It is funny how quickly I settle into a routine. In the morning, I have a cafe solo and chocolate croissant at Cafe Sergei, where the barista is an expert vermouth taster. I usually sit at a window table and write in my Moleskine journal (one of the few things I have purchased in the last few years that I have become immediately attached to). I usually head back to my room to finish my Spanish homework–it takes an excruciatingly long time to complete–before catching the Metro (Linia 3, Canyelles) to the Vall d´Hebron campus of the University of Barcelona. the metro is usually packed when I get on, but empties out after the Passeig de Gracia station. The ride is about 20 minutes long.
i get in around 10. I have a desk and a computer at the University, and no real agenda. I usually check my email, surf the Web for news in English, and look busy until we go out for coffee–around 11. Around 2 we eat lunch in the cafeteria–a big lunch, usually two platefuls of salad, pasta, beans, or whatever, plus dessert. When I first got here, I usually only had one plate, and could barely finish that. Now that I have adjusted to small, late dinners and meager breakfasts, I fill up two plates and have no problem finishing them.
I split around 3, which is barely enough time to get to Castellano class at 3:30. For the last week or so, I have been skipping lunch at the University and grabbing a few tapas at a restaurant across the street from my class. But, since meals are very social events in Spain, I think I have been offending my workmates, so I have decided to hang around, even if it means being a little late to class. My class is 5 hours long, full of American undergrads who, understandably, devote most of their spare time to going out to discotecas at night. I am the oldest person in class, and except for a young French girl, the only one who is traveling alone. I find American travelers especially annoying, perhaps because I know them better than other nationalities, and the Americans in my class even more so. Muy rudioso. I can barely hear what the teacher is saying.
After class, I head back to my residencia in El Raval. Twin marble monoliths, 5 stories high, across from a plaza where a group of senile folks from a group home hang out. Right now, it is full of Americans studying abroad, many of them high school students and, alas, inexperienced drinkers. Which makes for some interesting concoctions on the sidewalk in the morning.
Eating dinner is the hardest part of my day. My first two weeks here, every meal was a near disater. i would order something to eat, and it would have a head, or else it would be some kind of rank porridge. Or it would smell like hamster piss. But things have improved. There is an awesome Indian restaurant nearby that isn´t afraid to ramp up the curry, and there are a few more places not in the guidebooks that have been surprisingly good. I dunno. Maybe my expecations are low.
So, I usually eat at 9:30 at the earliest, and then have a beer or a coffee outside at one of the cafes on the Rambla del Raval. El Raval is an up and coming barrio in Barcelona that is still delightfully seedy and unpretentious. It is full of immigrants, mostly Arabs, and has a kind of addictive, crazy energy. It always seems on the brink of chaos. It is fascinating. the other night, I watched this tiny Moroccan nino–he couldn´t have been older than 4–speed around wearing a single, adult-sized rollerblade. He would push off with one foot, as a skateboarder would do, until he reached a frightening speed and then he would wobble and teeter uncontrollably until he would inevitably go splat on the pavement. Hard. Most kids would bawl, but he just got up and did it all over again, with his dad sitting on a nearby bench laughing. And this was around midnight on a Tuesday.
After an evening apertif, I party hard until about 4 am at one of the smoke-filled dance clubs in the Gothic Quarter. And then I go splat and, like the Moroccan kid, I get up and do it all over again.
No, there has been very little late-night dancing for me. I am waiting for E. to arrive at the end of the month so it will actually be fun. I did go to a fun bar last Saturday–La Concha–but I only lasted until 2 am. The music was Egyptian disco, and air was 90% cigarette smoke. My mates at the University are going to take me out next week, and we will probably go out to a bar in El Raval “inhabited” by a transvestite named Carmen Mirenda, who is still going strong at 80 years. That should be fun.
I have another month of travel and, while i love Barcelona, i am ready to move on to a different town. Madrid, and then elsewhere, little pueblos no one knows about. This weekend I am going to escape BCN for a trip to Tarragon or Sitges, just for a break. The tourists are arriving by the buttload, and it is getting difficult to find a real honest to goodness Spanish person on the street. And if I do, I find they are often tourists, too.