My seven week adventure in España was drawing to a swift end, which was both exciting and sad. I was incredibly grateful for all of the experiences I had had; the growth and development of self and the new friendships cemented for life. Yet, I was sorrowful to leave that behind; my safe haven, nestled in the arms of Spain.
There was one more sleep to come, before exiting from Barcelona. Ironically, the place that I was to meet my friends from Seville, was right in front of the Valencia bullfighting ring. I turned my back on the colossal building and watched the cars racing around the lip of the touristic centre.
Police came and went, issuing angry words or tickets to the delinquent cars. Petitioners tried to entice my signature, to engrave itself on their political agendas. The Beast and I waited as the sun bathed me in its golden warmth.
My chariot arrived and we sped away. The driver, Oreo Cookies, and co-pilot were from India, and accordingly, the roads to them were child’s-play. I chatted randomly, enthusiastically, nervously. We had one of those ‘How the eff do you work the petrol pump?’ moments. Something that seems so normal back home renders you infantile in understanding elsewhere.
It was decided amid the blaring i-sounds, that we should break up our 3 ½ hour road trip by stopping at the pristine ocean. The blue hues had winked and beckoned from the windows. Finding an off-ramp, we thought we’d made the biggest mistake, as the toll both demanded 20 euros.
“Are you f^*@ing serious!”
“This better be worth it!”
It was. It was worth begrudgingly handing over several meals worth of money to experience one of the best beach spots we had ever seen, in Europe, L’Ametlla de Mar.
After extracting my bikini and sarong from The Beast and shuffling behind the car door to get changed in a boatie’s carpark, we sauntered up over a rise and found a spot with plenty of personal space; behind some children building and demolishing sand castles. It felt like we’d happened upon a hidden gem with the locals lazing and the beach adorned with just a peppering of people; a marvellous treasure sparkling that we were lucky enough to share.
Back on the motorway, it was littered with more toll booths. Sometimes it only felt like we’d driven two k’s to be sandwiched into another booth, with the costs ranging from high, to low, to ‘You must be taking the piss’. Each time we’d need assistance, as the machines wouldn’t take cash or our credit cards. Each time angry cars would toot impatiently from behind. Oreo Cookies told us about the time he’d hired a car in Italia and was stung by a 100 euro toll that had popped up. The European roads could feel so savage and unforgiving, sometimes.
We arrived into Barcelona later than expected, without a clue. The GPS didn’t have one either. As much as we tried on all kinds of devices, nothing could give us any direction. It became retro in its essence; back to following a knowing of being close to the airport, gut-feelings as a guide, and my newly acquired skill of being ultra-calm in uncertain situations.
It worked. A road that forked off from the airport with three pairs of sharpened eyes found my hotel, obscured with a minimalist sign, in some newly developed area. Spiralling around, we found the entrance, at the exit, so I expeditiously said ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’.
There are several things I look for when spending hours searching for accommodation; security, no bed bugs, and wifi. This stately building that I had splashed out on, made big promises like a politician in campaign. Weighing up the cost and location, I figured that I’d be saving time and money with its nearness to the airport and the 1 euro shuttle ride at dawn was the best offer by far. The room was contemporary and divine, except it was lacking in the one thing that I needed; wifi coverage for my ongoing travel plans, bookings, confirmations, and connecting with family and friends.
A crises, in my eyes, can always be calmed, compromised, or averted. The hotel lobby was my sanctuary for stretching out on a sticky leather couch and scrabble for all of the net that I could, amid my other same predicament acquaintances.
You may be wondering why I didn’t factor in some time to visit Barcelona. The truth was that I had been curious but I wasn’t overly keen after hearing stories from locals about the thieves there. I’m sure and I’ve heard that it’s an amazing place that a lot of people adore, but given my past travelling experiences, I just didn’t want to deal with a potential pickpocketing situation on this lone traveller.
A very late night of organising and re-packing, a very early rise, and I was ready to leave, saying ‘Adios amigo!’ to my Spain. But it wasn’t that flawless and lovely with sparkles, adulation, and roses. In the next instalment, I’ll fill you in on one of those interesting times I had to really take my father’s advice to ‘stay calm under pressure’ in one of the more memorable airport experiences of my life. Until then, X