8. May 19th. Wednesday
Some of the random people and conversations we’ve found on this trip have really been amazing. Not only was our pre-arranged meetings like that with the Burnetts great, but we’ve come across people in the midst of their unique or coincidental lives and we’ve enjoyed so much the interactions we’ve shared, made so much more beautiful by the known fact that soon we’ll go home and life will be back to normal.
Pauline, on the train from Rome to Paris, had intriguing stories and recommendations about Paris as a person who’d lived there and didn’t like it. The Burnetts are Americans living an inspiring life outside of much of what I’m use to seeing day to day at home.
Laura and I spent much of our time the last day in Paris finalizing some gifts and taking some photos with Craig and Lora and thought we might miss the train by the time we finally got to Paris Austerlitz station. On the train to Barcelona it just so happened that two fellows in the compartment next to mine are from Nashville. Tennessee born and raised, a couple pre-med graduates seeing the world before committing to med school. Thankfully we got to share quite a bit of conversation and even game of scrabble with Austin and Andrew during the overnight train ride. It was definitely a good bit of luck because the end of our Paris time had been a bit stressful and it was comforting to share time with more Americans, some who even live in a city we’re so familiar with. Sharing stories and the details we’ve learned about how to get around on the trains or metros or other systems is really great when you come across people to share with. Normally staying in hostels puts you in contact with quite a few who are also traveling, but of course we hadn’t stayed in a hostel throughout all our time in France.
Then we finally arrived in Barcelona and as Laura mentioned, I think Santi has been by far one of our favorite things about the city. I’ve never seen anything like the atmosphere at the Garden Hostel. Typically the the paella + sangría meal they offer at that hostel (for 7€) is suppose to only take place if six people sign up for it, and though it was only Laura and I signed up, Santi still made his phenomenal dish and a pitcher of sangría just for us.
Unfortunately we couldn’t stay a third night at the Garden Hostel (now affectionately referred to as Santi’s Place). We did book one final night there before we fly home since it was several days out and they still had open dorm rooms. That will be the the day we get back from our road trip.
Meanwhile, we also met up with Bryan Decán, a friend of some friends, (who also knows my cousins in Oklahoma, it turns out) who I’d met once before when he visited Portland. Bryan is an Austin, Texas guy who is now studying Spanish and living in Barcelona. He’s been here four months and has accrued a great amount of knowledge about the city and culture, all of which he loved to share. Exploring the city with Bryan, we stopped by Sagrada Familia, we found the shoes Laura’s feet desperately needed (a pair of El Gansos and some leather sandals), some delicious tapas, and quite honestly the absolutely most amazing bar I’ve ever seen in my life, deep in the Gotíc district of Barcelona. Words, photos, memories cannot explain the incredible aesthetic of Bar Marsella. We were all three speechless, its a place worth traveling to Barcelona just in itself.
Before leaving Barcelona we didn’t make quite as complete of a round of monument/museum sight-seeing as we had in Paris. Part of that was due to our less organized plans and the afternoon chocolates, tea, tapas, and wine offered at the hostel. Before leaving for this trip, Ryan Sharp warned me that “that Spanish siesta thing is legit” and he was right. Unfortunately for a couple days by the time I was able to catch up on sleep, writing, and the trip planning, it was around 2 or 3 pm, which is siesta time. There’s a very distinct deadness to many of the streets and shops during the late afternoon but the city certainly comes alive after dark. We were also in the city immediately following what I understood to be some major victories by the Barcelona fútbol team, which, in celebration by the fans in the streets, provided us with some additional novelty and entertainment.
I’m not exactly known to be a shopper but I’ve particularly enjoyed Barcelona because in our short times in the streets I’ve been able to find some items I’m very excited about (to add to the typewriter and other antiques and the brown plaid blanket we kept from the overnight train from Rome to Paris). In Barcelona, a few of the things I found were a Spanish Bible from 1859 in the most amazing little bookstore complete with an old Spanish shopkeeper and a cat, a beautiful pair of leather shoes made in Spain, an assortment of fine cigars (whose origin I won’t mention here) and Dutch pipe tobacco, and, after stumbling into a huge photography gear store on La Rambla, a 1965 Zeiss Icon Contraflex Super B 35mm. The Zeiss is a beautiful machine and I’ve already begun its inaugural roll of film here in España. I think it will make the perfect companion for my Hasselblad 500 c/m which has lately been increasingly lonely for another European camera in my camera bag.
Speaking of the film cameras, we’ve made it through most of the 120mm rolls purchased before this trip but the 35mm is holding out better. I was predicting for a few days in Paris that I’d be out of 120 far too soon, but all attempts to acquire additional rolls of Kodak Portra 400NC have been thwarted. First by holiday closings (ProPhot in Paris) and then by empty shelves (the mega store in Barcelona). I managed to find some rolls of Fujicolor 120 but would prefer to never use them and they’ll serve as last resorts for the rest of this trip.
Onward to Valencia..