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Jackie Jones

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Barcelona: Sorry, closed for August

Barcelona is a city of colour, vibrant culture, and a selection of shops and restaurants that leave visitors and locals alike spoilt for choice.

When they’re open that is.

This summer I was probably one of the many visiting Barcelona that wasn’t up to speed as it relates to a certain practice –“city-wide vacation”. During August, many stores close up shop. Personnel essentially take their vacation in one of the world’s peak travel months.

Usually I do my research before travelling to new places, but in this case I hadn’t made the time to. Though I was staying with a local – another expat – I hadn’t even considered this concept and as such, didn’t think to ask if stores would be open or not. Imagine my surprise when even some bakeries, popular Spanish clothing, grocery, hardware, and a variety of other stores high-end and otherwise, were shut up tight, but promised their return in September.

Street fair in Barcelona. Photo credit Jackie Jones.

Coming from Barbados, a country that currently relies heavily on tourism, the idea of this practice in the busy months was shocking to me. I wondered how these businesses managed to avoid what I saw as potential financial fallout. When you think about it though, if all your competition is closed too, you’re in the clear.

To add to their epic relaxation vibe, tourists or not, when restaurants decide it’s time for siesta, hunger pains can wait. I recall my partner and I searching for a place to eat after exploring the city for a few hours. Early afternoon seemed a good time for this.Or so I thought. One by one restaurants along a busy street boasted closed kitchens until 5 pm or 8 pm. It didn’t matter what kind of food you were in the mood for – there was no room at the inn.

This may sound like a bit of a downer if you’re planning to head to Barcelona some August. Don’t let the closed shops fool you though, there’s tons more to enjoy in the city. Remember, not everything shuts down; major chains, American-style bistros, and more are open all year round. Though I had disappointments wanting to visit stores I couldn’t, just being in Barcelona and experiencing the slower pace, beautiful scenery, and of course, delectable pastries, made it worth my while.

Amazing architecture! Photo credit Jackie Jones.

 

Places of interest like the incredibly detailed work of art,Casa Vicens, known as Antoni Gaudi’s first major work, are open to the public for small fees. Casa Vicens was one I visited and as a fan of architectural triumphs, this was truly a treat for me. Like this building, Barcelona’s landmarks are easy to get to if you’re staying in the city, or even if you’re on the outskirts. If you’re not within walking distance, trains, buses, and trams are available, or just look out for taxis with the green light on, as this signals they’re free and you can hail away.

Closed signs aren’t the end-all of your Barcelona August visit. Take a gamble and experience this luscious city for yourself.

 

 

Goop opens pop-up store in the UK

Gwyneth Paltrow is no stranger to the public eye, and with her company Goop, she catapulted even further into the limelight. She’s brought the goodness of Goop back to the UK for a short time, with a new pop-up store that opened its doors on September 25 in Notting Hill, London.

If you’ve no idea what Goop is, here’s a quick rundown: Goop is the widely successful lifestyle brand conceptualised by the actress. It started a decade ago as a newsletter in 2008, and has since evolved into a thriving lifestyle site, imprint, clothing line, with multiple products, and an estimated 150 employees as of 2018. Brand loyalty is impressive, and most Goop readers have an average annual household income of around $100k.

It is no surprise then that some prices found in the pop-up store may not match every budget. For example, you could pick up a few pretty shells from the beach or, get the “Goop Medicine Bag” for £76.99.

What’s in the bag? Eight healing crystals.

If you’re looking for something nice to catch your beverage sweat, why opt for any old coaster set when you can get a pack of four for £40?

Clothes shopping for the fall and winter seasons?

You can get anything from jackets to bras for as little as £90 or well over £1, 000.

Whatever catches your fancy is up for grabs if you’ve the budget to back it up.

Though the prices may be deterrent for some, that didn’t stop Goop fans, and interested shoppers from popping in throughout opening day, and making purchases of various products. This has continued and it’s safe to say that this could be the case until the pop-up store closes its doors on January 27.

Paltrow and her Goop brand have come under fire over the years from medical practitioners, and consumer advocacy groups to name a few, but this has not stopped customers from purchasing, enjoying, and promoting the brand’s products.

Some criticism was placed on the fact that many of the healing treatments and options purported by the brand, may be more a danger to users than help. This includes complaints that efficiency of these products is backed by no scientific proof and, they are not recognised or promoted by those in the field of medicine.

Some products that have raised eyebrows and can be bought in the UK Goop pop-up store are the £65 The Yoni Egg, which the brand recommends as a vaginal muscle toner, and the £40 “Inner Beauty Powder.”

Wherever you think about the Goop brand or its products, the store isn’t anything to sneeze at. Well laid out over four floors boasting pastels, coppers, and other colours and materials that match the brand’s theme, it offers other UK brands in the mix as well. Experience the Goop lifestyle, carefully sectioned into health and beauty, houseware, and clothing (fitness attire and closet essentials). This gives shoppers a wide range to choose from, while still getting all their favourite Goop products.

The French Airport Passport Challenge (Pt 2)

The first part of my harrowing passport tale took readers through the odd and at times utterly scary moments I experienced while trying to travel from France to England on my Barbadian passport.

That airport experience – and others – led me to realise that passports are not created equal, especially as things are drastically different when I’ve used my British one in the past.

When I left off, I’d just managed to cross the final barrier before being spit out into the busy Charles de Gaulle airport. My next task seemed simple: Ignore the men with machine guns and find my way to the check-in area. Though I had hours to spare and Parisian exploration was suggested, my paranoia heightened. My interest was in the destination . . . end.

After making it to the terminal I rid myself of the “suspicious” makeup brushes. I wasn’t about to go through a strip search in the next wave for some perfect contours.

My pseudo-zen was short-lived. Sniffer dogs and their beefy, no-nonsense looking handlers entered the terminal. I paid little attention, until a dog took way too much interest in my bag. My stomach catapulted from my body and landed on the floor.

Stepford smile!

The dog was called away, but during their up and down trek, both dogs stopped at my bag multiple times. This made one security guard stop for a closer look once, but luckily all was well. Until . . .

Time to check-in.

I would show my passport, then my ticket, and voila, onward to the departure lounge.

Wrong again.

Instead of heading straight to the counters, there was a pre-check of passports. The male and female security personnel were friendly enough. The woman took my passport, peered at me, then my passport again and asked, “What is your business in England?”

With a bright smile, I informed her I was going to live as I was a citizen. For a reason I couldn’t get yet, she didn’t like this answer and asked me for proof. I showed her my expired British one, and as she started to shake her head, I wondered briefly if I was going to be stuck in France till ‘Wheneverary’.

She questioned me about why I didn’t use my British passport to travel. In this moment I tried to keep my head as the answer seemed obvious enough, “Because it’s expired and I’ll renew when there.” She didn’t like this answer either and explained that they preferred if British citizens travelled on British passports. Who are they?

In this moment the Caribbean woman in me tried to take hold, but I managed to keep most of the edge out of my voice as I explained how expiration works . . . again. None of this mattered. I was told to wait on the side while her colleague made a call.

“We have to make sure it is okay to let you through.” she said to me.

Stepford smile baby. Stepford smile.

Final part: Visas, weird questions, and how many checkpoints are there?

Remote working may not be for you

Social media is full of remote workers exploring and discovering the world, while still managing to rake in sizable incomes but, is being a digital nomad really all it’s cracked up to be?

Will you really be able to relax in a pool while creating websites in Bali one week, and hop over to Germany’s Oktoberfest for a well-deserved beer the next?

Is remote employment the never-ending – work hard and play harder existence that many public highlight reels would suggest?

Those questions really boil down to a simple one – is remote working actually fun?

Before I get into the details, note that remote working doesn’t mean you have to be Instagram’s poster child for some travel network. You can work remotely from your hometown, population ten, if that’s what you want.

Most remote employment opportunities just require you to have a decent computer and an internet connection. Some will ask that you come in at times, but this isn’t a general rule. The idea of freedom and working from home – or anywhere really, has opened doors for people worldwide.

For women, it provides great opportunities as now the housewife or stay-at-home mum can have a job on the side, or the ‘9-5er’ can earn extra income, without having to do much but log on and get to work.

A few truths: It can be a hassle navigating freelance sites, trying to figure out the best way forward for your remote business, which jobs to take, and how much to charge. Basically, all the small print that social media doesn’t share, as it excites to the point that many want to be as free as the people in the pictures. Witnessing the glamour can make it hard to think about the work that comes with it.

My need for work freedom came well before Instagram made it visually enticing, and it truly wasn’t always pretty. As a contract/freelance worker for over five years, after being a journalist for many years prior to that, I can tell you that as with any job, remote work has its ups and downs.

Unless you’re already established in the field you choose and can immediately get new work, or are graced by a lovely bit of luck, it’ll take a little time to build a loyal client list. Even then, depending on your field you may get mainly one-off jobs.

In these cases it’s best to try to find contract work, which means you’ll be in the money while the contract lasts. In my opinion, as a freelancer or contract worker you need to always keep looking for that next job opportunity, even if you’ve already built up a lucrative base.

Why?

Things happen: companies change, contacts move on, and clients can decide to go in another direction. Being prepared can stave off financially lean months. Bonus though? The more you get out there and provide quality work, the better your chances of being discovered and sought after for your services.

Here’s the verdict: Yes, remote working can open a new world that can be pretty fun, just expect the actual work that goes with it.

 

The french airport passport challenge (Pt 1)

I’m about to be very dramatic. It can’t be helped really, as I found out the hard way that having a Caribbean passport in some countries, doesn’t give you a leg up at customs.

This stage-play unfolded as I made my way from Barbados to England. New country, new life, new terrifying experiences.

Okay, let me back up and bring you up to speed. In late March I decided to quit procrastinating about moving to jolly old England, and just do it. What resulted was a flurry of activity, saving and absolute madness – but sure enough I was on a plane to Martinique by August. I can almost hear you ask – Martinique? Thought you said England? That brings me to part two of this backstory.

I’m a lover of deals and in this case, all I had to do for a cheaper fare was find my butt in two other airports before ever setting eyes on balls of fluff – sheep – from above the British countryside. Caught up? Okay, moving on.

After nearly missing my connecting flight in Martinique, as Air Antilles was late, I enjoyed a welcome respite on my XL Airways flight to France. So innocent then, I believed transitioning from flight to customs would be a breeze.

Wrong.

In the past while I’ve travelled on my British passport, I’ve never had any problems and gave no thought that it could be different on the Barbadian blue.

After heading into the security check line for what would be my first challenge, I took my passport out and shuffled on until it was my turn.

The officer took a long, puzzled look at my Barbadian passport, then me, before inquiring about my business in France. I chirpily explained I wasn’t staying and would be leaving in a few hours. He continued to stare at the passport, before asking me where Barbados was, and wondering aloud if I would need a visa to continue. Nonetheless, I managed to pass the inquisition and was promptly off to baggage claim.

Note, I had one piece of carryon luggage and my handbag . . . that’s it. As I approached baggage, I saw people flashing passports and rolling on through. From the looks of it most were British or European (EU) and I figured it’d be the same for me, so I flashed mine like I was on a cop show.

Denied.

This massive officer stopped me in my tracks and carted me over for a more intense check. To be fair, the guy who unpacked everything was pretty nice, even with the added difficulty of the language barrier, since I did not speak French nor did he speak English.

He did a thorough check and all was well, until he came to my makeup brushes. The moment he took them out I knew I’d have another problem. Following a discussion – in French – with his colleague, he went over to the X-ray machine to check my brushes one by one. So I’m standing there, praying to the makeup gods that the manufacturers didn’t have any suspicious-looking substances in the handles for better balance or whatever. I look serene as ever, while in my head I’m like – it’s okay, YOU’RE OKAY!  and explosions of fear are detonating within my stomach.

He didn’t find anything, and after making a bad joke that he didn’t understand, I hurriedly repacked and trotted off – finally -into the main airport area where I almost ended up being lost in translation.

Part 2: Nosey sniffer dogs, men with guns, and you just might have to stay in France.