Braving the Barcelona Beaches
The salty waves left a crust around my chapped lips, squawking seagulls circled overhead, and the promise of ice-cream lay at the end of every boardwalk. After six dreadfully dark months in Scotland, where blue skies were a tease and seasons were as unalterable as the constant rain, I was ecstatic over my post-exam trip down south. With the promise of 30+ degree Celsius days, my friends and I booked our RyanAir flights to Barcelona, sprinted to Primark for some disposable summer clothing, and followed the flocks down south.
After a turbulent flight and even more turbulent landing, we arrived at the international airport, and shed layers of wool like peeling sunburnt skin, eager to finally overdose on vitamin D. As we stepped through the revolving doors towards the taxi line, my Australian friend, Mikala, nudged me. “What the? Where’s the sun?”
“This never happens, senoritas. We see the rainy days three times por año in Barthelona,” the taxi driver put extra emphasis on the “th” to rub the gray skies in our tourist fathes. The rain came down like a scene from the Bible, minus the wooden boat and the paired animals, and my curly hair had transformed into a wild, untamed main within five minutes of its arrival in the humid climate. The weather may not have been consistent, but my hair habits sure were.
Her hand was the colour of a lobster claw—a boiled one, the bright red type that glistens on your plate. Mikala, the only one who had been hesitant to come to the beach, was tan and happy as a clam.
Mikala wasn’t happy about the wet weather, her first encounter with snow being at the University of Edinburgh orientation. But I was Canadian, proudly Canadian. I had waded into the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of autumn; I had skinny dipped—correction: chunky dunked—in New England lakes at midnight; I had snowboarded in winds chilly enough for frost bite. I was not about to let some mild weather stop me from my first beach day in centuries. So, with a little convincing and a lot of determination, we were off to la playa.
The beach was deserted, and I was delighted. Towels in hand, we started down the winding boardwalk in search of sunscreen. A lone cart sat at the end of the boardwalk, like a mirage. The language may have been foreign, but the price of SPF-60 was certainly not lost in translation. There it was, a huge sign reading 16 euros for a tiny tube of protection.
“We don’t need it. We’ll be fine,” my Cambridge friend assured. Perhaps it was the posh accent or her pasty skin, but something in her voice convinced us that our sun-deprived skin could handle the Barcelona beaches. It was 14 degrees and cloudy, after all.
Giving up on the idea of smearing thick layers of SPF-60 across ourselves, we laid down our towels and our tired bodies for a quick nap. The 4:30 a.m. wake-up for the early flight had caught up on everyone, even me, the insomniac.
A catnap turned into a two-hour affair. I jolted from a deep sleep in startling pain after Alice slapped my bare blistering arm, a rude awakening. Her hand was the colour of a lobster claw—a boiled one, the bright red type that glistens on your plate. In two hours, we had both become lobsters. Mikala, the only one who had been hesitant to come to the beach, was tan and happy as a clam.
We inched to the nearest farmacia, each step more painful than the last. Our leathery skin was in dire need of aloe. We had barely stepped one foot inside the store, when the woman at the counter disappeared behind the counter, coming out with three bottles of green goop and a sympathetic smile. “16 euros,” she said, “por uno.”
Looks like we’d be spending those 16 euros after all.