DAY 1 - BARCELONA
I am at 32 America St Guinardo, Barcelona. My host is Fabio Fossatti. A 30 hour non stop food fest brought me here. On arrival, Fabio gave me the tour and the maps I will need and I gave him a packet of crocodile jerky and a tea towel with some suspect 'authentic' Aboriginal art.
My first night was restless, full of semi conscious conversations with Fabio about what bag would be most appropriate to take walking through the streets of the city. Now I am awake, I'm still not sure about this issue.
The lamp on the left side of my bed is lime green and skinny and the shade is tilted permanently to the side. I realised this when I tried to straighten it up. It's sitting on a little red table with a 'del la Juego Oxa 63' board game top.
I will show you some pictures of the furniture in this room because then you will understand why I need to live here, in this house, forever. Then I will head up to the roof top garden and watch all the people in America St go to work.
I think the blue bag will be adequate for today, it doesn't scream 'I am a tourist carrying around heaps of Euros and probably therefore a lot of other valuable documents'.
HOW THE DAY WENT
I think I love Barcelona. I have only been here one day, but already I feel very much a part of the ancient culture and completely at one with the people. My vocabulary stretches only as far as asking for the toilet and the bill at the moment but there is certainly a strong magnetism between myself and all of these momentarily foreign words and I'm sure the lisping thing that people do will become much easier as time passes.
I do feel my 'Frenchness' has been a little betrayed and there have been some occasions where Spanish and French words have been confused (such are the downfalls of being the continental traveller) however, if I am completely honest with myself, Barcelona is now where my heart lies and I must be true to that. So having said...
Breakfast at America32: home made muesli with white chocolate, a baguette with lashings of butter, a fresh coffee and a baguette to go!
The Hospital de San Pau is just around the corner from America St, so first sight seeing stop for the trip. It was incredibly beautiful. I wonder if there would ever be a construction project in our time that would dedicate so many hours and labour and art to a building. The tour guide lady was great too. My first interaction with my new countrymen / women.
Tour guide: so the hospital was divided ( this is in a Spanish accent by the way, so just keep that in mind and apply it as best you can) ...so the hospital complex was divided into two halves, one for the men and one for the women. The men's buildings we're protected by the saints, the women were protected by virgins.
Alex: (shared with the group) Where did they find them? (to myself) and who determined whether they were virgins or not? And even if they were, not really what I'd consider 'reliable protection'. I think if I was ill and needed a guard at my door, I would rather someone who has performed 3 miracles than a young shepherdess who's never had sex before.
From this fun filled tour I met 2 lovely ladies, one from Japan and the other, one of my other countrywomen, France. Our little post tour cafe stop was a welcoming way to start the Barcelona week and also useful. I learned me how to get in to see the Sagrada Familia without standing in that 2 hour queue. The process, which involved putting a card with a lot of money on it, into a machine that I couldn't locate the 'English' button on, took about 2 hours, however I felt empowered that I had already worked my way around the system and so sat under the Sagrada Familia, having a beer and feeling happy that tomorrow, I would be walking past all those people and straight through the gates.
I am extremely excited about Sagrada Familia. I have never seen anything like it and no photograph could ever capture how you feel when you stand beneath those towering spires that drip past the bird filled tree and melt around the windows all the way to the ground. It's alive that building and you know that everyone thinks so because when they stand near it, they cant help but look up. We are all hypnotised.
Down to the old town for a feed and a wander through the narrow paved alleys and a look in the shops that sell touristy dinky stuff. Bought some dink and then, when I thought I would pass out from over walking and lack of food, wandered into a little square filled with, as it turned out, very expensive tapas bars.
I am alone and yes, this has the potential to feel awkward when you take one of only 4 tables in an apparently highly sought after eating spot. People hover around you like pigeons, looking frustrated and bemused at how you could possibly have the nerve to look comfortable putting so many to such inconvenience.
Smart people however, approach you and tell you they will absolutely die if they don't start their first glass of wine now (it being so late in the afternoon and all) and could they join you?
Yes! And so followed a lovely hour or so with the Dutch couple who had been coming to this particular bar for years. So we chatted and they recommended wine and I recommended the cured tuna and they said they had eaten and then it was time for the girl from 'down under' to hit the coblestones again.
I then got terribly lost trying to find la Ramblas, the biggest tourist strip in the entire city, which was only meters away from me the entire time i was walking in circles. I went there to recci a friend's hotel, so when I returned that night, in the dark, I would have the Metro and the orientation sorted.
I ended up being an hour late for dinner because I got off the metro and walked exactly the same circles I had done that afternoon. I have woken this morning completely baffled as to why I automatically went the wrong way again. It's almost like I had gone there in the afternoon to practice getting it wrong.
So dinner was late, 9.30. The fact that I could so easily stay up this late is just more proof that I belong here.