After a mere ~19 hours of travel, we arrived in Barcelona at 7:15 am, too tired and delirious to be terribly excited. We got through customs quickly, thanks to carrying only a backpack each (this was one of the best decisions we made), only to spend more than an hour trying to find our bearings and figure out where we were going (yes, we were still inside the airport at this point). We were able to find an ATM and a bathroom, the two most important things to use before stepping out into the great unknown.
The first thing I noticed upon exiting the airport was that it was much more hot and humid in Barcelona than in NW Arkansas. Still, not nearly as bad as the notorious Armpit-of-the-USA in which we formerly resided. We found the shuttle bus and took it to the next terminal and followed the masses to the airport RENFE station. The walk felt infinitely long. Up stairs, down stairs, up more stairs, through a skywalk so long the we couldn’t see the end. We did, however, have a nice view of the three very attractive, loud French girls in front of us. They had had flowing hair, long legs adorned with fitted jeans, and young abdomens framed by cropped shirts. We noticed they caught the eyes of many others, specifically the middle aged creeper coming from the opposite direction. He looked them up and down as he approached and turned as they passed so he could check out their backsides. A big smile crossed his face; he clearly liked what he saw.
We bought our T-10 tickets from the vending machine and sat and waited for the train, happy to have a few more minutes to collect our thoughts and adjust to the new surroundings. Can you see the exhaustion in our faces?
As the train pulled away from the station, I sat with my face pressed against the window, eager to absorb the first sights of this new land. There were fields just outside of the airport where people were harvesting/weeding/sowing their crops. Billboards lined the property and makeshift shacks, where I presume the farmers lived, were plopped down in the corners of the farmland. Just a bit further up the tracks, we entered the city. It felt a little ghetto to me and lacked the Barcelona character that I had anticipated. It was reminiscent of San Antonio or Los Angeles: simple buildings, apartment balconies piled high with junk, laundry fluttering in the breeze, confetti-like trash dotting the streets, and graffiti in the tunnels. As we explored Barcelona the rest of the day, I realized this was just part of the charm of Barcelona; beautiful buildings and architectural wonders just around the corner from plain constructions and trashy (occasionally tasteful) graffiti.
By the time our train rolled into the city center, it was only 9am and our AirBNB check-in time wasn’t until 12:00pm. We climbed up the steps from the station and instantly found ourselves drowning in confusion and overstimulation. Cars zipped by, people pushed past, and there wasn’t a street sign to be found. We walked up and down the streets staring at our map and turning it every direction in attempts of figuring out where we were. Alas, no such luck. Apparently maps do no good when 1) there are no street signs and 2) when you actually get off at a different metro than you thought you did (Plaça de Sants ≠ Sants Estació). Whew. I had begun to fear that basic geometry was not universal.
After my brilliant travel companion figured out what the problem was (wrong metro stop and seeing there were street signs, they were just placed differently than in the USA), we adjusted our sails and headed towards Las Ramblas to pass some time. It was there that we saw a familiar oasis: Starbucks. Feeling like tourists, we quickly ducked in to caffeinate and take advantage of the free wifi and, as an unexpected bonus, A/C.
I had two thoughts running through my head at this point: “Thank God for Starbucks!” and “I can’t believe I spent $x to fly halfway around the world and I AM AT STARBUCKS.” Oh, the shame…