Drink, Grovel, Fuck: Choose Your Own Barcelona

Editor’s Note: This week’s edition of Drink, Grovel, Fuck arrives in the form of a Choose Your Own Adventure tale, due to the atemporality of the Barcelona experience. Choose wisely among the available story paths; you might experience a lovely restorative jaunt, or find yourself plunged into a fate worse than death!

I. Disembarkation

After a harrowing and life-degrading stay in Paris, you take an overnight train to Barcelona. You arrive underslept, dispirited, and dreading the trek to your AirBnB accommodations. You discover, however, that they are only a ten-minute walk away — the first of many pleasant surprises. The sky is crisp and clear and the weather a perfect high-70s, balmy but cut with sea breeze. The city is sheltered by green mountains and projects an instant aura of rest and protection. You enter La Barceloneta, down a boardwalk hosting a seemingly permanent carnival, Ferris wheel like a centrifugal smile, and turn into the innards of the neighborhood. Your harried German host ushers you into the apartment and disappears with pleasing alacrity. The place is a flophouse dump but you don’t care. You have a whole day ahead of you. After a two-hour nap.

II. Daytime Activities:

You wake up refreshed and put on your linen pants. A map tacked to the wall displays notable attractions in Barcelona:

-Montjuic

-Barcelona Zoo

-Barcelona Aquarium

-Just Walk Around

-Leave Barcelona (minimum three days)

Montjuic:

A spur to the West, known as Magic Mountain, awaits. You set off on foot through the maritime district and up a series of sleepy switchbacking streets until you encounter a sign pointing toward all points of interest.

-Greek Theater

-Botanic Garden

-National Gallery

-Spanish Village

Greek Theater:

An ancient Greek theater is carved into the hillside, pleasantly haunted by monolithic history and the cheerful shouts of children capering about the orchestra and theatron. Stairs lead you farther up the mountain into a lush garden terrace dusted with peace, dotted with weather-worn statues and dozing Spaniards. You select a bench to lay down on and drift off to sleep, unworried about the valuables in your pockets even though you were robbed by a gang and pickpocketed in Paris.

You yawn awake sometime later in a haze of gold light diffracted through leaves, unmolested. Next you:

-go to the Botanic Garden

-go to the National Gallery

-go to the Spanish Village

-go home

Botanic Garden:

Capping the apex of Montjuic is the Botanic Garden of Barcelona. Flowers and whatever sound boring, but admission is free so you give it a shot. You are treated to a supernaturally beautiful hike through trees and plants from every place on the planet, facilitated by Barcelona’s beautiful weather. Every branch of the path brings a new bouquet of exotic smells that remind you of childhood adventures you never had. At the very top of the garden you look out at an unlimited vista of the city and the sea and think that maybe you’ll be able to forgive yourself.

Botanic Garden

You survey the landscape and decide to:

-go to the Greek Theater

-go to the National Gallery

-go to the Spanish Village

-go home

National Gallery:

Art galleries feel like homework, but you’ve never been able to shirk assignments. You approach the castley structure through the abandoned Olympic Village and maneuver through the crowd outside to find that the museum is closed bizarrely early. But people are hanging out anyway because it’s just nice to be around. Against your own expectations you purchase a tasteless postcard for M. from a souvenir kiosk and think that perhaps after all you’re a man of your word.

You savor a beer at a nearby drink stand and decide to:

-go to the Botanic Garden

-go to the Greek Theater

-go to the Spanish Village

-go home

Spanish Village:

You have no idea what this is supposed to be, but you pay the moderate entrance fee to find out. It turns out to be a combination mall, art fair, and museum grafted onto a reconstruction of a medieval Spanish village. It’s tacky as hell but you somehow don’t mind. Even the tourist traps in Barcelona are ineffably charming and you’re happy to pour cash into the city’s echoey coffers.

SpanishVillage

Historical thirst slaked, you decide to head:

-to the Botanic Garden

-to the National Gallery

-to the Greek Theater

-home

Barcelona Zoo:

You love a good menagerie, and as it turns out your apartment is only a fifteen-minute walk away from the Barcelona Zoo, through a delightful park featuring an Atlantean fountain and scores of public ping-pong tables. You pay the surprisingly reasonable entrance fee and consult your complimentary map.

-Great Apes

-Dolphin Show

-the Rest of the Animals

Great Apes:

Most zoos only host one or two great ape species given the difficulty and expense of upkeep, but Barcelona has all three. Including two separate gorilla families, and siamangs to boot. You spend an hour staring at their compromised vitality and humbled intelligence. The look on an orangutan’s face while a drunk Russian tourist pounds on the glass is heart-breaking.

Bearer of indignity
Bearer of indignity

Having drawn off the essence of your hirsute genetic cousins, you turn your attention to:

-the Dolphin Show

-the Rest of the Animals

-going home

Dolphin Show:

You find the concept of marine mammal trick pageants tawdry, but what the hell, it’s part of the price of admission. You are overwhelmed by the talent of the dolphins and their bond with their trainer. They exhibit more mutual trust than you possess with any of your relationships. You clap wildly, earnestly, certain that the dolphins know what this means.

You wipe the spray off your brow and

-view the Great Apes

-check out the Rest of the Animals

-head home

All the Rest of the Animals:

Regular hippos, pygmy hippos, apex anteaters, Komodo dragons, giant anacondas, pterodactyl condors, flying foxes, African elephants, etc., all housed in tasteful, spacious, naturalistic enclosures that afford the more sensitive animals a measure of privacy. This zoo is world class, the best you’ve ever seen. Clearly this is where Spain is putting all its money. You never want to leave.

-Check out the Great Apes

-Take in a Dolphin Show

-The zoo is closing. You have to leave.

Aquarium:

You don’t love aquariums, and in fact find sea life Mephistophelean, but Barcelona is a port city and should probably host a world-class operation, which is anyway only a ten-minute trek from the apartment. You walk to the end of a wide-gauge pier and pay the surprisingly expensive entrance fee. The facility is reminiscent in content and scope of the lobby of an upscale doctor’s office. Moray eels are thrown about willy-nilly. The advertised highlight is a plexiglas tunnel through a shark tank, on a moving walkway. You hate yourself a little bit for taking the same Jaws III picture as the other tourists.

Jaws IV

-That was lame. Go home, take a nap, and figure out something else to do.

Just Walk Around:

Who says you have to do anything in particular? After the three-week self-isolating drip-torture of Paris, why not just stroll about in the fine weather and see what there is to see?

-Beach

-Central

-Las Ramblas

-Gothic Quarter

Beach:

This is your first taste of the Mediterranean. You walk the beach-length of the city, and every wind gust and wave lap feels as if it carries away a particle of the corruption you accumulated in Paris. There are naked old men strolling around, but this seems like a place where it’s okay to be naked (although you sleep with your socks on and would never consider it). You stop at sunset at the last cabana before city limits, eat a plate of fresh sardines, and finally finish the hateful book of Marx that dogged you through France. You leave it on the table as a tip.

beach

-Amble through Central Barcelona

-Walk up Las Ramblas

-Explore the Gothic Quarter

-Cool your heels back at the apartment

Central:

You decide to walk through the main thoroughfares of the city. Streets are lively, dwarf palms project a plucky atmosphere, and babies smile and wave at you. Barcelona is strewn with funky, asymmetric pieces architecture that feel like jolly winks; this place isn’t taking itself too seriously. Every half-mile you able through a park that looks like a paradisaical set from Star Trek: The Original Series. Cars stop for you preemptively. Despite Spain’s 50% youth unemployment, there is nothing sketchy anywhere, no panhandlers, and everyone’s in a good mood. You think that this is a city where you could actually live, which you’ve never felt about anywhere besides New York; maybe the world isn’t an ash heap of foregone conclusions.

StarTrek

-Stroll down the beach

-Walk up Las Ramblas

-Explore the Gothic Quarter

-Cool your heels back at the apartment

Las Ramblas:

You’ve heard this street described as the Times Square of Barcelona, and brace yourself for a gaudy assault. But actually it’s not that bad, just a lot of mediocre-looking restaurants and street vendors selling rubber chickens and slingshot helicopter toys. If this is the worst this city gets, you’re golden!

-Stroll down the beach

-Amble through Central Barcelona

-Explore the Gothic Quarter

-Cool your heels back at the apartment

Gothic Quarter:

Clustered around the famous Cathedral is an enchanting warren of narrow medieval streets bustling with trade both local and touristic. Falling-down sections of ancient fortifications mark the wheel-spoke intersections, and light bounces down the shoulder-width alleys darkened and dusted by a tactile sense of living history. You circle and circle, unable to create a sense of redundancy, unconcerned about the opportunity cost of repeated experience.

Gothic Quarter

-Stroll down the beach

-Amble through Central Barcelona

-Walk up Las Ramblas

-Cool your heels back at the apartment

III. Night Activities

You return to your room after the day’s activities full of warm aches, like after a fulfilling hike, completely different than the death-march soreness you dragged home after days out in Paris. You settle down with a pint of Jack Daniels and a liter of Coke Light to watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a show you’ve avoided for years because everyone you know likes it and you don’t want to have another alienating opinion. But it’s actually pretty good! You’re actually laughing!

Near midnight the neighborhood explodes with fireworks and drum beats. You poke your head out the window and see cascades of sparks erupting from a nearby square.

-Investigate the phenomena

-Ignore it

Investigate:

Though you’re tired and decently drunk, the mysterious spectacle is too much to resist. You head to the thronged square and watch an elaborate handheld firework routine, people in masks dancing rites and juggling active pinwheels and roman candles, spraying embers into the raucous crowd. You drink several beers from a concession stand and ask around as to what’s going on. No one knows or they don’t speak English. Barcelona doesn’t give a shit! It parties if it wants to!

Mysterious rites
Mysterious rites

The drumline suddenly aligns in the street and marches out of the square, followed by the costumed fireworks coterie, which lights up new incendiary devices and dances away to the beat. The crowd plunges after.

-Follow parade

-Go back

Follow Parade:

You’re in this deep, you might as well join the parade! You bump along with the crowd, shambling to the beat of drums, drunk and happy to be in the middle of something. After many twists and turns, the drumline crescendos as the dancers launch a final fusillade of fireworks. The crowd cheers and starts filtering away toward other sources of fete.

Parade

You notice a group of Spanish women laughing among themselves nearby. You ask them what that whole fireworks parade was all about. They have no idea. They’ve been drinking since three. They hear your name as ‘Paco’ and invite you along to a bar.

-Take an Adderall and rally

-Fuck it, you’re tired, go back

Take Adderall, try to get something going:

You bounce along with the group, which ranges from pretty to not, fingering the pill in your pocket, and start going into your travel journalist routine. You and the ellas cross paths with and merge into another fireworks parade. You remember what happened the last time you drank and took Adderall. You think of M. As the parade squeezes through an archway, you hang back, let the Spanish women bob away. Mistakes can be learned from! You walk in the opposite direction, drums and explosions like a slow fade out in a movie. You have no idea where you are but land directly in front of your apartment in ten minutes, guided by the merciful spirit of Barcelona.

-Go upstairs

Keep drinking, go to bed:

You resume IASIP, tickled meaningfully by the festival atmosphere of the city and eventually pass out, caressed by the sea breeze.

-Wake up the next day

IV. Leave Barcelona:

You’ve had your fun and now it’s time to pack up, discreetly dispose of liquor bottles, and head to the train station. You feel optimistic and reengergized, ready to tackle the rest of the continent. Barcelona was truly a siesta of the soul.

The cab driver takes you not to the station, but to a sinister carnival. You step through a fun-house mirror into a hell dimension, are eaten by a cannibal clown, perforated by throwing knives on a spinning wheel, strangled by a possessed ventriloquist’s dummy, forced into life-long slavery as a side-show geek. Somewhere along the way you made a wrong decision.

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MwapMwap

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