September 15, 2013
Wednesday was a special day in Barcelona. Not for being Wednesday, but because of the date: 9/11. Two years ago, when I was taking a one-month language course in Barcelona, I was here on the 11th as well. This date, however, has a different meaning to the Catalonians than it does for most of the world population: it marks the Catalonian Independence Day. That doesn’t mean what you probably think it does, though. When talking about the American Independence Day, it means the day when the United Stated became independent. For Catalonia, September 11 is the day that Catalonia lost its independence to the Borbones and fell under the power of Felipe V. If you’d like to read more about this, you can find everything on Wikipedia. I won’t bore you any further. I am not writing an encyclopedia here!
“In Barcelona, things seem so different. For example, I know that it’s traditionally the least Spanish city, but you’d never know they had a monarchy, coming here as a tourist – as opposed to the U.K., where the Queen is probably the best-known animal, vegetable and/or mineral going when it comes to overseas visitors.”
– Julie Burchill
Something that made this date extra special, was the fact that I had to find a way to combine these two completely different historical events in my head. The fact that I had two American roommates now, made the collision even more interesting.
At dinner, the stories came to the surface. Anjelica’s father actually had the opportunity to start working at the World Trade Center, but instead they moved to Washington. Shannon’s aunt overslept and missed her plane, one of which was kidnapped by Bin Laden’s minions. For a couple of days her family thought she was dead, because Shannon’s aunt couldn’t let anyone know she was alright on account of the phone and internet networks being overloaded. I have watched a lot of documentaries about this fatal day, but it is completely different hearing testimonies from people who were actually personally involved. It was quite an emotional dinner that night.
That evening, I decided to go to a couchsurfing meeting again. It was really weird walking around Barcelona on this particular evening. Compared to other evenings, you could definitely say there was no one in the streets. No pedestrians, bikers, cyclists, cars… Nevertheless, the place I went to was even busier than last week! I had a lovely evening, but didn’t stay out too long. I’m not really a party girl, you know…
Thursday I went to Figueres. I had found a ride to go there and would come back by train. Patrick, my driver, was driving to Paris with his mother for a week. I had found him through BlaBlaCar, a carpooling website. Patrick is a Frenchman who works and lives in Barcelona. His mother is Argentinean and lived in Antwerp for a few years as a kid. The whole way – all 2.5 hours of it – I spoke French and I learned more than working for a month at the airport. Patrick took a little detour. We didn’t take the usual highway towards the French border, but the other route which is less known by tourists. We passed some beautiful landscapes with mountains, meadows, authentic towns, volcanoes… Patrick could tell me some interesting facts about everything we passed. He also offered me a ride to Andorra next month, where he’ll be going there with his friends, because there was a spare seat in the car. I said I’d keep it in mind. I had wanted to go to Andorra sometime anyway.
Once arrived in Figueres, the hometown of Salvador Dalí, one of the world’s most famous surrealist painters, I was starving. It was almost 3pm by then. I found a bakery that was open during the siesta and bought some pains au chocolat that I devoured on La Rambla. In the meantime, I took in the first views of Figueres and I decided it was a perfect mix between Southern France and Tuscany.
Like I said, Figueres kind of reminds me of the towns I’ve seen in the Provence and in Tuscany. What I also noticed while driving up here, was how pro-independence the Catalonians are in the range of 70km from Olot (the a well-known town near Barcelona). You could see the flags everywhere, hanging from the windows.
The train ride home was – to put it mildly – unpleasant. I was dressed for a warm day, but the train was a freaking fridge! When I arrived back in Barcelona 2 hours later, I had never been so happy to walk around on the smelly, steamy heat of the subway platforms. It was another half hour on the metro, until I actually got to my front door, and by then I still hadn’t defrosted. That night, I slept under an extra blanket for the first time. The next two nights as well. The last few days, the temperature suddenly dropped by ten whole degrees! Just like that. From one day to the other. Everyone who went outside that day has a cold now. Which is kind of funny, right?
On Friday, I went to print some more documents for school. Not having your own printer and having to pay to print a few pages is really annoying if you’re not used to that, let me tell you. On the way there, I passed by this surprisingly pretty church. In the afternoon I had the beach of the Port Olimpic almost completely to myself. Bliss! That evening I couldn’t go to another CS-meeting because there was a strike of the busses. I didn’t want to take the risk that the Nitbus wouldn’t be driving out neither and that I would have to pay for a cab (which would be scarce, obviously). So that night, I stayed home alone. The American girls were away on their excursions and Cristina was out as well.
Yesterday, once again, I enjoyed the weather and strolled around in Barri Gotic, where I looked for these cute plazas I had found with my mom two years ago. I kinda just hoped I would stumble upon them at some point, but I didn’t rediscover them, unfortunately. Somehow, I did end up at Port Vell, where I treated myself to a pizza and a glass of wine to celebrate the beginning of the new school year. While digesting my lunch, I sat down on the edge of the pier that leads to the Mare Magnum shopping center. There was a lot of wind, and of course I was wearing the perfect outfit for it, too – you know, one of those outfits where you have to keep your clothes into the right place the whole time or else everybody will see which color of underwear you’re wearing?
Today, Sunday, drizzling day. The perfect weather for a run, my dad would say – which is true, as long as it’s not actually raining. And besides, these hills are kind of demotivating. I might go to Barri Gottic again later to try and find those squares again, but we’ll see… It’s the last day before school starts and I’d like to spend it – surprise! – as relaxed as possible.
“Barcelona is a very old city in which you can feel the weight of history; it is haunted by history. You cannot walk around it without perceiving it.”
– Carlos Ruiz Zafon