travel

A Dangerous Night in Barcelona

Last weekend, the majority of my housemates went away on holiday. As students, they had the week off, while the rest of us poor souls had to work. The very irritating French guy who our rental agency told us was supposed to leave in March remained, showing no signs of moving out, or going on holiday. My housemates’ departure was in fact preceded by an argument with him. He somehow  thinks he’s too good to clean up after himself and a note was left asking him to do his share of the housework. The argument then escalated, all via a ridiculous note left on the kitchen countertop. I decided to stay out of it. My feisty friends are far more adept at these sorts of situations and I didn’t want to start hurling petty insults because that doesn’t get you anywhere.

I felt very lonely after my housemates left. I didn’t have anything planned the day they went, so I decided to go and do typical tourist things. There’s still so much I want to do here, but don’t enjoy it half as much when I’m doing it all alone. I still had fun by myself, visiting the beautiful Parc de la Ciutadella and the Arc del Triunfo, and in the evening, as I was watching a not very interesting documentary in sheer desperation for something to do, my friend from Oxford sent me a message telling me she was in Barcelona with her friends. She had told me before that she was coming, but when exactly had completely slipped my mind. ‘Do you want to come out clubbing with us?’ she asked me. ‘Omg , yes!’ I replied very unhesitatingly.

I had a great night, going to the very popular Barcelona club, Razzmatazz, after a brief stint in the bar of the youth hostel my friend was staying in, meeting new people as well as her very nice friends. Razzmatazz has a slightly more hipster feel to it and the people there are very friendly. We managed to make a few friends with people from all over the world in the smoking area outside. Some time after six, the club closed, forcing us to go home. I was so tired the next day I wasn’t too fussed about getting out and doing anything.

Thursday was when things really took a turn for the worst. I went to the café opposite work which my fellow lunch buddy and I almost always go to and, once I’d finished my lunch, I looked down to see my handbag was no longer there. I was completely calm. I knew that chances are someone had taken it and looking around to see if I had left it anywhere, or if the people working there had seen anything, confirmed my suspicions. No one had a clue where it was, nor had they seen a thing. The manager of the café later looked at the CCTV footage and saw a man enter and swiftly take my bag without paying for any food.

I tried to look on the bright side of what had happened. Though it is depressing there are people who would steal what doesn’t belong to them, there were also plenty of people who showed such compassion and concern, telling me ‘if you need me to do anything, really, just tell me’. I had only lost material goods and I was safe. I also got to practice plenty of Spanish, and even a bit of Catalan, when I reported what had happened at the police station.

I tried to forget about the event, although it was difficult, and enjoy my time in Granada, where I spent Easter weekend. I went there to visit my cousin, who is studying there at the moment, at a time when coincidentally her parents (my aunt and uncle) had come down bringing another of my cousins with them. As they are all on the American side of the family, I haven’t seen them for a while, so it was great to catch up. I was also in Granada during Semana Santa. Barcelona was pretty low key during this time, but Granada was a bustling and heaving place with amazing processions like never I’ve seen before.

Granada is a breathtakingly beautiful city, filled with old architecture, and I was so glad I got to see it. My aunt and uncle left on the penultimate day I was there, so I just spent time with my cousin, consoling her slightly (she was sad when her parents left), but also having lots of fun. We walked around and chatted for ages. It’s amazing how different our lives are now from how they were when we last saw each other. However, another stress arose on my last day in Granada, when I realised that the keys I had in my stolen bag had my address on them. The rental agency was stupid enough to have put the address on the key labels, and I was stupid enough to have not taken the labels off. I tried to sort out the situation as best I could using my cousin’s phone. It’s Spain, so things with regard to the lock have not been completely sorted out, but things are looking up.

Then everything began to go downhill once I got to the airport to return to Barcelona. My flight was delayed, meaning I arrived in Barcelona just before midnight. I tried to find this very handy bus, which is cheap and takes you from the airport to the centre of Barcelona, but I didn’t manage to find it, so opted for the metro instead. I chose a stop to get off at which I thought would be close to my apartment, knowing that the metro stop just outside my apartment was closed at that time of night.

When I left the metro station, I had no idea where I was. The metro map was by no means to scale and a stop which I thought appeared near some of the central locations in Barcelona was in fact very far away. I was looking forward to returning to Barcelona since it’s all so familiar to me and I was hoping to have some comfort after all that had happened, but instead of seeing anything I recognised, I came out of the metro stop to see a very dodgy neighbourhood. (I later told my Spanish housemate where I was and she was shocked). I was hestitant to ask anyone in the area for directions. The type of people wandering around there at night were not people I could entirely trust, particularly because many of them were hooded and were walking threatening dogs. I also didn’t want to alert people to my vulnerability by telling them how lost I was, if they were indeed dangerous, though already I was wandering around with a suitcase in tow, completely alone, which I feel made my vulnerability pretty evident anyway. I really was beginning to think that I was going to have to find some bush to hide in and spend the whole night outside. Since my phone was stolen, there was no way I could call a taxi, or a anyone at all, and I was thus competely stranded. I eventually saw a bin man doing a night shift and decided that he was safe to talk to since the only reason he was out late at night was for work purposes.  He told me I was far away from where I wanted to be and that he was unable, for various reasons, to call me a taxi. He offered to let me hitchhike with him, but I wasn’t willing to take the risk, even if he was perfectly nice and helpful and, I’m sure, not dangerous at all. I was incredibly tired, frightened and had tears streaming down my face. And then I saw a taxi. I had never been so happy to see a taxi in my life. The route it had to go on to take me home made me realise how far away I was and how there was no way I could’ve got home by myself, even if I had my phone for navigation.  

I called my parents on skype when I got back in to my apartment. ‘I want to come home.’ I told them. ‘Well, that’s an option.’ My mum replied. ‘No, I want to come home’ I said emphatically. My dad, who asks me when I’m coming home every time I call, liked this idea and immediately set about looking at flights. As I explained to my mum, I haven’t gone home once during my year abroad, apart from during the month or so I had off between internships, and now was a time when I really needed to. Aside from seeking the loving comfort of my family, returning to England simplified a lot of the issues regarding getting a new bank card and mobile, the latter of which I wanted to have as soon as possible to avoid any other sticky situations, and also because I sincerely missed having all the amenities smartphones today provide.

Well, it’s three in the morning, I’m waiting in the airport for a very early flight (strikes and cancellations have forced me to leave Spain earlier in the morning than I had originally planned) and I probably ought to go and see if my gate information has been updated. I’m very tired, but I can’t wait to go home.

 

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