One Fun Night In Barcelona

By Monica Schrager

About a year ago I was debating where to go on vacation (since I feel the need to leave the country approximately every three months). Some of my friends and colleagues were heading to Bali and I thought that may be a nice place to visit, but then another option presented itself: Barc(th)elona. Some friends were heading there for a week and it intrigued me a bit more than Bali, so off we went—myself, Jay, and Jen (colleagues, friends, and siblings). We were all on separate flights since Jay bid on his ticket on, Jen had a ticket from one airline she had to use or lose, and I went for the cheapest option I could find. The second day I was there, the adventure truly began.

After Jay ditched me and Jen at El Cartes Ingles, the department store where we had told him we'd meet him and where we had spent over a half hour trying to find him, we headed to the Placa de Catalyuna past the ice-cream place where I'd gotten this great coconut and kiwi mix the day before, and back to the Oriente Hotel, where Jay had "logically" been waiting. (It was at that point we decided to keep better tabs on him for the rest of the trip.)

Plaza Reial After some grumbling, we put aside our differences and lounged for a bit, laughing as we re-read parts of David Sedaris's book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. Then, after a little siesta, we headed out for dinner and sangria at a nice restaurant in the Plaza Reial, where Jay was asked (no less than 20 times) if he wanted to buy me and Jen roses. (Cigarettes were also offered many times, but only to Jay—all by the same persistent people, who apparently just didn't get the idea.)

By the time we finished dinner it was 1:30 a.m. (although it certainly didn't feel like it), and we thought we'd head off to view L'arc de Triomphe and then maybe go to a bar, but first we needed pesetas ($). After a few attempts to enter 24-hour cash stations that were not being true to their name, we happened upon one that was operating and had a security camera, which we played with a bit.

On we went, and at the next corner we met some Austrians, David and Klemens. (David reminded me of a certain tall, lanky, glasses-wearing swaggerer I know.) They were looking for a bar, and it didn't take much for us to put aside our L'arc de Triomphe adventure in favor of joining them. Jay led the way to a few places he'd checked out the evening before alone after Jen and I had passed out early.

We headed out to the "Yellow Bar" (Jay couldn't remember the name but described it as "all yellow"). Alas, it was closed, but the Clansman, a Scottish pub down the street, was not.

At the pub we drank and talked, and somehow I ended up downwind of David's cigarette smoke, which ultimately forced me to move to the other side of the table. Turns out these guys were from Salzburg, two years into their five years of study. David was off to study psychology in Vienna, one of my favorite cities (last time I was there I visited Freud's home and office, but unfortunately the famed couch was out on tour). Klemens was continuing his study of computers in Salzburg. They had only been in Barcelona a couple days, and they were renting a car the following day to travel up the northern coast. They'd been somewhere to the south over the Easter holiday.

Klemens asked Jay if he'd seen "Leaving Las Vegas," because he thought Jay resembled Nicholas Cage in that film. This was apparently not the first time Jay had been told this, although I really couldn't make the connection. At the Clansman the boys were all accosted for two last roses, which they bought and ended up giving to Jen and me. Afterwards we realized we'd miscalculated the exchange rate and ended up paying approximately $0.50 for the two roses. Although due to David's cigarette smoke, I couldn't smell a thing.

When the Clansman closed we headed out again to another place Jay had visited alone the evening before, and on our way we met some Californians, Jack and Meryl and Nancy. Jack and Meryl were professional water-polo players attempting to get into the circuit in Barcelona. I found out the next day that they were going to be in the 2004 Olympics. They'd met Nancy on La Rambla earlier that day. Nancy was an international sales manager who'd quit her job in the U.S. and was seeking employment in Barcelona. She was staying with a friend of a friend, and she was quite proud to tell Jen and me that she was Panamanian and that she had an interview at a lollipop company the following Wednesday (later we concluded it must be Chupa Chups).

So on we went, the Austrians, the Californians, and Jen and me, being lead by Jay yet again. Back at the Plaza Reial, we ended up at the club Jamboree, and a few thousand pesetas later we were drinking and dancing to hip-hop downstairs and some undefined, badly mixed pop music upstairs. Upstairs Jen and Meryl started having a good time on the dance floor. Meryl tried to get me involved in a little "Meryl sandwich" which I declined, attempting to explain my notion of "dance space." He didn't get it and made fun of it throughout the night. Most of the time I hung out downstairs with Jay and the Austrians, who were pretty cool guys. We made some requests to the DJ, which were acknowledged but never played. Meanwhile, Nancy and Jack, who was sporting quite a loud black-and-white floral pattern, chatted it up at the bar. It got later, and our Austrian friends got tired. We exchanged room numbers and email addresses, and Jen and Jay and I headed out (our hotel, the Oriente, happened to be just across La Rambla).

As we exited, we passed a couple of people and Jay casually asked them where they were coming from. They said Karma, which Jay swore he'd found in the square the night before. So we crossed the square to check and Karma was there, but it was closed. However, in front of Karma we met two French men, Francois and Alain, who were also looking for someplace that was open.

The five of us began walking the outskirts of the square and heard music and voices coming from what appeared to be a second-floor apartment. We walked up to the door and saw a sign that said "Pipa Club." We rang the bell and were informed it was closed. But we were persistent. Someone came up with the brilliant idea of ringing again and having one of us girls say we knew "Carlos." The rest is a bit of a blur, but apparently we got through the door (I believe someone was leaving) only to meet Manni, the owner of the Pipa Club, on the stairs. He didn't want to let us in, but after he and our French friends exchanged words in Spanish, we were in. Later I found out that one of the French men had passed Manni 500 pesetas (the equivalent of about $3) to get us into the club.

The Pipa Club was a converted apartment with high ceilings. Each room had a different feel to it. In the back room we met Theresa from New York and Greg from Kent, UK. (I really wanted to call Greg "Will," because I swore that when I initially met him back by the bathrooms he'd said his name was Will.) We also met a couple of Irishmen, both soon to be lawyers, one who had grown up in the U.S. And we met an annoying Spaniard who kept calling us loud Americans and making hand motions that resembled a duck's beak quacking. I found this rather ironic since I'd thought that most of the Americans I ran into overseas tended to be rather loud, and here I was being accused of the same (though, of course, I was a bit drunk, so it was entirely feasible that I was louder than normal). However, the Spaniard did inform us that Jen was not being loud, just myself and Jay.

Theresa was cool, a grad student. She had to catch a flight home to the New York at 10 a.m. the next morning. Greg was fun, an interior decorator, though he was not gay (Jen had asked and apparently it wasn't the first time he'd been asked that). In line for the bathroom, I also ran into a couple of young American girls leaving the next day for Ibiza, the Mediterranean island where the best European DJs go in the summer—also known for its wide availability and usage of the party drug "X".

La Rambla At about 6:30 a.m. we got the boot from the Pipa Club and mingled at the entrance to the Plaza Reial on La Rambla (coincidentally steps from the door to the Oriente). As the sky grew bright, we said our farewells and promised to keep in touch. Jay and I finally took off, leaving Jen to flirt a bit with our newfound friends.

I never did keep in touch with anyone. I guess I thought (and still do) that it's more special by me freezing it in my mind and remembering it as it happened. Jen still talks to Greg every so often, and she tells me about his odd emails and latest jaunts around the world.

The rest of our trip was wonderful—Barcelona is a beautiful town. But after that night I was too worn out to stay out very late for the rest of the nights we were there. And as much fun as we had the rest of the trip, that one night was the most memorable for me. I can't recall a time past or since when I've randomly met such different, interesting, and entertaining people, and just had such a great time.

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Copyrightę2002 by Monica Schrager.

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