BARCELONA: Abridged

Because I am a shameless people pleaser, you have two options on how you’d like to read my blog posts about Barcelona.

Option 1: Abridged Version – this version will be included in this post, and it’s for those of you who just want a general idea of how my time in Barcelona went. I’m just going to touch on the highlights and not go into details. No pictures.  If this is your choice, then ignore the next five posts you see about Barcelona.  But keep an eye out for Splang Saturdays!

Option 2: Excruciating Detail Version – this version will span a series of five posts: my arrival in Barça, my first night in Barça, Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.  Each one will be the length of a small Constitution, and will include various pictures and links to videos that I have uploaded, along with every detail I could possibly recollect.

There is no happy medium, because I wouldn’t know how to write it.  Barcelona was just SO MUCH action packed into slightly over 3 days.  So, this is my offer. I know some people just like to hear the general gist of things, while others like a story to be told. Whichever option you prefer, the choice is yours!  With that, let’s jump right into the Abridged Version, shall we?

BARCELONA ABRIDGED

Thursday: I caught a Ryanair flight to Barcelona and arrived at 10:00 PM.  After being warned about the perils of the city by a friendly Brazilian, I began my race against the clock to get to my hostel. I had exactly 2 hours before the metro would close for the night, and there was a very real possibility that I might end up stranded by myself in a metro station.  Two hours, one train and three metro rides later, I emerged victorious from the metro station closest to my hostel, where I was met by my travel companion, Katherine.  After checking in and getting settled we wanted to get food, and were given directions to the nearest OpenCor by the friendly Italian hostel receptionist named Alessio.  We went to go find it, but soon realized we were being followed by an unknown male.  We used our wits and managed to escape and get back to the relative safety of the hostel.  Katherine ended up cooking an omelet for me with some groceries generously shared with us by a fellow American traveler.  We went upstairs to our room and met a large Finnish guy clad only in a pair of tighty-whities who decided he wanted to have a conversation with us.  After he said goodnight, Katherine and I planned what we were going to see the next day.  Finally, after placing my valuables in a safe, I went to bed.

Friday: Gaudí Day — We saw Parc Güell, Casa Milà and Casa Batlló.  We walked a lot.  We ate a lot.  I stayed up until 8:00 AM the next day learning Italian from Alessio.

Saturday: Rambla Day — We bought lunch from La Boqueria, saw an impromptu Capoeira performance, then enjoyed a stroll on La Rambla.  Katherine haggled with at least 7 different merchants for a cheap Barcelona scarf, I got a free postcard from a merchant, we met a Mongolian street vendor named Gul, and I got asked out on a date by a waiter named Igor.  I graciously declined.  After returning to the hostel, we were invited to join a group of our hostel-mates to go to a house party in an apartment near La Rambla, and we accepted.  The apartment was being rented by these two American musicians.  We stayed out partying until 7:30 AM.  Barcelona refused to let me sleep.

Sunday: Katherine and I had lunch at a tapas place on La Rambla.  Afterwards, Katherine was tired so we returned to the hostel so she could nap.  Alessio was working again so I entertained myself while Katherine napped for the next 5 hours by asking him more Italian-related questions and chit-chatting a bit more.  After Alessio left at midnight, Katherine and I went to have a late dinner from a Kebab place right around the corner.  We got free sodas for being friendly.  The two American musicians from the party the previous night came over and played some of their songs.  I went to bed at about 3 AM for a quick nap.

Monday: I was supposed to wake up at 4 AM so I could pack, check out of the hostel, and take the Metro to the airport for my flight that would be leaving at 6:10 AM to return to Sevilla.  Instead, I woke up at 5:10, had the most massive freak out of my life, shoved everything I owned into my backpack, ran down the stairs, checked out, ran outside and hailed the first cab I could.  We pulled up in front of the airport at around 5:45, and I paid, ran out, got my passport stamped, got through security, and arrived at my gate at 6:00 AM.  The Ryanair people shooed me in, and the gate closed right after me.  I was the last person to get on the plane.  I arrived in Sevilla a couple of hours later, dropped off my bags in my room, showered, went to class, then promptly came home and slept.

FIN.

A Kooky Encounter

While Katherine and I were exploring Grazalema, we crossed paths with a man. The moment I saw him, I knew there was something.. not.. quite.. right. He had a kind of distant look in his eyes, and his mouth was hanging open slightly. But we were heading in opposite directions, so it wasn’t really a big deal. Katherine and I had plans to climb up the mountain and enjoy our lunch while admiring the breath-taking view of Grazalema and the Sierra de Grazalema behind it, but we never made it that far.

Why?

Because he came back. The man we passed had doubled back and was standing there in the middle of the road, staring up at us for the entire time we were frolicking on the mountain. We knew he was there, but we were waiting for him to get bored and leave so we could enjoy our lunch in peace.

But he didn’t. He just…. stood there. Staring. At us. It wasn’t even subtle. He was facing us and holding his hand above his eyes to block the sun so he could see us better. It was CREEPY. If we moved farther to the left along the mountain, he would follow to the left. If we moved to the right, so did he.

Katherine and I were spooked, but then I shared my suspicion with her that he might have some sort of mental problem, and we figured if it came down to a battle of wits we’d be able to outmaneuver him.  Plus, there were two of us, so if it came down to something physical (God forbid), we would have probably been able to overpower him long enough to run away. It seemed like he only moved at a very slow pace, so we could outrun him. My suspicion was further reinforced by his actions. Whenever a car would come down the road they would honk at him for standing in the middle of it, and he’d let out a “RAAHHH!!” while shaking his hands at the car.

After waiting for a while longer, we eventually reached the conclusion that he wouldn’t be leaving any time soon, so we decided to ignore him and were about to sit down to eat, but then….

He started to climb up the side of the mountain towards us. And we bolted down to the road like we were mountain goats (we saw the carcass of one while we were exploring up there, if that was some sort of omen of what was to come). We figured we’d be safe once we reached the road, and we couldn’t see him anymore. So we started laughing and walking along the road.

Until I turned around and saw him walking behind us.

We started sprinting again, this time down into the town. We started weaving in and out of the narrow streets, trying to lose him.  We figured we’d be safe surrounded by houses, but it was eerily deserted. That’s when I remembered that everyone was in the town square enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon. We ran down an interesting flight of stairs, and I paused to take a picture of it. As I lowered my camera, Katherine let out an exclamation and pointed to the top of the staircase.

AND THERE HE WAS.

Katherine and I just screamed and ran for our lives down into the center of town where we were surrounded by Grazalemans. Safety in numbers, right? We ate lunch (I kept glancing over my shoulder but never saw him again), and afterwards I went to the police station. I figured if he was a local, they’d know about him and be able to tell me something about him. I approached a police officer and asked him if there was a man in Grazalema who had… problems (I then pointed at my head, making it obvious I was talking about mental problems). He hesitated, then said, “Yes. Was he skinny?” “YES!” “Riding a bicycle?” “No, but he moved very slowly.” “Ah, yes, that’s him.” I then told him that he had been following us. He asked if he was still following us, and I told him no, we ran away. He said if I saw him again to alert to police on duty, but not to worry because he was harmless.

I felt so much better after my chat with the police officer. Katherine and I enjoyed the rest of our time in Grazalema, and made jokes about our strange encounter. We looked through our pictures and realized he was in a few of them. We even gave him a name, Rabo.

Strike a pose, Rabo!Lower left. Staring right at me.

Here he is, standing on the road where the cars would honk at him, watching us.

Dark shape at the top of the stairs.

^^^ Dark spot at the top of the staircase. Click to enlarge the image.

At 4 PM we got on the bus that would take us back to Ronda, away from Grazalema and Rabo. But after our trip, Katherine told me that she had decided not to tell me as it happened because she hadn’t wanted to freak me out, but that when our bus was pulling out of Grazalema, the bus driver had honked at someone in his way.

The man was skinny, wore a dark shirt and moved slowly.

And when the bus driver honked at him, he let out a “RAAHHH!!”

 

Wear Your Shoes

Biqui: “Margarita, is there something I should know about that people do here in Spain that we might not do in the United States?”

Margarita: “Hmmm. No, not really. Oh! Well, I don’t know about the United States, but here people wear shoes when they go outside. It’s looked down upon if people don’t wear shoes.”

B: *confused and bewildered* “Wear shoes outside?”

M: “Yes.”

B: “We… do that… too.”

M: “Oh, good. I wasn’t sure. Well, that’s about it then.”

One of the first conversations I had with my host “mom” Margarita (in Spanish, of course)