Leave Alone-A Barcelona
espantoso adj. (Spanish) Of poor quality; unpleasant; frightening
It’s sad when the six hour train ride to a place is more pleasant than your time in the actual place itself but that’s exactly how I felt about Barcelona. Then again, that train ride was pretty hard to beat considering I got the joy of seeing a movie with Dame Maggie Smith dubbed into Spanish. My mother and I arrived in Barcelona at 8:30pm after a long day of travel: first a train from El Chorro back to Malaga, a five hour layover in Malaga in which I introduced my mother to the joys of Primark, and then the six hour ride to Barcelona. By the time we got there and walked from the train station into the gross city air, we were exhausted. Rather than walk the couple kilometers to the hostel, we decided to take the Metro and luckily I’m used to the London Tube so navigating it was no problem (good thing since my mother has little to no underground transportation experience).
Unfortunately the night did not get better once we got to the hostel. On the contrary, it got infinitely worse. From the outside, the Barcelo Hostel looked as though it had potential, set in a beautiful old building with very Gaudi-esque architecture typical of Barcelona. But the inside, oh the inside, was perhaps the most horrible thing in existence. It didn’t look awful at first, but when we were greeted (and I use that term loosely at best) at the reception desk by a young man who looked like even talking to us was the biggest chore he had ever been assigned in his life, we started to see just what was in store for us. We then had to wait in the reception area for 15 minutes while he went and stripped our beds and put new sheets on them, because, you know, it’s not logical to do that BEFORE you have a reservation arrive. When we reached our room, we found all the beds with old sheets on them, meaning that rather than be being stripped directly after guests leave, they sit in the filth of the last guest until a new one arrives. And it just kept getting worse- dusty corners on floors that had not been swept or mopped in ages, dirty bathrooms we avoided like the plague, and a kitchen in which I refused to even make tea for myself. In terms of my OCPD for cleanliness, the apple did not fall far from the tree and thus both my mother and I were absolutely disgusted.
We decided the best thing to do was just try to get to sleep so we could wake up early, spend all day in Barcelona, and come back late for our last night there so we would have to spend as little time in the hostel as possible. Thus far, our only stroke of luck appeared to be that we were the only ones in the bunk room. We should have known even that was too good to be true. Just as we had settled down and drifted off to sleep, our door was opened, the light turned on, and we received to new roommate. Again, we drifted back to sleep and some time later we were disturbed yet again, this time by a guest and the same terrible receptionist who took his sweet time making up the bed for the new guest (again, MAYBE YOU SHOULD DO THIS BEFORE 1 IN THE MORNING). And the disturbances didn’t end there. I was lucky to have a warm comforter but my mom was barely given a blanket and thus slept cold much of the night. For me, I woke up later to one of our guests snoring. For one who can fall asleep on the bleachers of a sporting event and could probably sleep through a tornado, I absolutely cannot fall asleep if there is snoring in the room. By this point, I was beyond the point of suppressing my irritation and therefore quite seriously considered throwing my pillow at him but only stopped by the fact that I would then lose my pillow.
The snoring finally subsided a bit and I managed to get a couple more hours of sleep before our alarm went off and we hastily got out of the hostel for the day, despite having to get dressed in the dark because we’re actually considerate. During this time of us shuffling around blindly in our packs, the only other guest left in the room dropped his phone when his alarm went off, asked me to pick it up for him, for which I turned the light on, and had the nerve to ask me to turn it back off though we were still trying to get ready. I have quite a temper that I have spent years learning to control and that instance took every bit of that control I have to not go off completely about inconsiderate he was the previous night. But considering we had to leave our things there (albeit locked in lockers) I knew it would be best not to make enemies. Instead I just clenched my jaw and left.
The city itself was not enough to cheer me up because it was just that: a city. While there are a couple of cool buildings here and there, they are amid the countless other commercial skyscrapers and historically meaningless things. It is a city devoid of culture, with only the typical city hustle and bustle that I hate so much. The Cheetah Girls deceived me on this city much as Lizzie McGuire gave me false perceptions of what my experience in Rome would be like two years ago. I was not mistaken for a Roman pop star and whisked away into romance so I feel lied to. All joking aside, there were other things wrong with Barcelona as well. For one, it was expensive. Being used to the dirt cheap prices of southern Spain I was shocked at the high prices in Barcelona and I nearly choked when I found out we paid 5€ for a glass of orange juice, fresh squeezed though it may be. It also started to break me into the language barrier I would soon be experiencing in France. In Barcelona, while they do speak Spanish, the language spoken is that of Catalan, which is deceptively and vastly different. While I could still speak to others, I could not longer decipher and understand what was written and being said all around me and that was just a tiny source of frustration on top of a lot of other ones.
The best part of our day was our trip up to Park Guell, which is where 90% of all pictures of Barcelona are taken. How deceiving they are. The park itself is interesting because it is full of unique flora and fauna twisting along ancient rock arches that seem to remain standing out of some miracle alone. There are also a host of street vendors selling everything from jewelry to scarves and blankets spread out everywhere. While they are really fun to look through, the vendors themselves are unbearably pushy. Since I have spent the last three years in Philadelphia, I am used to being firm and simply walking away. Sweet and polite Montana mama not so much. Here I kept my arm through hers and would physically steer her away from people if they started being too pushy. By the end she was learning, but not before she left with four new scarves, granted one of which was mine.
We returned to the hostel early in the evening to attempt to get some laundry done since laundry services are few and far between at backpacking hostels. We should have known it would not be so simple and in fact, it turned into the Great Laundry Fiasco of 2015. Lucky us, guess who was the reception? That’s right: Mr. Helpful. After we paid for laundry and he led us around to ridiculously tiny machines, it became clear that he had no idea what he was doing. Finally, we stepped in and took over, but after we started the laundry, we noticed that no water seemed to be filling the washer. Naturally, he was less than helpful and tried to blame it on us putting too much laundry in it. Again, I almost snapped. Finally, we discovered the machine as on the wrong setting and switched it but still had to wait two hours for the wash to be done. What kind of wash cycle takes two hours?! The dryer was even worse and barely seemed to blow cool air on our clothes so they took forever to dry. Thankfully, we could at least go get dinner while waiting for the dryer. Dinner turned out to be the best part of our experience in Barcelona but considering how much I love food, no big surprise there.
Another terrible thing about this hostel: the malfunctioning doors. For some reason, my mother and I were incapable of getting the skeleton key to open our hall no matter how hard we tried. And so when Mr. Helpful had to come help us unlock it, it became clear he thought were idiots, which is about the biggest irony I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Our last night in the hostel was no better than the first, as we were once again woken up for bed making of two new guests (seriously, YOU STILL HAVENT FIGURED THIS OUT YET?!) who basically forced us to move our packed bags so they could get to the lockers at like midnight. Needless to say, we didn’t split hairs about being quiet when leaving at 7:30 the next morning.
So that was Barcelona. It’s sad that the end of our adventures in Spain ended so negatively but I’m going to try not to let it poison my love for the rest of the country. I’m sorry if this post turned into a bit of a negative rant. For all my sarcastic cynicism, I generally try to be a positive person and find the positive notes in any circumstance, but Barcelona tested even that ability of myself. My mother and I have been extremely lucky in regards to both hostels and experience everywhere we have been, despite the nuisance of cold and rain. Our luck, I suppose, was bound to run out at some point. We were spoiled at El Chorro and we needed a grounding reminder that life is not all propane heaters and private villas. I guess if I can eek any positivity out of this experience, it would be the appreciation I gained for every other aspect of this trip. Perspective, my friends.