Yeah, I know I’m a few days later than I said I’d be in posting this. Shut yer cake hole and play this:
I’m on the plane, soon to be leaving Paris behind. It’s been wonderful, and I feel like I barely scratched the surface despite all my frantic touring. My heart is a little lighter today; I’ve left things on better terms with Her. We spoke this morning, briefly. We’ve moved from ‘fuck off and die’ to ‘I don’t know what to say’, which is still terrible, but… less so.
Bring on Barcelona, bring on Gaudi and the beach and sangria and sun for two nights. Paris was heartbreak and contemplation, but last night changed things. I’m moving into the next stage of post break up mania: self destruction. I am going to destroy what’s left of myself in Barcelona, and rebuild.
Well, the above paragraph was certainly bold. I didn’t destroy myself. As soon as the plane landed here, I felt happier. It’s 17 degrees, the sky is blue, and palm trees don’t ever lose their leaves.
Compared to Paris, Barcelona feels almost empty. There is nobody here! The streets are broad and regal, even more so than Berlin; it looks like everywhere in this city was designed with elegance in mind. Paris was decorated with a spaghetti bowl of narrow runways and buildings stained with age, overflowing bins, scooters frantically pipping as they came swooping through the traffic. Here, you seldom walk past another person. Everything is so quiet.
I arrived off the Aerobus and found myself in a sunny town square with a huge, ornate fountain. I set off walking straight away, just took a guess at the direction of the hostel. Navigation is one thing I’m good at. I’ve no idea why, orienteering isn’t a particularly applicable life skill beyond the occasional holiday. I just enjoy it. It’s not a chore for me, it’s fun, the longer and more hair raising the journey, the better. Give me a big paper map that crinkles audibly when you hold it, a scratchy old biro, throw in a couple of ravines and a pack of feral hounds en route for good measure, and I’m happy.
The hostel wasn’t too far at all, and is about four doors down from Gaudi’s Caso Batlo, which is beautiful of course, and ticked one of my main to-dos off right away. I bought two cheeseburgers from a McDonalds down the road, and chomped them as I considered the building.
I say beautiful, but I don’t know if I actually like the architecture. There’s no doubt they look fantastic, Gaudi’s buildings, but then so does a giant octopus, and you probably wouldn’t want to spend much time in one’s company. I suppose my fashion sense is similar to my, er, building sense – I tend to dress practical rather than whimsical, nothing extraneous or garish. I’ve never so much as donned a cap (with the exception of a four month stint working be-capped in a fish and chip shop), because I can’t justify wearing one and it makes me feel like a big awful fraudster charlatan. Plus my head is a weird shape.
I surveyed Barcelona’s rooftops and distant green hills from the terrace on the roof of my hostel, dreaming of the friends and adventures that were surely all to come that evening.
I marched over to the Sagra de Familia after, getting an ice cream on the way. The streets were quiet, my footsteps echoed, and I was quietly wondering whether I’d like to live in Barcelona. Too soon to say. There didn’t seem to be any young people.
Sagra de Familia is straight up, no foolin’, honest to God, big. Again, not entirely to my taste, undeniably beautiful and technically orgasmic, but Gaudi had a penchant for the gaudy, (Wheyy! What a fuckin’ play on words! Someone hi fuckin’ five me! Christ!) and I do not.
I stood a while staring up at the spiralling nonsense towers, their pastoral carvings and crooked angels squinting out at the Spanish sunset, and eventually decided I’d try to squeeze Park Gaul into the same evening – leaving the next day free to get drunk at the beach.
Edit from present Dan: Yes, I know it’s called Park Güell now, however I did not at time of writing. I know, I know, I am a tit.
Now, remember way back a few paragraphs ago, when I was boring you with sentence after unending sentence about how I love maps and navigation and whatnot? Well, past Dan is an arse. Despite warnings from friends back home that Park Gaul is miles away and up a huge hill, I assumed that, because I am young and reasonably un-fat, I could stroll up to it easily enough. Great Scott, I was wrong. A grueling hike it was, a death march, a grinding slog up sun bleached cobbles, mile after mile, legs petrifying gradually, becoming wooden trunks with unbending knees and dragging root feet. I wished for death, but no such relief was afforded me.
I got to the park just after six, and lo, 8 euros entry. The bastards. However, when I asked a happy looking ticket boy for a ticket, he winked at me and told me to come back after seven pm, when entry is free. I thanked him and staggered back the way I came in search of beer.
Drinking a couple of cold beers on some steps overlooking the park. Can see into the gilded gardens over the wall, can see all the handkerchief head tourists milling around with big wicker handbags and leathery old skin. A cat is chilling up here with me, meowing at me, but I don’t like cats – I get the sense they’re constantly judging me, so I judge them back. The cat looks me dead in the eye and meows, and ask it what it wants. It shrugs and slinks away, and I feel like somehow I lost the exchange despite not doing anything.
The beers are quite strong, and as 7pm draws near, I feel squiffy.
The park opened and I drifted inside like an old plastic bag. I hate myself for taking photos on this trip, for joining the quivering masses with phones aloft, robbing every famed brickwork and fantastical vista of its magnificence, but if I don’t take photographs, I’ll have no mementos of my visit here, apart from this bedraggled diary, which is growing increasingly nonsensical as I slowly go mad, alone in the heat two thousand miles away from anyone who cares about me.
Gaudi was a wizard. I’ve seen three of his most famous works in one day, and haven’t really liked any of them, but nonetheless am humbled by his craft and vision. Beginning a work like the Sagra de Familia, which he knew would not be completed within his lifetime, must have taken extraordinary bravery. Who among us would have the courage to start a project we knew we would never see completed, rather than shrink our expectations for a task more manageable, that we could reap the rewards and praise for within our lifetimes? Could you do it?
There’s an Ancient Greek proverb that goes:
“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
I like that a lot. We need more Gaudis, not just brick and mortar and colourful tile Gaudis, but political Gaudis, environmental Gaudis, business Gaudis, peacemongering Gaudis with vision that stretches beyond the short term. That’s the only way we’re going to continue to grow. We need to be brave, and we need to be less selfish.
I walked home and got a hasty meatball Subway which was the only thing I ate all day and tasted like God’s own goulash, and tumbled down the hill back to the hostel.
I clambered into my bunk around 9pm for a nap, with the intention of waking up after thirty minutes and partying the night away with whoever I could latch onto in the hostel common room.
Forgot to set an alarm and woke up at 8am next day. Fuck.
Drink, Play, Loathe: Day 5, Barce-Loner