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Terry's Big Adventures

Day 14, Sunday, April 9

From the French border it took another two hours to get to Barcelona. At the station I converted traveler's checks to pesetas and hailed a cab. He drove me to old town, the city's tourist district. I was in a hurry to get some sleep so I paid for two nights in the first hostel I found with vacancy. It was $28 a night for a narrow bare room with two single beds and a desk, reminiscent of Zagreb. I crashed for five hours.



When I awoke I walked three blocks to The Ramblas, the main avenue that runs through oldtown. It was crowded with tourists and locals. There were street performers--mimes, puppeteers, and musicians. Small crowds of people threw coins into their hats.



After two hours of sight seeing I sat down at a sidewalk cafe and ordered a Bailey's. Four English women sat down at the table next to me and we engaged in friendly conversation. They were sipping large beers and taking turns eating from a giant ice cream sundae. As we were relaxing a man with a harmonica approached another cafe patron, held out his hat, and said, "All right, we're going to have some music now--Let's have a few coins". The patron waved him off so he walked over to me and exclaimed in his British accent, "All right, we're going to have some music now--Let's have a few coins.” This was an unusual approach, so I gave a reasoned reply. "Tell you what--play first and if I like it I will give you a few coins." His response was to yell emphatically. "YOU ARE A BASTARD--A FUCKING AMERICAN BASTARD!! GO BACK TO AMERICA--YOU AREN'T WANTED HERE!! YOU FUCKING BASTARD!! (There was more, but you get the idea.) I just sat there and looked at this raving idiot at the same time ready to grab a chair to defend myself. He then calmed down as quickly as he became enraged and went back into his routine. He approached the English women, "All right, we're going to have some music now--Let's have a few coins.” Without hesitation they said, "No way, get out of here, you're rude, go away!" As he started to leave I couldn’t help myself and I said, "You blew it buddy." He immediately turned back into Mister Hyde. "YOU FUCKING AMERICAN BASTARD!! THE SPANISH DON'T WANT YOU HERE!! GO BACK TO THE UNITED STATES YOU FUCKING BASTARD!! I HOPE SOMEBODY STICKS YOU WITH A KNIFE AND SLASHES YOUR THROAT!! After he left I could still hear him a hundred feet away raving about fucking American bastards. (If it weren't for fucking American bastards he'd be speaking German and walking around in goose-steps!)

After my welcome to Spain by Mr. Crazyman I walked around some more and watched the street performers.




Day 15, Monday, April 10

After one night in the cheap hostel I decided to move. I was glad to get out of there and let the owner keep the second day’s rent. I found a reasonable 3-star hotel for my last two nights. It was located in the central part of old town just a half block off The Ramblas and it had a phone, television, a large double bed, and a nice tiled bathroom. (Until now every European bathroom had short shower curtains, which allowed water to go all over the floor. This one was the first to have a long shower curtain.)

I spent the entire day walking around oldtown, taking in an occasional museum. A block away from my hotel was the daily market, a huge building that took up almost an entire city block. By now I was getting a little tired of looking at old stuff and was just biding my time until my flight home two days hence.



Day 16, Tuesday, April 11

I walked down to the waterfront where there was an acclaimed aquarium. The admission was expensive, 1400 pesetas ($9.00). It was mediocre. When you're from the Pacific Northwest it takes more than a few tanks full of fish to impress you. (The Pt. Defiance aquarium in Tacoma is superior.) I did notice, however, that the fish had the intelligence to yield to one another as they were swimming.

It started to rain pretty heavily so I waited until I was drenched before I bought an umbrella. Then I set out for the Picasso museum where I waited in line with the other tourists for twenty minutes. The museum had about forty large rooms with works of the artist, many that were donated by Picasso himself.

Now here's a guy--Picasso--that had an immense talent. His early works were in the classical style--they looked like what they were. However he didn't receive any special recognition and was languishing in poverty. Then along came some snooty intellectuals and impressionism was born. He thought, "What am I doing working my butt off producing good art when I could be painting junk?" From then on he became rich and famous for painting distorted women with arms sticking out of their heads. Instead of producing a painting every two weeks, he could now produce a painting in an hour and have the rest of the day to party, which, of course, is what he usually did. Non-the-less, he was prolific as there are several Picasso museums in Europe.

Later that day I saw my British harmonica-playing buddy working a scam on a tourist. He asked a man for a cigarette then once "in the door" he began asking for money. The poor sucker reached in his pocket and give him some change. I thought about walking past Mr. Crazy and offering him another comment but I’m sure he would have gone ballistic.

I noticed there was more sidewalk etiquette in Barcelona than in Italy but I think it had more to do with the large numbers of polite tourists in the Ramblas. However, I did notice that most Spanish men still did not yield their "space". I was sitting at a sidewalk cafe sipping a beer and smoking an overpriced Havana cigar when I witnessed a young man walking on a trajectory toward a lady. She was a tourist and was walking slowly with her head down reading a pamphlet. Although there was an entire 30-foot wide sidewalk in which to walk the young man did not yield. With her head still down the lady bumped into him as the man stopped. The lady then said "excuse me" and walked around him. (I wonder if he was Italian.)



That night I went out one last time and bought postcards and souvenirs to take home. I had to be at the airport early the next morning so I bought a bottle of Bailey's to help me get to sleep early. It did the job.


Day 17, Wednesday, April 12

My new Croatian alarm clock woke me up at 6 am. I showered, shaved, and packed for my long excursion back home. In the lobby I met an older lady who was also going to the airport so we split the fare for a cab. She spoke English quite well and we had a good conversation. She was on her way to a wedding in northern Spain. She had once visited her daughter who used to live in Seattle and said she thought the area was beautiful. I told her that I thought Spain was a beautiful country and that Barcelona was a great city.

At British Airways I changed my one-way fare to London to a round trip fare because It was a hundred dollars cheaper. I had a window seat again and was able to see some nice scenery over Spain and France. We arrived at Heathrow airport at 11:00 am. The flight to Vancouver, Canada was on an Airbus equivalent of a 747. I was seated in a section with fifty young British teenagers, members of soccer and field hockey teams that were going to compete against Canadians. I sat next to a 13-year old girl who was disappointed she didn't get to sit next to her friends so she wasn't much for conversation. Fortunately they showed a couple of movies. The head of the flight crew should have been a standup comedian as his offbeat announcements had everyone in stitches. And of course the stewardesses worked tirelessly feeding everyone and making them comfortable. Luck of the draw--I had a window seat again and during our nine-hour flight we flew over the ice fields of southern Greenland. (Did you know the ice off the coast of Greenland is over a mile thick?) You can't look out for more that two seconds at a time or you will go blind from the glare. Then over desolate northern Canada, which has lots of tundra and icy lakes, and finally some trees, the Canadian Cascades, and the Pacific Ocean. The British teenagers were in awe of the mountains and forests as we made our descent over Vancouver. I pointed things out to them. "There's Whistler's ski resort, Vancouver Island, Stanley Park, the inland sound, etc." I felt like I was home already.


At the Vancouver airport I was routed to U.S. Customs where I was the only American arriving on that flight. I had the full attention of three agents who had been waiting for something to do so I spent more time in this Customs that all the others put together. The two men and one woman were polite and professional as they did a thorough search of my luggage. They confiscated the cigars I had bought in Barcelona. “Contraband,” they said. “Bastards,” I thought.

It was four hours before my half-hour flight to Seattle. I spent the time reading my English newspaper, playing the mandolin, and drinking the last of my Baileys, which U.S. Customs thought was chocolate milk because it was in a plastic water bottle. Anyway, time's fun when you're having flies. My flight was announced and all passengers proceeded to a little prop plane on the runway. It seated about thirty passengers. I got a window seat again and the man seated next to me was friendly. He was a salesman from Aberdeen and this was the fourth flight he had taken that day. It was beautiful as we flew over the San Jaun Islands with the Strait of Jaun de Fuca and the Olympics in the distance. “Europe has nothing like this,” I thought. Soon we were flying over Bainbridge Island and making a smooth landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

I waited forty minutes for my ride to show up. Katrina, a former music student of mine, and now a band mate, had stayed at my house and fed my cat for the past seventeen days. She told me she just got a full music scholarship to the University of Arizona. (Good for her!) As we pulled off the freeway and onto Pearl Street something became so obvious. Everything was so new!! In Europe you get used to looking at cobblestone streets, five hundred year old buildings, and thousand year old cathedrals and castles. Here there are newly paved wide roads, strip malls, supermarkets and actual wood houses. Ah, home sweet home.

It took a month to absorb my travel experience and to analyze my observations. A few points of contrast between the U.S. and Europe:

  1. Europeans have a long history that anchors them to the past. We are more accustomed to change, both social and technological.
  2. European economies have barely evolved into "service" economies, let alone information economies.
  3. The U.S. is a comparatively tolerant and polite society.

If I should visit Europe again I will travel in the Eastern part--Croatia (again), Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, and maybe Poland. This is based on my pleasant experience in Croatia and also because the dollar goes a long way in these countries. I will also travel in the fall instead of the spring (less chance of rain). However, I highly recommend traveling anywhere in Europe at any time. It is an adventure!