Sunday, July 8, 2012

So far in Spain...

I stayed in a flat I booked through airbnb that turned out to be an overcrowded hostel in the center of Barcelona full of bed bugs, flooding, power outage, theft, and without bedding and towels. That night, I slept on a rickety bunk made out of bamboo with nothing but my jacket as a blanket and a pillow borrowed from a semi-creepy 40-year-old from South Carolina. This was my introduction to Barcelona, but let me start from the beginning.

After my sad goodbyes with Lara, I flew off to Madrid. The hostel was surprisingly luxurious considering I only paid 10 euros. I had my own bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. I think I lucked out because no one seemed to have reserved any of the rooms in my unit. Yesss!! It was awesome. Little did I know, however, of the horrors to come.

After a quick breakfast of churros and coffee with Eddie and Clare (real churros look like Chinese donuts as well as taste like Chinese donuts), we got on the bus to head to Barcelona. You're probably wondering why I didn't just fly directly to Barcelona. Well, it's because I never actually plan anything hence the weird order of my time in Europe thus far.

When we got to Barcelona, we first headed to where Eddie and Clare would be staying. I had suggested they book through airbnb as I did. Ironically, Eddie jokingly stated that one of us would probably get fucked over since Barcelona isn't the safest of cities. Though his flat was down a seemingly sketchy alley, it turned out to be great. The host was super nice, and him and his partner gave us many great suggestions about where to visit and where to eat. The place also smelled of pine sol so you knew it was freshly cleaned. To top it off, they left a basket of fruit and one egg in the fridge for Eddie and Clare.

We then headed over to meet my host to check in to the flat I had booked. Well, Enrique (my host) turns out is almost never in Barcelona. Instead, he has a helper named Omar who can't speak a lick of English handle everything. Omar made us wait almost half an hour as he searched for my keys. I didn't mind the wait as the Spanish are known to take their time. After retrieving my keys, he then had us walk about 10 minutes to the actual flat. I didn't mind that either though it would make more sense to have the guest meet at the flat, especially since they are usually lugging around heavy bags. When we finally went inside the place I would be staying, Eddie's face said it all. There was a dog running around and people littered the very narrow hallway. To make it even more cramped, there were a couple of sofas crammed into the hallway for seating. At this point, I was still fine. I figured the Berkeley dorms were even smaller so no big deal. Then we saw my room - dark, crowded, and filled with people's stuff just strewn about the place. There was a dresser that couldn't really open because the bunk bed was in the way. The bed was made out of bamboo and quite rickety. I inquired about where I could lock up my stuff, and I was told by Omar in Spanish with the help of Eddie's translation that "we all live in harmony and don't steal." (Later I found out 3 laptops were stolen.) I was actually still willing to put up with the place at this point. I figured it's like a hostel, and 20 euros a night is pretty standard for Barcelona. (I think this was me just trying to make the best of a situation that was about to turn way worse.)

After dinner, I went back to the room to get ready to sleep when I realized, I had no blanket or pillow, just a thin sheet that didn't even cover the entirety of my mattress. I also had no towel in which to shower with. After getting a pillow from a guy who had previously been spending the past half hour checking out dudes and seemingly sending messages to them to hook up and a towel that my French roommate just happened to find (he sniffed it to make sure it was clean), I begin to think that maybe I couldn't handle the place for 4 nights. As I lay in my bed curled up in my jacket and trying not to think about what kinds of bacteria lay in my bed and pillow, I thought back to my backpacking trip in Yunnan where I lived off yak tea, slept in the mountains, and went without a shower for a week. If I could handle that, I figured I could handle a little bit of discomfort. Besides, I didn't REALLY need a blanket. It was 70 degrees out after all.

The next morning, I woke up and got ready to head out. Just as I was about to message Eddie, the guy who had lent me his pillow stopped to talk to me. He told me of the 3 laptops that were stolen, of the bed bug infested half of the flat, about his current roommate who is infested with bed bugs, about the shadiness of Enrique and Omar, and it was then, I decided that I would get the fuck out. Just as I was thinking this, Omar comes in with pillows and blankets for me. Just as he is about to hand me those items, the ceiling in the bathroom bursts open and water just starts pouring out like Niagara Falls. I called up Enrique and told him I was moving out. Poor Omar though. Not only was he trying to keep the place from flooding, but he was also on the phone with Enrique trying to figure out my refund situation. You'd think the craziness would stop there. As I was hurriedly packing up my things, the power went out. I quickly finished packing without even bothering swimming to the shower to grab my toiletries and got the fuck out of there. I power walked to Eddie and Clare's flat and what would've been a half hour walk turned into 15 minutes. So in the end, everything did turn out okay. We had a fun day at the famous Gaudi-designed segrada familia, paella by the beach, and drinks on La Rambla, a famous strip in Barcelona full of shops and restaurants. That night, I slept at their flat on a couch half my size. At least I didn't have to use my jacket as a blanket, and then today, I checked myself into a Best Western. I never thought I would think Best Western to be luxurious but it totally is!

Today, Eddie and Clare left so after getting settled into my hotel, I explored the northern part of Barcelona by bus and spent the late afternoon at the beach people watching, eating chocolate con churros, and reading.

Despite the craziness from the beginning, Barcelona is a BEAUTIFUL city. Everyone here is super fit and super relaxed. The food is amazing. The weather is perfect. This city is the epitome of summer vacation.


  1. /Did you take a picture of your nasty hostel?

  2. Oh god, that sounds horrible!!! But, since you're there, make sure you go to Kiosko Universal, a seafood shack in Mercat Boqueria on Las Ramblas. By far the BEST meal I had in Europe when I went to Paris, Naples, Sorrento, Capri, Rome, Pisa...and for a really great price!!!!!! DO IT. (Razor clams are amazingggg, btw).