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.