Except literally…but that will come later.
This morning I packed up my stuff and checked out of my hostel. The owner was very nice and let me leave my bags there as my train to Madrid didn’t leave until 10:20pm.
I started my day by heading to a bakery in my neighbourhood to get some bread to go with the cheese I had bought on my first night. I planned to have a picnic in Gaudi’s Parc Guell. The hostel owner told me to take bus 22 and then walk to get to the park. I managed to find the right bus and only miss my stop by one!
I started walking up this big bridge in the direction the sign for Parc Guell pointed. After a lovely 10 minute uphill climb in the heat, I started to doubt the sign and began asking people. While my Spanish is good enough for “Donde esta Parc Guell?” it’s not quite good enough to understand the reply. Luckily Spanish people like to talk with their hands and point. I followed the pointing of a few people but after another 10 minutes, I still had not found it. Eventually one lady pointed me to a bus stop and ushered me onto a bus.
The bus did get me to Parc Guell – after another 10 minute uphill ride! I don’t know who my hostel owner was kidding when he said you could walk it.
The park was really cool. They’re doing a series with music in the parks, so there were violinists set up where you first walked in and other bands throughout. It was a really nice atmosphere. I climbed the steps and took in some of the cool architecture Gaudi had created. I really liked the little cave-type things throughout the park.
I stopped at some picnic tables to have my bread and cheese, read my book, and hide from the sun. After a little while, an entire soccer team decided to join me and basically forced me off the table. I wandered around some more. I stopped at the house where Gaudi lived for 20 years. It was cool to look at but I wasn’t interested enough to pay to go inside.
Parc Guell also has a lot of beautiful flowers and trees. Basically the park is gorgeous! I wish I had saved it to go later in the day when the heat wouldn’t have deterred me from exploring all the cool paths. I also wish I hadn’t worn my flats today.
On my way out of the park I got to see a really cool fountain, a coliseum-type structure, and the two giftshop buildings. It was quite an eye-catching exit. From there I walked to the metro and went back to Placa Catalunya.
I found a department store across from the main square and took the escalator to the top. It had really nice views and a good looking restaurant so I indulged in paella and the Barcelona skyline. My paella was good but very filling. And the shrimp heads kind of freaked me out!
I shopped around in the store for a bit and then returned to La Rambla. I went back to my food market, Mercat La Boqueria. It was less crowded and there didn’t seem to be as great a selection – maybe because it was later in the day. I tried a papaya-mango juice (kind of chunky) and grabbed strawberries, dried mangos and a chicken patty for later. I continued down La Rambla and took my feast to the water.
I found a nice bench along the port and sat down to people-watch, read and eventually eat my dinner. After that I headed back to my hostel to pick up my bags and head to the train station.
My hostel owner was very sweet – he wished me luck on my trip and ran to open the door for me. He’s a really nice man and if I’m ever in Barcelona again I will definitely be staying with him. I might bring my own air conditioning unit, but I’d still stay there.
My T-10 metro card had run out so I bought a ticket and got back on the metro. To get to the train station I had to transfer. No big deal, most of my other metro journeys required a transfer or two. Except this time, you had to exit the paid area and re-enter through the ticket area for the other metro line. I tried to re-insert my ticket, assuming that it would recognize I had transferred, but the machine rejected it (biggest waste of 2 euros…). Eventually, I conceded and went to buy another ticket.
Except the machine wouldn’t let me! I didn’t have 2 euros, so I tried to put in smaller change but the machine spat it back out. I tried to put in a bill: spat back out. I tried my credit card: rejected! I tried with multiple machines. At this point I was getting pretty frustrated. It wasn’t fair that I had to pay again, my bag was very heavy and it was disgustingly hot down there.
I went to knock on the door of an office I thought was information. It wasn’t, but the guy walked with me back to the ticket machine. I showed him that all my methods did not work. He tried to show me that my 20 euro bill would work if I bought 10 tickets and I tried to explain that I was leaving Barcelona. No way was I going to buy 10 tickets! After I showed him all my failed methods, he smiled sympathetically and shrugged. It was then that the first tear escaped.
I was already getting a little watery-eyed when it wasn’t working for me – but after the guy seemed like he had given up too, that was more than I could take. After letting a few tears out, I couldn’t control it. I totally had a break down in the middle of a metro station in Barcelona.
I can’t remember the last time I cried like that. I couldn’t catch my breath and I was shaking. I walked away from the machine and tried to find a private corner but it was just one long tunnel. The guy followed me, clearly frightened, and tried to ask if I was okay. I nodded, through my tears, and after muttering something about “taxi” he slowly walked away. I think I’ve scarred him for life; he’ll never open his office door for another tourist again.
I kneeled down on the floor to try and take a drink of water and hide behind my suitcase. A man approached and asked if I was okay in Spanish and then in English. I nodded. He didn’t seem convinced, but he left. Less than ten seconds later another man came over to ask if I was okay. Again I nodded. He turned away but then returned to ask if I had been robbed. I assured him I hadn’t and thanked him through sobs. He smiled and left.
I can’t believe how nice people are. You hear horror stories about Barcelona and locals trying to steal and rip off tourists. But as soon as I was crying by myself, people were coming up to me to offer help. I don’t know if that would have happened in Toronto. You hope that it would, but people turn away from more intense stuff all the time.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to share my break-down story on this blog. It still feels kind of surreal; the whole thing was a bit of an out-of-body experience. So far, my travel stories have been fairly light/happy and so far that has accurately depicted my travels! But I wanted to be honest and give a candid look at solo travel – sometimes it sucks!
I don’t think it was the ticket thing in particular that made me that upset. I’m not that unreasonable. I ended up taking a taxi (for less than what it would have cost to buy 10 tickets!) and I made it to the train station okay. I think it was the culmination of a bunch of things. I had kind of been feeling lethargic and out of it all day. My feet were still blistered and sore from the day before, the heat was killing me, and I just wasn’t feeling inspired to see anything anymore. I was feeling a bit burnt out. I think I still am.
My trip to Europe so far has been amazing – but it’s also been really busy! I’ve packed in a lot – especially right at the beginning. So, I’m a little tired! But, I feel horrible whenever I stop to take a break because I’m in Europe! When am I going to be in (insert awesome city here) again? How can I not make the most of this opportunity? It kills me to be wasting time but it also kills me to not appreciate the stuff I’m seeing because I’m so tired! Especially in these last few cities where I haven’t done a lot of research beforehand – I usually don’t have an itinerary until the night before. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fill my days but lately I don’t know what to fill them with!
Besides being burnt out, I think I was also getting a little down about the trip ending, the heat awaiting me in Madrid, the language barrier, the unplanned itinerary, and being a little lonely. When I put it all together like that – it helps to explain my crying in public…maybe.
Anyway, I’m on the train to Madrid right now. I was hoping for a little more AC and a plug for my computer but… what can you do? I have no idea what I’m going to do when I get to Madrid. I’d love to abandon my heavy backpack and head for the nearest air-conditioned place. But then I feel guilty again because I’m in Madrid! I don’t know what to do! I’m feeling better than I was at the train station; no more crying! But we’ll see how the next day goes….
UPDATE: No wifi or plugs on the train so couldn’t post this until now. Also, overnight train = not my most brilliant idea. I thought it was smart because it saves me paying a night in a hostel, it’s cheaper because it’s slow and I wouldn’t miss any sightseeing time by travelling at night. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the train would be cramped and beyond impossible to sleep in. They stick you in a compartment with 8 chairs all facing each other. People are coming off and on with the different stops. Everyone is trying to stretch out on the empty chairs. The door keeps banging open everytime we go downhill. And the same employee came to check our tickets a minimum of three times. Basically, it was the worse sleep of my life. I feel like a zombie (and look like one too). I am not looking forward to the overnight from Madrid to Lisbon.
UPDATE 2: I walked across the street from the train station and found the Husa Hotel. It was cheap. I was tired. I’m probably going to regret picking these hotels over hostels but I really needed a place to drop my bag and pass out. The staff have been really nice so far and I think it will make Madrid a lot better for me if I have this to come home to. Blah – I feel guilty about it.