A Travellerspoint blog

I could write a Barcelona hostel guide!

But really would just like to find a place to call home.

sunny 25 °C

What a week it has been. After twice thinking that I had a place to stay locked up (so to speak), I had to go back to the drawing board. So here I am, in hostel number two (the old one couldn't extend my stay) and still without a true home. I had two great bites on rooms, but neither panned out. I was flat-out denied by one, and the other needed 3-4 days to think about it. Oof. I am newly empowered with a different room-listings site, though, and am looking forward to three more showings tomorrow. I have also given up on going into the showings speaking Spanish-- I think it was hurting me being a 22 year old American kid and not being able explain fully that I'm here to work, not party all the time. I am still certainly looking for Spanish speakers, but if they speak a little english for the 'interview' process I am more than happy.

I continue to stumble upon new and incredible parts of this city as I run around like crazy locating and seeing rooms. I walked past one of the famous Gaudi buildings today and saw everyone gawking, but had to hurry through to get to my appointment on time. Felt like a regular ol' local. I'll be back later, a little less stressed.

Speaking of walking, one of my first Barcelona lessons: When crossing the street, the little green man blinks to signify that time is running out. However, whereas in the US, where the hand blinks a bazillion times, this green man only blinks about 7. Therefore, under no circumstances do you start crossing when the man is blinking, and if you value your life, you will run if he starts to blink and you are still in the street. The reason for this is that all of the mopeds (almost more numerous than cars, and half driven by fearless women) sneak to the front of the line and anticipate the green, so that sometimes they are in the middle of the intersection when their light turns. I have been a part of and witnessed many Frogger-like scenes with the uninitiated.

I had the opportunity today to meet up with the parents of one of the guys with whom I played soccer in college as they complete a tour of Spain. It was great to grab lunch and walk around el Gotic with them and practice my English again.

So I mentioned earlier that I had to move hostels, and this new hostel offered a great deal (do not try this at home, kids, I got lucky)-- so I arrived and the guy explains that the room is has is really small. I point at the pile of luggage and go 'will I fit?' (half joking) and he looks for a minute at it and says (not joking) 'yeah I think so.' Great. So we get to the room, and he takes out the oldest key I have ever seen. Seriously it looks like something out of Frankenstein. He inserts said key, and tugs on the door. After several minutes of frantic tugging, he turns and goes 'could you have a seat over there? I'll be back in 3 minutes.' At this point, I was sure that I was being scammed. I had already paid, but I went and sat to see how it would play out. 20 minutes later he flies back down the hallway with a master set of keys, apologizing the whole way. I am so relieved me came back at all, I just smiled and said nothing as he had equal success the second time around. And then he turns to me and says: 'I'll have to put you up in a single room with its own bathroom'. Nooooow we're talkin. He takes me to my new room and all is good. It could have gotten hairy, and for a minute I was considering drastic action whew. This new room, though, has a shower that is quarter-circle shaped in the corner of the room. You step in and close the doors with both hands like you're loading the escape pod in a rocket (or the way I envision an escape pod). I even made the air whooshing noise the first time. And that's just the beginning, since it has three modes: 1) Waterfall, where the ceiling of the shower just starts pouring on you (doesn't seem very economic for a country in severe drought, but I loved it) 2) Regular handheld shower head 3) 6 horizontal nozzles that spray a fine(er) mist from the wall. I didn't even really try this one much since I was so engrossed by the waterfall option. What an experience.

You noticed, I hope, that I posted a couple of pictures earlier. The first was taken from the airplane as we flew towards Barca, and the second is the street my last hostel was on, taken from Placa Catalunya. This is just a teaser for the kinds of things one might find on the as-yet unformed Flickr account for my travels. I'll keep you posted on the status of that. Phew, I know, I promised to keep these short. Sorry! I need to go anyway- it's bedtime- but I think I have time for one more shower.

Hasta Luego!

Posted by dclift 21:56 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Pictures as Promised

First photo from the airplane, second is the street my first hostel was on

sunny 25 °C

First Sunrise in Spain

First Sunrise in Spain

Ronda Universitat

Ronda Universitat

Posted by dclift 13:01 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Alive...

But still homeless

sunny 25 °C

Hello again! I arrived safely to Barcelona yesterday morning with luggage in tow. I actually was able to take an earlier flight from Boston to Newark to lengthen my layover time, which was probably more beneficial for my luggage, and everything worked out great. I only got a few hours of sleep on the plane, probably due to adrenaline and the fact that my seat in the emergency exit row (thought it'd be great for extra leg room) didn't recline. Oof.

My first impression of the country outside the window of the airplane was two-fold: Everything is extremely dry here. The mountains north of the city are brown and sparse. (There is a notecard in the hostel preaching to save water since there is a drought this year, but the notecard looks like it is as old as me...). Also, on the descent into Barcelona I could see wind turbines everywhere. I have also read that all new apartments of a certain size are required to install solar panels. Cool commitment to alternative energy.

Customs in this country is easier than any I've ever seen. I was expecting to receive a card on the airplane to declare belongings and then to have my bags scanned on the way out, but noone even said a word to me on the way out. I didn't have anything to declare anyway, but they didn't seem concerned about enforcing their customs rules.

My hostel is in the middle of the city, west of La Rambla (a crazy tourist spot) and east of UB. I spent the day yesterday walking around holding my eyelids open and trying to be moderately productive. I stopped at el mercat, a huge outdoor market in La Rambla. My eating schedule (already frequent) got all scrambled with my sleep schedule, so I found myself eating whenever I was hungry... which was basically hourly all day. At the mercat I got some fresh fruit- strawberries, kiwi and mango, and found a housing office recommended by the woman at the desk at the hostel. All signs inside the office were in Catalan, and the woman there didn't speak English. This was the first time I had to rely completely on my spanish, and I found it to be full of awkward silences as I racked my brain for words. I got the information I needed, though, with relatively few impasses. Next task was to find a phone. I went to Vodafone to grab a simple phone for talking to potential landlords... more on that in a second. Finally I went back to my room around 4 finding it impossible to stave off sleep any more.

After a short nap, I resolved to call some of the landlords I'd been in contact with. If speaking to someone in Spanish is difficult for me, speaking on a cheap cell-phone is downright impossible. I called one woman and after a frustrating couple of minutes I deciphered that she wanted to meet today at 3:30. It's a good thing I can do basic numbers and verbs or I'd be sunk-ola. At 8:15 I departed the hostel to find my first house showing. It was probably 20 blocks away from the hostel, but blocks vary significantly in size, so it took me right up until 9 o'clock. Follow along: I get to the front of the building that I think this flat (piso) was in, and ring the appropriate bell. Noone home. I ring the other bell on that floor. No Jose there. Bummer. Try the surrounding bells. No answers. Look at my sheet where I had written Av. Diagonal 402, 4th floor. Real bummer- that's where I am. Time to get back on the phone. Cars are whipping past behind me, stretching my already poor listening skills to the max. I decipher that he actually lives in 404, in the 4th door of the 3rd floor. Now thoroughly confused, I go next door and ring that bell. Whew, Jose answers. Perhaps I copied EVERYTHING down wrong... Jose, meanwhile, is really nice- probably about 60 years old, he is both landlord and resident with another man a little older than myself. He insists on speaking Spanish, which I appreciate, and it becomes clear that I will learn quickly if I live here. The flat itself is small, but really nice and quiet. I would have liked a bigger room and younger tenants, but I could absolutely live here for the year. After more pause-filled conversation, I depart back to the hostel to solve my address mystery. When I finally got back, I found that I actually didn't copy incorrectly- his listing is inaccurate. I have no idea why this is, and if I decide to take this room, I'll let you know what I find out.

I am really excited to be done with this room-hunting and start exploring the city in earnest. Also, I have been up for three hours and am exhausted already. Anyway, I'll leave you here with some random things I've noticed about the city.

-There are (large) hills that rise up suddenly in the north and west parts of the city- definitely need exploring
-Foreign exchange students (esp American) are ridiculously obvious walking around in the street- huge groups, loud American. Obnoxious. And me three years ago...
-Homeless people (there are few) all have dogs, which makes me more inclined to donate, and the fact that the dogs generally look better fed than their humans also helps tremendously
-No pickpocket encounters yet. The mercat was really crowded with tourists- can't wait until I'm not considered one of them.
-I can't listen to Pandora here wahhhh... there are licensing problems, apparently. Bummer.

Hasta Luego!!

Posted by dclift 09:06 Archived in Spain Tagged day first Comments (0)

El primero

Here we go!

Hello everyone! Thanks so much for stopping by! As you know, I have been awarded a Whitaker Fellowship to do research in Barcelona, Spain. I will be there for a full year, so I have created this blog to help myself document all of the adventures and for you all follow them without me spamming your inboxes with e-mails! Feel free to snoop around, add comments when necessary, and know that I miss everyone already (even though I haven't yet left)!!

Even though I haven't left yet, things are moving quickly so I wanted to get a jump start. First, the title of the blog for those who don't speak Castillian (Spanish): It means 'Wandering Thoughts'-- I liked the double entendre (theres the extent of my French- and the last you should see of it), but it didn't translate into Castillian as nicely as I'd hoped- too many syllables. But until I come up with something else, it will have to suffice.

So for the last few weeks, I have been at home preparing to leave, with the grand plan of arriving in Barcelona with 10 free days to look around and nail down a place to live. Of course Plan A never actually happens, and the place I was going to stay until I found a room fell through two days ago. So last night I found myself researching hostels to crash at for the first few nights before I find a real place. I am now scheduling appointments for the middle of next week to see rooms, so I will update on that as soon as I can!

So tomorrow it's off to Maine to visit with family before Monday, when I will fly out of Boston for Barcelona.

I'll try to keep these relatively short and readable, so that's where I'll leave you today. Again, thanks for coming, and see you again hopefully!

Saludos!

Doug

Posted by dclift 07:32 Archived in USA Tagged at still home! Comments (1)

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