Life in Barcelona – it’s not Palma!

As expected, I’m having a rough first full day here in Barcelona. Anytime I relocate to a new place on this trip, I struggle the first couple of days as I get adjusted to my new living space and layout of the city. I have a lot to learn in the next two weeks. Barcelona isn’t completely new to me as I’ve visited before, but that trip was only for three days during the fall and I had the pleasure of having my friend Christina as a travel companion.

Fortunately my living arrangement here is good so far. The flat is in a nice neighbourhood located close to a metro station and I have 2 produce shops plus a smaller grocery shop just around the corner. The flat is clean and I have my own room with a large desk to work on. My host is sociable yet keeps to herself most of the time. No complaints!

Still, yesterday and today have been rough as I try to settle in.

First difficulty: finding food.

Arguably the most difficult thing for me in Barcelona is finding decent food, as the produce here, specifically the watermelon, doesn’t compare to the produce in Palma. I’ve tried to enjoy watermelon three times since arriving in Barcelona yesterday afternoon and was sorely disappointed each time.

The first watermelon was costly (1.59 per kilo compared to the 0.55 per kilo in Palma) and absolutely terrible—it smelled off, and unfortunately I bit into a part that was fermenting. Disgusting! I won’t be returning to that fruit shop again, not only because of the rotten watermelon but because I’m not interested in overpaying for watermelon, period.

The other two watermelons I tried came from grocery store chains. They were much cheaper at 0.69 per kilo and both tasted okay. I do think the amazing watermelons in Palma have ruined me, because the watermelons in Barcelona are flavourless in comparison!

I figured I’d simply revert back to grapes since I’m able to find those here, but I am not impressed with Spanish grapes at all. They are just full of water! (In this case, Chilean grapes are to blame. Tesco in Scotland stocks them when in season!) So now I’ll probably stick to cherries as a staple, and might start eating peaches and nectarines once again. I’d like to keep eating gluten-free pasta every night but it’s so hot here! Hot, cooked food is the last thing I want.

Second difficulty: the heat.

Yeah, I know, big surprise—Spain is hot during the summer! I should have considered the temperatures I’d face when I planned this part of my itinerary back in February. I’m fine with summer temperatures but I am not used to sleeping in them. Palma was hot as well but still pleasant because of the sea breeze. Night time temperatures were tolerable because I’d sleep with the window open and had a fan in my room. I never had trouble falling asleep.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a fan in my room in Barcelona. This flat is also on the 8th story as opposed to the ground level flat in Palma. As I write this post, it is currently 82° F and will cool down to 75° by the time the sun sets. It will cool off to 73° through the night, and then tomorrow the temperature will climb to around 84°. Temperatures were similar last night and I barely slept because I couldn’t cool off.

Yes, I’m a spoiled American used to living through summers with air conditioning. Except, of course, when I lived in California’s central coast because most flats didn’t include it. You simply didn’t need it—the weather was always pleasant!

Third difficulty: it’s unbelievably busy!

Another big surprise—Spain is inundated with tourists during the summer. Previously, I visited Spain in March and October. Madrid and Barcelona were as busy as I expected given their size, yet they weren’t swarmed with tourists the way Barcelona is now. I know it’s naive of me to not even consider how the volume of tourists fluctuates throughout the year, but I honestly didn’t think about it and couldn’t predict how much these large crowds would bother me.

It’s more than just being annoyed that suddenly everyone loses all sense of self-awareness as they walk down the street. I have a fear of heights and I notice I have a similar reaction when fighting my way through a large crowd. It’s difficult to explain but I can’t stand to be in an area overrun with people. I didn’t know that all of Europe spends their summer holiday in Spain, because if I did, I would have changed my plans to come here!

Even though I’m exhausted from dealing with the stress of being in a new place, I’m focusing on the positives. It’s a major bummer that watermelon here isn’t on the same level as the watermelon in Palma, but I’m lucky to live in a nice flat located close to several food shops. I won’t go hungry! When it comes to the heat, well, I might have a few sleepless nights because I can’t get comfortable, but at least I’m only in Barcelona for two weeks. I’m sure I’ll get some sleep in the meantime. Focusing on the positive of throngs of tourists is the most difficult, but forcing myself to seek out crowds might be a good thing for me. Maybe I will become used to them over time, and at the very least I’ll get a decent photograph or two.

IMG_3115
A less crowded viewing point in the Plaza de la Sagrada Familia.
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