Saturday, February 7, 2009

October 18, 2008 - Roberto's England - Vol. 2, Ch. 4


I must admit that I almost didn't write this entry. Or rather, I almost procrastinated doing so. I didn't write it on Sunday after the end of my adventures because I had to work on a final assignment. I'm nothing if not a master procrastinator, so that took me all day, night, and early the next day. I didn't write last night because I was exhausted from my first day of work, but more on that later. I wasn't going to write today because.... well, I was just lazy. But enough back story, on to the storytelling!

I was in Barcelona from Wednesday until Friday night.

The trip didn't get off to a good start because I very nearly missed my flight. In fact, I should have missed it. The Tube took its sweet time in getting me to my stop. Then, it took me forever to get through security. My flight was scheduled to leave at 10:50am and I arrived at the gate at 10:48am. Luckily, the plane was delayed and I ended up not missing my flight. Clearly, this trip was meant to be.

I arrived in Girona airport two hours later, took a bus into Barcelona, and managed to find my hostel. I was staying two blocks away from Passeig de Gracia. I had a private room, and the staff was very friendly. Upon settling in, I walked around blindly looking for somewhere to eat. I ended up at some wine bar whose food was satisfactory. I didn't really do much that first day. I walked around Passeig de Gracia and took pictures of Gaudi's "bone homes." I tried to find these two bars that I had seen in a guide book, but I could not for the life of me find them. I was on the right street, but they seemingly didn't exist. Instead, I wandered around the city and found myself in a beer garden that was open until late. Two pints of beer and a split of wine later, I made way back to the hostel

I woke up early the next day in order to fit the most stuff in. My first stop was the top of Montjuic. I wasn't going to at first because it seemed so touristy, but then I remembered I was actually a tourist. The top if the mountain offered the most amazing views of Barcelona, as you can tell from my Facebook pictures. My plan was to take a cable car to the top and then walk down the mountain, and that's what I did.

At the top, and my first stop, was the military museum. Not terribly interesting, but, like I said, offered amazing views of the city. I then walked down the mountain, passing the various gardens, and made my way to the site of the 1992 Olympics. I saw the stadiums and all those wonderful tourist attractions. I continued down the Montjuic to the Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. I didn't go in because I could spend all day in an art museum and I didn't want to lose the day. Instead, I continued down and to El Poble Espanyol (The Spanish Village). It was built for the 1929 World Exhibition and is basically Spainland, a compilation of various Spanish villages in one place. There are plenty of restaurants and shops to wander in and out of, and lots of artisans are featured throughout the village; and you wander through alleys and tiny streets to find all these things. It was pretty neat, and I would recommend it as a sight to see.

After The Spanish Village, I left the Montjuic and went to the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter). Saw the Barcelona Cathedral and, following the advice of the hostel staff, purposely got lost. I went in and out of small streets, seeing lots of great architecture along the way.

From there, I took the Metro to the Parallelo Why? Mock me if you must, but I intended to see Spamalot..... in Spanish! It is the first time the show has been produced in a non-English speaking country, and fully translated too. I had seen the show before, but the curiosity over how British humor could be translated was too much to bear. Not only was I able to get a ticket, but I managed to get my hands on a center row seat near the front. And, let me tell you, the show was AMAZING! The cast must have had something to prove because each actor put on a glorious performance. Plus, I was so impressed by how well the show was interpreted and translated. In fact, some jokes/songs worked better in Spanish than their English counterparts. I debated seeing this show to begin with since I had not really liked the Boston production I saw, but this experience was like seeing the show for the first time. I completely forgot the show in Boston.

After the show I went to have dinner at some random restaurant and was treated to a second show. This time the performance was "Dance of the Drunken American Sluts." These 19-year old girls on their break came to Barcelona, drank themselves silly, picked up some sleazy-looking Spanish guy (who looked to be nearing 40!), and came to the restaurant where I was dining. The guy knew he'd be having sex with one (if not all) of the four stupid, drunk girls before the night was through And the girls' flirting and groping was not making him think otherwise. The girls also flirted with the waiters, which made their night. One of the girls randomly starts making out with some young guy sitting next to them. The whole scene was so ridiculous that other diners turned their chairs and blatantly watched the spectacle. It was truly dinner and a show. I left once the girls took the sleazy guy, a waiter, and the guy who got some action out to find some more fun; the show was over, what was the point of staying?

I was on my way home after my two shows, but decided to have one more drink at an Irish pub near my hostel. Needless to say, I pretty much passed out as soon as I got back to my room. I had done a lot of walking (and all the drinking I did didn't help).

For my last day in Barcelona I decided to swallow my pride (and principles) and rode on one of those "hop on-hop off" tour buses. I figured it would give me a whirlwind tour of the sights I had not yet seen. I had to put up with hordes of tourists, but I knew what I was getting myself into. I saw and went inside the yet-to-be completed Sagrada Familia. Explored Parc Guell, taking a picture sitting on the tile benches featured in L'Auberge Espanol. Saw Las Ramblas. And pretty much took a lot of pictures. I was a total tourist.

I also made one last stop before heading off to the bus station for my departure. It also happened to be the most memorable. If there was one thing I always heard (and pretty much knew) about the Spanish is that they don't take kindly to Mexicans. Something about thinking we're dumb, but, last I checked, we don't speak with an idiotic-sounding lisp. I spent three days in Spain and never experienced any discrimination whatsoever. That is, until I entered one last place before leaving Barcelona.

I stopped at a restaurant before heading out. I had this waiter who kept acting strangely with me, being sarcastic and pretty much not being serious in the least. I didn't think much of it at first, but then it became increasingly obvious that he was messing around with me. It was as though everything I said was a joke, like I only knew two words of Spanish and was attempting to have a deep philosophical conversation with him. Also, I think he expected me to prostrate myself before him in order for him to grace me with his presence; I was there a lot longer than I should have been. Eventually he asked me where I was from, with a smile so cynical as to put movie villains to shame. I knew what answer he expected, so I said the United States. When it came time to pay, I used my credit card. He took this as his opportunity to confirm his suspicions. "Oh, Roberto Hernandessssssssssss. I'm going to need to see your passport (note: I'm obviously translating)." I knew this was just a bullshit excuse to see where I was from because he was the first person to ask for my passport, let alone ID. I told him I could show him my license. He saw California on the card and gave a chuckle, as though to say "I knew he was a stupid Mexican."

I don't think I have ever experienced such blatant discrimination just for being what I was born. It really bothered me, and it still upsets me to think about it. It was just this one guy and I shouldn't let it ruin my Spanish experience, but it was just so surprising and uncomfortable. I should just put it behind me. After all, what is the use of dwelling on the actions of some 40-year old waiter who will still be a waiter 10 years from now?

Moving on...

I intended on going to Cherbourg, but decided to postpone that trip until later. I have a college friend studying abroad in Newcastle at the moment, so we ended up spending the day together. She'd never been to London before and wanted to check out some shows. Right up my alley. We watched "Chicago" (surprisingly disappointing) in the afternoon and "Spamalot" at night (pretty much on par with the Boston production, but far inferior to the Spanish production). Overall, it was a fun day and didn't regret not going to Cherbourg as originally planned.

So that was my mid-semester break. For better or worse, truly memorable.

I started my internship yesterday. I won't go into too much detail now because I'm pretty tired and need to get some sleep. I spent today and yesterday scheduling shows to review from next week until July. I didn't realize that this was an aspect of theatre criticism. I always thought an editor told you what to go see and that was it. Not so. Going through mountains of press releases and press invites, and then sorting them into workable schedules is exhausting and intensive work. Tomorrow I will be contacting all the press agents to ask them to save us tickets. I can tell you now, I am going to be a busy, busy boy.

That pretty much sums it up. I'll give a more in-depth summary of my first week of work later on.

Good night, and good luck.

- R

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