How many times do travel experts tell you to be careful, guard your possessions, and not look like a target? When I travel that’s normally my number one rule…but sometimes “stupid” just takes over!
My wife and I decided to tour Spain in early September. As usual I planned a few thousand rental car miles, with an initial stop in Barcelona. Seemed like 2 days was enough to get a feel for the place. For some reason we had trouble getting a hotel for the period we wanted. What could possibly be going on that had the city booked up tight? Ah, the annual festival with parades, exhibits, and millions of people. And opening night was the day we targeted to arrive. I found an OK hotel that was only a block from Las Ramblas…the famous avenue that runs pretty much the entire length of old Barcelona. Seemed like a great spot, and actually it was.
We fly into Barcelona and take a taxi to the hotel. At least that was our intention. With most of the streets near the Ramblas closed for the festival we had to walk a few blocks to the hotel, with all our baggage. But this was not the “stupid” part.
Our room had a balcony hanging over one of the main connecting streets to the Ramblas. As I leaned out I saw the beginning of a large parade of what they call “the giant people”. They walked right under our balcony headed for the Ramblas. Pretty cool, and lots of pictures ensued. As long as the parade ended at a reasonable hour. It did.
Now for the stupid part. Besides being a travel junkie I’m also a photography junkie (and actually a car junkie, too). I’m into both still photos and video and have more stuff than my wife can comprehend. As the sun is setting we put on our most European looking clothes to try and blend in with the locals. Spain is big on tight jeans so that seemed appropriate. Realizing the crowds will be large and tightly packed I leave the wallet behind an opt for a small business card size holder with room only for a few bucks (euros) and 1 credit card. This I put in the front jean pocket along with the hotel room card-key. Nothing in my back pockets for anyone to see or steal. And the jeans were so tight there is no way anyone can get into my pants.
Anticipating lots of motion and action I grab my semi-pro video camera. Its a bit large but, hey, I’m a fanatic. The parade has music, dancers, the big people, and lots of kids having fun. I capture everything on tape. On the Ramblas there are a host of street performers in various costumes and mechanical contraptions. If you drop some money in their can, hat, or whatever they come to life. Crowds gather. As any good cinematographer would do I stand at the back of the crowd, raise my arms to full length, and shoot video of the action. Then it happens. A guy pushes into my side almost knocking me over. I turn to confront him, and he pulls me off to the side. He says something in Spanish and his girl friend hands me my small billfold and room key! Turns out they were undercover agents and basically what he said was “be careful – stupid”. I got the message…and felt very lucky. And very stupid.