Bon Viatge!

Meg and Grant go to Barcelona & beyond

Misadventures

Our bravest and best lessons are not learned through success, but through misadventure.
― Amos Bronson Alcott

To date, I’ve chronicled mostly fun adventures and discoveries, along with everything that’s going on in my head & heart. You’re really in for a treat, today, reader, because I’m going to chronicle our misadventures to date. Pour yourself a glass of wine or iced tea, and get ready to laugh at with us.

  1. Arriving at the Barcelona airport at 1 AM, wandering the airport looking for the airport hotel, finally finding an information desk and asking for directions in Spanish – promptly leading us in the wrong direction because I didn’t really understand the directions – then finally giving in and sending Grant back for directions in English because I was too embarrassed to go back
  2. Walking into a restaurant and telling the waiter we are here to cocinar (to cook) instead of the correct word cenar (to eat dinner)
  3. Going to a Mexican restaurant, ordering tamales, and getting a dish that is clearly a quesadilla….eating it, still thinking this is a quesadilla but not feeling confident to point it out, because maybe we don’t know what quesadillas in a Mexican restaurant in Spain are supposed to look like (it was a quesadilla brought to the wrong table, but this just goes to show how you learn not to assume anything in a foreign country)
  4. Getting a ridiculous look from the doctor when trying to put the thermometer in Grant’s mouth – everyone here knows it’s more accurate temperature under the arm (turns out this is up for debate)
  5. Discovering the hard way that grocery stores and most restaurants aren’t open on Sundays (errr, let’s fast?)
  6. Buying the laundry detergent with a lamb on it because it’s cute and discovering our clothes still smell baaaaaaaad after using that
  7. Going into an electrodomestico (store that sells home electronic appliances), asking for a brita filter for water, being shown a tea infuser filter, figuring they don’t sell water purifiers, then seeing one in the front window as we walk out of the store
  8. Buying sheets and towels from the expensive department store with the help of a very attentive and friendly salesperson, discovering we overpaid, returning said sheets and towels specifically avoiding the salesperson who sold them to us, then the store clerk calling the salesperson to come do the returns (awwwwwkward)
  9. Being on time to a club meetup and being the first person there (yes, Spanish time is a real thing)
  10. Making microwavable popcorn out of the bag on the stove because the promised microwave has not yet arrived (and then burning the bottom of pan…whoops)
  11. Being told by the gas company that I would need to visit a store in person because they couldn’t understand me well enough on the phone
  12. Waiting all day for the internet provider guy to show up….only to have the power in the whole apartment building go out 20 minutes before he arrived (lucky him – he got to hang out at the bar on the job waiting for our power to come back on)
  13. Freaking out that we had to get to the immigration office within 30 days of our arrival only to be told when we got there that it’s ok, make an appointment and come sometime in the next 3 months
  14. Buying a 25 cent bottle of water at the grocery store on the St Jordi holiday and getting a complementary rose (pretty sure the rose cost more than the water)
  15. Insisting to take a photo in front of this cute sign the day we arrived when it was really crowded and we had to wait for the photo opp only to realize that it is really uncrowded during the week
  16. Taking the first shower in our new apartment and having 1) the hot water not work and 2) the showerhead break and water go everywhere (…reasons why you should make your spouse test everything in the place first….)
  17. Feeling disappointed that we are never going to get our passports stamped passing through EU countries (it’s like we were never in France)
  18. Finding ourselves humming twinkle, twinkle little star in the middle of the day subconsciously from the hours of hearing it from the street performer outside
  19. Shopping in the cereal aisle at the grocery store, realizing all your childhood dreams of candy cereal have come true because everything has chocolate in it – and then realizing you don’t really want that anymore (chocolate for breakfast?)
  20. Having the hard realization that we’re not really on vacation anymore so we should probably not eat gelato every night (just maybe every other night)
  21. Being left a Burger King coupon in our airbnb room, because A. we’re American, B. Americans eat Burger King, so A. therefore B. we want to eat Burger King
  22. Strava trying to take us on the freeway on our bikes (trust me, nothing can go wrong)
  23. Grant thinking that Gaudi’s work is too gaudy
  24. Me discovering that it’s totally normal and acceptable that at the end of every dance class, we give each other massages (I knew modern would be a good fit for me) and me being the most awkward person about it (why is that person moving my bra strap without talking to me?)
  25. Not having enough hands to carry our luggage so strapping on a huge rolling suitcase to the back of my backpack as a tail
  26. Not being able to spell my own name in Spanish because I’ve forgotten how to say the alphabet in Spanish – and Grant jumping in spelling it perfectly using his recent Spanish lesson knowledge (I felt like a cave woman pounding on chest…me…meg…grunt grunt)
  27. The painful realization that not all patatas bravas are delicious
  28. Sharing a double bed with your spouse after having had a queen bed (enough said)
  29. Realizing that locals are wearing scarfs in 77ºF weather (we are going to melt in summer)
  30. Making frito pie with 3D bugles because there are no fritos (one word: soggy)

I’m sure there are a million more little moments like these. There is nothing more humbling than discovering a new place, a new culture, and a new way of doing things. It heightens every experience – either it’s super disappointing to try to engage with the new culture and fail – or you make a connection, someone understands you, and you feel like you’ve won the lottery. Sometimes all you can do is laugh about it (or cry a little bit) and realize that you are a small part of the world with a small slice of experiences. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows calls this onism.

Not a day goes by that I don’t say something completely wrong in Spanish. I’ve enjoyed David Sedaris talking about his experiences learning French in Paris as an adult. I’ll leave you with this hilarious (and all too close-to-home) quote from his “Me Talk Pretty One Day”:

On my fifth trip to France I limited myself to the words and phrases that people actually use. From the dog owners I learned “Lie down,” “Shut up,” and “Who shit on this carpet?” The couple across the road taught me to ask questions correctly, and the grocer taught me to count. Things began to come together, and I went from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. “Is thems the thoughts of cows?” I’d ask the butcher, pointing to the calves’ brains displayed in the front window. “I want me some lamb chop with handles on ’em.”

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1 Comment

  1. Karl

    Great stories! I totally feel these as a newcomer to Europe myself. The water filter story is a great example of how, for everything we take for granted about the way things work, some of it is completely different and others are the same – but you aren’t sure which is which ahead of time. Happy travels from Berlin!

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