Brief pause in Barcelona

Trip Start Mar 04, 2008
Trip End Oct 07, 2008

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Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  , Catalonia,
Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I left France on a hot sunny day. Climbed and climbed and dropped into España, completely dehydrated. I spent my first night in Cadaqués, a beautiful town, in Parc Natural del Cap de Creus, where many great artists, like Salvador Dalí, have lived. But then that was it, Cap de Creus was amazing but the rest of the coast all the way to Barcelona was just long stretches of tourist resort towns with tough riding on the rocky coastal highway.
A few days of that and I arrived in Barcelona, the city where everyone warned me to watch my things in. The UBC Engineering motto applies in this city apparently: "If it's not bolted down, it's gone. If it can be unbolted, it's not bolted down." So I nervously left my bike with all my bags on it, as per usual, outside the tourist office to go and try to find me a hostel for the night. Successful...I thought; no one touched my bike and I got 6 hostels marked on my map of the city.
First hostel, full. Second hostel, they didn't want my bike in the building, so I passed. Third hostel, full. Fourth hostel, full. Fifth hostel, bed available and I managed to negotiate with the receptionist to let me lock my bike on the balcony for the night. Phew... I thought!
I carried my bags and bike up the stairs 2 floors, unpacked, changed and started relaxing. This is now an hour after I've checked in and the guy comes up to me and says he has just spoken with his manager and it's not ok that my bike is on the balcony; and I have to leave!!! Now, close to 5pm there's very little chance of any beds being available at any other hostels, so I ask to speak to the manager myself. When he dials the boss on the phone, I hear him speak Farsi to him and I think... Bingo! He's "hamshahri" (an Iranian), there's no way he's going to kick me out of the hostel because of my bicycle now.  Nope, he was all business with no understanding or appreciation of my situation. Speaking Farsi, being a lone girl traveller, being a cycle-tourist, being in a pinch and simply asking another human being for a break, made no difference to his cold heart. He said either I pay extra €3 or else he will be kind enough to refund me my money for the night. Feeling a little arrogant at this point, I packed up and left.
I had one more hostel marked on my map, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I arrive to find that there is one bed available but there is a boy in line ahead of me trying to make up his mind whether he wants to stay or not. Behind the counter is Angel. He sees my helmet and asks if I'm on a bike. Excited to hear about my trip he tells me to bring my bike inside so it's safe, pours me a cafe cortado and tells me not to worry. What an encounter, I've found an angel!
But the boy takes the bed and Angel's attempts to persuade his boss to let me have the last private double room at a cheaper price fails. He calls many other hostels but they're all full. Finally he finds me a bed at a hotel nearby, at a reduced price of €35. A little expensive but not alot of other options available. I thank him, ask to see his ID to really believe his name is Angel and go to find this hotel MiraMar.
I can't find the hotel, so I stop to ask directions from the hostess at a restaurant. She completely ignores my question and jumps to asking questions about my bike and my trip and is so excited to hear about it all! After a little while of chit chat and telling me about her hitchhiking trip across Europe, she says, "so what was your question?" I repeat myself and she says, "Hotel? No, no... Save your money, why don't you stay at my place?"
And that's how I met Adriana.
So it's been a very pleasant stay, filled with company of new friends, whom it feels like I've known forever. We've walked and biked all over Barcelona, cooked some feasts (it's so nice to have a kitchen!), drank multitude of bottles of wine and beer, and had some interesting conversations to find how our lives are parallel in many ways.
Barcelona is a beautiful and alive city, with amazing public spaces, a bizzare but functional system of bike paths, and patriotic locals to the region who refer to themselves as Catalans, not Spanish, and say "Vale" (meaning something along the lines of yes or ok) way too many times in any conversation.

This has been my longest stay in one city, 4 days. I had a really good time, thank you Angel and Adriana.
I leave tonight on a ferry to Genova, Italia.

Vale, hasta luego..

Oh, and I didn't quite escape the port city theives... my helmet was stolen off my bike while it was locked on the street. No one even wears helmets in Barcelona! But it's ok, it was old and beaten down so I needed a new one anyway.
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rbruce on

I LOVE 'Vale'. It is such a versatile word. I've had entire conversations with people where all I say is 'Si. Claro. Vale' (and repeat) and I swear they leave thinking 'Man, that Canadian sure knew his Spanish.'

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