Six Days in Barcelona – Barcelona, Spain

Six Days in Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain

No luggage
No friends
No cell phone
No hablo español

Why didn’t I plan a specific location to meet my friends when I got off the plane. After nearly twenty hours in the air, two delays and three connections, I think I’m in Barcelona. B ut I’m jet lagged, exhausted and for all I know, I could be in Uzbekistan. Wandering around the airport, I watch the trendy Europeans peruse the boutiques of Louis Vuitton and expensive perfumes. I imagine my luggage spending eternity in the abyss of lost and forgotten items, the casualties of modern travel. I picture myself as well, doomed to wander the isles of the brightly-lit airport mall, babbling incoherently and searching endlessly for my friends. I was a tad overly dramatic; my luggage turned up, as did my friends – eventually.

Gaudi sketch
Gaudi sketch
Walking outside, the heat hit me immediately. When I left Ottawa, it was minus 40 degrees Celsius, freezing rain and a bitter wind. To step into the humid Barcelona air (albeit only 20 degrees), it felt like the volcanic fiery pits of hell (minus the negative imagery). Throughout the week, in the mild winter season, the locals bundled up in their “light years ahead of us” winter fashions. They wore heavy over coats, expensive scarves and trendy hats. I, on the other hand, wandered around the city in a T-shirt and flip-flops. I would be told later that this was a dead give away that I was a tourist.

One of the first things I noticed about Barcelona was the people. They seemed like some genetically modified race of super beautiful humans. I wondered if maybe they were part of a top secret government experiment. I have never seen so many beautiful people up close. The men were gorgeous – lean and dark, dressed to the nine almost effortlessly. The women were stylish and gorgeous. Even though Barcelona women at that time had fallen victim to the ever dreaded return of the mullet hair cut, still they were exquisite – as if they all just rolled out of bed looking like a Noxzema ad.

Throughout the week, we frequented all of Barcelona’s most famous tourist attractions such as the Salvadore Dali museum and countless famous architectural achievements. To travel a city that inspired an artist like Dali, Picasso and famous architects such as Gaudi was inspiring in itself. Yet, more memorable were the sights of painted tapestries hanging along the sides of buildings and over the balconies of residential homes, all with the same phrase No a la Guerra. Spain had just been the victim of an all too familiar terrorist attack on its railway system. Having left North America where the same wounds were still fresh and tempers still raging, I was amazed at the difference in how this country’s victimization was regarded. I saw no hateful graffiti, no racist or religious slander – just a simple white sheet, hand painted and modestly hanging.

In Front of the Church
In Front of the Church
I learned many things in Barcelona. Vegetarians are not welcome. Barcelona’s most famous dish, paella, is a clear indicator of how much this city loves its meat and fish. I saw it prepared in many different ways but traditionally, paella begins with a bed of rice and then can be created with any combination of mussels, prawns, shrimp, pork, rabbit, fresh squid and clams. I never knew one could subsist for an entire week on cheese croissants and strong coffee. Can anyone say croissant con queso?

While vegetarian choices may be hard to come by, restaurants make the process easier by posting their menus outside. Be forewarned, though, words in Spanish that sound like words in English are not necessarily the same. Case in point, on a particular night, I skimmed the posted outdoor menu for something edible and saw lengueta. I thought linguini. Lengueta is not linguini, not even close. It’s tongue. At another restaurant I attempted to try my Spanish, asking the elderly restaurant owner if she had anything vegitariano on the menu. She yelled and chased me out of the restaurant with a wooden spoon. Back to the croissants for me.

When I wasn’t staring at the beautiful people or scrounging for my next meal, the days past quickly. I’ve never been a fan of, or even very familiar with architecture, but even I couldn’t help but appreciate the buildings within the city. The size and scope were something to marvel at. We decided to take on the famousSagrada Familia – a championship showdown, Canada versus Barcelona’s most famous Cathedral. The idea is to walk up the spiral staircases within the towers that rise almost 500 feet without having a stroke or turning back (whichever comes first). Once at the top, the view of the city is remarkable. I went so I could brag about it, but once I got there, it was so much more. I could see the entire city, end to end, through the dreary winter morning. It felt majestic, like royalty looking down across a kingdom. Hail, my loyal subjects!

While much of my trip was unique and full of off-the-beaten track-type adventures, I did do touristy things – shopping at the most fabulous over-priced stores, and spending way too much. I haggled with the countless designer-impostor-soccer-jersey vendors who lined the streets in every direction. At night we relaxed in the pubs drinking strong sangria, and during the day, we people watced from the outdoor cafes while sipping coffee. I even dipped my toes in the Mediterranean.

My week in Spain was at an end. The week flew. Time to head home with souvenirs and memories in tow.

No sleep in days
No money left
No regrets.