What a difference a day makes! Overnight, Barcelona transformed from a busy, bustling major world city to…a ghost town. We arrived in Barcelona from our transatlantic cruise on Friday, and traffic was busy, people were out walking, eating out, and shopping as we taxied to our hotel. After settling in, we walked around and stopped in a grocery store for berries and other items we missed after 12 days at sea. We scoped out nearby restaurants that we could utilize for dinner over the four days we were going to be here. We even talked about where we might sightsee the next day.
Well, the next day came…Saturday. We found out that the hotel had closed its gym as a precaution. We were totally shocked when we out for a walk. Nobody was around, and it looked like a movie set filming the apocalypse. It was eerie. Being movie fans our minds went to many we have seen – The Last Man on Earth (1964, starring Vincent Price), I Am Legend (2007, Will Smith), and especially the scene in the 2001 movie Vanilla Sky, when Tom Cruise drives around Manhattan with no one else in sight. We now know what the end of the world looks like.
We encountered just a handful of people walling on this major boulevard, and every single store and restaurant was closed. So much for getting a snack or stopping for coffee! Every business had signs saying it was closed due to government orders. The only stores open were grocery stores and pharmacies. We went to one of our favorite stores in Spain, El Corte Ingles. It is a huge multi-floor department store that always has a supermarket in the basement. When we entered, as you can see in the photo, the department store was cordoned off, watched by security guards, and they led us to the escalator to get down to the supermarket. A lot of the prepared food was sold out, so we picked up a salad and more fruit for dinner.
When we returned to the hotel, we told the woman in reception how empty the streets were. She said, of course…the government asked everyone to stay in their homes unless they needed food or prescriptions. We hadn’t heard the news before we ventured out! It was an eerie experience. We have airline reservations to fly to London on Tuesday, but have decided against staying in yet another quarantined country. If either of us do get the virus, our healthcare will pay for our care in the US, but not out of the country. So we are flying to Miami on Tuesday and self quarantining, as required by government officials. From there, we will play it by ear.
The photos show the empty streets, closed businesses, signs explaining the closures, and the roped-off pharmacy and department store. The second photo is of a man just in front of us for a while, pushing a supermarket cart of toilet paper, water, and other supplies he managed to get. On a brighter note, the last picture shows the blueberries we purchased, held in a hand to show perspective. Each one was the size of a large grape, and each was sweet beyond imagining, tasting like pure sugar. We have never seen anything like them in the US…or any other country, for that matter.
Just as we were completing this blog entry, notes were shoved under our door saying that the evening reception (which occurs every night and scheduled one hour from now) is canceled, a continental breakfast will be served only in our room tomorrow (instead of the breakfast buffet), and their restaurant is closed. We must place our tray outside when we are done, as the staff is required to maintain a distance of about 5 feet from all guests. All of this (and we are getting used to hearing this phrase), of course, until further notice.
It feels like we are experiencing the last squeaks before the world comes to a full stop. Crazy times.