second hotel on the trip, the restaurants, the convention center, and the trip home.











This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.

All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.


As always, feel free to write and comment, question or disagree.  Hearing from the traveling community is always a highlight for me.  Thanks!