One of the first rules of overcoming jetlag is that you absolutely must acclimate to your destination time zone as quickly as possible. That is, you must immediately drop your bags and fearlessly merge into the oncoming day, even if that means experiencing your first cafe con leche on less than 2 hours´sleep. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially when you´ve broken the cardinal rule of overcoming jetlag -- no alcohol -- which is basically impossible to follow given the excessive 3 hour advance arrival window and the fact that Delta now serves free beer and wine on international flights. I arrive in Barcelona dehydrated and on an 8 hour sleep deficit, but feel excited and energized by what might be the most spectacular sunrise I've ever seen -- deep red and purple at first, then transforming into the full light spectrum, laid out horizonally like an enormous rainbow. The next two hours present a myriad of logistic and communication problems, along with the realization that nowhere are the limitations of my Spanish vocabulary ( just twenty or so words deep at this point) more apparant and overwhelming than when attempting to use a pay phone. I quickly regret the decision not to arrive with an operable cell phone in my pocket. Fortunately, Amanda's Spanish, which is exponentially greater than mine, is sufficient to get us out of the airport and on our way. As I walk out into the sunshine and take my first breath of cool mediterranean air, the mild tension in my shoulders evaporates.
The apartment manager Silvia is a cute girl in her twenties and she greets us on the sidewalk with a big smile. The lift is being repaired, and looking at the narrow, steep marble staircase, I'm suddenly faced with the consequences of 115 pounds of luggage. It’s a relief to find the apartment on the second floor, instead of the third as I had expected.
My apartment is laughably small, but it’s clean and pleasantly decorated with a newly renovated kitchen and bathroom. The only disappointment is the terrace, which faces the back of the adjacent building, about 10 meters away. My view is of the neighborhoods’ laundry, hanging about in every direction, with a tiny ceiling of blue sky high above, if I strain my neck at just the right angle to see it.
Silvia gives me get a quick tour of the place and I sign my lease. I don’t have cash to pay my first month’s rent because my checking account was frozen after the dozen or so failed attempts to use the airport payphone just an hour earlier. Sylvia is surprisingly understanding – she hands over the keys and tells me I can pay her on Monday. I think this is my first experience of the characteristically laid back Catalan culture. It’s refreshing to say the least.
After a three hour nap, the rest of the day unfolds as a foggy, meandering Saturday afternoon, marked by the first of so many firsts to come: café con leche, riding the metro and paella on La Ramblas -- mediocre even by my American standards, but elevated significantly by cold beer and people-watching on one of the most famous pedestrian streets in Europe. The exhilaration of it all is the perfect antidote for our jetlag. After dinner, we find our way across town to a small dance club/bar, where the presentation of our drivers’ licenses brings a confused chuckle to the doorman outside. Inside, the DJ plays an intoxicating mix of Spanish dance music, hip hop and a Greece movie soundtrack medley. It’s early Sunday morning when we arrive back at my apartment. I’m thoroughly exhausted, but happy. I think this trip is going to be even better than I expected.