Okay. So anyone that knows me in real life knows that I’m obsessed with going to Spain. I’ve wanted to go to Spain for like, nine years. And I’m finally here.
Viktor sent me off by driving me to town on Thursday morning. I planned on hitching to Foix where I would be able to take the triain to Barcelona, which would first pass through Latour and then zigzag through the mountains into Spain. Then, I would ride share from Barcelona to Valencia to meet up with my next host, Morgan. Well, things didn’t exactly turn out that way.
Instead of finding a single ride for the 44km journey from Saint-Girons to Foix, I found four. FOUR. That’s an average of something like five miles per person. My first ride was a guy with three little children in the back seat on their way to primary school, afros all sticking up and being adorable speaking French. Surprisingly I got them all to talk to me and introduce themselves, and when I told them where I was going they were like, “That’s a long way! You speak funny.”
When I finally reached Foix, the train was just about to leave, so I decided just to hitch the rest of the way to Latour and catch the train there (mountain trains are pretty slow). My last hitch towards Foix was a guy in a van playing Bob Marley, dreadlocks flowing in the wind, and he had already picked up a girl a few towns prior with her dog, who was also traveling Europe (but she was French, and she was camping the whole way). Anyway, the hitch from Foix took about an hour because I had to walk along the road out of town to find a good spot to hitch. There was a roundabout a couple miles out, and I was able to get a ride on the exit toward Andorra. My newest ride’s name was Valerie, and she was a physical therapist for children who specialized in infant care. She mentioned having done the same thing as me through Morocco, most of Europe, and parts of Southeast Asia. And she was only 26!
She dropped me off at some tiny town called Aix les Thermes, where I found another ride towards Andorra/Barcelona with a Romanian couple who were fluent in Spanish. They were staying in Andorra Vella, the Capitol of Andorra, and offered to either take me there or to the road split for Andorra and Barcelona up in the mountains. When we’d reached the split, I couldn’t decide which way to go. There was no traffic here at all, so hitching could prove impossible, or it could be really easy if even one car passed by. But Andorra had to have people traveling through towards Spain… So that’s where we went. “Life is an adventure. Let’s go to Andorra.”
Suddenly, there wasn’t the same green mountain country you saw in Saint-Girons. The mountains climbed higher and higher, becoming more and more devoid of plant life the farther up you went.
I’m so glad I went with them! Andorra is basically made up entirely of mountains, and I think it has the highest capital city in terms of altitude in Europe. The whole country basically runs on tourism. Hikers, skiers, para gliders, vacationers, and naturists bring a lot of money into the country, and the nicest, most expensive hotels are spread all over the mountainsides. The country isn’t that big, either- maybe 40 km straight through.
Once they’d dropped me off at Andorra Vella, it was only about 1:30, which meant incas ahed of schedule. I wasn’t sure exactlyl which direction to hitch so I had to walk into a multi story commercial center and ask for maps.
They kept kicking me out of the store part because I had a backpack, so I went up a floor a couple times before finding someone who didn’t care and I was able to walk around freely. Found a map, found the direction, went outside into POURING rain. That’s the thing about mountain climates. One minute it’s sunny, and the next you’ve got a torrential downpour threatening hour ability to anything. Undettered, I began sticking my thumb out at cars that were leaving the parking lot in the direction of Spain.
After my sleeve had become soaking wet from rain (about half an hour after leaving the mall), a camper with three Spanish guys pulled up and rolled down their windows. I asked them if they were going in the direction of Barcelona.
“Claro, sí. Eres gay?”
I couldn’t figure out why they were asking if I was gay or why it mattered. “Uh… Yo sí?”
After that it was immediately apparent they were joking and hadn’t expected me to answer. They were all laughing maniacally.
One of them opened the door and let me in. Suddenly I was accosted with bags of bacon flavored potato chips, chocolate bars, dessert rolls, beer, and my first authentic conversation with Spaniards. As it turned out, they were all cops. From Fuerteventura (one of the Canary Islands). They had been on vacation, driving around in their camper and were on their way back to Barcelona to end their trip and head back to Las Canarias. In addition to the awesome company, the views were spectacular, and at one point we stopped so they could cook (lunch consisted of traditional Cataluyan chorizo, Spanish salad, fried potato wedges… The works).
The view from our lunch spot.
As we climbed higher through the mountains and passed through several towns, I noticed a lot of flags that were similar to the Spanish flag but which had blue triangles and a star in the center. Samuel (one of the guys in the camper) explained they were flags that showed Catalunya’s independence from Spain. In Catalunya they speak Catalan, which is more or less mutually comprehensible with Spanish with some exceptions. But the culture and people are different, and hang flags on their windows and balconies as a sign of pride in their Catalunyan heritage.
Around sundown we finally arrived in Barcelona. They let me off in the Plaza Catalunya where I was ecstatic to find that things in Spain close much later than things in France. Everything was basically open until nine or ten, so I was able to get a SIM card at a local mall and start figuring things out. Originally, the plan was to go straight to Valencia, but I had no idea how I was going to get there, and hitchhiking doesn’t work at all in Spain, let alone at night. I let my Valencian host, Morgan, know that i would be coming that night and I decided to stay a night in Barcelona. I found a cheap hostel (€13 a night) literally a five minute walk from the beach. I walked all the way there instead of taking the metro.
The city is GORGEOUS. I have a soft spot for cities next to the beach, and Spain, and places where I see more gay couples than straight ones. In addition to call of tht, Anyway, after walking a few miles (I walked the wrong way at first for a good hour before realizing I was going to hit the edge of the city without finding my hostel. I’m so stupid when it comes to directions). When I finally found the “Amistat” hostel, it was about 11. It was still warm enough outside that I didn’t need a jacket — already a good deal. Originally I booked one night, but an hour later I went back downstairs and extended my stay until Monday morning.
In the morning, I met up with another CouchSurfer who was looking for a buddy to see the city with. For whatever crazy reason, I forgot to get a picture of him, but he was from Venezuela and his name was Jeremias. We decided to hang out all day until his host got off work and would come to met us and show us around the city some more.
They have TWINKIES WITH CHOCOLATE OMG.
La Sagrada Familia. There are storm troopers built into the wall on the back. This thing is just awesome. It’s still under construction, though, and getting in was nearly €20, so that was a no.
What the hell is happening here?
“I’m going to eat this hotdog even though the sculptor said not to bring food. It’s not like he’s going to sculpt me eating a hot dog and holding a lamb. That would be ridiculous!”
Everything in Barcelona is written in Catalan. Of course, everyone speaks Spanish unless they’re over fifty years old, but if you can’t speak Catalan and you’re in Barcelona, it is readily apparent that you are an outsider. Jeremias’s host, Conchi, met up with us in the afternoon. She was in Barcelona studying and working, but had lived there for eight years, so she knew where to take us.
What is happening here? She was advertising for an ‘erotic museum’ which was only on the second floor of an apartment building. How strange.
We hit up the local Catlunya food market which was incredibly expensive, saw some churches and other buildings. After seeing literally most of the city’s most popular attractions, I went back on the metro to the hostel. And of course, there was an awesome folk band playing in the metro.
That night, there was a Mojito party through CouchSurfing that I convinced a girl in the hostel who was from St. Louis to accompany me to. It was insane. There were a lot of people and only two bar drew who were having a really hard time keeping up with everyone’s orders. But the mojitos were excellent and the beer was cheap, and I met like twenty new people from all over the world. So much fun! The girl I went with, Jodi, turned out to be from St. Louis, so we bonded over stories from back home and an appreciation for Midwest culture. She’s a very cool person; she h been traveling for almost three months and is finally going home this week and then going to Thailand to do a TOEFL course to teach English, and will then work towards opening a restaurant in Chile with her boyfriend. Jeez!
The next day we resolved to wake early and spend a long time at the beach. We were there for a good four hours.
After the beach, we met up with Andrew, one of the guys we’d met at the Mojito party who was from Canada. He knew about a good Spanish restaurant where you can get a bottle of cava (a sweet, bubbly wine-like drink) for €5 and cheap food. It was EXCELLENT except it was almost impossible to order food. You had to pass through people like a ninja and force your way to the front to be able to order. And it’s impossible to move without moving people to the side and just saying “permiso!” again and again.
When we tried to take our food outside we got yelled at. Apparently, it’s illegal to eat or drink on the streets. Oh well. I got lomo con serrano y pimiento. I writing that down so I remember later.
That night, there was another CouchSurfing event. This is where my time in Barcelona gets ridiculous. A pop-up picnic was planned at Plaça del Sol, meaning everyone was to dress nicely, bring homemade food, and act normal until nine o’clock when they would suddenly lay everything out and start eating. The setup was a little plaza surrounded by several restaurants and bars. There were supposed to be five ‘social surprises’ planned throughout the mealtime and everyone was encouraged to join.
The food was excellent. I had potato soup from some Canadians, empanadas from Argentina, and various other chunks of food. From all over the world, and I met some really awesome people from London, Spain, and of course other countries.
Then there was a flash mob to Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”
After several minutes of applause from both us and the people eating at the restaurants that surrounded us, they taught the group a dance and we all were turning and twisting and moving our arms around and having a great time dancing in the middle of this ridiculous mob of people on a Friday night.
Then something weird happened. Someone offered me spice cake, which I ate, but afterwards I found out he was saying “space cake” and someone went “This definitely has weed in it.” Oh, dear god. Nonononono. I thought it had tasted a bit funny but I didn’t want to be rude. I was still planning on going to karaoke later that night too… So I waited a bit to make sure I was going to be okay, and I felt like maybe there wasn’t actually weed in the cake so I would be safe. Nope. As soon as I started walking in the direction of the karaoke bar, I was high as balls.
I couldn’t pay attention to anything. The city seemed like a giant fuzzy mess and concentrating on a simple task like entering the address of my destination into the map on my phone seemed absolutely impossible. After twenty minutes of zoning in and out between looking at my phone and despairing about my situation, I started walking. Half an hour later, even though I thought I had been going the right direction, I ended up back at the plaza. Then I started to freak. Okay, new plan. Ask everyone where the metro is. I started walking back the direction I had come from and decided to go in a straight line until I ran into a metro station. I found a couple people to ask on the street, but I literally couldn’t find any Spanish words so I had to ask them in English and they replied with “I don’t speak English.” My eyelids at this point felt like anvils and my mouth was so dry I couldn’t stand it. After what seemed like forever, I found a metro station.
I had the same problem on the metro as I the streets. I took the lines in a giant circle before finding the line that would take me home. I remember that I found a great many things extremely funny in my head, and I kept telling myself to write them down, but of course that didn’t get done and I don’t remember large portions of how I got home. It’s probably for the best. The thing about weed is that you have all these ‘great ideas’ that are actually totally mundane, but you can’t tell because you’re high. I do remember this, though:
Heh. Fernando Poo.
And I remember being incredibly sick to my stomach. Ugh. It was so awful. Anyway, I’d never been so happy in my life when I found my bed and I watched a couple tv shows to keep myself awake because I felt too close to throwing up to feel comfortable sleeping. It was around 2 in the morning when I was finally able to sleep.
The next morning, Jodi and I went to the beach again and spent another several hours becoming toast. She treated me to a Strawberry Daiquiri. I was still high as balls.
So I got us some Twix too.
We were both really hungry after a few hours on the bech so we started touring some of the streets to find food. Several places in Barcelona had deals going for tapas and a beer for €2,40. It was delicious, but I needed more food. Tapas are small dishes which are basically like appetizers, but you can make meals out of them, and it’s common for tourists to travel from place to place trying several different tapas at each restaurant they pass, because each place has different specialities.
After that we needed actual food we she got ice cream and I got this delicious monstrosity.
We finally headed to one more place for an actual meal about an hour later and I had steak, these fried cheese things, salad, and fried potatoes for €8. So good.
Finally we went back to the the hostel and I literally did nothing the rest of the day. I sat in my bed and watched tv shows and was just a lazy bum in general because I still could not function even slightly. You should have seen us trying to get around town to find here restaurants, oy…
I booked a ride to Valencia and this morning (Monday) met up with my driver and three others– two Spaniards and a German guy. The country here is beautiful. Cliffs and small mountains, hills, green, brown, the sea flanking our left side as the cities fly past. I’m not high anymore so I’m much happier. Next time, I’ll be more aware of what I’m eating…