2 20-Somethings in Barcelona

Walking the grassy cart track to change trains between France and Spain, I saw a woman my age. We neared a whitewashed sentinel hut; border control. Two soldiers stood outside and a wooden barrier arm blocked our way. The passengers made a queue as the uniformed men checked and stamped passports. We stood 50 meters away due to the hundred person line and waited. The woman and I made careful introductions in Spanish, then laughed to discover we were both from the United States with English as our first language. We conversed in inglés from that point on.

I noticed she was petite, with long brown hair and one medium-sized backpack for her belongings. She saw I was tallish with short hair, had a suitcase, shoulder bag and a small backpack. I complimented her on packing light. Rachel said, “You’re not doing too bad.”

“That’s because you don’t see the four bags I shipped ahead by train,” I said.

“Really, Rebecca?”

I nodded.

“Okay, not so good then.” We moved forward.

“Nope, I should learn from you, Rachel.”

“You should.” We neared the hut.

Truthful. That seemed a good quality for a traveling companion.

The border guards stamped our blue passports without any questions. Once they finished we set foot on Spanish soil. “¡España!” I shouted and she giggled.

“Rachel, do you know why we walked through passport control here, not in Barcelona?”

“Actually, I do. Our train couldn’t go any further.”


She said, “Spanish trains and those in the rest of Europe have different track widths. Some say Franco did it on purpose to avoid invasion. But I don’t believe it… Say, with all that baggage, how long will you be in Spain?

“Four months.”

“I’m here for a week, then to Italy. I’m in Europe a month,” Rachel said.

“And all you need’s in one bag,” I said enviously.

“That’s right.”

Once we boarded the Spanish train in Portbou and sat down, I asked Rachel if she wanted to room together in a Barcelona pension to save money.

“Okay. I’ll be here a couple of days. Any place in mind?”

“I have this Sleep Cheap Guide to Europe.”

“Great, what’s it recommend?”

We narrowed it down by price and location. When we arrived at the Barcelona station, I asked the attendants about my bags and received a printed handout that gave the address of the luggage depot. I wanted to go directly there, but Rachel wisely counseled to find lodging first. The first pensión was full, and the second… Where would we stay? My AAA Travel Guide to Europe said Barcelona is a dangerous port town and women should be inside before dark. I asked Rachel, “Was that advice just for young women, or for everyone?”

She shrugged. “We’ll see.”


Rebecca’s 1st Passport Photo: Minneapolis Photo Store

Welcome/Bienvenid@s to my Spain memoir. These stories describe the person I was and the person I became during my autumn semester in Toledo as a junior in college. I’m making big revisions to the chapters and will post my edited work here weekly! How Gaudí is Barcelona, next Tuesday. Constructive comments welcome. Is there enough description to balance out the dialogue? Gracias.

¡Olé! –Rebecca

“Rachel” in Barcelona Photo: R. Cuningham

2 veinte-algos en Barcelona

Caminando por el camino verde con pasto para cambiar trenes entre Francia y España, vi una señorita de mi edad. Acercamos a una choza encalada, control de frontera. Dos soldados en pie y una barrera de madera nos impidieron el paso. Los pasajeros hicieron una fila para revisar los documentos y estampar los pasaportes. Quedamos esperando a 50 metros por una fila de cien personas. La señorita y yo nos presentamos cuidadosamente en español, entonces nos reímos al descubrir que las dos eran de los Estados Unidos, con inglés como primer idioma. Nos presentamos in English después de este punto.

Vi que ella era de baja estatura con cabello castaño, y llevó solo una mochila mediana para sus perteneces. Ella vio que yo era alta con el pelo corto, llevaba una maleta, un bolso grande y una mochila pequeña. La hice un cumplido por empacar bien ligera. Ella quería ser positiva, “No estás tan mal.”

“Dices eso porque no ves las cuatro maletas que mandé por adelante en el tren.

“¿De verdad, Rebecca?”

Asenté con la cabeza.

“Caramba, no tan bueno, entonces.” Caminamos para adelante.

“Verdad, debo aprender tus métodos, Rachel.”

“No cabe duda.” Casi estuvimos en frente de la choza.

Alguien que diga la verdad. Parece una característica buena para compañera de viaje.

Los guardias de la frontera estamparon nuestros pasaportes azules sin preguntarnos mucho. Cuando terminaron, pisamos en tierra española por la primera vez. “¡España!” grité y ella se rio.

“Una consulta Rachel. ¿Sabes por qué pasamos por el control de pasaporte aquí, y no en Barcelona?

“De hecho, si sé. Nuestro tren no podía ir más adelante.”

“¿Qué cosa?

Ella me dijo, “Los trenes españoles tienen carriles de medida distinta a los de Europa. Algunos dicen que Franco lo hizo de propósito para evitar la invasión. Pero, no lo creo yo… Mira, con tantas maletas, ¿cuanto tiempo piensas quedarte en España.”

“Estaré aquí cuatro meses.”

“Estoy aquí una semana, entonces voy a Italia. Estaré en Europa un mes,” me dijo Rachel.

“Y tienes todo los necesario en un pedazo de equipaje”, la dije con envidia.

“Eso es.”

Subimos el tren español en Portbou y no sentamos. La pregunté a Rachel si quería compartir un dormitorio de pensión para ahorrar dinero.

“Bueno, estaré aquí un par de días. ¿Tienes un lugar en mente?

No, pero tengo la guía de dormir barato en Europa (Sleep Cheap Guide to Europe).

“Perfecto. ¿Qué nos cuenta?

Las dos buscamos lugares con precios baratos cerca del centro. Cuando llegamos a la estación de tren de Barcelona, los pregunté a los empleados sobre mi equipaje y recibí una hoja con la dirección del depot de maletas. Quería proceder directamente allí, pero Liz me aconsejó con sabiduría de encontrar el alojamiento primero. La primera pensión no tenía vacancia, la segunda tampoco… ¿Dónde nos quedaríamos? Mi guía AAA de Viajes en Europa dijo que Barcelona es un puerto peligroso y las damas no deben estar en las calles después del anochecer. La pregunté a Rachel, ¿Era un consejo sólo para señoritas, o para todo el mundo?

Ella se encogió de hombros.Veremos.


Bienvenid@s a mi historia de memorias de España. Estas historias cuentan que era y quien llegué a ser durante el semestre en Toledo el tercer año de la universidad. Estoy trabjando en revisiones profundas a los capítulos y pondré mis esfuerzos aquí semanalmente. Próxima parte el martes que viene, se llama: Gaudí en Barcelona. Comentarios constructivos están bienvenidos. ¿Hay la descripción suficiente para hacer equilibrio con el diálago? Gracias.

¡Olé! –Rebecca

Rebecca Cuningham

37 thoughts on “2 20-Somethings in Barcelona

  1. This is a bit different from what I’ve seen on your blog so far, but I’m enjoying it! I love travel stories, and this one is certainly a throwback for you. Oh, what it must’ve felt like to be young and spontaneous with trips…I look forward to reading more!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The feeling of traveling for the first time – the unsureness, giddiness, excitement – is unforgettable, and this post really captured that feeling 🙂
    Looking forward to reading about your transformative semester in Toledo!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, how I enjoyed this, reviving as it did memories of our own trips when we lived in France and visited our daughter in Barcelona. And it IS good, and well written. You asked for honesty, so here you are. Yes, I read willingly, was involved and interested: but for me the dialogue was a little too inclusive of every word you exchanged. And was the scenery, and the whole experience different from your expectations? I imagine you tell us elsewhere. But if extracts from your memoir are what we can look forward to every Tuesday for a while Rebecca, I’m in!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Delightful story. We traveled Spain when I was pregnant with my first child. My husband said we don’t need reservations. Ha! It was Holy Week! Fortunately, I had a wee bit of Spanish and a man watching a parade found us a humble room in a pensión. I would have accepted a stable.

    Liked by 1 person

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