Saturday, October 03, 2009

Scenes from Another World

As you can see from the history, I have not posted a while. I went on a much anticipated and much needed vacation. Usually once a year, we (hubby and I) go on a "big trip", meaning far away from our place. This involves alternating between visiting my family who are on the other end of the country, and the cost of airfare is tres tres $$$$, or somewhere exotic, meaning I haven't been there before. (You know, Disney, Hawaii, the mountains..)

So I asked hubby earlier this year about vacation and his suggestions. He decided on Rome. He wanted to see it, and I wanted to go somewhere that I had never been before. So we went on a cruise that started in Barcelona!! (Spain) and the ports of call landed us in France, Italy, Croatia and Greece, returning to Barcelona. 14 days of foreign soil, foreign languages, foreign foods, foreign currency and interesting customs when it comes to traffic (people seeming to drive or walk wherever and whenever they want), hours of business, history and architecture.

Here are some points that I realized while on my trip:

1. There is more to the world than the North American view. Life does exist outside of our walls with a far different viewpoint than just that of the dominating American view, and our quaint Canadian adaptations.

2. Traffic is everywhere. Talk about confusing cues. In Barcelona, where spent the first 2 days prior to our cruise departure, we stayed in the heart of downtown close to the action. The first thing we noticed was our cab ride to the hotel. The cars of choice are small, like Yaris
SMART, and Minis. I think that the largest vehicles, aside from delivery vans, would be a minivan usually seen as a cab. And there were tons of scooters.

3. A crosswalk, traffic light, or intersection is not a given. Just because it is there, does not mean that the scooters or pedestrians will stop. Pedestrians, especially, run risk of getting run over. Scooters tend to go wherever they want, parking on sidewalks, going in the opposing direction of traffic, and my favorite, if there is a gap big or small enough to slip through, they will and so will 10 other people.

We were on a touring bus. The Hop on, Hop off type when you tour the city and can get off at whatever stop interests you, and then return to continue the tour at your leisure, your timing. We rode on top as it is a "double decker without the second lid" and were at the front.
There were times when we wondered if the driver ran someone over, not because we felt a bump or screeched to a halt, but because we saw someone walking or a scooter and then we didn't see them. In one city, we were at the front, on top, and the bus stopped due to the fact that cars park on both sides of the road. The driver was waiting for the opposing lane to move so that he could move over another inch to avoid a parked car. While waiting, the gap between the parked car and the bus being about 5 feet was the prime path for numerous pedestrians and scooters racing by.

What I found interesting about the intersections is that most are roundabouts, with a difference. In North America, the pattern tends to be that at the intersecting point there is a traffic light and crosswalk. In Barcelona, the crosswalk is down about 5 metres and in between the roads, there are rows of cars parked, includ
ing doubleparking!!

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