So a week ago I was in Barcelona. Why am I just talking about this now? Well, that’s because I’ve been writing this in my head all week. Part of being a writer is actually writing. So here we are. Obviously, if this is being viewed by eyes that are not my own, there’s either a ghost sitting over my shoulder as I write this, or I’ve written it. I really hope the latter.
(P.S. This is a long one.)
So a month or so ago, I got curious as to whether or not a friend of mine from home was around Europe. My friend’s name is Nate, and he graduated my freshman year. He was the first person I worked with on lighting things, and that’s my theatre technology. Stage Management is my production. So I’ve always looked up to Nate as a possibility of who I’ll (never) be- (because he’s a million times better at everything lighting technology than I am.) He taught me a lot, though, and sparked my real interest in lighting. So I thought if he was around maybe I could see him and learn about world tours. I want to specialize in international theatre. Anything helps.
So turns out he was scheduled to be in Barcelona the second weekend of March. I had that weekend off. Facebook messages back and forth, finding a friend to go with me (Katie!), train tickets and Air BnBs later- Katie and I are on our way to Barcelona to see Frozen on Ice (and Nate!!!).
So we decided to go on a Thursday night, have Friday and Saturday morning to explore a little, but really take it easy. Katie is going to Barcelona again at the end of the month with Mary, and I’m going at the end of my trip because that’s the city I’m flying out of. So we both decided, you know, we don’t have to go crazy this time. Which turned out to be a good thing.
Katie wasn’t feeling super well on Thursday, but it was one of those things that maybe she was just a little under the weather. Nothing major (or so I thought). Our first hint of how our weekend was going to go should have been when our taxi driver had to get out of the car to wake up another taxi driver who had a passenger in his car. One thing after another, it seemed, because Friday we wake up and she’s worse. So she calls Pepa as I’m getting ready for the day and we find that we should probably go to a clinic or a hospital. We eat breakfast and our lovely Air BnB host tells us the closest and best clinics. Katie decides that since it’s close, she wants to try Park Guell before we go to a doctor. Okay. Let’s try it.
One thing after another, it seemed, because Friday we wake up and she’s worse. So she calls Pepa as I’m getting ready for the day and we find that we should probably go to a clinic or a hospital. We eat breakfast and our lovely Air BnB host tells us the closest and best clinics. Katie decides that since it’s close, she wants to try Park Guell before we go to a doctor. Okay. Let’s try it.
Park Guell is beautiful. What we didn’t really know were the restrictions on times for tickets. So this happened in Barcelona a lot, where you had to buy a ticket for a time to go in. Maybe it’s because I haven’t done much tourist-ing on my own or it’s that Europeans care more about their national treasures, but this happened at the Sagrada Familia too. (I digress). So we wandered the part of the park that you didn’t have to pay for, and we went into the Gaudi museum, aka his house before we even tried buying tickets.
His house was really cool. Each room had a chandelier that I fell in love with, for one. There was also so much intricate detail in the walls and so much floral detail that it makes sense that I started to believe that Barcelona was built by fairies. I loved it so much. There was a video playing that was a nun who took care of Gaudi’s home reflecting on the artist. It gave me a much more humanistic image of the man. He is one of the most important architects in history-yet that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a man. He was extremely religous, but I felt like he was the type of super-religious person that I could be friends with. He did his own thing and followed his own ideals, but at the core was kind and creative.
This is the Gaudi I imaged walking through the park.
As we went on, Katie slowly got worse and worse. So we decided to buy our tickets to The Monumental zone (which is where you want to go when you to Barcelona) and had to wait an hour and a half to get in. So we found a cafe, I grabbed an orange juice and a water, and we wandered back up to find someplace to sit. Which wasn’t an entirely bad thing. Katie got to rest a little bit, but then we got a concert too. Which was interesting. The public, free areas of the park are full of people selling things, art, music, selfie sticks, food (I want the water sellers to have a competition to see who can say “agua/water one euro” the fastest). Which reminds you that Park Guell is a park. Even though it’s one of the most famous places in Barcelona and the world, and the Monumental Zone is heavily protected for its artistic importance, it’s still a park. It was meant for people to relax, it was meant for people to enjoy their day. It is almost sad, to be honest, that it’s so beautiful and so important culturally and artistically because it’s a tourist trap and locals can’t enjoy it as much as they probably would.
I digress, though.
We rushed a little through the Monumental Zone, because I wanted to get pictures for people back home, and we paid for the tickets anyway. It was absolutely gorgeous. I really think that my next tattoo may be in the style of a Gaudi mosaic, but we’ll see what happens on this trip to maybe change that.
Once we rush through the pretty parts and I fawn over how much I love taking pictures of details, Katie is not looking good. So I pull out my phone (which, to note, isn’t actually my phone because mine broke on Wednesday so it’s a phone I’m very unfamiliar with) and search the nearest clinic or hospital.
It’s a hospital. It’s close. I get Katie there as fast as I can, so she can sit down and rest.
This is the first real test in Spanish, to be honest. We survive. It’s funny how in a grammar class you feel like you’re drowning, but once you’re in the street you can get along just fine. We spend three hours there for antibiotics and ibuprofen. I think it’s important to note that it was ridiculously cheap compared to American healthcare, oh my god.
So on our way back to the flat, we find a Pharmacy. Katie gets her medicine, I pick up some deoderant because I somehow forgot mine. We get back, and she takes a shower to go to bed. I charge my phone up and write a bit, waiting until a reasonable time to go searching for food. Katie naps, and once I feel my phone is charged enough for me to be able to call for help if I need it-I go out for food.
This was one of the first lessons I learned about traveling: if you want to find the cheapest food, just get up and go. I wandered down towards the closest main street and found sandwiches for like 6.50euro each. Google was telling me only about places in the middle of the tourist traps-not the wonderful little place down the street. So, if I give you reader any advice don’t rely on your phone all the time for finding places. It’s great for when you’re trying to get to a landmark, but if you need food or a pharmacy, get up and go. You’ll find it.
After dinner, we play cards to kill time and relax. I teach Katie Rummy 500 and she teaches me Spit. Off to bed again to see what the morning will bring.
The morning brings Katie feeling worse. Which is to be expected. So she decides to spend the day sleeping so that she can go to the show. I decide to spend the day wandering around Barcelona. First I go to the Sagrada Familia.
I’m a little awestruck by this place. Remember how I said I thought Gaudi and I could’ve gotten along? This place confirmed it. I’m not a religous person, and I’m not saying that the Sagrada Familia converted me; but I’m saying that Gaudi put something in that church that reflected the glory of God in a way that is both human and awesome. It’s something I agreed with. My favorite, and what explained it the best to me was that he didn’t want the tallest spire of the church to be taller than the tallest mountain in the Barcelona area, because the creation of man should not surpass the creation of God. Couple that with the pure magic of the church, I could get behind it.
Barcelona was built by fairies. My theory grew stronger in that church. After, I decided to head towards the Gothic Quarter. I don’t think I really got there, I was mostly around La Rambla, but as I took my pictures I confirmed it. Barcelona was built by fairies trying to be human.
This is when I learned a lot about myself- when I was wandering around Barcelona alone. Sure, it may not have been the best idea. But it was daylight and I was careful. It proved that I was, 100% someone who could do these things on her own. I’ve always been the independent one-but there’s something different about being independent in your own city and in one whose main language you can barely speak. It honestly was the reason that I went to Murcia to fix my phone alone today. I could do it. I’m a grown a** woman, who just has a great deal of wonder left in her soul.
I overpay for a cappuccino and a croissant, and people watch on the Rambla before returning to Katie. This is when I wondered if all Americans sound stupid or if it’s just most of them (update: just the loud ones. Don’t be a loud person if you’re a tourist. That’s a really great way to get targeted). Sitting there, though, alone and watching the people around me; it was relaxing and fulfilling. Not only could I get around Barcelona on my own, but I could get to know it for a moment-at least from the tourist perspective. This is also the human perspective. I think one of the most fascinating things about studying abroad is how stereotypes are both confirmed and destroyed. Yes, Americans are loud- but so are a lot of people from the U.K. Generally all tourists over the age of 45 wear the typical socks and sandals, or sneakers and visors get up-no matter what country they’re from. As you sit on La Rambla in any city-people are broken down and mushed together. You are you and they are them, and at the end of the day we’re all human.
So-back to Katie. She slept a lot that day. She got up, I freshened up and changed. Then we got going.
This part has no pictures because Katie wasn’t feeling well, and I didn’t have my iphone. So sorry about that, everyone. But I’ll add something at the end.
This was interesting part #2 of the trip. Because I took us to the wrong place. The company that brought the show to Barcelona had a headquarters that was not the skating rink. Why did I not look at this more closely? Overconfidence I guess.
Nate had told us to get there at 7:00 to get our tickets. Well, it was 6:45 and we were not close enough to anywhere to get there on time.
So thankfully I had cash for a taxi. We got there right at seven. (There being Palau San Jordi. One of the central places for figure skating in the world. Also where the held the 1992 Olympics. Not a big deal).
Come to find out we could’ve gotten there at 7:15 but Nate thought the show was earlier.
So I catch up with him quickly before he has to go and take care of lights. Katie and I go to go in, maybe find something to munch on.
I glance at our tickets. 12:00 on the ticket. It’s a 7:45 show (19:45 to Europeans).
We’re sent to this little pop up ticket office in between the entrances.
Spanish test #2.
I tell them that my friend works for the show, and they ask for his name. Talk to production people. We’re good, but we have to wait.
Someone comes to find us and starts talking to us in Spanish. I respond. We make some small talk. I tell him my friend works for the show, and he’s like “the company?” and I’m like “yeah?” and this guy was like “Spanish is okay?”
There’s a small sense of pride when you can communicate in Spanish. Like I said about the hospital visit- grammar classes make you want to poke your eyes out. But then you can get your tickets sorted out, your hospital bills taken care of, and you can order your favorite drink with a wink.
Life works out nicely that way. It’s such a nice confidence boost, too.
We’re sent to the “bad” seats. I don’t mind because the sightlines let me see backstage and I’m creepy like that. Before the show, I go and find food and try to find Nate up at the board, because of course, he’s on the opposite side of the arena of us. I end up running back and forth like three or four times.
Turns out, it wasn’t Nate who messed up the tickets (which I did see the ticket request) but the guy who sets them aside. Nate took my one ticket as proof, the other one got thrown out with the food on accient, and so I only have the envelope as proof. But it’s there. I promise. 12:00hrs. Not 19:45hrs. But it’s okay. It was an experience.
But the show starts. Did I mention it was in Spanish? Which was fascinating. Of course, I know Frozen. I grew up on Disney and gleefully still support the franchise. However, being able to pick apart the translations was a little mind boggling.
That all stopped when we got to Libre Soy and the entire stadium is full of little children singing the song in Spanish that you’re used to little children singing in English.
Heartwarming and creepy at the same time. Mostly heartwarming.
I find Nate at intermission. We talk tech things. I miss talking tech things.
I go back to my seat and watch the second half of the show. It’s impressive, but it wasn’t what I remembered Disney on Ice to be. It was almost like when I saw Annie again after ten years of varying theatre experience. The image of these shows in your mind is so idealized and then it breaks. But it’s still impressive. You don’t take doing a backflip on ice skates, on ice, lightly. You appreciate it for the magic, but because you know how the magic is made.
After the show we got a quick tour backstage. I asked Nate more tech questions. Katie asked the typical production questions- and even some I didn’t think of. The most impressive thing being that the skaters have to learn the scripts in every language. It’s all lip sung, but they’re in a country for maybe a week and then they move on.
So many languages.
So many words.
So much impressive.
We meet up with the Master Electrician and a small, blonde, smiley (but still looks like she can kill you to be honest…) woman from Chester (not Manchester. Chester) (I am so sorry I am awful with names, I can’t remember anyone’s.) Nate and I talk, Katie trails about, piping in now and then. She’s still sickly, and honestly, she’s dealing with a version of me that people don’t know here.
During Tapas it was even more interesting. We end up being a group of seven. Katie and I order for everyone (the waitress thanked us because while she can speak English, Spanish is easier). The smiley blonde is impressed. I ask at some point who everyone is. A mix of technicians, oh and smiley blonde is a skater.
Katie upon hearing this is fascinated. It was really cute seeing her being kinda star struck. I admit, that being a skater for ice shows is impressive in so many ways, but I’m used to being around impressive people. My friends are ridiculously talented people. So when one more pops up it’s not the same for me as it is for someone who isn’t just immersed in this world. So it’s actually a good reminder for me that Katie was so starstruck. These people are ridiculously talented. They’re people. But they’re talented.
Anyway, we talk more. I learn about touring. We reminisce a little bit about home.
Home. It’s a funny word. In Barcelona it means Alicante. In Alicante it generally means Niagara. At Niagara it means where my parents are. With my parents, it means the house, but also sometimes Niagara. However, there, in Barcelona, I felt at home. Completely at home.
Which is to say, it’s not like I don’t feel at home in Alicante. Because I do. The fact is, though, so much of who I am is a theatre person. Sitting around that table in Barcelona reminded me how that doesn’t leave me. We’re a special, weird breed. I admit. Theatre people work hard, but also have fun. We’re perpetual children, but still adults. We just have more permission, I think, to retain our wonder and childishness through our extreme capacities for passion.
For the first time in months, I was back in my waters for an hour or so.
Nate covers our dinner (thank you so much), and we leave a little early for Spain time because Katie is sick and we have a six-hour train ride at 11:00AM.
We leave Barcelona the next morning.
I think I see a fairy.
I am back in Alicante and I’m left wondering how any of that actually happened.
Which is what happens a lot here.
How is this happening?
How am I here?
I can’t question it too much or I’ll get into issues of reality, but the world never ceases to amaze me.
And I love it.
(Thank you so much, Nate. I learned a ton, and it was amazing to see you again)