Now Travelling Really Begins

Just when I was getting used to things …

It´s my last night in Barcelona. Man, when I got here almost six nights ago, I didin´t know how I was going to cope, and I wasn´t sure how comfy I´d be with how different everything is …

Like, how an hour feels much longer in Spain than in Canada. As the Madonna song says, “Time goes by so slowly.” (Well, I guess not, since I´m leaving here.)

… Or how much noisier things have been around here … and how I´m finally sleeping through a lot of it. (And I´m a light sleeper.)

… Or how chaotic it is to cross the street. You think pedestrians and drivers don´t pay attention to traffic lights in Toronto? Try narrow streets here. It´s guesswork – or a game of chicken.

… Or how rich the food is here. It´s so good … but I don´t think I´ve seen anything vegetable-like in anything I´ve eaten in almost a week. The closest I got was maybe a couple bite-fuls of lettuce from tapas yesterday afternoon, and the spinach in my rolled chicken sandwich today. (Somehow, I suspect I will be gaining weight on this trip instead of losing it 🙂 .)

… Or seeing old Spanish couples hold hands as they cross the crosswalks or walk down the street…. Or listening to people to speak to other people in Catalan. Or Spanish. Or Italian. Or German. Or any other language we can think of.

… Or just weird it can be, in a city with just under 2 million people – and, it seems, millions more tourists – that you can sometimes run into the same people. It happened two days ago at the Picasso gallery, when I ran into the Canadian girl I met at the airport in Paris on the way here. I ended up walking down near the water with her that afternoon, eating dinner, and then going clubbing with a handful of her hostel-mates. (There was a drinking game and some piggyback rides involved, but that´s another post.)

And it happened again outside La Sagrada Familia, when I ran into a couple of guys from San Francisco, who were on the same Picasso walk as me the day before. We decided to hang out and tackle Parc Guell together. And it made such a phenomenal landmark that much enjoyable.

I don´t think I saw as much as I thought I was going to. But that´s okay. What I did see was good.

A few weeks back I read that, somewhere, there´s a fountain in Barcelona, and if you drink from it, that means you´ll return. But I didn´t get near it to know that I want to come back … hopefully with more Spanish, at least one other person around, and way more gusto to see other sights and maybe meet more people.

But I should go for now. There’s this tapas bar somewhere on Passeig de Gracia that I want to attempt to find and eat at before I have to head back to my room to pack for tomorrow.

From Solo to Surrounded and Back Again

It´s funny how things can change in the blink of an eye.

The first couple of days, I´d been adjusting to being alone. I´d also been adjusting to hearing languages other than English (and being frustrated at not being able to communicate as easily) …
And then, pow! All of a sudden it became sort of easy, because I was suddenly coming into contact with people who would speak English. Well, some, not all.

And I finally got to hang out with some fellow tourist/travellers. And it seemed to all be a matter of timing.

Yesterday, I made it over to Plaça de Catalunya in time for the Picasso walk (only three or four minutes more than the Gothic Quarter walk the day before) and got to talking to this older Kiwi couple while we waited for our tour guide (who were super nice).

At the end of the two-hour walk, we made into the Picasso museum, which had loads of art from his different artistic periods (and yes, there was some Cubism). I was supposed to meet up with my new Canadian friend Priscilla later in the day, and was trying to figure out what time to leave the museum to go back to the Raval to e-mail her when … there she was, in the exact same room, with two girls she met at her hostel. The timing couldn´t have been better!

After the museum, we went down near the water for a bit of shopping, etc. We did a LOT of walking! I was so tired after that!

But it didn´t stop there … we parted ways for a bit to rest, and then I took the metro back down to her hostel later on, and we went to dinner. The paella was decent (if a bit small) … and the mussels were good, too. But the sangria was friggin´HUGE! It was, like, a litre for each of us! But it tasted so good.

We finished it off with some gelato down the street, and back to her hostel to find out what some of her fellow guests were doing.

It was nuts. They started off with a drinking game (and it reminded me how much older I was than some of those) … then we went out. I thought we´d go down the Ramblas. We ended up walking the long way, along the boardwalk, down to the beach (and I got a piggyback from one of the Aussies in the group – good man, if too brave for his own good) .

The club was typical (although the front door staff gave us grief for not having flyers – those apparently work)… but it was loads of good harmless fun. I ended up having to crash at Priscilla´s hostel, rather than trying to get back to my part of town in the middle of the night, or trying to do the crawl of shame.

The next day, Priscilla and I managed to get ourselves up and we went shopping in my part of town. We also met up with another girl from her hostel, and we just went from place to place. We ended our afternoon with some tapas, as both of them were leaving Barcelona.

So both of them were gone, which is kinda sad. But it was good being around people I could relate to, at least for a little while.

Tomorrow´s my last day. I´ll have to use the time wisely, because Friday I´m going to have to re-orient myself all over again.

Gaudi 2, Headbumps 1, Mullets 0 (So Far)

I did waaaaay better today than I did yesterday, I think.

I got up early enough, but because I´m slower than a tortuga in the morning, I raced to the tourism office and made the Gothic Quarter tour by the skin of my teeth.

(Note to self: try NOT to do that tomorrow on the Picasso tour.)

I actually quite liked the walking tour. An old city wall here, the remainder of an aquaduct there … and lots of gargoyles. And I loved the narrow streets. (Well, it was during the day and there were lots of people around – what´s not to love, right?)

Then I wandered around … tried to get into this “museum” housing collections from whom my travel guide calls “Barcelona´s most celebrated packrat” (and as a fellow packrat myself, why wouldn´t I be interested?), but it apparently doesn´t open Mondays.

But after wandering around and going back the way I came, I got to the cloister of this church, Catedral, which has a fantastic garden, a fountain you can apparently drink from, and geese – if I understand, there are 13 of them (I think) and they “guard” the church.

So after having a lomo sandwich (tasted like chicken, but if someone could tell me what lomo is I´d appreciate it), I decided to make my way up the Passeig de Gracia to tackle my first Gaudi work – the Casa Mila, a.k.a La Pedrera.

It wasn´t too shabby. And the scupltures that have been haunting me the last few weeks (they´re famous … in pictures and postcards everywhere) – I finally found them up on the roof! I only had two dumb moments: one before the tour, when I went to collect my audioguide and couldn´t understand a word the guy at the audioguide desk was saying (because he was speaking too fast) and the other, when I was in the middle of my tour, and there was a dark room that was supposed to show a 5-minute movie about society in Gaudi´s time and I whacked my head on the far wall looking for a button, something, anything to start the movie. I quickly skipped over that, rubbing my head, and just headed into the Gaudi apartment … which was great.

After, I went back down the Passeig de Gracia and decided to do Casa Batllo, too. I figured, what the hell – I was already there. And besides, the humungous lineup I saw earlier was maybe half a dozen people by the time I got there. That was awesome. Gaudi was a genius. And I saw the chimneys too … a must-see if you´ve never been there.

So I think I´m going to call it a day. Supper awaits … and I have a feeling that´s going to be another sandwich :).

Tomorrow – hopefully a bit of Picasso, shopping … and tapas!

Day One…

So here I am.

I´m actually writing this from an internet cafe just down the way from where I´m staying in the Raval district (and man, am I glad I found this place – it´s WAY cheaper than the 6.50 euro pay-per-use set up in my hostel. Boo-urns).

I´m going through my awkward phase right now. My Spanish is barely passable, but I think it´s just because I´m nervous and really don´t want to use it just yet.

I had planned to get up early to try and catch a walking tour in the Gothic Quarter. I anticipated that might happen.

What I didn´t anticipate was the rain. And did it ever rain. It was like the heavens just opened up. By the time I got to Plaça de Catalunya, I was taking shelter under one of those patio umbrellas set up outside, lining one part of the square. By the time I got to the tourist office across the square, I was completely soaked and had to buy one of those cheesy, cheaply-made umbrellas for 5 euros with “Barcelona” written all over it. Could I LOOK any more like a tourist?

No matter. I managed to hop on one of the tourist buses and just rode it the whole time. Then I went back to my hostel, took a loooong nap, then went back out and got on the other route and rode that, too.

So now I have an idea of what Barcelona is like. But how to tackle all this old architecture and history in four days? Wish me luck.

On Terra Firma

I´m finally here in Barcelona, writing this post from my very tiny hostal room in the Raval area, with the TV airing some Spanish documentary in the background.

I still can´t believe I´m finally here.

A lot of people asked me before I left if I was excited yet.

Truth be told, now that I´m in town, I´m not sure if I´ve gotten excited yet. I think I´m still in a state of disbelief (along with fatigue, etc).

The flight to Paris went fine enough. Turns out there were a bunch of war vets flying to Dieppe for celebrations (which I think are taking place on Sunday). I didn´t really talk to anyone. My seatmate was this Chinese girl who got on in Montreal and only spoke French. And since my French is kinda deplorable, I couldn´t work up the nerve to speak to her. And I got the impression she didn´t want to be bothered, so we sat somewhat silently the entire trip.

I wasn´t sure how long I´d be able to take the cloistered nun´s silence. I think it had been something like nine hours until I was lucky enough to run into another Canadian taking the same flight as me to Barcelona. I just happened to be waiting in line behind her, and she was with her aunt and cousin, who came to see her off. It´s her first trip to Europe and Spain, too.

We were so glad to see each other (and I to just hear English again!) that we decided to change our seats so we could sit next to each other on the plane. That was nice.

We also managed to grab the Aerobus into town to the Plaça de Catalunya. She was supposed to call her friend who was in town, but her cellphone doesn´t work overseas. So after an hour of trying to figure out how to use the phonecards we bought at the airport at the payphones here, she made contact, and he came to get her.

She also saved our hides since she´s bilingual. (You know, I should really look into learning French again, as well continuing to learn Spanish.)

So we´re now at our respective hostels. I hope she´s doing all right. I think I´m doing okay. But I´m still trying to adjust to hearing Spanish and being by myself, more than anything else. I don´t think I´m lonely yet. Just a bit restless. But hopefully that evaporates soon.

If I can have the same luck meeting people the way I did Priscilla, I should be just fine.

Fingers crossed.