Madrid and Barcelona
05.01.2010 - 08.01.2010
Success! There were no issues with my planes! What a relief. It was my mother’s worries that sent energies into the air to push the flight-cancelling-storm to England and not Spain. At least they have their tea.
I was immediately pleasantly greeted by Madrid’s metro system that leads from the airport into the city. At a mere two Euros to have the city at my disposal, it got me wondering “what’s with this eight euro shuttle bus trend all over Europe?” I was muchos, muchos happy considering I would be in Spanish airports four times in the four days that I was travelling alone.
I had been looking forward to seeing a Picasso painting called “Guernica” depicting the bombing of the Basque region during the Spanish Civil War since my first political science course. My well travelled professor raved about it ad nauseam, and it is located in Madrid at a museum called the Reina Sofia museum of modern art.
I had two days in Madrid, but the days that I had chosen happened to fall on a Tuesday and a National Holiday, aka both days the museum was closed. This was a major disappointment. I had also missed out on the Guggenheim in Bilbao and would soon miss out on the museum dedicated to my favourite painter Salvador Dali near Barcelona. To borrow my grandmother’s favourite euphemism, I was a big “dodo”.
I didn’t waste any time in Madrid and wandered through the squares and the castle. I randomly found a movie theater that played movies in the “original language” (as I was corrected when I asked for English), and watched the film Number Nine. What a dork, in Madrid watching a movie at the theater, but to me this was like an oasis in a desert.
The following day I visited the Prado Museum and then became sick off of some seafood that I ate in a Spanish rice dish called Paella. The prawns were fully shelled like a lobster but smaller with lots of antennae and big black eyes staring at me! From the look of them, I didn’t eat the prawns, but the calamari, it looked normal. Ironically, it was the calamari that made me sick until I was emptier than Hitler’s heart. I resorted to the movies that evening again and saw Avatar, to me it was like my safe haven.
It is interesting how surreal my life has become. The simple things have been taken away, but unbelievable opportunities are now of the norm. I have few friends left in Italy, and I have become lonelier than I ever have been here. What I wouldn’t give to spend time catching up with my best pals back home maybe just watching Grey’s Anatomy reruns. However, in the next month I will see Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, London, Dublin, etc. Perhaps it is just a classic case of “the grass is always greener …”, but I think that it is more about one’s priorities. Priorities for me rank highest with the people that I care about.
After that rant I can thankfully say that my parents and brother are coming tomorrow, and I can share some travel with them. I am so excited to show them around I can hardly stand it. I can’t wait to greet them at the terminal- I am imagining some perfect Disney moment in my head, but with the natural tendencies of my family it will more likely become something like a Mr. Bean moment.
Anyhow, I left on the earliest metro the following morning after seeing Avatar. It was still dark, so I was weary of the sketchies. I was followed, but I was aware of it.
He sat down against the wall as I paced in the first station. There were several others waiting for that early 6 am metro. I got in a car that was empty a ways down and heard someone running down the hollow passageway. He literally jumped into my car as the doors were closing. You’ve got to be kidding. The car was empty, but he felt the need to sit directly across from me and light a cigarette. Apparently he was the kind of guy that just did whatever he wanted, or that was the message he was selling as I felt his eyes burning into me as I looked away and fidgeted awkwardly.
By this time, I was just creeped out. When I got off to transfer onto a different metro with him behind me, I was a little concerned but not worried. Only when I accidently went to exit the station instead of transfer lines and had to turn literally right around did he confirm for me his intentions. I remembered that two men were stocking a vending machine down the stairs, so I hurried to them and pulled out a map comforted by the presence of the men. He stopped to acknowledge me and play dumb, but I blew him off. He could probably smell my fear, but he just smelled.
I waited for him to leave toward the metro that I still needed to catch, and then I waited for several other people to go in the same direction so I could follow them close behind. I saw him in the tunnel, and I sunk into the wall like a chameleon next to a little old lady. When he spotted me, he paced in front of me so closely that I pushed back into the wall hard, and the lady gave me a look like she was concerned. I simply walked away and stood next to two men close to where the metro pulls up. I honestly thought that he would run up to me from behind, steal my bag, and push me into my final grave.
Nonetheless, I made it onto the metro, and he wasn’t in my car – until he was. So I walked through the car, and he followed me through two. Then I sat next to a man who was clearly going to the airport with all the luggage that he had, and the creeper sat in a spot where he could see me. I was about to try and tell the man I was sitting next to, before a huge load of people got on and ruined the perfect vision that he had of me. I blended in. A couple stops later, I got off with many, many other travelers to get to the last metro directed at the airport.
I looked over my shoulder until I got into my seat on that airplane. When I had finally realized that I lost him in that metro station, I was so angry. I was angry for being a girl, I was angry for being weak, and I was angry that someone was so deranged that they either wanted to scare a young girl travelling alone or thought that they deserved something that was mine.
Looking back at the situation now, I see it quite differently. You can’t control the things that happen to you, you can only control the way you react. Yes, some weirdo followed me while I was travelling alone in a country that I had never been to, but I reacted properly. I realize that my fight or flight instincts kicked in, but I also feel like my instincts are evolving due to my newfound experience travelling, and more specifically travelling alone.
Between what happened in Madrid, finishing the book My Sister’s Keeper, and the torrential downpour that I was welcomed to in Barcelona; my day was looking pretty crumby. I wandered in the rain until my jeans couldn’t retain anymore water seeing not much of anything apart from a wonderful shopping area and La Rambla, the street that my hostel was on. I did find a really neat market on La Rambla though called the Mercat de la Boqueria. With the way that I was feeling, I was surprised to be shocked by skinned animal skulls with the eyes still in them! My lord! I was happy to enjoy a smoothie from a stand with them lined up like a rainbow.
I submitted to my circumstances, found a bookshop, and devoured the Catcher in the Rye that night; I wasn’t feeling very social.
I felt much better the following day. It wasn’t raining! I took a walking tour early in the morning of the Gothic Quarter. On Las Ramblas, there was a kiosk selling chickens and roosters-what a fun souvenir...
I got super pumped up and decided to grab my bag and see Gaudi’s incomplete masterpiece the Sagrada Famila. It is the most beautiful church that I have seen in my life. The construction reminds me of a homemade candle with the less than perfect beeswax wound loosely and tapering toward the wick. It might be just me though.
In the gift shop, I saw a postcard of a site that I recognized. I looked up the location and decided to find it as well. I took the metro there with my bag, and hauled up a street that looked like it belonged in San Francisco. There were escalators, but they weren’t running, of course. It did feel good to have the burn of my old friend exercise though.
I stumbled upon Gaudi’s architecturally preserved area of Barcelona. He had been working on a subdivision before passing away, and after his death it became a national park and world heritage site. The buildings were like gingerbread houses! Wow, it was fascinating. The entrance was accentuated with the mosaic style that Gaudi is best known for. To think, I had almost completely missed out on such a treasure just because of a little rain and a bad attitude.
I almost feel like I found the presents before Christmas by the experience I had in Barcelona. Lousy weather, not enough time, and lonely. I didn’t realize that I was lonely until a guy yelled hey baby at me, and I said hey back. Oh brother.
I would like to go back to Barcelona. I know that it is an amazing place, and I sort of spoiled it.
Since I have been home, I have been hanging out with my friend Angie a lot and mostly just getting ready for my parents to visit. I cleaned my apartment for three days straight.
After cleaning the shower, I feel I owe an apology to my father. For years he has lectured me about not flushing my hair down the sink, but not until I experienced a scene from the Ring did I truly realize why. Dad, I am sorry, and I will always take my hair out of the sink now. Ew.
The itinerary with my family is going to be hectic, and I am nervous because I planned a lot of it, or over-planned it. We are heading to Venice, Florence, Rome, then to Paris and the Normandy Beaches. We are seeing a soccer game on Sunday which should be an adventure all on its own. I’m not sure when I will be able to write again, but know that I am thinking about you all. I have been deeply contemplating my return home, and as much as it pains me to leave, I am looking forward to seeing you guys so much.
Love and miss you always,