Day One, Part One: Barcelona is for Eaters

24.04.09

Is it possible that I am still awake?  This feels very much like a dream.  There are some parts of this traveling alone thing that are tricky, especially when it comes to taking care of yourself.  For example, while I was smart to plan for the thirst on the plane (see below), which was not nearly as bad this time around, I forgot to eat before the flight or bring a snack on the plane.  Thus, I was ravenous until my delectable airplane food was served in its cardboard tray and plastic wrap.  Since I was sitting in the cheap seats, as per… always…, the food service was lacking in promptness, and I had to stay awake a few hours longer than I had planned.  This might have also been due to the fact that I selected “Marley and Me” as my in-flight movie, and, consequently, I wept over my instant mashed potatoes and startled my fellow passengers on row 29.  But, I eventually managed to calm down my over-active physiology to get a little bit of sleep.  It has not been nearly what my body is craving, though, and I’ve had a dull and persistent headache haunting me for most of the day.

But how can I complain?  I am in BARCELONA!  I’ve already astonished myself by how savvy I have become.  The plane landed, and I immediately began to orient myself– ‘Ok, there’s the sea… We’re heading west… Follow that sign…,’ Etc.  Still, this traveling thing was much easier with a travel-buddy last time I did it.  It was nice to know that I had someone watching my back.  This trip, that Someone is sometimes elusive…

After landing and orienting, I hopped on the airport shuttle to the center of town.  I waited in long lines at an ATM and the tourist info office.  I kept repeating to myself Rick Steves’ travel mantra: BE MILITANTLY OPTIMISTIC.  As a habitual pessimist, this is perhaps the biggest challenge of travel for me.  But I think it is also the most life-giving.  And isn’t that what this is all about anyway?

My first real optimism-challenge came when I emerged from the subway station, laden with my pack (which suddenly seemed like it gained weight on the plane!), being swarmed by vendors, tourists, and everything-in-between.  I knew I had to find my hostel first.  The TI office worker told me that my hostel was in easy walking distance from the office itself, but something had compelled me to dive underground and ride the subway.  As I was buying my ticket from a machine, a man in a red blazer suddenly appeared next to me and nearly shouted, “HELLO!”  I must have jumped a few feet because he quickly lowered his voice.  It turned out that he was a transit worker wanting to help, but I was startled and frustrated by the whole interaction.  Do I really look all that “American”?  Is the weight of corporate consumerism hovering over me or something?  I mean, I don’t even have a single pair of jeans on this whole trip!  How could he single me out as someone in need of help?  In the stress of it all, I bought a 10-ride 7,50-euro subway pass, and now I am stressed about needing to use all of those rides in my two days here.  Clearly, sleep… or at least sedation… is a high priority.

I began looking for my hostel, the “Ideal Youth Hostel” (full report on whether it lives up to THAT name, forthcoming), but I found myself pacing up and down Las Ramblas instead.  I had flashbacks to my first European excursion when my friend and I arrived in Rome and spent a good nine hours trying to hunt down our hostel for that night.  When we finally checked in, the hostel worker was so angry with us for not calling… I was pretty sure she was going to sneak into our rooms that night and fill our beds with plastic scorpions or freeze our bras.  Or something.  So, alone and dejected, fearing the worst but chanting my optimism mantra, I sat down next to a building and got out my map one more time.  And sure enough, the building I was in front of was the Barcelonian Opera House that was right around the corner from my hostel.  So.  Um.  Optimism: 1; Me: 0.

I checked into the hostel and was greeted by relatively friendly young guys.  As I was storing my pack in the locked room, the Egyptian hostel worker said, “You are German.”  (It really was more of a statement than a question…)  “No,” I responded.  “No, I’m not.”  Then, I smiled, hoping to end the conversation there.  “USA, then, huh?”  (This time, a question).  I nodded.  “That’s too bad,” he said.  “I don’t like USA.”  I smiled my best sympathetic-pastor smile.  His eyes perked up.  “But I like some USA people!”  I exhaled.  “But USA policies,” he shook his head.  “Bullshit.”  Mm.  Whatta way to start my travels.

I took a moment to plan my day and email home, and then I hit the town.  The weather has been unbelievably perfect– warm in the sun, cool in the shade, with an occasional Mediterranean breeze lifting my hair off my neck from time to time.  Are there ever days like this back home or do I just take them for granted?

After meandering around town a bit, I ended up at the Picasso Museum and decided to make it my day’s main event (after, of course, stopping in for some gelato at gelaaati! di marco on Llibreteria– truly, my main event always ends up being the ice cream I eat).  At the museum, I remembered yet another very important lesson from my first European adventure: Idiot translates.  Moments after getting my ticket to the museum, I hurried to take advantage of the free and clean restrooms.  But as I was leaving, I realized that I had lost my ticket.  I looked all around me– pockets, money belt, jacket, daypack… toilet… nowhere.  So, I started to leave, trying to remain calm while internally feeling my veins give up the blood-delivery thing.  In retrospect, the 9-euro admission was hardly worth the self-loathing and drama I put myself through, but I have to learn to laugh at myself as much as I try to make others laugh.  Sure enough, as these epiphany-esque thoughts were filling my mind, I saw something white and grey on the bathroom floor, being trampled by hordes of teenaged Italian girls.  My ticket.  The beautiful European teens looked at me with confusion and befuddlement as I dove for the little piece of paper at their feet.  I looked up into their faces, smiled, and said, with gusto, “Buon giorno, tutti.”  I floated out of the room to a chorus of giggles.  And I laughed, too.

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2 Responses to “Day One, Part One: Barcelona is for Eaters”

  1. Lyds said

    Wait…aren’t you in Texas right now? Did you journal while you were there and are now publishing it?

    But yay for your musings! 🙂

    • travelingbabbling said

      Yes, spunkymidget. 🙂 You have solved the mystery. Damn you and your detective-like-qualities. I am trying to get my stories down from my last trip before I take off for my next. I figured I would just skip the explanation via blog and get right to it. I’m so happy you are reading. Pass on the madness!

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