As I mentioned in my last post, Kassandra was getting excited about the prospect of speaking Spanish and finally being able to communicate. Then we got on the train. We were in a 4 person sleeper cabin, and we were hoping that we would have the same fortune as last time and have the whole cabin to ourselves. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. We shared a room with two other women (who didn’t know each other). They were both from Spain. One was an elderly woman that reminded me of Kassandra’s abuela (her dad’s mother – not for bad reasons, just because she had a certain way of doing things), and the other was a woman in her late 40s.
The women asked us if we spoke Spanish. I said I don’t. Kassandra said she did. The women proceeded to speak Spanish to Kassandra, but they spoke very quickly, so it was hard for Kassandra to catch everything they were saying. The elderly woman asked Kassandra some question to which Kass responded to saying that I am her mom. The woman either didn’t believe Kassandra, or she assumed that Kassandra didn’t understand her question and kept on asking her it her over and over. I finally had to step in and (in my very basic Spanish) tell the women, that yes, I am Kassandra’s mother. I think this started to make Kassandra lose her confidence. I had to remind her that her Spanish is fine, but that the women have a different accent than she is used to. Besides the women were a little bit odd.
Then as to support my theory (that the women were odd) the old woman got very very close to me and tried to hand me a towel. She began saying something to me in Spanish. When I clearly didn’t understand what she was saying (not because she was speaking Spanish, but because she was speaking old lady), she began saying it again, but louder and closer to my face. Then she grabbed my arm and forced the towel into my hand. I am still not sure what she wanted me to do with the towel… wash my face? clean the sink? who knows.
At this point, Kassandra and I were ready to go to sleep. It was already about 11pm, and we had spent the entire day walking. We got ready for bed and hoped that this would be the signal for the women to either also get ready for bed, or leave the cabin and go elsewhere to hold their rambling conversation. It did neither. Keep in mind that this cabin was very small. They proceeded to continue talking loudly in Spanish on the old woman’s bunk, which happen to be close enough to mine that I could have reached out and smacked them if I had tried.
Instead of resorting to violence, I turned off the light, turned on my iPod, and tried to go to sleep. This would have been fine except that one of the women kept passing gas that was so toxic in such a confined space that I thought I was going to sick [edited for tasteless joke about gas chambers that doesn’t seem quite so funny after visiting a concentration camp].
Fortunately Kassandra and I made it through the night, but by the time the train got to Barcelona, we were practically pushing the women out of the way to get through the door first.
Finally it felt like spring. It was warm enough in Barcelona that we didn’t have to wear layers upon layers of clothing. This in itself was enough to put some spring in our step as we went about searching for our hotel.
Another difference was that this time, when we would stop to ask for directions, Kassandra could ask in Spanish. I crowned her the official ask-for-directions-girl for the remainder of our trip. I figured that was only fair since I had fumbled my way through the last three countries and still had to be in charge of maps, currency conversion, navigating the trains, and oh every other single thing.
Not to mention at this point, even though I know some Spanish, my brain was overloaded on language input. I felt like I couldn’t quite find the right words for even a basic conversation. Of course this may have had something to do with the fact that in a 10 day period, I had gone from an Arabic speaking country, to Dutch, to German, to French before finally reaching Spanish. It was getting to the point that just to say “thank you” took focusation (shukran, dank ya, danke, merci, gracias!).
As we headed towards our hotel, we stopped for breakfast. Kassandra had been craving bocadillos, which are basically baguette-style bread with meat (Kassandra had chorizo and I had bacon). Then we continued on towards our hotel, but many of the streets were closed because of the 35th Cursa El Corte Ingles Race. It seemed like no matter where we tried to turn to get to our hotel, we would get caught up in the 72,000 people doing the 11km run.
Eventually we made it to our hotel. The front desk clerk was clearly sick. I had to remind her to give us back our passports, to give us two keys, to tell us our room number…. poor lady, I felt bad for her. Our hotel room was odd. It had a window, but the window looked out to the backside of the elevator.
After we freshened up, we were ready to head back to La Rambla and explore Barcelona. Unfortunately, we got turned around and couldn’t seem to find any of the places that we had told ourselves that we wanted to go back to. Or maybe we were finding the places, but everything looked different when they were open and without the runners everywhere. It is hard to know for sure.
On the positive side, we found some other fun and interesting shops, like this candy store called happy pills. Something about it made me think of my mom and my friend Katy.
We also stumbled on to a flea market, which absolutely thrilled Kassandra. She is a thrift store kind of girl, so this was right up her alley (well not her alley literally but up an alley all the same).
The next day we took another walk, and this time we headed towards the marina. We saw the port for the cruise ships, various statues, and other historical buildings.
As we headed back to our hotel later that afternoon, we saw a Carrefour. Carrefour, for those of you that don’t know, is a French supermarket, and it is one of the main supermarkets in the UAE. The weird thing is that I didn’t see any Carrefours in France, but it sparked my curiosity to see one in Spain. I was dying to know if it would be like the ones in Al Ain. Okay – so it is the little things that amuse me on vacation.
Notice the big aisle of alcohol? You aren’t going to find that in the UAE Carrefours that is for sure. The other differences were pork products and different kinds of fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately, it had the same kind of f***ed up flavor of chips as in the UAE.
Outside of what I thought was a church, we got to enjoy some street performers – which left me wondering, why don’t the street performers in Portland have arms like that????? At least these street performers were pleasant (behaving and to look at), but we did encounter a few people begging for money that were not so nice. One man even yelled at me for giving him my change. Apparently it wasn’t enough. I told him if he didn’t like it, he could give it back. Oh wait, maybe that was why he started yelling at me 🙂
At some point during our visit to Barcelona we got hooked on the corner candy shops. They become an addiction. In fact, for dinner one night, we consumed a couple of bags of sour belts (apple and watermelon flavored), gummy worms, chips, and sodas. That in itself should earn me a mother of the year award! I totally realize that this isn’t actually Spain related, but there are somethings you just can’t get in the UAE, so you have to take advantage of it when you can get it.
Admittedly, at this point of the vacation, it was nice to stay in one place for longer than just one night, and I actually would have like another day in Barcelona to explore a bit more. But it was time to say adios to Barcelona and hola to Madrid.