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barcelona: bienvenidos a

May 7, 2009

jeanine, flight attendants

March 13, 2009 – Letter to family

So here´s a crazy story.

I decided at the last minute to fly to Barcelona because it was the same price as the train and 8 hours less.  You do the math.   And so it is that I find myself at the Malaga airport at 6:30am this morning.  I go to the counter to get my boarding pass and meanwhile, Rafael who is a flight attendant for the airline kinda sorta casually asks this morning’s commander if I could, you know, hang out in the cockpit during landing.  Twenty minutes later, as I hug him good-bye, Rafael whispers the magic words in my ear: “Tell the flight attendant Soy la amiga de Rafael when you board the plane”.  These words are like a golden key, a secret handshake, a code, a password.  I’m thinking I should have a t-shirt stamped “Soy la amiga de Rafael” in vintage brown letters.

So I get on the plane and the sweetest flight attendant (seriously, she should be employee of the month every month) seats me up front.  There is nobody next to me and I have all the leg room in the world, a giant could have surely sat there with space to spare.  She gives me coffee and then I wait.  I write in my journal, fidget, stare blankly into space, eat a kitkat (which Rafael gave to me before leaving the house, said I would need a snack… because I didn’t just eat my way through Malaga, Granada and Cordoba), pick up the inflight magazine, stumble on an article about Joe’s brother and freak out at the coincidence (I may have even uttered a somewhat shocked expression of what the fuck? – so perfect in moments like these).  I am deep in Joe thought when the plane starts to descend and I feel a discrete tap on my shoulder telling me all systems go.

me, cockpit, pilots

She brings me into the cockpit, straps me in behind the pilots and I have this crazy view of the Pyrennes and the Mediterranean.  I am like a kid in a candy store, my grin is record breaking.  Seriously, if there was a Guinness World Record for widest grin, I would surely be in the book, right next to the woman with the longest fingernails.

I am in awe of the million buttons and switches and levers.  The pilots joke around that they don’t know what half of them are for.  It is so surreal up there. I feel like I am in outer space.  Sorry to break it to you but that little window seat?   Nothing compared to the view you have in the cockpit.  We take a sharp left.  I am tempted to make the squealing wheels sound but why would someone do that midair? Force of childish habit, I guess.  The pilots do all their landing checks, talk cool flight lingo and before I know it, we are landing in Barcelona.  When I was imagining a perfect trip, this never even entered the farthest reaches of my imagination.  It was just a little big bonus.

las ramblas

La Rambla, Barcelona, 1:07pm

I don’t think there is anywhere in the world I would rather be right now, but sitting on the sidewalk of La Rambla in this little pocket of sunshine.  I am in Barcelona… facing La Boqueria market where I just picked up a spicy taco, paella and tapas from the Organic booth.  This is the place, this patch of sidewalk right here, 11 days into my trip, where I get it.  I caught the travel bug on day 1 but now I get why I have it.  It is for this feeling, right here, right now.  I close my eyes into the sun, I can hear conversations in 5 different languages but there is no noise.  The noise in my head has faded to a dim little whisper.  The worries, the negative thoughts that are normally there are getting very sleepy, I do believe they have joined the masses in siesta.   shhhhhh.  Don’t wake them up.


flower stall



Because I have fought so many fears on this trip, things I had built up in my head, I haven’t really felt nervous since being here.  I make a total ass of myself when I gesture my way into a conversation and try to convey that I would like a tomato or am looking for a washroom or don’t want milk in my espresso.  But none of that really matters.  This sense of freedom overrides everything else.

plaza espana

…later that night

Sometimes we pressure ourselves into finding the perfect moment, creating perfection, seeking it out.  Especially when traveling.  You don’t want to taint your trip with bad food and shitty situations.  Everywhere you look, you think “Will this create a memorable moment in Barcelona?”  Tonight, after seeing the Magic Fountain show at Plaza Espana with two Korean girls from the hostel and witnessing their Italian friend getting pick-pocketed and subsequently trying too hard for too long to find the perfect spot to eat dinner, I leave them to do my own thing and stumble upon what feels like a secret gem in a dark alleyway.


Welcome to Pizza Raval.  Crazy amazing pizza by the slice for 1 euro 70.  This place is awesome.  The walls are painted red and cheesy gold garland hangs from the ceiling. Looks like a dive, but the pizza is perfecto.   I have a slice of tomato and fresh mozzarella but can’t stop there.  It’s just so good once it touches your lips.  So I go back for seconds, this time pancetta and mushroom.  The wine is served in plastic cups and still seems to taste better than most wines back home.   Give me velour red chairs and a place where they play 80s music and the Spanish dude blasts what’s love got to do with it and sings along… and I have my perfect, memorable moment.

… later, later than night

Now I am at the Hello BCN Hostel, chatting it up with the Aussie barman. The hostel bar is packed.  There’s a hum of a hundred travelers, of all ages, of all walks of life, of all origins.  But we have one thing in common tonight.  We are free to do as we wish, to crack the mold wide open and step outside the confines of who we are back home. The sense is shared.  It is contagious.  The travel bug is making travel bug babies inside of me… I fear I may never want to stop.

Love you all dearly.

Buenas noches.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2009 10:11 am

    That was SO great to read. 🙂

  2. Randy permalink
    May 8, 2009 3:37 pm

    Before I even read your comments I was thinking “Man, she smiles anymore her teeth are gonna fall out.”

    Great story, great vicarious travel experience. Thanks for taking the time to share.

  3. leonie permalink
    May 12, 2009 10:22 am

    your trip is seriously making me want to run away and see the world!

    oh wait, i’m already doing that…

    though my stories don’t have anywhere near the same amount of spicy adventure in them that’s for sure!

  4. May 31, 2009 7:36 pm

    I look forward to your postings. You write so well, have an amazing eye, and well, you just make a very cool read. Your trip sounds amazing, and yes, how cool is it to travel in the cockpit eh. Love it


  1. 2010: focus, caron, focus «

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