Over spring break I went to Dublin, Ireland for an easy, relaxing time away from work, which is exactly what it proved to be. Though, Dublin almost didn’t make it on my travel itinerary. I had my heart set on going to Malta and the Canary Islands, the former because of its differences from mainland Europe (did you know Maltese is the only Semetic language spoken within the EU?), and the latter because after thorough Google weather searches, the Canaries were the only place with (barely) beach-worthy weather in March, something I’ve been starved for since leaving Rio. But when it came time to book the tickets, the flight prices were astronomical for that week, so thanks to Ryanair, Dublin got bumped up to first pick.
What I liked about Dublin is what I like about the US: Generally nice people willing to help you if you need it. Touching strangers is uncommon and is apologized for if it happens. People walk with purpose down the streets. Secondhand English bookstores are aplenty and the selection is impressive. There is no lack of filling comfort food and rich, dark beer. You have no idea how much this mostly-vegetarian has been aching for a good hamburger.
I was pleasantly surprised by how brick-and-cobblestoned the streets were; it lent a quaint air to a bustling city. My overall impression was that if it weren’t for the ferocious wind and rain, I would have liked to live there myself.
One rainy afternoon my traveling companion and I took a bus an hour south to go to an aquarium we had seen advertised. The closest bus stop to the aquarium was about five blocks away, so we walked against the wind, the rain biting our faces, my umbrella flipping inside-out. We laughed when we arrived: it was for children. Spongebob stickers adorned fish tanks; 90% of the patrons were no higher than my waist. Still, we had come this far, so we paid and walked through. We wended our way around strollers and crying kids and exasperated parents, looked at a little shark, enormous, ugly fish, oceanic oddities. Aquariums always make me melancholy. What a life to be trapped in a tank.
Afterward, we went to the very much adult restaurant on top of the aquarium and sipped beer and ate brown bread while looking out over the churning ocean.
The past couple weeks have been a lesson in patience for me. While running up an escalator on my way to work a couple weeks ago, I fell hard, the escalator teeth hitting me right under my knee cap. I’ve gone through various states of crippled over the past couple weeks as I’ve slowly, oh-so-slowly been healing. No more running to catch the train, no more taking the stairs, no more running up escalators. I live on the fourth floor of a walk-up building; it now takes quite a bit longer to get up or down them than it did before. Though I can’t wait to get better to have the option to move quickly again, I can’t help but notice that taking an extra couple minutes to get somewhere instead of rushing has significantly reduced my stress level while in transit. Since ‘in transit’ is a state I’m in more often than not here, that has been something important for me to learn, and I’m grateful for it. But I still want my knee back.
Last weekend I visited Barcelona, mostly because of the weight of ‘I should do this’ rather than out pure desire to go. I’ve been told several times that I don’t travel enough within Spain, that I have to visit Barcelona before I leave, I just have to. People from home have more than once confused my home of Madrid for Barcelona, asking how I’m liking it there. So, you all win. I took a train to Barcelona.
The feel of the city is different than Madrid. It seemed quieter. The streets felt narrower. It was wonderful to see the sea again, to sit on the pier and just watch the water. I went to the erotic museum, and, glass of champagne in hand, learned about the link between scent and desire, saw a lot of paintings, carvings, and pictures that ranged from beautiful to ludicrous, and was reminded that people have been experimental, nasty perverts for millennia, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Check out silent Spanish porn from the 1920s–you won’t regret it.
My weekend in Barcelona was a nice reprieve from what have become somewhat routinized weekends in Madrid. Despite my feeling forced to go, I’m glad I had the opportunity to see the Sagrada Familia, watch the waves, and be surrounded by Catalan.
I have trips booked every other weekend from now until I leave Spain for good: Geneva, Budapest, Amsterdam, Morocco, Iceland. I booked them all in a frenzy last month after starting to anticipate returning to the US and all that entails, like debts to pay and a greater sense of permanency. I want to see all I can before I can’t.