Welcome to Spain where even the bathroom icons are anarchists and really healthy, cheap gazpacho is served in a juice box.
The only reason Luke gets away with Collioure is because of its proximity to Barcelona, which competes with Portland and Berlin for my favorite city. It’s just sensory overload— the architecture is incredible, there’s music and dancing in every square, the food is some of the best I’ve tasted, and the pickpockets keep you on your toes.
When you’ve visited a city often enough the sightseeing you do becomes more like a tour of your previous trips there. This time around we didn’t go to Parc Guell with its mosaic paradise, and we didn’t make our customary trip to check up on the progress of Sagrada Familia, a church that’s been under construction since 1882. At this point it’s more like: Remember when we had dinner there? Ohh I remember this bar! Hey, isn’t this the corner where I chased down that kid that tried to steal my backpack? Ah, reminiscing in shady Barcelona.
All we did for two and a half days was walk and eat and it was perfect. We were there during the Fete de Saint-Jean, which is kind of the Spanish equivalent of the 4th of July, in terms of excitement level anyway. The usual BCN buzz was elevated, not least by the hundreds of little firecrackers kids were setting off/throwing at tourists in the street all weekend.
On Saturday we went to a super fancy restaurant (which means totally affordable in BCN) and ate the kind of decadent meal that I feel bad eating. The restaurant was so pretentious that I almost wanted to leave, luckily the bottle of wine we ordered helped with that.
Sunday we met up with Hollis, another of Luke’s bike forum friends. He took us to little corners of the Gotic area we hadn’t seen before, like this freaking gem of a square— that building still has bullet holes from the Spanish Civil War.
We drank a liter and a half of horchata in an alley, as if we were sampling coke and not an almond-based creamy drink. Then we got some more tapas at a small bar with the same décor of China Town’s Wo-Hop, much more at home! I drew maps of my favorite Berlin spots on a napkin for Hollis, he’s going there in July, and in exchange for my kindness he ordered us FRIED BABY SQUID. That’s fucked up, Hollis. I’ve become pretty adventurous with food in the past few years, relatively. As a child I refused to eat anything that wasn’t white, there were years where I ate broiled chicken and mashed potatoes nearly every night. Between the ages of twelve and twenty it was Caesar Salad every time I ate out. By now I’ve tasted intestine soup (thanks a lot Poland), whale meat (perfectly legal in Iceland) and yes, cow’s heart— but even I draw the line at eating entire organisms in one bite. I have to say, fried baby squids…I’ll be perfectly happy to never eat one again.
After our creepy meal with Hollis we headed to the beach for a glimpse of the Saint Jean festivities. Fireworks everywhere some being set off by toddlers, and seemingly everyone in the city was either at the beach or heading there. Because we value our limbs, but really more because we didn’t have a tent to camp at the beach like everyone else, we eventually left the party scene (it was really hard to pull Luke away from that…cough…) and headed up to our hostel. Up and up and up. Up from the beach to the city, up from the city to the national park, up from the train station to the hostel which was perched on a mountain-side. Some people get freaked out when I tell them about Couchsurfing, but hostels can be way weirder. The “In and Out” Hostel definitely tops the list of places I’ve stayed in. We went up there earlier in the afternoon to check in and overheard another guest complaining about a strange man in her room who stole her underwear. We should have just turned around then but we didn’t. The place had all the ambience of the hotel from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, mixed with a little Clockwork Orange for good measure. When we finally got to the top of the mountain late that night we were met by this wild boar who was casually picking through the trash, and this seemed like a perfectly normal occurrence judging by the non-reaction of the hostel staff. But this is what you get when you do a search for lodging on “hostelworld” and then sort in order of cheapest prices. Unfortunately, Couchsurfing is nearly impossible in BCN, we’ve never been successful and I’ve given up trying. Maybe someday a good friend of mine will move to Barcelona and I’ll have a reliable crash pad. Until then I’ll still be browsing for the cheapest beds every time I return to that lovely city. Hakuna Matata?