Sweat is dripping off my body, many rivers of it streaming into the sand. I lie on the beach, enviously watching the bathers enjoying the refreshing saltwater only ten metres from my feet. Suspicious individuals troll the beach as if looking for an unattended bag they can skilfully make their own, and I am too fearful for my possessions to run and dive into that ever-tempting water to cool off. I am hyper-vigilant today, as. I had earlier witnessed a pickpocket taking cash out of an unsuspecting tourist’s wallet before dropping it on the ground and walking into a small courtyard where he high-fived two buskers.
Barcelona, like many European cities, has an outstanding Metro service, which is cool during these searing summer days when the mercury wants to jump right out of the thermometer. And I am definitely wishing I was in those cool air-conditioned tunnels, deep under the earth. But using the metro to get around the city I’d miss the sheer beauty and magnificence that every corner bestows and I wouldn’t be at the beach. And it is now, lying here on Barcelona’s Bogatell Beach that I realise that I had not had a conversation with anyone for several days, other than the basic hola and gracias at La Boqueria food market when I arrived.
Unable to resist the temptation of the beckoning Balearic Sea, I muster up all of my Spanish and approach the group of beach goers next to me. Impressed with their set up of a picnic blanket, tapas and wine, they seem like they would not make a quick dash with my belongings. Unsurprisingly, the group’s English is better than my Spanish. Happily they accept the task of minding my belongings and I weave my way through the maze of bodies to the sea. The moment the water rushes over my toes, the most amazing sensation sweeps through me. That little trickle is all the encouragement I need and I break into a jog, which turns into a run and then without any hesitation, a dive and I glide along the sea floor until my lungs cannot hold out any longer. Bursting into the hot summer air, I am refreshed.
After floating in the Balearic for what seemed like a lifetime, I wander back up to my spot and thank the guardians of my bag profusely. I nestle back into my well-worn patch of sand, close my eyes and listen to my surroundings, soaking up the sound of various Spanish dialects and imagine I am the only foreigner here. This is false as I notice a group of Australians further back up the sand. They are clearly identifiable by their rugby-league-style passing of a football and the one individual branded with a Southern Cross tattoo on his calf. Closing my eyes again, I listen to the Spanish and Catalan, trying to pick who was from where, until I doze off.
When I wake, I find that I am covered in crisscrossing rivers of sweat again, and am ferociously hungry. I entrust my belongings to the same group as earlier and have a quick dip, before heading back to the hostel to attempt cooking my own Spanish-inspired dish.
The streets are empty for most of the day, but now they are beginning to fill with even more beach goers. Clearly with my lone departure from the beach, I have not yet adjusted to a Latin lifestyle and am hours ahead in my daily schedule to the rest of the city. Barcelona, I am discovering, becomes alive at night with most of the population who aren’t already at the beach venturing out at about 6 pm to join all the other afternoon/evening bathers. This is followed by a late dinner and a drink or two well into the night.
I don’t mind being out of kilter with the inhabitants of this city though. With only a rare sighting of people in some neighbourhoods during the day, as I walk between the parks and attractions, I feel as if have the whole city to myself.