Barcelona, Seville, Iran – 1 of 3

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Phil, that writer/photographer I befriended in Bangkok, needed a website to promote the new book he’s working on. I spent most of my days in Barcelona building it for him, so although I was there a week or whatever, I didn’t see that many sights. However this didn’t bother me much, which brings me to my next point.

I’m getting sick of sightseeing.

I was in and out of the Luovre, which I think is the biggest museum in the world, in less than an hour, I took the metro to the most famous cathedral in Barcelona only to sit in the park across the street and read and just today I did a full lap around one of the biggest churches in the world, went into the ticket office, looked blankly at the lady sitting in the booth then patted my stomach and lied to her saying ‘I need to eat first’ before turning around and walking back outside.


Now I didn’t say I’m getting sick of traveling. There’s lots of ways to travel. It’s really just the sightseeing. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the two, especially when you’ve set a precedent for yourself and a group of dedicated and very kind readers. Even though I have a strong priority in my desire for experiences, I’ve never been able to cease thinking of travel as something quantifiable by tacks on a map, photos snapped and dollars spent. It takes effort to get away from thinking that way. I was brought up on it. We all are. Even the sound of “I Will See the World” has started to kind of bug me. The “see” of it sounds so limiting in depth and quality, the size of it so impossible, the definiteness so annoying and the little orange flags and data some kind of point system. However I’ve spent way too much time on the website to change it now, so it’s staying as is!

Although I left in a hurry, Barcelona wasn’t a bad place at all. I think a lot of a traveler’s impressions of a place are hugely dependent on their immediate surroundings and experiences. In such short visits, it can’t not be. I try not to judge entire cities based on quick visits and I always cringe when I hear a high-speed backpacker say “Oh, I didn’t like Blah Town”. Besides the fact that it’s like judging a country from a jet plane, you’ve also got a host of different ideas of what a likable place is and most of the places people visit are famous so everyone’s got hyped up expectations. Even I came to Spain ignorantly expecting too many things Mexican. I won’t say I’m disappointed, but I’m definitely going to Mexico.

My skewed and blurred view of Barcelona was a big money, high fashion, nice body, beach and club city that’s well kept and full of petty Moroccan thieves. Not a place that probably really exists, but it did in my head long enough for me to buy a train ticket to Seville, which I was prompted to do when the mumbling idiot at the hostel desk screwed up the credit card machine and told me my card wasn’t working and that I needed cash if I wanted to stay longer.

I did do some nice things in Barcelona. The best part wasn’t very Spanish though, more Persian. Around the middle of last week I headed out in search for an English bookstore that was listed in my travel guide. I waited until early afternoon on a Tuesday in case they had funky hours. After some searching and winding through a cobblestone maze of giant old buildings that stood over me with their backs arched and shoulders wide I finally found the place.

It was closed. Hours posted read weekdays 8:30-12:30 and 4:30-8:00. I cupped my hands near the window to look inside. This was funny because I was careful not to touch the glass so that I didn’t leave marks on it and in India I remembered avoiding the same thing for fear of whatever fatal diseases had gathered on the glass and might make their to my hands to some garlic nan and into my mouth. I was hoping someone inside might see a lonely American traveler, obviously tired from the hunt for their little book store, and open the door for me. But no such luck. It was pitch black and empty at two o’clock in the afternoon on a Tuesday. After my long sarch I was a bit disappointed, but was also glad to have finally find something disconcerting about Europe.

Giving up on the Mom and Pop shop, I made my way over to the always open, always has what I need, FNAC. I’m not completely sure what it stands for, but it’s probably something like Freakin Nothing we Ain’t Carry. It’s the European mega-store, but with more class than a Wall-Mart and multiple levels. Picture stacking a Filenes on top of a Borders on top of a Best Buy on top of a Home Depot.

After picking up “The Great Gatsby” and Bill Bryson’s “Notes From a Big Country” I found a salad and a bench in the nearby busy, touristy, city center La Ramblas. There I got my people-watch on and ate my five dollars of lettuce, corn and one quarter of a tomato while dodging the single olive I was grateful for but didn’t want anyway. The two girls next to me were talking in something not English or Spanish and about what I thought must have been a booger on my nose. There was some serious giggling going on and I’d run out of tissues that morning. They waited until I was done eating and had created a mental image of the opening scene in Gatsby, then spoke to me…

6 Thoughts on “Barcelona, Seville, Iran – 1 of 3”

  1. Diane Ferrara Says:

    John,
    Sounds like you want to “experience” the world – not simply “see” it. We Americans measure everything externally but the internal experience is much more powerful. That’s what I love about your writing – I can feel your internal experience. (and the external stuff is very funny, entertaining…) Love, Me

  2. Uncle TIM Says:

    You’re closing your eyes. You’re actually bored. Do something that is going to fire up your senses. You’re trying to create memories. Find/do something you will never forget and you’ll always appreciate that city.
    Uncle Tim

  3. gert Says:

    i understand completely about the sightseeing and keeping up with the standard you have set for your readers but just take a little break and we’ll all understand! it’s good that you are realizing that you need to do things for yourself, not for what we would like to see or would sound good to people back home…holla!

  4. Jake Says:

    Maybe they were giggling at you picking your nose…

  5. Lynn Says:

    Hmmm, can you do some volunteer work somewhere for a while? Either while in Spain or further on down the road?

  6. Jeff Says:

    Sounds like you need to find a place and work for awhile. I ran into that after about 3 months of traveling… I got tired of looking at stuff and wanted to just ‘be’ somewhere for awhile. So get a job and hang out for a bit. Thats my 2 cents for what its worth…

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