Thursday, 5 April 2012
Three In A Bed
So there we were in Barcelona – the comatose American, the gradually relaxing Australian, and me, with enough bags in my hand luggage to last a month, and just about enough Spanish to tell the taxi driver where we were going. Once we were in the cab, American fell back to sleep and Australian and I started to get excited; we were here; we were together – this was going to be amazing! She was telling me they’d had fun in Amsterdam, and that now we were going to have even more fun – we couldn’t wait to see the Gaudi cathedral, the park, the … wait a minute, this couldn’t be right. We were driving up a very broad street with incredibly posh shops on either side – there was Prada and Gucci and Manolo Blahnik .. this wasn’t ‘us’. We weren’t going to be able to afford a cup of coffee around here, let alone a selection of tapas. We’d taken accommodation advice from my lovely sister, who doesn’t tend to scrimp when it comes to holidays and it was starting to look like we’d done the wrong thing. She’d assured me we’d be fine, but my lovely sister’s idea of an affordable holiday and ours were looking like quite different things. I felt sick. This was all my fault. Australian put her hand on mine, ‘It’s okay,’ she said, ‘I’m sure it’ll be fine.’ ‘Ok,’ I replied, wanting to believe her. ‘And we can always get on buses and trains if it’s not.’ She added. I didn’t want to get on buses and trains – I don’t do buses and trains, at least I didn’t for all the years I had to be within running distance of a working toilet. I hadn’t thought about doing it since I’d had the bag, and I didn’t want to do it for the first time in a foreign country. But I was trying to feel good about everything, we both were, even when we arrived at the hotel and saw a bunch of young Spanish people outside, shouting and carrying placards. Our hotel was so posh there were ordinary people protesting outside it. We asked the taxi driver what they were protesting about, but he said it was nothing and that we owed him fifteen euro, which wasn’t too bad we thought.
We dragged our cases and the American into the lobby and checked in. A nice, handsome Spanish man took our luggage and hefted it onto one of those fancy schmancy cage things, which he pushed ahead of us into the lift. Pulling the American along with us we followed him to our room. Oh Lordy, our room. He left us in there with our cases and we stared at each other in horror. ‘Didn’t we book a room for three people?’ I said, knowing that we had. ‘Yes,’ said the Australian, ‘I specifically asked for a room for three people, and we’ve definitely paid for a room for three people.’ We weren’t, however, in a room for three people. We were in a room that was only just about built for two people. There were two beds close together and a kind of camp bed squashed in alongside them. At the end of the beds was maybe two feet of space, which was now filled with our suitcases. Then there was a window with a blind covering it. The blind didn’t move; it had gaps through which the sun would presumably shine when it was daytime. Behind the beds was the bathroom and when you went in there and turned the light on, the whole of the hotel room lit up. The American went and lay down on the camp bed and was instantly asleep. The Australian and I decided the best thing we could do was go for a recce; see if there was anywhere nearby we could afford a drink of some kind, and get a feel for the area, aside from the posh shops and the protestors. We weren’t optimistic, and as we went down in the lift we were wondering if I should’ve just met them in Amsterdam, where we’d all been before and knew a bit and where at least, no matter how things were going, we could always hit a coffee shop and get thoroughly, irredeemably stoned. Trying not to sigh, desperate to find the positive, and babbling a bit mindlessly, we walked out of the hotel and looked across the road and were stunned into silence. There, reaching up into the starlit sky, was some mindblowing architecture; we were practically opposite a Gaudi building, though we had no idea which one. Not that that mattered – it was amazing (it was La Pradera) and we could both feel ourselves relaxing. We ran across the road, and found a beautiful seat wrapped around a streetlight – a Gaudi seat. We sat in it, swayed our legs and squealed with joy – we had done the right thing! Who cared about the room, when there was all this outside!
My lovely sister had told us about a restaurant near the hotel where she and her wife had eaten breakfast every morning and we set about trying to find it. She hadn’t been able to remember what it was called, but she’d given me a pretty good description of where it was and we located it surprisingly easily. We sat down and found that we could afford both the food and the drinks – we were in the right place. My sister had steered us well. Australian drank coffee and I had a granita, we nibbled on some tapas and were happier than we’d ever imagined we could be just an hour earlier.
Back in the room, we got busy doing the glass half full thing. Everything would be just dandy. I was painfully aware that I’d be up at least twice in the night to empty my bag, and knew I’d be floodlighting the room each time, not to mention that the toilet was only inches from the beds and therefore every sound would be heard – from the tearing of the Velcro opening to the splatting out of the contents. Of course, that also meant I’d be able to hear anybody else going to the loo too, but I never think of that – what they do is normal, usual, the way things were planned when humankind evolved. What I do is a whole other, far weirder thing. But these two women were people I loved completely; people I’d been as close to in my life as I’d been to anybody. Closer. If anyone could cope with whatever weirdness my new-build plumbing system had to offer it was them, right? If husband and teen could handle it, so could Australian and American, I told myself.
Despite the ridiculous proximity of our exhausted bodies, and the very drugged frequent awakenings of American asking, ‘what’s going on? Where are we?’ we made it through the night relatively unscathed and by morning there were three of us aware of our surroundings, and none of us were impressed. We realised with disgust that the hotel wasn’t even bothering to pretend this was a room for three – there were only two glasses in the cupboard; only two sets of towels in the bathroom, and only two toothbrush holders on the sink. Australian and I were trying to be reassuring by raving about the restaurant and the closeness of the Gaudi buildings, when American stood up and announced that she was going to make up for her inability to do so much as get undressed before getting into bed the night before by going down to reception and getting us a proper, fabulous room that was actually suitable for three people. She was going to get us the room we’d paid for. Armed with her phone, on the end of which was her cousin who spoke fluent Spanish, she marched downstairs with us behind her, watching in awestruck silence.
She was brilliant. She smiled, she cajoled, she explained, and she took no shit. Their first response was that all the rooms were the same, but she wasn’t having that; she was an American; a New Yorker; she knew how to get stuff, and she had no intention of being fobbed off. Within fifteen minutes a slightly cowed Spanish boy was showing us a fantastic room spread over two floors – a suite, no less; the top floor had a huge bathroom and a massive space that was big enough for all our luggage and still had room for all three of us to get changed at the same time, should we choose to. Downstairs was a large wall of windows and three beds with a decent amount of space between them and room to walk around them with ease. Okay, one
of them was still a camp bed, but we didn’t really mind that. ‘I think we’ll take this one, thank you so much,’ said the American, at which point the Spanish boy looked happier than if he’d just won the Euromillions. He eagerly hurried back to our old room to collect our luggage and as soon as he’d left, we rolled around on the beds, laughing and shrieking with joy. By the time he got back with our things we had calmed down and gave a good impression of real grown ups as we thanked him, tipped him, and shut the door behind him.
It was time for our first breakfast, there were Gaudi buildings just a walk away, we had a room that was heavenly, and none of us were comatose. We had five more days of this, and we were ready.
I just had to change my bag and we could go.