Diary of The Travelling Seanchai :-
Who the hell gets robbed twice in two nights?!!
2007-04-13 to 2007-04-15
“We´re all off to Sunny Spain, Viva Espana!” Well, not exactly… After several weeks of excellent weather at home in Limerick, I took off to Spain only to be greeted by a downpour when I landed! Hmmm, not exactly as it says in the song but maybe I should have been singing “The Rain in Spain falls mainly on the Planes” Badum Tish!! Ok, poor joke but I have to say it was great to be travelling again..
I got into Barcelona and even before I had secured accommodation I was walking around snapping shots of the sights, the beautiful parks, the Arc de Triomf (yeah, they´ve got one too and that`s how they spell it!) and the small alleyways with cobbled stones and every window complete with balcony. That was the first thing that hit me, how many balconies there was. It was almost medieval and it really gave the streets an insular, welcoming feel without becoming claustrophobic.
I booked into my hostel and took off to walk around. I would be a nightmare to travel with I am sure (for many reasons but I´ll get to that!) but I am never happier than when I am walking left, right, right, left, down this alley way, up this street, letting nothing more specific than a gut feel guide me. I really couldn`t be happier than in these situations, observing everything, appreciating everything, seeing stuff that locals take for granted and all the time writing it up in my head for this blog!!
I set off for the night. As most of you that are in touch with me by e-mail know, I am a frustrated writer and I`ve been continually looking for a hook, something to be a central theme in the book that I`ve always wanted to write, well, I thought I found it! The SOLO PUB CRAWL! Fair enough, not exactly original but I was going to go around and ask people where were their favourite and worst bars and then go and visit them world wide… ok, it`s brutal but please someone come up with a better one! Anyway I found a flyer for a bar but on the map for some reason there was a spot directing you to McCarthy`s Bar! Right, that`s for me I said and I set out to find it… for an hour in the pouring rain! I swear the place didn`t exist which was ratified by people who owned shops in the area! So much for my new found `hook`, I was like a drowned rat!
So walking down some street in the pouring rain, dejected by my lack of success, I dived into an Irish bar, O`Hara`s and that, for better or for worse, defined my weekend. Because in there I met my Barcelona gang, 4 Brummie boys (Matt, Ian, Rob and Dave), two Wisconson-ite sisters Jill and Jen and Peta, a bit of a plank from Brisbane. They were all in town for the weekend as seems to be the case for a lot of people living in Europe now, cheap flights are great but they have a lot to answer for. I saw groups of 18 year old skinheadded knackers wandering around in their football tops and sneakers out for the weekend… In my day (tell us about it granddad) we had to save for a year to get away to the seaside camping for a weekend!
A great evening ensued, going all over the town but with one constant that was to be an ever present all weekend, large bottles of Magners, Irish cider! Nothing like experiencing the local culture and drinks, that`s what I say! We went to Kennedy`s, an Irish bar in Port Olimpico (again, all about embracing diversity!) for a live band but the early morning, the hours of walking and the pints of cider took their toll and I took myself off home… Except the problem is that my automatic homing pigeon instincts hadn`t quite aligned themselves with their new surroundings so I wandered the streets looking for a landmark I recognised.
Little did I know that some Catalan artful dodgers had recognised a `mark` in me and I got descended upon by about 6 15 year olds who professionally debriefed me, hands on my wrist (I wasn`t wearing my watch as it doesn`t work but it would have served them right if they`d taken it), one around my neck looking for a chain, and ones in each pocket. I had my passport, phone, wallet and my brother`s camera on me and despite my fervent flapping like a seal having been attacked by ants, they still made away with the camera.
I was gutted but since then, I`ve relayed the story to other people and everyone seems to have a `got robbed in Barcelona` story. Seriously, its apparently notorious for it, it`s almost a right of passage over here. The best one I heard though was from a woman who told me her husband was stopped by a uniformed `policeman` and told to empty his pockets because he was suspected to have been carrying drugs. He promptly did so and handed over the contents to show the lunacy of the charge and then watched the cop run off with all stuff!! And that was in La Ramblas, the very centre of town!
I still felt bad though to have joined the victims association but little did I know that I was to establish a unique group of my own, of the once bitten, twice bitten variety!! The following night, after moving into my own room (not out of choice but due to overbooking) in Place Real during the day, I met up with the gang. Matt told me how two nights previously he`d been relieved of his watch and his wallet with 400 Euro inside (go to www.forex.com for conversion rates but trust me that`s a lot!) so we exchanged war stories over a pint..
The Wisconsonites sounded exactly like Margie from the film `Fargo` but due to their unique upbringing in the Amish community (ok, thats not true but hey, I`m adopting poetic license) they hardly ever watched TV, like seriously hardly ever so I couldn`t relate it to them. It’s a funny thing when you actually think about it, how much you refer to films, shows and TV (and let’s be honest, The Simpsons) in normal conversation until you are speaking with people who have no idea what you are talking about!
Anyway, after hours of reliving my folly of my night before, I was heading home again, now fully aware of where I was and the nocturnal activities of the locals I was close to my place when I got approached by two smiling assassins, about 20 years of age both of them, flexing their fingers… 5 seconds later I`d been through the car wash which was my nightly experience in Barcelona, frisked by the quintessential amorous octopus and minus my phone.
Now, I`ve worked in the Telecommunications Industry for 8 years and seen all the fancy phones but I`m an old Nokia man myself and I`ve been a massive advocate for keeping it simple with my phone of choice (I was once told by someone that their maid had a better phone than me!) and my theory held me in good stead for once. I used that oft maligned (always wanted to write `oft`) and seldom used approach of just asking for your stuff back from a thief! Through a combination of my audacity and politeness for requesting the return of my belongings and the fact that he couldn`t have sold my old brick for chips, I had truly one of the most bizarre exchanges with a person ever when he, ever so sheepishly, handed me back my phone!!
I almost accepted it as sheepishly, so embarrassed as I was for the wannabee professional thief! We kind of nodded at each other and we were both happy to part from this awkward situation!
Seriously, if I wasn`t living this life I wouldn`t believe it if you told me!!
Who gets run over by a tram?!