Photo Credit: Glenn R Keller

The taxis in Barcelona are easy. I only had a weekend to explore and I made good use of them, alternating walking and hailing cabs. I walked from early morning to late at night in a sightseeing death march. I come from a family of walkers, having walked all over New York City growing up. And so it was natural that when I found myself with a new city to explore, I would cover it mostly on foot.

I spent some hours on the beach, absorbing the Mediterranean beach scene. (For a few hours my job was ‘beach’). Later, after cooling off, I took a cab over to the Sagrida Famila where I crawled, unguided, over every square inch that was open to me. There was something that felt significant about seeing a great cathedral taking shape, imaginings already carved in stone coexisting with imaginings yet to be imagined. I walked all the way back to the hotel, absorbing the city and its beautiful, unique architecture.

That evening, I met some German colleagues in the hotel lobby, and we decided to take the even longer walk to dinner. Never mind that none of us knew exactly where the restaurant was. As a bonus no one spoke the language. But we navigated there by figuring out the street map and dead reckoning. (It seemed to be a few blocks from the Cathedral and so we went from there, using it as our anchor point.)

This was a few years before smart phones became ubiquitous so don’t come at me with using GPS. And I have to say, knowing exactly how to get there would have ruined the adventure.

The streets were dark now, but lively, with the normal energy of this, the most vibrant of cities. We walked past the bullring, and marveled that this was the most foreign thing we had seen. On one dark street, me and one of the Germans were approached by a local and the three of us stood there, unable to communicate, until another of our Germans stepped forward with a cigarette. The young man smiled and accepted the cigarette and a light, thanked us and was on his way. Our German with the cigarette just smiled and said “sharing a cigarette is the most universal of languages.” We all agreed later that there was something that seemed auspicious about the encounter and left us feeling in touch with our temporary home and its people.

Finding our restaurant gave our threesome a sense of accomplishment and we high fived when we found it. The rest of our work team, already there, must have wondered about what we were so excited about. They had all taken cabs, handing the address of the restaurant to the driver.


© Glenn R. Keller 2023. All rights reserved.

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