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  • Thursday, December 18, 2014

    My Plan For Spain

    When I flew to Barcelona, my intentions were to leave my bike with Hilda and walk the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain, the most popular long distance walk in the world. Although December weather is considerably better here than in England, the north can still rain three or four days per week and temperatures can drop below freezing at high altitude, where I may also find myself occasionally walking on snow.

    I've hiked in much worse conditions, but an insightful friend of mine said, "Aren't you super sick of the rain though? I mean that's one of the main reasons you flew to Spain. It'd be like breaking up with someone just to start dating someone exactly like them."
    I couldn't argue with that. I'm ready for warmth and sunshine. Not only for comfort, but with this lifestyle, it also means a lot more freedom.

    I left Barcelona without a plan, so my first night I ended up sleeping on a beach under the stars. All alone, I walked up and down the beach as the waves swelled and crash. In one direction, the masts from dozens of boats were dimly lit in the security light of a nearby harbor.

    In the other direction, a train occasionally passed behind the pillars from a tunnel cut into the cliff side. I stayed up long enough to watch the constellation Orion slowly drift from the eastern sky all the way to the west.

    That's what I want for my trip in Spain. I don't want big goals or elaborate plans. An elaborate plan might be in order if your adventure is to ski to the North Pole or fly around the planet in a hot air balloon, but when you just want to roam and explore, goals and plans can be stifling.   

    Although I'm on a bike, I'm not rushing. I want to take the time to ride leisurely around cities...

    ...or walk beside the bike down narrow village streets (such as in the town of Sitges, pictured)

    I want the benefits that come with the slowness of walking, but move quickly when I want.

    I'll be without a schedule or a feeling that I must rush to any particular destination. I don't even really want a destination. 

    So every day when I wake up in some random unpredictable place in Spain, I'll keep my plan very simple: get on my bike and keep the sea to my left.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    Bones Festes!

    I was walking down the street heading toward La Rambla when all of a sudden...

    ...a parade happened.

    No wonder there were so many people and children in the streets

    It was a Christmas parade obviously

    But there were also some rip-off Disney characters as well

    Alright, I swear the Beast was trying to see how close he could get to copping a feel without anyone noticing, but we noticed. Well I noticed.

    Lately, whenever I decide to walk somewhere in Barcelona, I immediately realize I was already there. This is the other side of a statue of Christopher Columbus I had already seen. I really need to pay attention to the names of things when I'm wandering around. I think this means it's time to leave Barcelona and head south toward the next big city, Valencia.

    Monday, December 15, 2014

    ¿Hablas inglés?

    When I told a friend back home that I was going grocery shopping, she replied, "Take pictures!!! I'll never be grocery shopping in Spain!" Before reading that, I was feeling a bit nervous about heading out into a Spanish-speaking country. She snapped me out of it and reminded me that every moment here is an adventure. I even like saying it. "What am I doing tonight? Not much, just doing a little grocery shopping in Spain."
    I love the produce shops here. I want to take a picture every time I pass one. Even if I'm not particularly hungry, I sometimes go inside to buy something. "Una manzana, por favor!"

    Although, I occasionally try to say something in Spanish, this is usually followed by the person assuming I can communicate with them further, to which I have to go back to my standby, "No hablo espanol. ¿Hablas inglés?"
    It's somewhat of a game for me to get out of the store without the shopkeeper knowing I'm monolingual, for example:
    "Hola," I said to the shopkeep at the register.
    "Hola," he replied and scanned my groceries.  
    "Cinco setenta y tres," he said. I know that's my total, but it came off his tongue too fast for me to understand. I looked for the cash register screen for a total, but didn't find it fast enough to make it seem natural. Thinking quickly, I just handed him a ten euro note, which I knew would cover it.
    "¿Necesita una bolsa?" I think he said next, thanks to using Google Translate later.
    "No, gracias," I said nonchalant, betting he was asking me if I needed a copy of my receipt. 
    "¿Necesitas una copia de su recibo?" he said while pointing at the receipt printer.
    "Oh, no," I thought. "I think he was asking if I needed a bag that first time. Err, I absolutely need a bag for all this. Don't panic, just fill your pockets and carry the rest out in your hands. He'll think you're environmentally conscious."
    "Gracias. Adios," I said, hands full, pockets bulging. Success.

    Not speaking their language is a shame really. I'm going to miss out on a lot of opportunities to talk to the locals and fully experience their communities and culture. I will try my best, but it won't be the same.
    Or maybe bocce ball is so amazing that it can transcend language barriers.

    I think I'll just have to keep things really simple. "Tú... yo... ping pong... ahora!"

    At least there are apps to help out along the way. Although that particular sign is relatively obvious without translation, tools like this may save my life someday.