April 18-22, 2017
After spending 4.5 hours at the Madrid train station, we took a 3.5 hour high speed train to Barcelona. I slept the entire time, again. I know- shocking. While we had hoped to get into our hostel by noon, we actually checked in about 2030 and I was ready for shower and a bed.
The front desk employee was a tall, thin, brunette with longer hair and facial scruff. He was super friendly and super cute. He told us where to grocery shop, where to visit in town, and that there was a Flamenco dance at a nearby bar. Mónica hadn’t seen one yet so she wanted to go. First, they ran to pick up some groceries and I took a quick, much needed shower.
We walked to get food first and found a cute little restaurant where we ordered pizzas and I also ordered a dessert. Right next door was a cat cafe and my first time seeing such a thing.
About 11pm we made it to the Flamenco show in a tiny bar. After about 10 minutes I was falling asleep from our day of travel and ready for bed. I pulled up google maps to memorize the map. One. Right. Turn. Okay. I’m ready. I told the girls I’d meet them at the hostel and headed out.
I’m proud to report I made it back, issue-free. Travel really makes you grow and I was so proud of my myself. I climbed into bed and went to sleep.
Wednesday morning we all woke up about 11 and headed to the port to go to try to get our passports stamped. The one problem we didn’t think about when jumping ship early in Malaga was we didn’t get a stamp to prove our entry. To prove we can be here. To be documented travelers. Woops. 💁🏼
Failing numerous times to find the place and when we finally did it was closed. The officer told us to go to the police station for extranjeros on the other side of town. We decided to save that for tomorrow since it was almost 3pm already. We walked the gothic area and did some shopping. I bought a silver heart ring, pink top, and blue scarf/blanket I thought may be useful for my travels.
Outside of the Barcelona cathedral these gypsies were outside passing out this herb to people. I tried to walk passed and a lady came and grabbed my hand. I didn’t understand what she was saying, so I said “no, gracias.” She grabbed my hand again and started tracing my palm.
She then said (in Spanish) “uno niño.”
“No!! Haha. No niños. No baby. No.” I told her. No kids for me. Ever.
“Sì” she told me, then started talking again really fast and at the end put out her hand for money.
“Oh, uhh..” I looked to Katie who has been roped into the same thing. I think the lady is telling her five euro for payment, but for an inaccurate palm reading in a language I didn’t speak, and therefore didn’t understand, and also didn’t ask for, and tried to walk away from numerous times, I hardly thought 5 euro was fair. I reached into my purse for a coin and pulled out a euro. She didn’t look very happy.
I’m so uncomfortable. And things with money has always made me extra uncomfortable. My anxiety is increasing moment by moment. She grabs the herb she had shoved in my hand earlier, ripped off most of it and gave me back one leaf and took the euro and walked away. Yep.. definitely mad.
KT and I took that as a fairly cheap lesson that things shoved in your hand or offered need to be met with a very firm, hard no. Fantastic. That’s my forte *insert sarcasm here*.
We then walked through the Arc de Triumph and went and got some tapas and wine for the girls. We decided to head back to the hostel and call it a day.
“DOWNLOAD TINDER!!” Moni blurted.
It was the app we would on and off remember we wanted to get but kept forgetting. Immediately we start the download and in minutes I’m swiping. One of the difficulties since arriving is that I had planned on, and wanted to, meet a lot of people. But the ignorance in me never thought much about the language barrier. I really need to find a way to practice my Spanish. Tinder seemed like the answer. I could have my bio in English and go from there.
Right swipe. Right swipe. Right swipe. Match. Match. Match. I’m going to love Barcelona, I just knew it.
Ten or 15 messages from guys later and one catches my attention. The first message this guy sends: “Do you like authentic Italian food?”
“Yep!” This was a no brainer and I was really intrigued as to where this was going since it was food related.
“Okay. I’ll cook dinner for you tonight at 930.”
It seemed way too easy. A good looking, half German, half Italian man cooking me dinner tonight, after one returned message. I decided to roll the dice and just go with it. It’s what I’m best at anyway. I agreed. He said he’d write me later as he was having drinks with his boss. In the meantime, I agreed to three other dates/drinks/dinners, not really overly enthusiastic about any but a one nice Spanish man.
A little while later Gertalian (that’s what we’ll call him), messaged me he got held up with his boss and asked if we could reschedule for tomorrow. I told him probably and he made a joke about me finding a replacement. I told him I’d be fine and probably line something up. 😉He laughed back. He was jovial. I liked that.
I was also talking to that cute Spanish man but the time for too late for me to meet. I said we could try tomorrow. I was ready, after a long day of wearing pants, to take them off and go to sleep.
I’d been sleeping in bottoms since we got to the hostels but that night I’d find out pants weren’t a requirement. My bunk neighbor took his off with no hesitation and laid there pretty freely lights on and all. A girl on the other side of the room walked to the bathroom in her panties. I felt like I fit in in Barcelona.
Picture from my bed:
The next day we woke up late morning and walked to the other police station to try to get our passports stamped. Another failed attempt and the lady told us to try the airport. We bought a flight the day before to fly to Milan on Saturday, so we’d try then. In the meantime, we decided we’d walk to Park Guell and Sagrada Familia but my Spanish tinder friend informed me we’d need to get tickets in advance. They were sold out for today so we bought them for tomorrow. My Spanish friend offered to show us around so we met him at the subway station an hour later.
We walked the port, Barcenoleta neighborhood and then stopped for lunch on the beach. He ordered us a pitcher of sangria and seafood paella for four. It was my first time trying paella and it was delicious. We then walked through Olympic Park neighborhood where the summer olympics were held in 1992.
My friends decided to go get ice cream and my new friend offered to show me his apartment, which was where the American athletes actually stayed in 1992. It was a beautiful 3 level condo overlooking the beach. Later, he walked me to the subway and I made my way back to the hostel all by myself. Really improving on my directions, too!
On my way back, Gertalian wrote me asking if I was still up for dinner or if I found a replacement. I told him I had a Spanish friend for lunch but I could meet for dinner. He laughed at my honesty (I’m assuming) and told me not to eat since he’d cook dinner. Generally, I don’t like being told not to eat. But I do like being offered food.
I had some reservations about going to his place, obviously. I know 99% of my people (and parents) would say it’s maybe not a good idea. So here’s my counter argument: authentic, homemade, Italian food. Since arriving in Europe, I’ve been forced into lots of walking (well over 10K a day), often with my 25lb backpack and adjusting to TINY portions. Tiny. So perhaps it’s my I-believe-in-the-good-of-all-people-soul, or perhaps it was just my stomach, but I readily agreed.
I took a shower and started to get ready, another thing crossed my mind. I messaged him.
“What are your expectations for this evening?” I felt like this would be good information to have.
He responded pretty honestly, telling me he had neither expectations nor limits. He told me no plans. Just to eat, laugh, and see how it goes and added “baby, I didn’t see you yet, don’t know if we like each other.. not a hungry wolf as I am eating when I want 😊.”
I’d never heard that expression and laughed, both at it and his honesty. I liked him. He followed up with this:
The final response made me laugh again. I really liked his sense of humor. All I need to do now is confirm he’s emotionally unavailable and he’d be perfectly my type.
I sent his address to my friends while I still had wifi (my service has been extremely unreliable since getting to Europe) and decided how to get there. He said I could metro, cab or even dance my way there. I told him I didn’t want to cab because I don’t speak the language and didn’t want jump that hurdle. He assured me ALL the cab drivers speak English. I decided to subway it there anyway.
I made it to his apartment that was thankfully only one turn after getting off the metro. I messaged him as it had a doorbell ringer required for entry. It was also 10pm, I was 30 minutes late and didn’t want to ring the wrong one. I beeped it, his voice came over the intercom and he told me to come on in. It let me in to the next holding cell. I walk to the next one and ring the bell again. His voice comes over the intercom again, more German accent than Italian.
“Okay. You’re going to NOT take the elevator in front of you but the left one. Once you’re left, you will *beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep*. Some lady behind me decided to walk up and ping herself in, holding the bell an obnoxiously long time, therefore overpowering any sounds that were coming through. Really polite, lady. Screw it. I’ll figure it out.
Elevator ahead. I go left. It’s a hallway of stairs up that just wraps around the building. I thank my gym in my head for the torture they put me through the last 7 months to have this endurance ready. I start my hike. By the 5th floor I’m a bit winded, not gonna lie. I text him again.
“How many flights do I need to hike!??!?”
He responds “why are you still on the stairs?”😂😂😂”
Damnit. “I don’t understand directions, obviously. I’m going to go back down. Come get me when you’re done cooking dinner. Or don’t. I need to catch my breath.”
I also decide this is good because coming to an apartment, gated, behind doors, only hearing his voice over the intercom, before showing up at his door located God only knows where… something told me this was like a horror movie in the making. I’ve never seen one, but I felt like this would fit the bill.
A few minutes other he rounds the corner to get me. He’s so cute. “You were too quick to ring the bell. You don’t listen to directions well either.”
“Yeah, i know. This lady was there and interrupted while I was … yeah. Anyway..”
We walked to a hidden hallway on the left that was definitely not there when I walked by and took another left to a tiny two-person elevator. It was great for my claustrophobia. We took it up to the 4th floor and another left into his apartment. I see that he is, in fact, cooking and feel better about the situation, not that I was ever all that worried.
My mothers HATES this about me. Since as long as I can remember, I’ve always talked to strangers and made friends where I go. At about age 6 I remember making friends that day and asking to go home with them from church. At 14, I can remember cute high school aged boys I didn’t know offering me and my friends rides when we used to walk everywhere. When I used to drink, I’d always try to drunkenly walk home at the end of the night and 100% of the time of those 8 years, some Good Samaritan, some fellow drunk, some SOMEONE would end up picking me up and taking me home (sometimes even their home when I couldn’t find mine.) I just think people are good. Maybe It’s just because it’s what I want to believe. My mom, however, has been warning me since age 5 I’ll be kidnapped and possibly murdered if I’m not careful. She’ll probably need a Xanax when she reads this. Also, sorry momma. 😬But you only live once?
His apartment was in the heart of the city center, and was a cute one bedroom with a huge terrace overlooking the city. I sat on his couch while he cooks some tomato, herb, sauced, pasta deliciousness. It smelled so good I thought even if I did die tonight , as long as I get to eat first, it’d be worth it. I hoped my mom would have peace knowing I died doing what I love. I told her that before I left to give her some comfort, but I had meant traveling. However, eating was probably a tie, if not a little more of a passion of mine.
Gertalian and I talked and ate his delicious food. He was born and raised in North Italy. He had lived in London for two years and had been living in Barcelona for eight years. He spoke four languages. He was brutally honest in his thoughts and was really, really playful and funny. He made me laugh many times over a couple hours. He was fun to be around.
Towards midnight I thought I should head to the hostel. We had to be up at 630am to make our 8am Park Guell ticket time. I checked my phone to make sure my friends weren’t panicking. Gertalian came behind me and hugged me. I decided I could stay just a little longer…
Back on the couch, we sit and talk of healthcare in his country and mine, differences of Spain versus Germany, and he tells me his thoughts on living life. That life isn’t meant to work and die. That people should experience things and find enjoyment and a way to unwind, whether it’s some wine, smoking the reefer, or enjoying good food. He also tells me he bought some light type of “Mary” and rolls a joint. This is not something I really ever do, but he offered and I decided “when in… Barcelona?” Two small joints later we are still talking and laughing about everything.
He makes a dessert plate of cheese, jam, strawberries and chocolate. He’s fed me twice in two hours- I decide I love him. He sits next to me on the couch and leans in to kiss me. He’s really good at that, too. This wasn’t his first rodeo and I knew it.
We talked openly of Tinder and dating through the night. He laughed at me for asking the expectations question as apparently most girls do that, at least to him.
“I swear I’ve actually never asked that before today! But I wasn’t sure what you wanted and didn’t wanna let anyone down or set unreal expectations.”
It didn’t matter. Now, I don’t think it was only because I hadn’t been kissed in nearly 6 months, or done anything else in almost a year, but that could’ve come into play in all of this. When I was deciding if I should partake in any scandalous activities, I decided that 10 months of celibacy and spending 2016 recovering from a broken heart and a couple let downs meant I could do whatever the fuck I wanted. Also, I’m a grown ass woman. This is that empowerment thing they talk about, right? Maybe? Didn’t care. 💁🏼
Yesterday, April 19, was the one year mark to the day I found out the love of my life, was in fact, not the love of my life. I didn’t need my timehop to remind me, but it did. With the screenshot I’d send to my friends because I couldn’t breathe. I’d find out after 3.5 years, via text, that he had been with someone else the last 3 months. I’d find out what the feeling of your heart actually shattering to pieces felt like. And as happy as I was yesterday to know how far I’ve come, the pain still lingers when I think of it. I allowed myself to be in this moment, and do exactly what I felt, because if nothing else- I fucking deserved it.
Things are really great with Gertalian and I’d write this guy a trip advisor recommendation if there were a platform for it. However, I feel like he probably does just fine on his own. As he rolls to the bed he rests his head on my shoulders and in his German accent, windedly blurts out “I LOOOOOOoooooove Seattle!” We both laugh until our stomach hurts.
I go into the living room and he puts on a sweater, now wearing his briefs. I laugh at him. He grabs a fedora looking hat off the table and puts it on and starts singing. I’m laughing because he looks ridiculous. He’s laughing because he knows he’s ridiculous.
He grabs me from the couch and pulls me center room with him. We’re both half naked, and laughing, and dancing in the middle of his living room. My heart was content. I couldn’t have asked for a better night with a foreign man but one filled with food, desserts, affection and so much laughing.
I told him I had to go as it was nearing 2am and I still had to make it to my hostel. And sleep a little before my 630am wake up. He hugs and kisses and hugs me goodbye. He clarified for the 100th time to take the elevator on the left. I laughed and said goodbye to my fedora-wearing, blue sweater, black briefed, half German-half Italian gentleman standing in the doorway.
I hailed a taxi in the street and thanked my past-self for accidentally putting the hostel business card in my pocket. My driver didn’t speak English and I couldn’t understand their addresses. I need to remember to yell at him for this.
I keyed myself into our 9 bedroom hostel to go to bed and hear the loudest snoring I’ve ever heard. It was near shaking the walls. I climbed into my top bunk and put it ear plus that Gertalian had literally just given me on my way out from some joke I made. I need to thank him for these again. They dulled the sound but not the shaking. I get a text.
“Hey, are you back to the hostel?”
It was Moni, who was sleeping on the other side of the room, placing her exactly across from the trashcan eating grizzly bear.
“Yeah, just got in. Also. What the fuck is that noise???”
“Yeah. It woke me up. I don’t understand what’s going on. How can one human make that much noise!?!”
“Going to be a long day for us tomorrow. Awesome. Good luck sleeping friend. Night.”
The next morning we woke up about 4-5 hours earlier than our average wake up, plus I slept many hours less than usual from going to bed so late. We were all dragging ass. We made our way to Park Guell. It felt like 40 flights of stairs. We were all so tired. The mini shot of espresso did nothing. I missed my venti-sized drip American coffee now more than ever.
Park Guell is a beautifully located, mosaic-decorated park designed specifically for the rich neighborhood there. On entry, you see a beautifully decorated light brown house with mosaic pieces sporadically scattered across its design.
“This is so beautiful” my friend said in awe.
“It really is,” I told her. “It looks like the Hansel and Gretel gingerbread house I drooled over as a kid (and adult).” I wiped my face.
“Seriously? Does everything in life just remind you of food?!”
“Pretty much. Also, I’m hungry.” We took in the views, admired the mosaic art and left to eat and nap. It was only 10am but we all felt so tired thanks to our chainsaw roommate.
After our nap and food, we headed towards Sagrada Familia. We had 645pm tickets. I had no idea what it was and didn’t much care to ask as I knew I’d find out. My travelmate did a lot of research for us and I trusted her opinion.
We rounded the corner and in the middle of the city stand this gigantic, beautiful, creatively designed, architecturally astounding church building. I’ve never seen anything like it. The inside was even more incredible.
The audio tour told me the designer was hired at 31 to design this and 13 years later passed in a sudden tram accident and didn’t get to see it’s completion. It’s still being worked on and is expected to be done in 2026, its centennial anniversary. I won’t go much into detail on the design or pictures because they don’t do it near justice. Look up a video of it for a close to similar experience. It’s breathtaking.
As I’m roaming the church I get a message from Gertalian on tinder instead of WhatsApp- the common app across Europe, I’ve come to find out.
I realized he was saying that was his distance apart from me, a feature Tinder offers.
“Haha. Are you stalking me!? I’ve always wanted a stalker! 😍”
“No no. Not stalking. I just woke up from a nap and am in bed. Wanted to let you know.” I was surprised to hear from him, but excited just the same.
“We’re at Sagrada and then grabbing dinner with my friend’s Tinder date. I need to pack tonight too because we leave in the morning. Perhaps after?”
“I may go out tonight. Keep me posted. Let me know when you get to the hostel.”
We left Sagrada to meet a Venezuelan guy at a Venezuelan restaurant he recommended. This trip has been trying a lot of new foods and I was more than on board to crash my friends date for a taste.
We meet up with Ven, a very nice, sweet, 32 year old gentleman. He ordered a plethora of appetizers and entrees and I loved every single one of them. He noticed my love of food and made some jokes about it. He was fun. He then offered dessert, which my friends passed on, but I’m no quitter.
This 3-leche piece of heaven was to die for. Then a second dessert showed up. He said he ordered two so my friends could have a chance to eat too. We laughed and I stabbed them with a fork when they tried to reach in. All was good in the world.
Afterwards, he took us to the Magic Fountain. We climbed to the top for a view (actually there was an escalator, outside, after I had JUST made a joke about needing one). Barcelona- with each effortless lift you give me I liked you even more.
I sat there taking in the moment. I’m sitting on a ledge, belly full of delicious new food, in Spain, with fellow wanderers, overlooking nothing but beauty. It was one of those moments you want to capture and live in forever.
Thank you, I thought. Thank you to God and to life for working things out the way you did. Thank you to my past that brought me here. To know how to appreciate this good that much more. Thank you that my suicide attempts of the past were never successful so I could be here right now and take this breath in this moment. This is why people fight through the hard. To experience moments like these.
We headed back to the hotel and I stopped at the fountain to take a traveling panties photo. This joke started from my friend at the gym before I left, and true to my nature, I took the joke too far. Before I left Texas, I bought a pair of light purple underwear and now take pictures did them along my trip. Ven thought I was crazy, then asked if he could be the one to hold them in our group pic. He was a lot of fun and we all really liked him.
Món and I headed to the hostel and KT and Ven stopped for drinks. I text Gertalian that I was at the hostel but I knew it was late. He responded “how long until you’re here?”
“40 minutes?” I guess he didn’t go out this Friday night after all.
“Great! See you then! 😘 and take the elevator on the left!!!!”
“Stairs to the top floor then text you? Got it!”He laughed.
I showered quickly, changed into pjs/traveling clothes for tomorrow as I knew we were leaving early and unlike Chainsaw, wanted to be considerate of my roommates. I packed my bag and caught a cab. I told the cabbie where I was going.
“Què? No hablo ingles.”
Fuck. I need to remember to yell at Gertalian for lying to me. All cabbies speak English, my ass.
I interacted as much as I could with my driver to be polite. I told him it was my last night in Barcelona and I was going to party. And not sleep.
He asked if I was going to a friend’s. I told him yes. He asked if I had a boyfriend. I told him no, he’s just a friend. He pulled out his phone, spoke to it in Spanish, and handed into me. Google translate app then read it out loud.
“I like you. I would like to have your phone number to talk to you.”
Awkward. I’m really bad at saying no though, have we covered this?
“Oh Sí!” I said, thinking it wouldn’t really pan out.
He pulled over immediately and turned off the meter. He was asking me something but I didn’t understand. He seemed frustrated. I was on the verge of an anxiety melt down. I’m so close to Gertalian’s. could I just get out?
He asked for my number so I gave it to him in Spanish. Correctly. He tries to add me to whatsapp and it doesn’t work. A common issue I’ve had for a reason I don’t know. He asks me to repeat it after he saved it. I assume he did this to see if it would populate or if I was lying. It populated “Techle”. I didn’t bother to correct the spelling.
He took my phone and called himself. I would’ve given it to him if it meant I could get out of the car. Lucky for me, it worked and he seemed satisfied with it now. He showed me how to speak to google translate and have it send to WhatsApp. While I DO want to practice Spanish, not over text and not particularly with the gent. He is trying to find the address and I text Gertalian back, who had written me asking where I was.
“Held hostage in cab until I gave my phone number. Also, ALL CAB DRIVERS DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH YOU FUCKER.”
He wrote back “😂😂😂”.
I made it in his apartment and he greeted me with a hug and kiss. We sat on the couch and talked of his day and a bit of his life. I learned about where he grew up, that he moved to England for 2 years for his ex girlfriend, who was 10 years younger, and he’s been single by choice for the last eight years.
There it is. Emotionally unavailable. 100% completely my type. I knew it. We talked more and he told me about his stressful job and his need to unwind and relax after. He rolled a joint and I partook. When in Barcelona.. right?
He told me his theory in destressing for men and that they need to touch a boob a day. Preferably two. But you really only need one. It’s science study, he tells me. I laughed. Surely this was a language barrier.
“That’s definitely not a study. I think you mean something else.”
“No no. I mean that. Look. I’ll prove it!” He grabbed my hooter. I laughed. He laughed.
“See! I feel so much better! It’s science!”
I stayed a bit longer and I’ll leave details of this part out too. 😉 Afterwards I went to collect my things and head out.
“You don’t have to leave you know. You run away. You just want to use and abuse me” he joked.
I laughed. I would like to stay. I would’ve like to be held for a night. I sleep best that way. And it’s been an indescribably long and lonely time since I felt that comfort. And I felt safe and comfortable next to him. And I’d sleep better here than with Chainsaw. And his bed was more comfortable. And it was already 230 in the morning. It made more sense to sleep here then go to the hostel on the way out.
“I can’t. I’m sorry. Thank you for having me though. And making me laugh. I think you’re wonderful.”
“You’re so easy to be around.” He told me. “Just so nice. And .. yeah. Easy to be around. If you have to go I understand, but you can also stay with me.”
“Thank you, but I should go.”
He walked me to the door and kissed me. Then hugged me. Then kissed me again. Then held me tight and kissed me again.
“Bye Mr. Thank you again.”
“Bye Bella. Take the elevator ON THE LEFT!!!”
I hailed a cab and got into my hostel. Chainsaw was running at full speed and I was fine with it. I knew I wouldn’t sleep much anyway. And I didn’t.
3.5 hours later the alarm went off and I tiredly loaded my backpack and we headed to the airport to fly to Milan. I was really sad to leave Barcelona and promised myself I’ll come back someday. Just as I promised myself before the trip I’d not let myself get too attached to any things, or people, ever again.