A few years ago, when I was still teaching, I made an ill-advised decision to take a quarter off of work to travel to Europe. Ill-advised from those that thought going without a paycheck for three months was a bad idea… and those that thought dropping all my responsibilities for an extended out-of-country trek was insanity. For me, it was a golden opportunity to explore this awesome city and live a bit like a local.
My travel partner-in-crime, Eric, and I packed our backpacks and set out for Barcelona with very little on our agenda other than to explore the mainland of Spain. Because we love to do most things off-season, we decided to travel just after the New Year. Although we knew it wouldn’t be warm, the weather overall was supposed to be fairly mild. Perfect. I am from Washington State – I’m used to going months on end without obtaining any vitamin D from the sunshine.
We’re arrived in Barcelona jet-lagged and ecstatic. The first thing we did… was sleep. Wah wah. We’d been up for over 24 hours and needed a little recharge on our batteries. We awoke a few hours later at dusk and set out on foot to explore the city. Our hotel, booked for dirt cheap on Agoda.com, was situation on Avinguda del Paral·lel – the main drag that runs through the city.
Even in January on a random Monday night, the city was alive with vendors, bars, and restaurants serving tapas. We parked ourselves just outside one small wine bar that almost resembled a garage, complete with a metal rolling door. There were huge barrels sitting in front used as make-shift tables where you could just stand and watch the world pass by you. We chit-chatted about everything and nothing, just taking it all in. It was a glorious feeling to not be rushed in anyway, like the clock didn’t exist at all.
We spent the next two weeks exploring every inch of the city by foot. It’s always been our philosophy that the best way to get to know a new place is to hoof it everywhere. We wandered the winding stone streets of Barri Gotic. We found all the magnificent work of Gaudi around the city. We trekked all the way across the city, so Eric could see the FC Barca stadium with his own eyes.
Yes, we did the touristy stuff. I wanted to witness these wonders with my own eyes. However, my favorite part of Barcelona was meeting the locals. One night, we stumbled across a biker-type bar along Avinguda del Paral·lel called The Paddock Motard and were greeted with open arms by the owners. So warmly in-fact, it became our nightly routine to stop in during the evening and have a cerveza or two and chat with the siblings who ran the bar. Through our broken Spanish, we we’re able learn a bit about this awesome family. We talked about the tough economy, their knowledge of the states, and our shared love of music.
It’s these types of memories that are close to my heart. I love meeting new people. I love learning about places and cultures that are different from my own…. And also finding out that at our core, we are all the same. We were both sad to leave Barcelona, but we had other places we wanted to explore. And that, folks, is another story altogether.