Nori let us in to her boss’ apartment on the ground floor. This is lucky because I’ve packed 30kgs of clothing for our eurotrip. No backpack in sight. Our home for the next six days is a owner-described ‘New York-style warehouse loft’. It is big, and the owner has sublime taste. The master bedroom is bigger than most New York-style apartments. The 12 person dining table and industrial sized kitchen are perfect for the 3 days of work meetings my boyfriend will hold here.
The ‘Loft’s’ long white floorboards are fragile like matchsticks, and announce your arrival wherever you go. “I can hear you coming a mile away,” says Phillip.
“That’s good,” I say, “gives you something to look forward to.” A large family of rugs and well-tended-to plants make the vast space cosy. “I hope you like it,” Nori says.
“I would’ve preferred something bigger,” I say. It is a weak joke and she smiles and nods, handing me two sets of keys. As she turns to leave, I think of the last time I was in Barcelona.
Five years ago. It was one of the stops I took with my ten pass eurail ticket. I’d gone as far east as Turkey and we were making our way to Portugal. I was with three other girls. We guessed the must-sees of Barcelona were its nightlife, beach, and Gaudi’s architecture. In that order, although we wouldn’t admit it to ourselves then.
Throughout Europe we’d stayed in youth hostels. You didn’t have to book them in advance, and we’d grown accustomed to meeting boys, and doing shots, in hostel bars. This one, in Passeig de Gracia, was particularly expensive. Not that thirty-eight euro went very far. The distracted receptionist showed us to our room and rattled off instructions and rules quickly, and in heavily accented Spanish, that none of us could understand. On the threshold of the dorm room, she scurried away.
It was a circular and airless room. A pale, hairy, ass, leered at us from the top bunk closest to the door. The scent of yesterday’s beer and sex, seasoned with body odor, seeped into us. Before noon, and it was already thirty-eight degrees. I remember that, even though we giggled quietly, bare bum woke up, grunted, and pulled a sheet over himself. Later, at Parc Guell, we’d ruminate on how disgusting it was, to have gotten used to the smell in our room so quickly. “Have our standards really sunk so low?” I’d ask, sitting on a bench, handing out the bread rolls I’d nicked from the breakfast buffet that morning. We were only twenty-two, and still looked beautiful despite the heat and not having showered in a few days. Our legs were lean and tanned beneath stained denim shorts. We weren’t totally oblivious to the power of four female twenty-somethings on tour, either.
“This is a palace!” I say to Phillip, after the muted click of the door signals that we are alone. “Let’s never stay in a hotel again. Honestly. This house is a revelation. What has any hotel got on this?” He laughs, and lets me have my rant. He likes how excited I can get.
“Never stop, please, you’re adorable when you get like that.”
“Like what?” I ask. But I know. Being excited shows I don’t take anything for granted.
Lounging on the grand sofas, drinking the bottle of cava left for us by the host, I say to Phillip, “I have a confession to make,” and he says, “OK, should I be worried?”
And I say, “No, it’s just about Barcelona. It’s about the truth about Barcelona.”
He says, “that sounds very juicy, like the Hangover II or something.”
And I say, “you know what’s funny? You’re not far off.”
“Off you go then,” he says.
“Well you know how I said I’ve been here before? I have. But the thing is, I didn’t do any sightseeing. No museums, galleries, nothing. I ate at the Mcdonalds across the road from the hostel two days in a row because I stayed out until 7am every night. In fact, my whole visit here is a big blur. We drunk pre-made Sangria from 2L bottles, and the only night we did something other than go to the nightclub Razzamatazz, we went and saw a drum’n’bass DJ. My drink got spiked, and I partied in the corner on the couch anyway. So I don’t really know Barcelona at all. I know Barcelona as a CHAV on a stag do knows Barcelona.”
“Well, was it fun?” he asks.
“At the time,” I say.
“Good. I’ll be glad to show you the city for the discerning late twenties debutante, now that you’re all grown up” he says.