Imagine having the opportunity to spend your 21st birthday in the lively city of Barcelona after weeks of cloudy weather and living in the middle of Ireland. Sounds riveting, right?
Wrong. However, this is not my story. This is the story of my travel buddy and fellow Maynooth student, Victoria. Victoria wanted one thing for her birthday weekend, to spend her days on the beautiful playa (beach) of Barcelona and her nights dancing at the wonderful clubs. So it was settled, she would leave on November 3rd from Milan and stay until the 7th with myself and our Danish friend Sarah.
Upon Arriving in Barcelona each of us were incredibly sleep deprived. We had left Milan pretty early and just wanted to make it to our Airbnb, which happened to be right by main street of Barcelona, La Rambla. This street is a great place to walk down once and never go again, unless you really have a thing for wall to wall people and having to locate your belongings every 10 minutes to make sure nothing was stolen. Nevertheless we checked in to our Airbnb, while also simultaneously learning that renting your property through the app in Spain is actually illegal. So now we were just visiting the flat and were to not disturb the neighbors. This wasn’t a problem until one of us, potentially me, was absolutely dying of thirst and needed water. While Sara and Victoria got ready for our first day of exploring I was busy putting the wrong key in the lock and perhaps unsurprisingly got it stuck.
After trying get the key out for 20 minutes I started to panic, so Vic came down to help me. To start off her birthday weekend, Victoria got to try picking a lock, send the friend who got it stuck back to the store to buy oil, and text the host to let her know we were causing a scene and potentially breaking her whole buildings front security lock. In return she still couldn’t get the lock out, her friend brought back Micellar water, and the airbnb lady was just as panicked when she came back to see what we had done. So there we were, calling locksmiths that only spoke Spanish and having our host translate for us at a very loud volume. All taking place on maybe the busiest street in Barcelona, while simultaneously becoming street performers trying to get the key out of the lock by using absurd methods. The lock didn’t budge, and we spent our first two hours on vacation meditating, praying, and anxiously waiting for a locksmith.
When he did finally show up, he looked at us with the most disappointment I have ever seen. He then proceeded to comment on the strength at which the lock was forced in, and the depth at which it was forced to. Because his sentence was being translated for me I cannot say whether or not it was a compliment, but the look on his face led me to believe it was an insult. It didn’t matter, though, because he was able to get the key out without breaking the lock and putting one of us in bankruptcy. Four hours later we were ready to go, and by go I mean watch the sunset on the beach and go to a lovely tapas bar by our airbnb for dinner. We had tapas, we drank sangria, life was good…………
The next day started out promising. We saw many famous landmarks, then decided to check out Park Guell after being inspired the night before by Cheetah Girls 2. When we arrived we were greeted by a woman sitting down, not looking up, and on face-time with her friend. She told us we needed tickets to enter, but the park (that’s the same size as 42.5 football fields) was unfortunately sold out for the day. If the events of the trip beforehand had been different we may have found a way to get in, but because we didn’t feel like arguing with the clearly engaged security guard, we left. To end the afternoon we found a separate park that allowed more than just the freshman class at DU to enter freely.
Because we had enjoyed the cheap delicious tapas from the night before, we decided the same restaurant may be a perfect location to get the classic Spanish Paella as well. Unfortunately, the once friendly hostess had a change of heart. He greeted us by saying, “We’re full, BYE.” They were indeed full, but we were still too stunned to speak. Our next move was finding a new place in google maps, which led us to an absolute tourist trap of a restaurant. The new place was so quick to seat us only to then forget about our order. Finally they served us the blandest rice dish the kitchen could put together. Needless to say the start of trip was not going very well, but we still thought our luck was about to change, because we had tickets to one of the best nightclubs in town and were about to have a great 21st birthday celebration for Victoria at Razzmatazz.
To make a long story short, we lasted an hour at the club. I am not sure if Vic remembers falling down the stairs or even being there, but the bruises and headaches the morning after let her know how the night went. It was a rough morning, but a nice relaxing day at the beach was going to change that. It was sunny out, the beach wasn’t too crowded, and we could relax to the sweet sound of someone going, “MOJIITOO, SANGRIAAA, MASSASGEE” every three seconds. Victoria wanted a proper birthday dinner, and therefore picked out a restaurant beforehand so we didn’t have a repeat of the night before. We got dressed for the Barcelona FC game, and made our way to the restaurant.
One thing to note about restaurants in Spain is that many of them have someone standing outside catcalling people to try and get them to eat at their restaurant. They might as well just have a sign that says ‘Don’t Eat Here.’ But, there we were making our way to the restaurant for Vic’s birthday, not knowing they would try to usher us in when we were already going there. That should have been our first sign to turn around. When they brought out the starter salad with “the freshest local vegetables” I had to exercise all self control not to start laughing. They put three romaine leaves, three carrot sticks, and three cucumber sticks on a plate, and the cucumbers were cut to be just the middle part that’s usually thrown away. We also didn’t really get to order, the waiter just kind of decided for us. Then they kept bringing tapas after tapas with food that looked like it was cooked in an easy bake oven. It was a birthday dinner from hell, and coincidentally was our most expensive meal yet.
I could tell Vic was starting to feel down, and because there was not a chance we were going to order dessert from that restaurant, we decided to check out a bakery nearby to just have a simple birthday cake before going to end the night at a lovely soccer game for one of the most iconic teams in the world. This was just supposed to be a short, sweet stop………
It was anything but the sort. We went to the only bakery in the area, and were one of three groups in the entire bakery. We looked at the cases, and even let the owner know we needed a minute and she could help the people behind us first. In this time, we also found the fridge holding rows and rows of cakes. We were a bit confused because the refrigerator was on the customer’s side of things, and each cake was just sitting on a small piece of cardboard, but nevertheless, they looked perfect and we grabbed one and headed over to the register. The owner, who saw us opening and closing the freezer, looking in it for a good three minutes, and taking the cake over to the register, waited until we got there to start yelling at us in Spanish. The only one of us who understood Spanish was of course the birthday girl. Vic let us know that we were not supposed to touch the cakes in the freezer (that was unlocked and right by the entrance) and that even though we were paying for the cake, the owner wanted us out of the shop and would not give us utensils.
All the events of the weekend had boiled down to this point for Vic. She finally started to cry on the curb outside of the bakery when it occurred to us that we had no forks, and that our cake also happened to be rock solid. So, I did the only thing I could do to cheer her up in the moment, and found the only place that sold utensils nearby. A 7/11 with $1 plastic forks came to the rescue. The tears finally passed and it turned into laughter as we sat there eating what was essentially an accidental ice cream cake on a random street in a Barcelona suburb. We broke a fork every five minutes, and even considered going down to the subway to let it unthaw. However, the rest of the night went smoothly. We actually ended on a great note when we got to see the soccer game and make our way home without any hassle. The trip may not have gone the way we planned, but hey it makes a great story. Vic’s 21st birthday was definitely one to remember (most of it at least).