This is going to be the first time in awhile there are no photos. Once upon a time, these posts relied on words alone to be interesting. My iPad won’t connect to the hostel wifi and I’m on the hostel computer. I hope this will suffice.
I’ve been short on posting in the past day or two because the days have been relatively mundane. I spent five hours on a train yesterday to get to Toulouse. My hostel was a young couple’s home- a condo turned into a hostel. Their living room was my common space, their computer my computer. It was darling. Tomorrow I’ll share a picture of just how cute my room was. I ventured into Toulouse, walked in every direction before picking which of the seventy crepe places I’d eat at, and ended up at one of the first ones I’d seen. Ham, cheese, mushrooms… and then they served a Nutella one for dessert. It was the first time I’d eaten Nutella that hadn’t followed a friend saying, “You don’t eat Nutella???
I can’t find half the punctuation marks on this keyboard. Don’t mind me.
Today, one three-hour train to a one hour break to a three-hour train to Barcelona. I’d gotten on one of the local trains that stops at every single little stop between two bigger cities. It was tedious, but beautiful between Toulouse and Barcelona. Mountains, snow, land…
When I arrived at my hostel in Barcelona (9 euros a night!!!) I immediately threw all my clothes into laundry (11 euros a small load, how disgusting is that). The woman said, ¨You’re sure you need to do laundry?¨ I needed it five days ago.
Not wanting to sit around my hostel all day waiting for laundry, I put on the only clothes that had escaped the wash process. My black shorts and blue tank. Not bad a) if my black shorts hadnt shrunk to the too short stage months ago and b) if it was a respectable month to wear shorts. Its not.
But I ventured out. Broken Greek sandals, too-short black shorts, blue tank… snow coat.
Wandered, wandered, wandered. Barcelona is the first place Ive really returned to on this trip. Munich I did, but within a week, short of any big life experience happening between visits. A lot has changed since Dad and I were here three and a half months ago. A lot. In all forms, physically, mentally… simply reality…
The sun was going down and I still hadn’t picked the perfect paella to eat. I realized my outfit wasn’t going to fly much longer. Too many whistles were being heard and I was afterall getting pretty cold. I leaned in to read one more menu in the window, ten minutes from my hostel.
The man at the table asks me if Im Swedish. I said no. He guessed another nationality. No. American. ¨Youre kidding!¨ He said my red hair makes me look Swedish.
Now its red.
He asked if I was on holiday. Hes a middle-aged man. He offers to buy me a drink, I decline, we talk five minutes more. He says oh come on, please, I’m a happily married Swedish man with a big presentation here tomorrow, just throwing back a few whiskeys. One beer.
Such a funny beer. We exchanged travel stories. Wouldn’t you know I’m sitting drinking with the engineer featured on Discovery Channel’s Megabuilders – Bangkok Megabridge episode. Hes kinda a big deal. Without telling him my interests or last name, he tells me the head of marketing at his company is named Janae Russo.
He can’t believe I’ve been traveling alone for two and a half months. With no problems. No muggings. He tells of the last time in Barcelona when he had a knife put to his neck. Earlier today, he’d bought a knife so he’d been prepared.
Im weary of being in my too-short shorts for too much longer, after dark, and he says ¨You cant go out like that after dark.¨ I explain I know! That’s why I declined your first offer for a drink. He said we’re going across the street and buying you a dress. I crack up. No we’re not, my clothes are just in the laundry.
He says he’s walking me home. He’ll shake my hand at the door, points at his wedding ring.
We get another beer. He says he cant believe I have had no issues traveling yet, and then says two pretty cool things.
One, he’s realized if you’re going down a dangerous street and don’t realize it, they’re less likely to mess with you. You don’t know to be afraid, and thus, you don’t look afraid.
Two, I apparently look ¨leather-backed.¨ Like my backpack is made of leather, not some crappy nylon. Been there, done that, Im not an idiot.
Finally, he said, I know why you’ve had no problems. It’s that smile. You’ve smiled your way through Europe, haven’t you.
It was the funniest two drinks I’ve had. When the waitress came out, she said ¨God answered your prayer!¨and they laughed. Apparently, three minutes before I showed up, she’d asked how he was and he said fine, but drinking alone sucks and wouldn´t it be nice if someone, say a woman 1.65m and 53kilos arrived.
Ridiculous. Our new friendship, these drinks completely unexpected, and now we’re walking back to my hostel. I promise, short on details here, I knew it would be completely safe. Plus, it’s realistically only six o’clock. I’d turned down the third beer because I’d only eaten a blueberry muffin and pain au chocolat all day. Beer and pastries.
ZARA. Next thing you know, he’s pulling me into the upscale clothing store. ¨You need a new pair of jeans.¨ Im cracking up. He’d just been flummoxed I have for four months what he has for four days. ¨You must be… size 24.¨ Yeah, right. 28 on the best day.
We’re giggling. I tell him we’re not buying me a pair of jeans, and luckily Zara seemed to only have jeans that came with built in spandex/underwear/something that made us laugh. We left.
He had to use the restroom and walked into a bakery. ¨Um, restroom for me and drink for the lady.¨ The bartender asked me what I wanted and I told him I didn’t really need anything. We chatted instead.
At the door of my hostel, Pele, as promised, shook my hand.
And then strongly insisted I keep his knife. His brand new, rather large, protection knife.
I now have in my pocket what I assume is a very expensive blade. Picture to come.
My life doesn’t stay mundane for long, does it.
***edit – for people who hadn’t read yet, I can upload the photos now… Pele’s knife. Now in my pocket.***