ME: Why is this luggage so heavy? Is the car in back? Want me to marry you with this broom? Are these berries poisonous? SOUND THE CANNON!
As I dragged my 50 lb, or 22.68 kg, hot pink suitcase down three flights of stairs, these were the questions I asked my best friends (love ya like a sister!) K and B. I think they had forgotten that I have no filter between my brain and my mouth, and if I think it, it comes out. Nine times out of ten I will make an obscure book reference and not explain it to anyone.
Sand In My Bra and Other Misadventures, a collection of essays written by funny women from the road, seemed like the perfect book to pair with my recent trip to Barcelona, Spain. E gave me the book (a year ago? 2 years ago?) because she and I have been known to take a road trip or two. Sarah Vowell, Ellen Degeneres, and Anne Lamott are featured in the collection, so E reasoned that the book had to be good.
I took an Ambien on the plane. Subsequently I do not remember getting into a taxi at BCN, nor having a first magical impression of Spain. The first thing I remember about Barcelona is K unpacking her luggage in the hotel room and whipping out a switchblade.
ME: What’s that for? West Side Story?
K: If someone tries to mug me I’m gonna shank them.
ME: Don’t you go on humanitarian missions with the Air Force? And in your current occupation don’t you spend the day curing sick and injured people?
International Burn number one.
K: The tour books said that this city is RIFE with PICKPOCKETS. Ain’t nobody gettin’ my Euros.
ME: Why would you take me to a place that requires a switchblade for protection?
K: I knew you could hang.
You can take the girl out of the South Side, but you can’t take the South Side out of the girl.
In other news, a bidet makes for the perfect book rest when it is stationed directly across from the toilet. Or, I hear if you fill it with ice it makes an impromptu cooler for beer. #NowIKnowWhyTheRestOfTheWorldHatesAmericans. #ShortStoryIdeaNumber12784959.
Photo from Marlene’s Life In Tuscany
A day into the trip, we were wandering the streets of La Rambla, a historical, labyrinthine, neighborhood turned tourist trap, when I was plucked from my writer musings by the alarming sound of drums and a large, chanting crowd armed with bull horns.
ME: RUN! IT’S THE BULLS! THE BULLS ARE COMING! QUICK DUCK INTO THIS GLORIOUSLY GRAFFITIED DOORWAY!
K: (Look of utter distain) That’s in Pamplona. In July. Those are protestors fighting for Catalunya’s independence from Spain.
International Burn number two.
The thing about Spain, at least in the La Rambla district, was that it was sort of like America, but not America at all. It was like running into a Canadian, and thinking, something’s off, but you can’t tell what because they speak English and seem to appear American in every way. . .
I think our friend J (he hopped a plane from Madrid and met up with us for the weekend) summed it all up when he stepped into El Corte Inglés, a five story, diamond encrusted, gold plated department store.
J: Ummmm . . . it smells like a Nordstrom’s in here.
If you need to pee and grab a queso burger, McDonalds, or Miguel Domingos as my friend JR calls it, is never very far away.
But, I would not have this Americanism! I would hold my pee until we went to Sandwich & Friends . I wanted to experience the culture. I begged everyone to go to a live Flamenco show, which was amazing, but as it turns out, Flamenco is not really practiced in Spain anymore. It’s just around for the tourists. Damn.
Music? Barcelona has music.
People like this set up in the street.
And people like this play in the metro station and on the train.
The metro station is incredibly hot for some unknown reason. MAMAN DIED TODAY. OR MAYBE IT WAS YESTERDAY. . .
And if you wander through enough used record stores, you will eventually discover local music. I found out about Manuel by asking the store clerk what the youth were into.
Art? You can do the tourist thing and check out the Pablo Picasso museum, but go pee before you head over there because the line is literally a hundred people deep. There’s some sort of modern art museum directly across the street, with no lines, and a lonely attendant working the booth, #ShortSotryIdea847594. But I suggest checking out local galleries, like La Basilica Galeria. Sure you’ll get weird looks wandering in in flip-flops and shorts, but you’re foreign. You’ll get weird looks wherever you go. Or maybe that’s just me. But you’ll have the chance to experience new artists like this:
And if it’s food you’re looking for, I suggest finding a La Bomba. Unfortunately, I didn’t write down where I ate this. But it is, from what I could tell, a deep fried ball of mash potatoes with cheese and meat.
Then try some tea brewed with fresh mint leaves from Salterio.
Everyone <<cough. Lonely Planet>> says it opens at 3pm. It’s really open at 5pm, or maybe it opens whenever they feel like opening, that’s how it is in Europe, just keep checking back. The proprietor was the nicest person I have ever met. She posed with me for pictures, took my hand in hers, looked me in the eye, and expertly busted all language barriers with her smile. Then, you guessed it—I cried a little.
Drinking: don’t forget Cava. I’d list the ways to ask for different wines in Catalonian, but then you wouldn’t be able to have fun exchanges like this:
Wine Shop Owner: Do have an apartment [in the city]?
K: No me gusta el jamón.
ME: What does ham have to do with an apartment?
International Burn number three.
I recommend going to the beach. Every. Day.
ME: What day is it? What sea am I swimming in? Why is everyone topless? Why does the water sparkle like that? Do you think high tide will sweep me away if I swim out there to deliver this letter to the sea? THE VOICE OF THE SEA SPEAKS TO THE SOUL.
When the heat of the sun makes you hungry try Siempreviva. Okay, I know everyone <<cough. Lonely Planet>> says to go to Can Majó, and you should go there, if it’s after 8pm or before 4pm because for some unknown reason (Siesta. I get it! Alright already!) EVERY RESTURANT is closed during 4pm-8pm—every restaurant except Siempreviva. The waiter brought us a bottle of peach Schnapps and three shot glasses because he thought B was Mexican.
Six shots of Schnapps later (apparently my friends stopped drinking Schnapps in high school, and since my mother taught me never to pass up anything free, I had to drink everyone else’s shots . . .), I thought it would be a great idea to dance to the club music blaring from a frozen yogurt stand on the way back to the hotel.
Random Passer By On Bike: Tot Americana!
International Burn number four.
The very best part of Spain, though I hate to admit it, was hanging out in the hotel room surfing the Internet and playing Bubble Explosion at 3am because none of us could sleep with this whole time change thing. B is an international business woman/badass chick that travels with nothing less than an iPhone, Blackberry, iPad, and laptop. B explained what she does for a living to me over 100 times, but I still have no clue. Whatever it is that she does, it allows her to have Internet access 24/7 in any country in the world.
ME: You know how Japan has Ninjas? What are other sleuth warriors? What? Vikings aren’t sleuthy! Has anyone seen this video, How To Date Charleen ? Can someone please explain the phrase, ‘rubber bands will make her dance?’ Who can break down this JLo video? Do you think she gave herself initials to make it easier for the general public to remember her name? Laffy Taffy is slang for what??? I haven’t laughed this hard since . . . yesterday.
Guess what Barcelona! I drank from your fountain. I’m coming back.
Oh, and for those who wanted to know more about Sand In My Bra and Other Misadventures, it’s just like this blog post. Only less random, funnier, and better written. And it doesn’t have pictures. Except for the cover, but that doesn’t count.
Now, I got some writing to do. Although it doesn’t seem like it, Barcelona was a work trip for me. I finally cracked an idea I was thinking about since last year for a novella. I have the first line. Thank you for that Barcelona.