So I’ve been home from Finland for a whopping 12 days… aaaand I’m thinking it’s seriously about time I flew across the Atlantic in a tin can again!
I am leaving for Barcelona on Saturday to go to an environmental health conference. Yes, that means I am taking FOUR transatlantic flights and crossing a total of 34 time zones in the span of little over a month. Yes, I am fully aware of the irony of an environmental health researcher spewing enough carbon into the atmosphere to personally increase the temperature of the planet by 0.0003 degrees. No, I didn’t realize when I was booking it that I will be traveling on the 10th anniversary of arguably the worst day in the history of air travel.* And yes, I am truly looking forward to coming home and doing nothing for a month, but no, I am not complaining.
And yes, I do frequently have conversations with rather bitchy and demanding imaginary friends.
Everyone I speak to ranks Barcelona as one of the the “best places they’ve ever been”** and those who haven’t been are dying to go. Until now, I had no idea of the world’s love affair with Barcelona, but since buying my Lonely Planet Barcelona guide I am beginning to see what the fuss is about. With its lovely home on the Mediterranean, unique architecture, and amazing food and wine, it does sound like a gem of a city. Even despite its complete disregard for anything resembling a biologically acceptable sleeping and eating schedule.
One tidbit I learned in my guide is that restaurants don’t even open for dinner until 8:30 or 9 pm. WHAT THE WHAT? Umm… if I had it my way, I would eat dinner at 5pm. Six at the latest. I guess that would be considered lunch over there. And clubs (not that I expect to be attending those) are apparently hopping from 2 am to 6 am. I can’t remember the last time I stayed up till 2 am. That’s when things are supposed to close. When do you people sleep?? At least the time zone change is already the equivalent of throwing my body clock out of a twenty story window and then driving a tank over it, so I imagine screwing up food and sleep schedules further won’t add any noticeable damage.
Speaking of a diet change, I also read that maintaining a vegetarian diet there can be challenging. Even when you request a salad without meat, it may appear with one of their favourite vegetables – pork. I have been eating vegetarian for a number of years now (due to the environmental impacts of meat production – though at least cows don’t take transatlantic flights) and in that time I have learned a few things, chief among them being that the rest of the world is not quite like the hippy-dippy West Coast. Apparently not everyone thinks vegetarianism is a perfectly normal dietary choice and yes, of course we have organic tofu grilled on local micro-greens to give you instead.
I learned this lesson really hard when I went to a conference in Mexico City. It was a bad trip all around, but the crowning glory was having to eat terribly unhealthily the whole time. It made a miserable trip nearly unbearable. Food matters and the lack of decent food can really start to beat you up inside, physically and emotionally.
Since that trip, I vowed that I will never again starve myself for the sake of strict vegetarianism. I don’t crave meat, nor will I specifically seek it out, but avoiding it all together in places where the alternative is highly unpleasant/non-existent is absolutely silly. Since that eye-opening realization I have eaten reindeer in Finland, Guinness beef stew in Ireland, and other meats here and there when it suited me. (Since I do consistently eat animal protein in the form of eggs and milk, meat doesn’t bother my stomach.) I plan to do the same in Barcelona and I’m really looking forward to sampling their apparently delicious food.
I will have two days to explore the city on my own before the conference starts. I am relatively used to traveling on my own, but it’s definitely not my favourite; I feel like I need to experience the sights and the sounds with someone else to make them real. But I am excited – how could I not be? I’m even willing to overlook my curse of doomed conference travel*** and go in hopeful that it will all go smoothly. And hey, if you’ve been there and have ideas for me, I would love to hear them!
All images from Barcelona Turisme.
* My flight departs on September 10th but arrives in Barcelona on the morning of September 11th. Yay.
** This despite the fact that apparently they’ve all also been robbed there – everyone and their dog has told me to be careful of petty theft.
*** There was this trip to Mexico City. Then there was the trip to Ireland where I felt a UTI start right as I arrived at the airport in Vancouver, meaning about 16 hours of sitting on planes with that fun and then half a day searching for a clinic to get my hands on precious, precious antibiotics.