I am staying almost within spitting distance of La Sagrada Familia – the Cathedral/Basilica designed (in the 19th century) and partially built by architect Antoni Gaudi (they are still building it). Awesome is a well over-used word that should probably be reserved only for the Grand Canyons of the natural world; however, a few man-made things may deserve the epithet…I promise you, if you come out of the Sagrada Familia metro station and happen to turn around to get your bearings, you will gasp with shock and delight when you see you are in the presence of this man-made awesomeness.
My elderly hosts, Senora T (80) and Senor J (90) are not scary. Well…Senor J is a little scary, but he keeps himself to himself in the small apartment I’m now sharing with them and their son Jordi; and which is my Barcelona home for 2 weeks. They had understood that I was a boy, and thus I was to be sharing the 2nd shower room with Jordi, but he has now kindly let me have the shower room to myself. The hot water is cold, the shower water drains away slowly, and the bathroom door doesn’t lock unless you lean against it with all your might. No matter. It’s hot here 25-30 degrees C and I can manage…at least until I have to wash my hair. The little back room I’m staying in is dark (as is common in Spanish apartments – it overlooks a narrow interior light well) and has no openable blinds; it is not conducive to study…so I stay out for as long as I can, either at the escuela, or checking the sights of Barcelona. I achieve my 10,000 steps a day with no problem – Barcelona has an excellent and efficient public transport system*, and is a strange city – in that it feels big, but is in fact relatively small, and pretty walkable…at least for me.
In the mornings, Snra T sits with me while I eat the small tostadas, jam and coffee she provides for breakfast. We watch the noticias (news) together…initially in catalan, until Snra T remembers and switches it over to the castillano channel, when it becomes clear that the news is always bad in Spain as well. Muy mal. Los politicos – muy mal. Asesinos. Muy mal. Inundacions (floods) in southern Spain – muy mal. Todo es loco. But we watch it just the same. By day 3 of cold showers (the plumber is coming manana)..my hair needs a wash and I do not have the guts to put my head under the cold water. The Senora offers her bathroom but her husband has a problem with his legs and his diuretic tablets means he never knows when he might need the bathroom (not sure how I managed to understand that). The only solution is the peluqueria (hairdresser) next door. That’s the great thing about so many European cities – everyone lives in town, in what Brits would call a mansion block, that opens onto busy streets and intersections full of shops, cafes, restaurants, hairdressers, grocers, butchers, nail bars, patisseries, fruterias, supermercados and small boutiques…right there…below the flats, when you step into the street.
I walk in and ask ‘cuanto for a lavar mi pelo and secar only’. 10 euros!..and they can do it now. Deal. While sitting in the chair I ask if she could corto my fringe, indicating about 2cm. She lops off 5cm or so. As my dad used to say, whenever I returned from the hairdressers…it’ll grow back.
*(Incidently…if you do go to Barcelona, I don’t recommend you buy the much-touted 5-day 30+ euro Hola! Barcelona travelcard unless you expect to be doing over 6 trips a day over the 5 days. It’s likely to be much better value to buy the T-10 ticket (approx 10 euros) which allows you to do 10 journeys (of up to 75 mins duration) on all modes of transport for as many days as the ticket lasts and can be used for more than one person – however it does not cover the direct metro to the airport (you have to use the Renfe train with the T-10)).