I’m sitting in Parque del Oeste (park of the west) in Madrid, listening to the trains go by and watching a guy practice slackline while his dog, Pongo, roams around. It’s my second day in Madrid and it’s laundry day again, so I’m decked out in a strange combination of spandex for pants, pink uniqlo jacket and sneakers. But Pongo doesn’t mind.
On Saturday morning I arrived in Barcelona and met my hosts Sarah and Alex, Sarah is studying for a masters and they both recently moved to Barcelona. So Alex and I went to explore with other couchsurfers while Sarah studied, and I practiced my Spanish with Alex. In the afternoon we returned to the apartment and after working on a puzzle for a little while, we all decided to take a siesta. I thought I would sleep for a little while, I had taken an overnight bus from Lyon so I was decently tired. 3 hours later I woke up, refreshed and ready to go out. We met with some of Sarah’s classmates and we were off to go salsa dancing.
We arrived at midnight at the club but salsa hadn’t started yet, instead there was live music for swing dancing! I asked a guy to dance and the next song started out with blues music instead, so we danced a smooth blues before hopping over to swing when the song picked up. A few minutes later the salsa began and we got down to business, twirling and bumping into everyone. A friend told me once that when you dance salsa you don’t just dance with your partner, you dance with everyone. The club made great use of the excess cassette tapes from the 90s and had decorated one of the walls with the cassettes, while the ceiling had open umbrellas attached to it, rain-side down.
Sunday and Monday I explored Barcelona, going to Park Guell, Barceloneta, Las Ramblas, getting lost down various alleys, eating way too many baguettes, and walking along the beach. Barcelona is known for its architecture and it certainly is unique, it seems almost goofy to me as I am used to old Roman architecture. Most of the notable buildings were designed by the architect Gaudi, who used a lot of bright colors and more curves than straight lines.
Tuesday I jumped on an 8 hour bus to Madrid, seemingly long but I’m getting really used to them, I hardly felt the time pass while I wrote postcards, surfed the web, stared out the window as we passed windmills, and read more Sherlock Holmes. I chatted with my friend Sunny from Boston and we made plans to meet up in Switzerland, she’s in Greece right now and I think we will cross paths there. It will be wonderful to see a familiar face, even though I haven’t seen her for almost 2 years.
Once in Madrid I met with my new host Idir from Algeria and I went to a Couchsurfing language exchange to practice my Spanish, but I ended up practicing English with other couchsurfers. Yesterday and today have been a lot of exploring, walking, talking, and adventuring, pretending to live like a Madrileña. On Saturday there is a Holi festival here, the Indian color throwing celebration for spring, so I will finally check that off my bucket list, I’ll definitely bring my camera (in a plastic bag or three) and document the color-filled celebration.
I noticed that while Barcelona was interesting and lovely to visit I’m feeling pretty worn out of cities, they all start to blend together. So I’ve started researching Andorra, the tiny country between Spain and France located in the Pyrenees and inhabited by about 80,000 people. There are three reasons people visit Andorra, to ski, hike or shop, since it has lower taxes than other countries but apparently it mostly has the fancy stores like Gucci and Prada so I think I’ll pass on a shopping holiday. I think it is warm enough for hiking, the ski season is almost over, and I read about rustic mountain huts along the hiking routes that you can stay at for free. They speak Catalan as their official language but also speak a lot of Spanish and French. I noticed that in Catalan “x” often replaces “ch” in a word, so I learned to spot the signs for Xocolat and I think I’ll get along just fine.