Barcelona is a big place. Bigger than I thought and it serves very well the fundamental rule of tourist mistakes (of which ‘the wife’ and I have committed almost all you could suggest) that cities should never be tackled in the heat. As I understand it Britain almost exploded on Thursday with temperature records ‘tumbling’ and extremes of infrastructural incompetence reaching ‘unprecedented’ levels, so 32 degrees in Barcelona might not seem too bad but I can very much assure you that it was hard work. Fucking hard work.
32 degrees on the streets of any city always feels a lot more, to the extent that ‘the wife’ and I were almost repulsed by the slightest notion of physical contact: just holding her hand felt like I was trying to retrieve something from the still glowing embers of a particularly well fuelled fire. On top of that you had all those other people and traffic and that Mediterranean thing where you can smell sewage every few minutes as well as the noise and the added on annoying things that I will just leave to your imagination, because you know exactly the kinds of things that rattle your cage in the summer, in the city.
I probably would have liked Barcelona better in the cool of autumn, where I could stroll the wide open streets without feeling my balls permanently stuck to my inner thigh. It’s nice enough wandering through the Gothic quarter with its labyrinth of narrow streets and tempting boutiques (yes, that was my attempt at writing a travel guide, and it was as shit and generic and useless as any other travel guide you’re likely to read), but the swarm of heat was unrelenting to the extent that we took to ducking into any establishment with air conditioning and then pretending we were interested with the contents.
We made another mistake by not really having a plan and so covered roughly 20km by foot, just trying to find an excuse for something to do next. We walked to Gaudi’s big, unfinished church but we hadn’t pre-booked so we couldn’t go in but I didn’t feel too bad because the outside was oddly let-downish, much like Sydney Opera House – you’ve seen it so many times already there isn’t really a lot of surprise left to be had. Maybe next time when they’ve finally finished the fucking thing and there aren’t cranes hanging over it I might get the point.
Then we sucked and flapped our way down into the old bit and had a cold beer and then walked to the harbour and had a super over priced not so cold beer which was served to us by the winner of the “Lazy Disinterested Waitress of the Year 2018” and by this point I was starting to feel ill and had to go and sit on a toilet with no seat that when you closed the door turned into an oven, and when I stood up all the paper I had laid down to compensate for the lack of seat was stuck to my legs and I think I reached my low point right there – sweating bullets and feeling what it must feel like when you’re dying and on fire and with toilet paper stuck all over me.
Retreat was the only option so we dripped and panted our way to The Rambles street, which really isn’t worth the bother by the way, and then into the same shaded lanes from earlier and dunked ourselves into a cool little deli that sold cold, cold wine and after an hour or so I didn’t feel quite so bad. But it started all over again the minute we hit the streets and what was strange is that we had 10 hours in Barcelona and we achieved almost nothing and we should have been stress free and yet they were 10 of the longest hours of my life and fuck knows we should have booked a much earlier coach back and I can’t remember the name of the penultimate place we stopped for a snack but I am 100% sure that the guy who served us was a cunt.
It’s a shame that heat can ruin such high expectations but part of me knew that Barcelona in July would be a tough one and although I probably didn’t do it justice I also didn’t regret for one minute being back at the hotel and done with the whole experience. ‘The wife’ has been to Barcelona more times than I’ve been in our loft so I’m assuming she’s most likely happy to give it a few years before the next foray. That said if it wasn’t for her I probably would have done nothing that day and if it wasn’t for her I probably wouldn’t do much any other day so while I may not have a lot good to say about Barcelona I cannot recommend ‘the wife’ enough; but she’s mine, so back off!
G B Hewitt. 28.07.2019