Thursday 12 March 2009: walk away
As I sort of half-expected I noticed myself warming to the city considerably by the time it came to leave the apartment and tube back out to the airport. I definitely still prefer Barcelona, though. We didn't have a full day for doing anything today but (seeing as the gallery-contents preference order put the one containing the greater amount of modernity at the top) decided to give the thing marked "centre for contemporary art" a try even though it had escaped the notice of the people who compiled the guide book and required another underground journey to reach. On the map the building appeared quite vast but it was a little difficult to be sure that the entrance was the correct entrance as there wasn't a great deal of signage visible but there was a clue in the presence of a security-guard-looking woman and a luggage scanner, not something I associated with galleries until visiting the Prado yesterday but evidently something to anticipate in the future. We beeped when passing through but were excused from removing belts and shoes by waving our keys and looking innocent. Through the portal was an extremely sunlit courtyard with a passage through to another, what looked like a small business-unit at one side and an entrance to the right with the same sort of half-arsed sign which had been on the street outside. It was looking much more like a building with some rooms in which occasionally hosted temporary exhibitions rather than a gallery gallery but it would have been a waste of a journey and a Euro to not go in despite the forbiddingly large amount of large police (of the type the guide book recommended avoiding at all costs) smoking in what would otherwise have been a pleasantly cool and shady lobby.
Exhibition one turned out to be something about women's prisons; the exact title wasn't clear but it was either meant to be focussing on the nastiness of the political imprisonment of women during the Franco era or the improvements made to women's prisons by a woman whose name escapes me at the moment but of whose name I made a note somewhere in order to Wikipedia her at some point to clarify the slightly muddled impression my limited ability to translate the Castilian-only exhibit left me with. There were a few photographs but it was a much more text-based exhibit than the signs indicated which meant that it took about ten minutes to extract anything useful from the display boards. I was able to get the general gist of each but it's entirely possible that something I thought I knew was being used in a slightly different sense to that in which I thought it was being applied. A good way to keep the brain active, though I definitely think I'll try and re-learn more French and German before my knowledge thereof degenerates too much more before starting something almost entirely new.
There were a few more rooms off the lobby but a few seemed to be temporarily uninhabited office-spaces. Another was crudely converted into exhibition-space using large sheets of wood with what looked like the artwork of school students hung thereupon. Lots of collages and very little arty-art type art but a few think-prodding bits. Probably not entirely worth the visit overall but it didn't take too long to go round which meant that we had time to see a bit more of the city by walking rather than tubing back. Another thing I have a note to look up somewhere was the large building overlooking a bestatued and fountainous square. The building might have had something on it indicating what it was if it wasn't just hotel or office but as the entire front was covered with snot-coloured scaffolding-fabric any signs or names were obscured.
Heeding warnings of the impossibility of getting food in the airport in the morning and worrying that getting food in the hotel near the airport would be horribly pricey I sneaked another last wander round the Lavapies area when popping to the shop to get some sandwich-material and a few packets of souvenir-coffee. As expected when I checked the nearby ironmongers there were stove-top-espresso-makers identical to that I had irreparably damaged available for half the price of that with which it had been replaced though obviously of much lower quality. The shop wasn't open anyway though the shutters weren't covering the windows as they had been one every other occasion when we'd passed by.
An uneventful tube back out to the airport... I'd stuffed as much as possible into my big rucksack and tied all the zips shut so that I could concentrate on watching my camera bag whilst also being able to use it if required rather than hiding it at the bottom of my smaller rucksack. Didn't notice anyone watching my pockets on the way back though after a week of extreme theft-paranoia I was perhaps finally relaxing after repeatedly not being pickpocketed by everyone I considered to be suspicious. The automated voice system informing of the next stop wasn't crashingly loud which is what I like in a transport system; FirstScotRail could learn a lot.
During occasional visits to the pocket of free wireless over the past couple of days we'd been attempting to get some sense out of the hotel's website concerning the procedure for getting the shuttlebus from the airport to the hotel but had given up as neither the N95's built-in browser nor Opera Mini was able to get the pop-ups to behave or appear. I'd tried emailing but had just received an automated response telling me that yes, there was a shuttle bus available to take us between the hotel and the airport. As the hotel was booked in Nicky's maiden name I was able to be mildly sarcastic when replying to this but still hadn't received any response by the time we reached the airport and trundled all the way along the building from the tube terminus to terminal 1 and the bus pick-up/drop-off point. Nicky resorted to attempting to ring the hotel (using the number retrieved from the website which resulted after several attempts in a Spanish but recognisable number-unobtainable-ish beeping) but after a few minutes' sit we spotted a shuttlebus as it trundled past.