Posts Tagged ‘barcelona’

An American in Paris

October 29, 2009

meI had come to realize that Barcelona had run its course and it was now time to move on. So I said my goodbyes (do they ever get easier?) and off I went. Destination: Paris. I realized that I chose not such an ideal time of year to visit the city of lights, where I envisioned myself snacking on wine and cheese while people watching along a charming little outdoor sidewalk café. I had also hoped to take advantage of the city’s brilliant bike rental system and bicycle my way around the districts getting wonderfully lost along the way and, perhaps, in a moment of temporary distress, a dashing Frenchman would notice my dilemma and stop to offer his assistance, which I thank him for, and he then takes me to a romantic dinner after watching the light show at the Eiffel tower… but I’m getting ahead of myself. Where was I? Ah, Paris in the fall. As soon as I arrived, I knew that I had, in fact, chosen the perfect time of year to visit Paris. Though, yes, it was a bit chilly. Too bad I left most of my warm clothes at Andreas’ flat in London. Too bad Andreas from London turned out to be a sociopath. Yet, once again, I digress. My first day in Paris, I checked into the St. Christopher’s Inn, where I met up with Patty, one of my fellow volunteers from Pueblo Ingles II who was at the beginning of her year long trip around the world. After checking in, Patty and I stopped at a market where we grabbed a bottle of cheap red wine, a couple of Baguettes and some cheese and had a little picnic besides what Patty had believed to be the Seine River. It turned out that it was not, in fact, the Seine, but rather a small, man-made quay, but the picnic was lovely all the same.  The next day, exhausted after being kept up all night by several teenagers dancing in the disco along with hostel’s very own DJ, we both happily agreed to check out and move to a nice little hotel on the other side of town.  Near the real Seine incidentally.  So we once again packed our backpacks and off we went. As we emerged from the metro, we looked up and standing proudly before us was the majestic Arc de Triumph which, pardon the pun, trumped the one in Barcelona. Now I felt like I was in Paris! Since this was Patty’s fourth or fifth time visiting Paris, and my first, I decided to leave the map reading and tour guiding in her capable hands.  After checking into our hotel, we decided to take a stroll along Champs Elysees, every now and then stopping and marveling at the sights before us. At one point, we came up to a large, impressive building that Patty informed me was the Louvre. I grabbed my camera and began madly snapping away, taking in the beauty of what stood before us, until Patty, after re-examining the map, realized that the Louvre was actually on the other side of the (real) Seine, and that the building standing before us was actually… well, we’re still not sure.  Later on, we finally came upon the real Louvre, which was even more majestic and impressive than the fake one. The next day, Patty, my capable tour guide, had to leave Paris to continue her trip around the world, and I was once again on my own. But not for long. I decided to go check out a local improv troupe which I had heard about. The two hour show was completely in French, and, being that I don’t speak French, I understood nothing.  But I did manage to meet an adorable Frenchman named Cedric whose English was as good as my French. After the show was over Cedric began to speak to me in French. I replied, “I have no idea what you’re saying but it sounds lovely.” When he looked at me blankly, my friends reminded him that I did not speak a word of French and, therefore, did not understand what he was saying. He then managed to ask me out in English. I said ‘oui’. We planned to meet the following afternoon. The next morning, before meeting with my new French friend, I ventured over to the Oops Hostel where my friend Angela, who was flying in from NY, was staying. As usual it was nice to see a familiar face and to be brought up to date on all that’s been happening in my home city. “So, what’s been going on? How is New York? What’s new there?” , I bombarded her, feeling like an ex-girlfriend checking up on her ex, secretly hoping to hear some good dirt. I suppose like any hung up ex, I was hoping to hear how much NY misses me and how it’s not the same without me. But, to my dismay, as if finding out that your long lost soul mate just became engaged to someone else, I learned that the heart of the city, in fact, beats on without me.

Twelve Angry Men (and women)

October 27, 2009

Today’s theme of the day: Anger. I began the day filled with excitement and anticipation. It would be one of my last in Barcelona and I had lots to do; places to see, people to be…Anyway, my agenda went as follows: Parc Guell in the afternoon with Juan, a fellow traveller from NY I had met the previous day; then, coffee with Lidia and Chus, 2 of the spanish students from Pueblo Ingles II; followed by a free meditation class I had stumbled upon during a quick internet search, (what is it they say, nothing is ever free?); and finally, if I still had the time and the will, a few hours at the Harlem Jazz Club later in the night.

Parc Guell: A Gaudi wonderland, with its winding paths, gingerbread houses, it resembled a sort of Alice in Wonderland meets Candyland. (Alice in Candyland?) It was a spectacular sight. In between marvelling at our fascinating surroundings and snapping photos of each other, we decided to take a break and grab a coffee at the ubiquitous tourist snack bar. The 2 men behind the counter, clearly not from Spain, were taking orders (or rather snapping orders) from the customers in line. The one guy, a short, angry looking little fellow with a large chip on his shoulder barked at me, “Can I help you?” I asked him about the type of coffee that was available: hot vs iced, cafinado vs descafinado. He quickly became frustrated when I didn’t order right away and decided to bypass me and move on to the next customer. Fair enough. However, when I had decided what I wanted, and nicely asked for his attention, he ignored me and continued to help the couple behind me. When the couple realized what was happening, they kindly informed him that “Ella esta proxima” (she was next). He then became even nastier towards me. At that moment, my patience and kindness beginning to dissolve, I turned to the poor couple behind me and said, “Como se dice ‘asshole’?” The gentleman in the couple, so taken aback with my comment, timidly responded, ‘um, asshole.” I thanked him, and being the bigger person, purchased my coffee and told the asshole to have a nice day.
Later on that afternoon, as we left the park and headed back to the center of town, where I was to meet up with Lidia and Chus, Juan offered to walk with me (or rather invited himself to walk with me). Throughout the day, and even during our first acquaintance, I had noticed an edge to Juan which I simply chalked up to him being a naturally cynical, yet harmless New Yorker. Nothing wrong with that. However, during our walk, when we began to talk more about our lives, his apparent harmless cynicism seemed to turn into something a little scarier. He was talking about his last job that he didn’t enjoy and from which he was fired because, according to him, his boss didn’t like him. I then innocently asked, “Were you glad, or relieved in some way to be fired since you didn’t really like the job?”. At this point, he looked at me as if I had just asked him if he enjoyed microwaving puppies, and shouted, loudly, “WAS I GLAD?? OF COURSE I WAS GLAD….MY BOSS HATED MY GUTS!!!”. Gee, I can’t imagine why. It was at that moment, that I realized it was time to say goodbye to angry Juan, and to all angry, toxic people that I may come upon, because there have been too many, and life is too short! But I digress.
Finally, after a day filled with angry outbursts and negative vibes, I was more than ready for my free meditation class. The class would take place at the apartment of a woman named Alicia, who is a … well, I’m still not quite sure what she is, but the class was free so…. When I arrived, Alicia greeted me with a hug and a warm welcome and told me that it was a pleasure to have me in her home. I then entered her living room where 4 other souls awaited their fate. I mean, free class. Alicia began the session by going around the room asking everyone the definition of yoga. When one of the students apparently got the answer wrong, Alicia snapped at her, “No!! That is not what yoga is. Did you read this week’s assignment at all?” The poor student looked terrified and didn’t respond. I prayed that since it was my first class Alicia would bypass me, especially since I didn’t read any of the ‘assignments. What was this? Anyway, she continued lecturing and at one point asked me if I understood her since she was speaking in Spanish. I proudly exclaimed that I understood almost everything! At this point she exclaimed, “Almost?? No!! You can’t understand almost. You have to understand EVERY WORD! This is important material, and you cannot only understand some of it. If you miss even one word, you are missing the entire essence!!” I was now shaking on my meditation pillow. “Laura, please sit next to Allison and translate to her in English.” So Laura sat next to me and translated while I silently plotted my exit. 3 hours later (because I was too scared of Alicia to leave early), the ‘class’ was finally over and Alicia thanked me for coming and reminded me to purchase my 108 bead mala, and to make sure to count the beads before I buy it because it MUST have 108 beads, not 104!! I dutifully agreed, thanked her, and then got the hell out of there. Life lesson #57: (and this one deserves to be repeated) Nothing is ever free!!

Spanglish 2 …continued

October 23, 2009

So my second program with Pueblo Ingles turned out to be just as fabulous an experience as the first, just with a different cast of characters. For instance, we had Dominique, the sexy frenchman, Mikel, the Spanish player, and our very own Heidi Fleiss. And many more, upon which I shall expand at a later time. Since we were situated in the middle of nowhere, our program director decided to take us on an excursion during the week, to another abandoned town a few miles away from Valdallevilla. We were informed that as this was an abandoned village, there would not be any shops, or any other signs of civilization; however, there would be mobile service! So, after about an hour’s worth of hiking up the mountain, we finally reached the old village. At this point almost everyone on the hike pulled out their mobile devices, frantically pointing them towards the sky, begging for a signal from the gods, in hopes of connecting with the outside world. Poor Amelia, our hard-working tour guide had to postpone her lecture while everyone reconnected with their long lost real lives.

The rest of the week proved to be fulfilling and unforgettable. Friendships would be formed and connections made that would stay with us for a long time. Unfortunately, as do all good things, this too, had to come to an end. So we said our goodbyes (in English) and parted ways. After spending only 1 evening in Madrid, I decided to continue my love affair with Barcelona, so I boarded a plane and off I went. After arriving in Barcelona at 1am, I headed to Barceloneta beach where my friend Bea, at whose place I would be crashing, would be meeting me. High on xanax (from the flight) and 8 days of non-stop talking, all I wanted to do at this point was sleep. That would not happen. When I met up with Bea, she was in the happy company of Dan, a cheeky Brit and Dan’s 2 friends Carlos and Juan (whose names have been changed to protect the innocent) and who, I would come to find out later on, were former workers for a Columbian drug cartel under the guise of pizza makers, and who were now selling real estate in Barcelona. Okie dokie. So, despite my protests, sleep would have to wait. The rest of the night would be spent dancing until the clubs shut down and sitting on the beach waiting impatiently for the sun to make her appearance. (After which, I would once again begin my hopeless search for an American diner in Europe…What do they say the definition of insanity is?: Repeating the same thing over and over again, each time hoping for a different outcome? Hm) So, the madness of Barcelona would begin (or resume), and this night would mark the beginning of Barcelona Part III. Stay tuned for more.

Allison Maria Barcelona

June 29, 2009

So, my last night in London, after seeing Romeo and Juliet at the Globe, I met up with Andreas. We walked through Holland Park and went to Knotting Hill, where we saw a street fight! Just like in Bridget Jones’ Diary! I then called it an early night, went to sleep and flew to Barcelona in the morning. And here I am. I love Barcelona!! Our first night here we decided to stay in at the hostel where we’re staying and play drinking games with our store bought vodka (Yes, I am officially 21 again!). We then went out to Club Boulevard and danced to 80ś music until 4 in the morning! Then next day we hit the beach, where we experienced our most adventurous adventure thus far… we went topless! Apparently people don’t like to wear clothes here. Lots of naked people walking around. Its kind of strange, but I love the lack of inhibition here. After the beach, we hopped on the train to head back to town, and on our way, we noticed a sign for the U2 concert playing that very night at Camp Nou. The show was at 8 and it was about 8:15 when we noticed it, but we said, f it and got off the train at what looked light the right area where the arena was, found the stadium, bought 2 tix off a scalper and rocked it out with U2!!! In Barcelona!!! On the first night of their international tour!! Then today we hit the beach again and had a fabulous time (kept our tops on this time!) Tonight is our last night here then off to Madrid en la manana. Adios para ahora!