When traveling, there are always things that remain very similar among people – especially when you’re in western cities. It’s hard to avoid McDonald’s and it’s sometimes great not to avoid a Coke. And a lot of the fashions are similar. For example, two guys just walked by wearing Nike t-shirts and they weren’t a speakin’ no English. So for the last five days or so, I’ve seen lots of people sporting things I would see around the U.S. But sometimes things are just a tad off, and then I try to figure out why they strike me as funny. You know – things that make you go “Huh?”. Case in point; the case of the father-daughter sandals. For the first few days here I noticed many people of both sexes wearing these specific leather sandals. Then the other day I noticed a father and his two small daughters had them on. I asked about them and they explained they were ‘Mallorca’ sandals. Mallorca is an island not too far from here. I was there as a college student. I didn’t notice anyone wearing them. Maybe I wasn’t obsessed with what’s on people’s feet while walking then. My feet didn’t hurt when I was 23. I don’t know why I found this so odd since I could think of many examples in the U.S. where dads and daughters could match sandals: Teva, Nike, Adidas, Birkenstock, Crocs, and the run-of-the-mill dollar store flip flops. Maybe they are more fashionable and less sporty? Fine leather vs. rubber? Fashion vs. orthotics? Vogue vs. Field and Stream?
The Men in Black
Another thing is the weather – and these men in suits! Holy hell! It’s about 90 degrees here during the day. And it’s about 90 degrees at midnight. It took me a while to figure out why I was so hot. In Pennsylvania it’s hot in the summer – but in the evening it cools off. Not here. And the men; the business men – everywhere you go you see them in black business suits. Just walking around. In 90 degree weather. I want to go up to them and ask if they are, in fact, crazy. I guess it is no different than other workers – U.S. or otherwise – who have to be clothed in some long-sleeved, long pantsy way due to their job. But c’mon! At least the women have figured out the flowy skirt and sleeveless top. I’m not suggesting a sleeveless suit coat and capri pants, but take off your suit coat when walking down the street for the love of all those poor souls burning in hell. Is this what they do on Wall Street in August? I’ll have to go check.
Lack of Conditioned Air
I’ll be the first to admit that we overly cold the air in the U.S.; I grab a sweater when we go grocery shopping. I get a parka when I go to the movies. In the states I’ve lived for any considerable time; Missouri, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska – it seems one often goes from one temperature extreme to the next. It is pretty common to go from a house with AC to a hot car which then cools with AC to the outside hot temp while walking through a parking lot or campus or city street or whatever to a an office building or business or store with AC. But here it’s just hot. The metro is hot which makes sense since it’s outside (but luckily the trains are very cool) but the odd thing is once you get into a restaurant, you will not freeze to death. The same with other places. Even with AC, you won’t freeze to death. I have sweaters packed but have not needed one yet due to weather or AC. I must admit it is odd to eat inside and be hot. I can understand being hot while eating outside – but not inside. Some of the restaurants don’t have AC. It’s also strange to be hot inside a bathroom stall. Very odd.
Green Light for Parking. Red Light for Thinking it was the Metro.
One night a local took us out for a little tour to the castle of Montjuic. Think fort on top of a mountain. I didn’t know we were going up Kilamanjaro. Otherwise I would have made up some story about bladder control and differing Spanish gravity in order to get dropped off at the top. Anyway, it was worth the hike in a skirt and heelish sandals on cobblestones. Afterwards we drove to an area called Barceloneta. It’s near an old church called Santa Maria de la Mar. He was taking us to eat something like tapas (the Basque equivalent). So we had to park – it was odd good. Part of the street sloped downward to a parking garage located under the street. I had accidentally discovered such a place earlier that day when I went to visit Gaudi’s Casa Mila (La Pedrera). I was looking for the metro station and was not happy to walk down a flight of stairs only to find parked cars. Son of a bitch.
Another thing about traveling – screwing up finding your way around. Metro stations are not always that easy to find. And just because you emerged from one metro station does not mean you will be able to find your way back to it, even though it may be only one frickin’ block away. And just because the turnstiles work one way at one station, does not mean they work the same way at every station. Trial and error. Every time. I got over the fear of asking for help a long time ago. Some poor guy at a newsstand helped me twice. Once to tell me he didn’t sell ‘still’ water – the next to direct my idiot blondeness to the metro two blocks away. I digress; back to the parking garage. One of the men I was with pointed to the green lights on the ceiling that indicate which spaces are open. Wow! Why don’t we do that? Imagine driving into a parking garage and knowing immediately where the open spaces are?
Getting Home from Dinner at Midnight
I’m a night owl but my hubby is not. Even so, I like the idea of eating dinner at 7 PM or so. Before I got here I heard dinner time in Barcelona is around 10 PM. I know you can always find a place to eat before that, but by the time we rode the metro to wherever we were going to eat (green line to red line to yellow line) then walked to the place we were to eat, ate, convinced the waiter to bring the check, then walked and rode back to the hotel – it was easily midnight or later. We’ve had some really great food, and some so-so stuff. Just like anyplace else I suppose. In Barcelona, I got to witness an ’employee lunch.’ The food was paid for by the company doing the training, and rather than a spread of sub type sandwiches or wraps with cheese and fruit trays – it looked more like what we’d call plates of appetizers. Nothing too odd – except the hot rice and seafood dish that I’d had a few days before; black in color due to the squid ink. The other odd thing was the beer on tap. I can’t imagine the looks on people’s faces once walking into the employee lunch and finding a beer tap next to the bottles of water.
More later on Paris and London. Probably stuff about toilets…….