All I knew was that people were following the beats of the drums – somewhat reminiscent of the pied piper – children were holding lanterns and you could hear the festive excitement in the air. Everyone was following the parade and they were singing some song I did not understand. The girona – quiet, almost deserted Girona I thought I’d seen just afew hours ago was now so lively, so filled with some sort of magical hush of excitement.
letters to the kings :’) Their parents write it with them the night before so they can ‘mail’ it to the kings, and the kings would know what they want :’)
handmade lanterns made of eggshell cartons and empty bottles
Spoke to a random man and he told me about the lanterns and the stamps – the lights from the lanterns as a form of welcome to the festival and the stamps to collect all 3 meant the kings would come to your house!! But you had to be on your best behavior throughout the year, of course
Such tender kind eyes – if i were a kid I’d believe him too 😥
‘Have you been a good child this year?’
It was an amazing day, it felt magical and I was incredibly excited and happy to have been here
I wished there was someone here with me to witness the festival, but I know this is a compromise in solo travel so I’ll keep these in my memories 🙂
The man asked me what I wanted, and asked me where I’m from. Singapore, rich country, he nodded. I laughed and said the rich were rich but the poor can slip through the cracks. That was how we began.
It was one of those conversations that sent my heart pumping with excitement as I wanted to know everything, everything he thought because it was SO interesting. Some people are so intelligent and filled with such interesting and thought-provoking perspectives I hope he knows I meant that when I said that before I left. He was a political studies major in Pakistan before coming over to Spain (Catalonia) 25 years ago, he came without a word of Spanish but now he’s even more fluent than his own language. Urdu, English, Spanish, Catalonian and some Spanish dialect I cannot remember. He said he hasn’t spoken English for such a long, long long time now and he very clearly misses it. I asked him so many questions about Spain, this whole thing about the Catalonian identity and independence – language, problem resolutions and mindsets, cultures- Madrid. History of independence. World history, how we used to have only 50 countries and then with the world wars each split into more. Each country had their own reasons for desiring independence, be it religion, language, culture, problems, each country desired to be their own. It really blows me away to learn about THIS side of a country so touristic, to hear something so local. It just reminded me of Italy, how I had absolutely no idea of the whole north-south thing and suddenly I realised it’s like this in Spain as well. Apparently next year with voting Barcelona (Catalonia) wanted to not be a part of Spain. So strange to me, because Barcelona has always, always been “Spain” to me and yet to them they only saw themselves as Catalonian. Borders, countries, construction of political differences. It’s SO interesting I could spend the whole day just chatting with him about politics and political boundaries and “true histories” because he was clearly a knowledgable man (who under unfortunate circumstances, I felt, was now working in this minimart- I felt was a pity)
How colonial masters continue to control the colonized, “puppets” and “independence” and granted independence vs true independence
Unfortunately my train was due to arrive soon and I had to leave. I said a quick and reluctant goodbye because I knew I had so much more I could learn from him, and ran to the train station. So here I am, safely on the train now.
The thing is, this stranger is one of the reasons why my trip to Barcelona will be memorable. Strangers are mostly the reasons why my trips are memorable. What makes me happy is knowing that I made his day too, because I know this is probably the most English he’s spoken in years, having a conversation like that. The world is an amazing place filled with amazing people and amazing stories and I don’t want to forget that.
I feel like travel is about meeting beautiful people and carrying their stories with me back home.
Museu del cinema
Second favourite museum to date, after Utrecht’s
I thought I had enough of cathedrals but this, this really blew me away. Architectural ingenuity of Gaudi
I loved the integration of nature (advent of modernism as I later found)
My time with Paco taught me SO much, about modernism and Gaudi and even how to appreciate art. Romanic styles, Gothic and neo-classic – how to identify the buildings associated with it. We walked around the city and looked at the Roman remains of the old city walls, and for the first time I kind of realized the historical importance of these structures…? And could picture it – the colonization, the old city gate, the expansion of the city thereafter, and that’s why the streets are different in different parts of the city. Some narrow, some broad. This side of the buildings dull and sooty (remnants from the train), the other brightly colored.
I must say that this was one of the BEST and most meaningful CS experiences for me because I truly, truly learnt and truly got a very local perspective and guide and FOOD and cultural view. I had my reservations initially, and I don’t deny I was apprehensive and slightly worried. But I had 2 options – pick a hostel and probably roam around touristy places alone, or stay with a local and guarantee minimal interaction. None of the girls / students of Barcelona accepted 😥 (impending exams, i think) and I got an offer, so I went ahead despite that weighing apprehension.
I think one of the things I seek to do this year is to not see age as a barrier / border / restriction in any way. Age can create a distance (understandably) in friendships but at the same time why should it? I’ve always found it hard to befriend people who have a distinct age gap from myself but I feel like age shouldn’t be a constraint anymore. Think Harold and Maude, my favorite film! All the more reasons for this. I feel a little awkward initially but I’m working on this – age should NOT be a barrier to friendship and I hope I keep that in my mind.
Catalonian independence movement. I did notice the flag earlier, but now I know why there’s a blue star, and then I start seeing it everywhere. The ‘independence’ banner I saw at Girona now makes more sense. The graffitti.
It just stuns me that I have, with ALL my life associated Barcelona with Spain, and it never occurred to me otherwise – that they might not like it (??)
I could sense the strong Catalonian identity that emerges from Paco’s words, the ‘us’ vs ‘them’, and I wonder where / how they got this sense of identity. Nationhood, borders and constructed boundaries. How interesting, how fascinating!
What makes one feel so strongly as ‘one’???
What makes a nation a nation, what makes them want independence and how do they see themselves as ‘different’?
Hinda was a Somalian in Canada – talked about… guns (heh), TIPPING CULTURE (dude, 50% tip is craaaazy to me….), US vs Canada, crazy -40 degrees weather (because of the wind), Montreal’s first language as French (never knew!!), edu/healthcare, the whole notion of sexual relations, global warming (!!),
I can feel the memory slipping by, and that rawness – freshness(?) of emotions that I felt at that point in time slipping from my grip. That makes me a little sad, but I can also feel myself desperately clinging on to that bit of emotion in its raw state.
This is by far my most favourite picture of a city – i might even daresay this is my favourite picture of my whole trip. Each time I look at it it stirs in me a particular fondness of sorts.
I came to Barcelona not quite noticing this flag, and I feel that when I left Barcelona this flag and its brightly pointed star held so much meaning; therein lay so much history, so much strength and so much I didn’t know and understand. Not that I completely do now (because every representation is a mis-representation, and every argument has a counter-argument, as I am aware), but I look at this flag so much more differently from before.
I took this picture on the last day, and when I did, I took it with an understanding that I didn’t have before. I guess that’s why I like it – it makes me feel like I took something away with me beyond mere images and sceneries, and that’s fulfilling in its ways.
Last Ryanair flight in a long, long while now.
Not a bad thing, considering that sense of trepidation I get everytime I get close to the boarding gate. And those hell-annoying security checks. Ugh. Just ONE last one at Heathrow, and then.. it’ll be a long long while.
I’ve been away from Loughborough for a month now, and I must say I do miss going back ‘home’ to my comfortable bed. My bed at Loughborough is more comfortable than the one back home 😥 That precious duvet. SIGH
I have been traveling quite abit, but I must say that I’ve learnt ALOT in this one month. They say the world is an open book – I really feel so, I feel like I’ve learnt so much in days about the countries more than I’ve ever known.
I had 4 meaningful, fulfilling encounters with strangers in Spain, which has been the most number in a single trip thus far. I feel like conversations come so readily now it doesn’t surprise me anymore, which is nice because it makes me feel like I have grown a little to be less reserved now.
Australian lady, Pakistani man, Paco and Hinda from Somalia
4Jan 2014, 850am:
Meant to sleep over at the Barcelona airport while hunting for my name amongst the seats – treasure hunt set up by a certain childish individual – but found myself in a 5 star hotel, sleeping on the same bed as an Australian lady. Life works in mysterious ways. The thing is, I’m not even all that surprised anymore; unexpected things keep happening to me when I travel alone, and I feel like a part of me was waiting for just that to happen.
Lee: Erm, I don’t usually do this…. like… sleep with strangers.
At one point, she did push-ups on the ground and made me watch her do it. HAHAHAH
I’m so lucky. 🙂
5jan: Barcelona is so beautiful that as the tram passes y the city I can’t help but smile at the blue(!!!!!) skies and beautiful architecture and it makes me want to capture every moment
Mood-lifting, feel-good factor
Sunshine Barcelona- another city so easy to fall in love with 🙂
Honestly, Paco was one of the BEST hosts ever and I can sincerely recommend him to ANYONE out there who wants to walk out filled with much knowledge. He knows SO much it’s amazing and it was precisely what I wanted – to understand the place, to look at it in a different light, and I really did, I really did.
When I walked along the streets of Barcelona on the third day I started to see so many tiny little details that Paco was pointing out to me the day before. I had so much to gain from him, and he had so much to give. It’s a pity it was only afew days, for I knew he was someone I could bombard all my questions with and he’d be happy to answer – and his answers would be exactly what I needed to feel a swell of fulfilment. Not like a one-liner, a brief polite statement for fear of boring the other – which I understand, really – but a rich detail of everything. Some might find it too ‘heavy’ listening to him the whole day, and admittedly at the end of the day I was pretty brain-saturated but I felt so fulfilled. Like I’ve learnt so much. Which was exactly what I was looking for in a host.
And it’s one of these moments that I think – I could have missed out on all these. I could have come to Barcelona alone, visited the sights, and then left… and it would have been.. another city, and I would have walked away with so much less.
I was slightly skeptical and afraid, I mean I was a solo female traveller in Barcelona for the first time and staying in a male stranger’s apartment’s definitely worth questioning a little bit. But I chose this option rather than the other and everything turned out so wonderful and memorable for me, you know? And it’s such times that strengthens my belief in the goodness of people, of humanity. I just think that believing in the goodness of people goes a really long way, and trusting strangers can turn out so amazing. You never know, yes, but choosing to take the chance is tremendously, tremendously rewarding.
In this way, I think the lack of a paranoid, wary-bone in me is a blessing of sorts that’s drawn me to such opportunities.
That said, I have been immensely lucky, and it’s been one huge blessing that I have not gotten myself into any real trouble. I’m really lucky, and I’m really thankful for the experiences.
Tiny detail on the floor that reminded me of what Paco said about Modernism / Nature / Elements inspired within the city
I really loved walking around the cities of Barcelona and Girona because there were all these beautiful architecture just demanding me to stare at them, and it makes me feel like there’s so much in this city I haven’t seen – maybe if I just turn this corner I’d see another beautiful door. I think Girona’s my favourite city after Utrecht, because of all of its beauty. Wait, there’s Krakow. And Riga. And Barcelona’s special too…