The Sidestreet

15 June 2011

Barcelona, España

To be brutally honest, this is the first time I’ve written an entry on the day that it’s dated.

Today is also the first time I’ve gotten a real night’s sleep in a long time. The American girls, who must be sisters, have left. I was the opportunity maker, so it was my responsibility for the jump from getting on well to ‘let’s hang out’. My excuse is that I’m social-led out from last week.

Yesterday was the church, today is the gothic quarter, the bit of Barcelona that isn’t gridded, because it’s old and black and picturesque. In fact, it isn’t that picturesque, but maybe I’ve been picturesque-d out too.

I’ve found a cool little seat in front of a cathedral down a sidestreet, beside your typical little water spout protruding from the intricately carved wall. There’s an invisible string quartet playing, and some people pass every so often to take photos because it’s so damn quaint and serene. Unlike them, I’ve got the time to just sit here and watch, which makes me feel very lucky and even younger.

By where people walk, a man places a little plastic cup with some change by his feet. A woman walks by, and as the man walks up to her, she moves away to avoid his begging, but knocks over the perfectly placed cup, spilling the change everywhere. The man has two options as the guilt-ridden victim helps pick up the change: pickpocket or beg again. He always glances at their bags, but I only see begging (thankfully, I would intervene otherwise). It works less than half the time, which is an incredibly high rate for a beggar.

Midday passes and the few tourists that would pass become normal people sharing the seat. Most smoke and look at the little statue I only just noticed. Some read through little books. One even replaces several plasters on her blistered feet.

A young guy arrives and starts looping out huge bubbles, even though there isn’t anyone around who’s going to give him any money for his effort. Though after a little while, children do start passing by and ask their parents for loose change. Later on, another young guy joins in with his big loop and they’re now doing twice as many huge bubbles. They do this for over two hours!

But that means I’ve been here longer than them, so I get up and walk into deeper depths through more sidestreets. I find a square under the shelter of two huge trees, with a fountain in the middle. It’s all covered in fragrant orange pettles (or leaves? Both?), pressed to the ground by giggling kids.

But I couldn’t stay away from the seat for long. Two Middle Eastern men burst through the small archway carrying bags of goods. One bolts through to another street, the other glances to his side, inhales deeply, and follows. Moments later, a siren is heard in the distance, and as it nears, echoes off the stone walls. By the time the police arrive, the men are long gone.

There are four beds in the dorm, and three other interesting people. I haven’t lived to enough to judge myself as interesting.

The two Americans, from the state of Virginia, love Australian-British humour. One is exceedingly cute and works for a Cambodian charity, the other is just as American and just as blonde. But that makes sense: they’re sisters.

Across is June from China, who’s been studying in the Netherlands the past year and is taking a holiday in Spain before the big journey back to China. She’s really jealous of Australia and it’s wealthiness, but I say China is an amazing country (it is). ‘Coming from China IS NOT cool!’

On the bottom bunk is the Austrian who has been to every country in Europe except for Ireland and Greenland, and gives some great travel advice. Boy aren’t we lucky to not be Irish.

Clarity is high here, but as I turn off my light, I realise I have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow, or the day after, or the week after, but I need to work it out.