The others in the sleeping car gather their luggage
and head out the door to our quarters as feet hit the floor.
Breath is caught by surprise as the large boss-man from last night
bangs on the window and shouts commands in Spanish.
Apparently, the train was about to continue to its destino proximo.
A scowl out the window, sling the pack and turn to meet the guys.
Breakfast sounds good as we deliberate
and end up at the “Café Café” in the Barcelona train station.
Unable to fill our request for the train station steak with egg glopped atop,
we settle for another bocadillo.
Getting to know one another, we consider Barcelona for a few nights
before continuing on to Marseilles, France.
We intended searching out the port to catch a ship
though the Balearic portion of the Mediterranean Sea
to the city of Civitavecchia, just north of Rome.
The next table over, a young Arabic man points directly at us
and smiles large repeating, “Bin Laden! Bin Laden!”
Confused silence from our table until he offers us cervezas,
and we understand his edgy beard reference to make yet another a new friend, Aziz.
In his early twenties, Aziz is Moroccan and speaks Arabic,
quite a bit of Spanish, and a little French,
but no English, other than the impersonation,
“Hello. You are fine?”
Translating jokes for Jude and in return to Aziz,
we are soon convinced to accompany our newest addition’s invitation
to his father’s bar in nearby Reus.
Hopping from train to metro and back again,
Aziz runs an errand while we relax in the cool underground.
Off the train in Reus, many people know Aziz
as a strange carnival complete with masks
and alternate universe versions of American cartoons
warp into vomit inducing carnival “ferria” rides.
Wading through the crowds, Aziz leads us to the Gaudi Hotel.
Beautiful stone mosaic and a snotty desk clerk.
“Completa!” (full!) is the word of the evening
as the clerk insults Aziz’ linguistic abilities
and shoots a nasty glance at our motley gang.
Apparently, the Gaudi is the only hotel in this offshoot area.
Later, he said, he will find us a room.
Hiking onward, into an open square and an unmarked door
which led to 30 tables full of Arabic men boisterously slamming plastic game pieces
in a never-ending backgammon type competition.
Aziz darts behind the counter to a mature man wearing an army green button up.
Welcoming smiles are offered in our direction.
A private section behind the action, we rest our personal effects.
A male server requests our drink order.
“Tres cervezas por favor,” I reply.
A confused smile and denial.
We are informed that alcohol is not an option.
Attention paid shortly after to the details of the Muslim establishment
reveal this should have been no surprise.
Water and soda it is!
For dinner: a fish, some “meat”?, and a conejo.
Beautiful Moroccan spices!
Unsure of what the chicken-like conejo was exactly,
Aziz attempts to mime for us the characteristics of the animal food source.
His message remained unclear until later research revealed:
“Rabbit”. Very tasty rabbit.
Outside, the workers smile and greet us as they clean up for the night.
Aziz informs us of his need for sleep (we met him on the tail end of a two day party)
and directed his friend to drive us to a hotel on the coast inSalou.
Muchas gracias, smiles, and hugs from Aziz’ father and friends.
Exchange of telephone numbers, and into the night in a sleek black car.
Quite a distance traveled,
we are dumped into a wonderland very different from where we came.
Hotels, restaurants, and bars all touting an experience like home.
Flying the Union Jack, Irish, Dutch, and German are represented…
not a single Spanish flag anywhere.
Hotel after motel, we are turned down for a room.
Soon wise to the situation, I am sent in alone:
speaking English only, clear American accent carrying, not wearing my bag.
This tactic works and immediately we are granted asylum from the tourist ghetto hoards.
Unfortunately, the price was too steep for the 2:30 am check-in time.
With some persuasion, the fellow at the desk spilled the whereabouts
of a more cost-effective establishment.
After being turned around, the directions come to fruition.
The Hotel Niza lobby is dark and the door locked,
but the clerk awakens from his slumber
to check us into a suitable room for a suitable price.
After ditching our packs in the room,
we venture out for a bit to find food and/or drink.
Neither are available at this hour of 3:30 am.
Weaving back to our beds, we encounter strange characteristic groups of people
from British “hens” dressed as bunnies
to an irate IRA member who had just been mugged.
This was certainly more than we’d bargained for.