The trappings of tourism.

I’ve scurried inside. The sun must have crept up a bit closer in the night and hid behind a Renault Megane around the corner because outside it’s positively in your face and ten minutes was enough because I just want a morning off slapping sun lotion everywhere. So I’m in the hotel lobby listening to massage room ambience music as people finish off their breakfasts nearby and a few couples come down with their luggage. It’ll be our turn tomorrow and that will be a sad moment, though truthfully it’s been a couple of days since I started missing home and a routine that doesn’t involve water melon, 2 fried eggs and sickly sweet, cheap semi-seco for breakfast. I started to miss Hairy Mary the second I locked the front door and gave the handle two or three extra rattles to make extra sure it was properly locked.

The weather has been good but we’re not staying on the plain and so that useless old saying about Spain and rain and the plain is clearly nonsense because it pissed it down the other day and, of course, we just happened to be rather a long way from the comforts of our hotel. A few days ago we had another ‘the wife’ day where we ventured forth to conquer new lands and lather our senses in culture and history. First stop Girona, a town that has plenty of history and a substantial wallop as a food destination. She drooled over reviews of some Michelin restaurant but since I’m not a hedge fund manager I resisted. Girona’s biggest selling point, I suppose, is its cathedral and you can see why. How on earth it got built at all is a staggering testament to the invention and graft and devotion to God of medieval civilisation. It is un-showy and almost rustic compared to, say, St Paul’s in Rome, but I say that makes it better and it does not spill one drop from its grandeur. Enough gushing; it’s worth a trip to Girona, though like many historic towns it has been surrounded by concrete and rusting industry, so just beware.

It started to rain as we left the cathedral, pretty much as expected. Compensation for the lack of fancy dining meant we picked up a fancy ice cream instead. ‘The wife’ said it was nice and crazy and romantic to be eating ice cream, walking through the streets in the rain. I agreed, though I should also say that I would always prefer not to be walking in the rain when I’m eating ice cream, y’know, given the option. We silly walked it to the bus station to board for our next stop – Figueres. 5 points if you know why Figueres is famous. No? Salvador Dali. He was born there and lived there for quite some time and well before he died he decided the best thing to do for the town would be to build a big theatre/museum devoted to his genius. How very modest of him.

By the time we arrived in DALIWOOD it had stopped pissing down and was now relentlessly pouring away instead, fat waves of rain that filled the streets and darkened the early afternoon skies. It would have made Noah nervous. Not to worry we only had a ten minute walk to the museum (which I think is the only thing people come here for so maybe silly old Salvador had a point), through the rain, in our shorts. Suddenly not so much romantic as stupid. Very stupid. And wet. And of course when we got to the museum there was a queue that seemed frozen in time. It’s not that it moved slowly it felt more like someone stood on the edge of a cliff deciding whether to commit suicide – just tiny, indecisive shuffles in a shared direction but no actual forward motion.

At some point (about an hour and a half in, but still out, in the rain) we realised that even if we got to the front we would have advance tickets for 5.30pm which was another hour and a half later and almost exactly the time of the last bus out of town. There were no signs and there was no way of barging to the front to find all this out and no-one came out to loudly announce how stupid we were all being. No, the good people of Figueres would much rather you just queue up forever in the rain to honour their favourite son and look at some melting clocks and elephants with stick legs. Until this point I had been quite fond of Salvador Dali but now I’m not so sure. A moustache that once was endearing now makes him look like a twat. And why does the Dali museum close at 7 but the last bus to Girona is at half five? That’s tourism for you. Or is it just Spain?

And that brings me nicely to one of Spain’s biggest problems as a tourist – they’re just so inconsistent as hosts. You can have a lovely experience in one place only to find the next time you sit down the restaurant is run by The Munsters. One person at a museum desk will greet you like a long lost son and the next will look at you as if you’ve just told them you’ve kidnapped their daughter. Spain doesn’t rely entirely on tourism but it does do pretty well out of the extra money so it’s strange that some people can’t just put on a little smile, even if they don’t really mean it. Far easier, I would say, just to tell us you don’t want our money and that we should fuck off and never come back again. But they wouldn’t do that; they’d much rather have their tapas and eat it.

G B Hewitt. 30.07.2019

PS, the sun eventually came out and we stopped back in Girona and had a fabulous meal and scrumptious wine, and if you ever go then ask me nicely and I’ll tell you the name of the restaurant. And I’ll do it with a smile.

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