Thursday, December 3, 2009

Barcelona: Ya me despide de ti

I flip to the map of Barcelona in my worn Time Out guidebook. I run my finger down the wide streets I walked so many times – Passeig de Gracia, Portal del Angel, Avenida Diagonal. I think about all the people I passed on those streets, from Korean fashionistas to prostrate gypsies. I want to get lost again down one of the medieval alleys dripping with wet laundry off Carrer Princesa. Or to be looking up at the undulating rainbow roof on the Mercat de Santa Caterina. I sigh at the familiar metro purple symbols of my Reina Elisenda line. The green patches on my map are parks, and the red squares are cathedrals, museums, and palaces with memories attached.

I think about all the hours I wasted in Zara and H&M, compulsively flipping through racks but rarely walking out with anything. I remember the Gothic Francesca Bonnemaison library on Sant Pere més baix where I’d read the free newspapers and fashion magazines after my morning class on Pau Claris. I’d avoid making eye contact with the librarians when I returned my always-overdue books.

Now it’s so far away – another lifetime. I don’t know when I’ll ever go back, and that uncertainty hurts. It sounds dramatic and cliche, but the city will always be a part of me. 

How many cups of te de vainilla did I order at Buenas Migas focacceria with friends from Finland, Italy, Andalucia, and Sweden? How many strangers from  Loquo language listings did I meet outside El Corte Ingles in the concrete sea of Plaza Catalunya? How many hours did I spend trying to find a Bicing bike to borrow without a flat tire or warped handlebars? How many Euro coins did I spend on Toblerone bars to eat on the hour-long trek back from the city center to my uptown Sarria neighborhood? How many times did I listen to Julieta Venegas’ Limon y Sal on my iPod shuffle as I rushed to my advanced Spanish class with Profesora Paula?

I was always wandering, yet somehow confident and independent. On Saturday mornings I’d pick a nearby town from my Rough Guide to Spain and buy a round trip ticket, outlining a plan for the day on the train or bus ride there. I was obsessive -- visiting and photographing every site listed in the guidebooks, no matter how marginal. I felt compelled to explore every street. But truly absorbing a city requires a lifetime.

I miss rushing down the stairs of the metro station to jump on the train before the doors close. I miss urbanity and the independence and adventure that comes with it.

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