Wednesday, September 28, 2005

"He´s from Barcelona, you know"

Arrived in Barcelona this morning, after taking the overnight train from Paris. I had reserved a bed in a sleeper compartment. The compartment was so small, I couldn´t see how four beds were going to fold down from the wall, but they did.

I´m not too tired, which is surprising considering how little sleep I got last night. I thought I would zonk out, but I couldn´t seem to relax, and any little disturbance (a sudden lurch of the train, the snoring or past-due-for-a-shower scent of one of my compartment mates) would immediately jolt me awake. It was surprising how dark it was in the car at night. I mean complete absence of light, no difference between eyes closed or open, staring into the void darkness. Still I slept fitfully at best.

After arriving, I sat for a while by the harbor, looking at the Montjuic ("Mount of the Jews." Hey, I didn´t name it). It was like a warm spring day, the slight humidity counteracted by a light breeze coming off the harbor. When the sun went behind a cloud, everything would be suffused with the most amazing soft blue light. Sailboats created rolling waves of an incredible deep rich blue, within which you could see the fish swimming. Until you got out your camera, of course. Then they´d have disappeared.

This is in contrast to the grey, rainy, cool weather of Paris yesterday. The two make a perfect example of pathetic fallacy. The first indication that I was no longer in Paris came this morning. I bought a bottle of water from a machine, mostly to break the €2 coin into something smaller. The water was €1.40, and I was expecting to get a small, fist-sized bottle for that price. Instead, what came lumbering out of the machine was a giant 1.5 litre bottle that I couldn´t fit in either of my bags. I had to cradle it in my arm like a baby.

Another difference: I had breakfast this morning in a touristy cafe on the Rambla. (The Rambla is Barcelona´s main public square, except that it´s a rectangle, and you walk along it like a promenade rather than around it like a circle.) Breakfast was a little expensive (€10 - about $12), but I was hungry and it was in a prime location for people-watching. Unfortunately, all I had on me was a €50 note. "Lo siento," I said "it´s all I have." "No problem," replied the waiter, and he was genuinely friendly while making change.

Compare this to the customary eye-rolling you get in Paris if you offer a large bill. It doesn´t even have to be a large bill. When I bought a beer at the Eiffel Tower, the cost was €3.90. I handed the kid working the cash register €5, and he asked if I had the .90 change. Without even thinking (having just climbed the 600+ steps to reach the second level, I was a little out of it), I pulled the coins out of my pocket, and when I took too long counting 90 cents, he wearily said ¨Hold out your hand, let me see." He then picked the right change out of the jumble. You have to love Parisians.

Still, I don´t want to denigrate Paris. It truly is a magical city. How magical? Let me put it this way: while there, I ate croissants and bread and cheese and fries and pain au chocolat, and I lost weight.

I will write more about my time in Paris soon. This online journal was meant to be chronological, not alphabetical. Hope the jumping back and forth in time doesn´t prove too confusing.


Carol said...

I think that's because the scent of your fellow travelers on the Metro causes you to barf up thousands of those calories every time you cross town. Stereotype? Yes. But oh, so true.

p.s. a big kiss to Iva. Love you, babe!

Kalli "Pops" Gustav said...

Johnny (and others).... how funny that even oceans apart, we continue to have similar experiences.... see my new glob for details.

Iva said...

And a kiss and a hug to you too, Carol. I hope that you and your family are all well.

Honestly, John, as soon as I looked at the title of your latest blog, I heard Sybil's voice...uncanny, isn't it? Barcelona sounds beautiful...I hope that you have a wonderful time in Spain. All is well here.
I love you, Mom

Lynn said...

Have you eaten the "Tapas of Shame" yet?? It's the best one!

the hanged man said...

Carol - I think the weight loss may have been due to walking up those 600+ stairs at the Eiffel Tower, all because the line for the elevator was too long and I didn´t feel like waiting.

Karl - eerie, but happily I wasn´t dependent on the smelly man for tip money. Your new online journal looks good. I´ll post a link to it when I get a chance. Be careful, however: despite my best intentions, posting to "The Hanged Man" has become very addicting.

Mom - love you, too, of course. I wanted to beat you to the punch with the "Fawlty Towers" reference.

Lynn - What is the "Tapas of Shame" and where can I get one? I ate at a place recommended by Rick Steves last night, and I don´t think I can express how good it was without cursing. Holy fuck, was that good food. I filled my belly with lots of delicious tapas and four glasses of a hearty red wine for about $20. Just amazing.