I'm quite aware of how long-winded I am. This review is written more like a journal entry so it includes minute details, as you can see by its length. To be kind, I chopped my review up with subheadings so you know which parts you'll find boring and skim or skip accordingly. I'm not all that interesting, just as a warning, so read at your own risk. Mods, move me if need be.
DEPARTURE, FRIDAY/SATURDAY, BARCELONA - skip if you don't like boring details.
Friday, September 5th. Regina, Claudia and I waited 6 long months (looong months) to wheel our overweight suitcases into JFK airport. We had just found out on the car ride over that we had a layover in Madrid (Oh, so THAT’S why it’s a 10 hour flight!”) More waiting. We checked in quickly, grabbed some horrendous salads and wine at the airport bar, bought Vogue, water and some fruit and hopped on the plane. There weren’t enough Xanax in the world to keep me asleep the entire time but I made do by laying down in the empty seat next to me and listening to some Rone and Eluvium. After our layover in Madrid, a reasonable $6 coffee at Starbucks and another flight, we were in Barcelona. We spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around searching for tapas that was shellfish-free for Clau, pork-free for Gina and fat, calorie, meat, preservative and taste free for me. There was some more walking and loud laughing involved before dinner at the marina (the mussels were excellent), sleep and our wake up call bright and early that Sunday 7th.
I do believe “Sasha” was the first word out of my mouth that morning. I froze my ass off and was still on only day 2 of my Z pack ( I apparently had a colony of germs living on my tonsils since Vegas and Toronto the week before) but I felt well enough to roll out of bed and do a happy little jig in honor of the party I had talked about non-stop for months. I tossed my shit in a suitcase while the girls carefully packed. We checked out, flew to Ibiza and checked into the Ibiza Playa Hotel in Figueretas. Claudia was nice enough to give me the window seat so I could marvel at the island on our way in.
-- And this is where our trip stops sucking so much --
SUNDAY, BARCELONA/ IBIZA - skip if you don't like Space, Sasha or English lapdancers.
I had heard a lot about Ibiza over the years. In my mind, it was a clubber’s Mecca – A place any trainspotter worth his minimal scarf had made a pilgrimage to at least once. I somehow failed to notice in all the pictures I googled that Ibiza is certainly not the pristine island getaway I thought it would be. Rather, it was a British Seaside Heights, complete with drink specials, booty shorts and souvenier stands. I’m pretty sure there was a Tilt-a-whirl lurking nearby as well. While this would not be the place for me to have a warm and fuzzy with nature, it was, true to what I was told and imagined, the right place to test your party parameters.
I didn’t bother unpacking. I put on a leather skirt, heels and a white t-shirt, vowed to get a haircut when I caught sight of my horrific Amy Grant curls and tried my hardest to tame the happy little knots in my stomach. Dinner blew. Sangria was fantastic. The cab ride was – interesting. Entering Space was - frightening. But before I knew it, we were inside. All three of us. After 6 months and 55 euros, we were there. To our dismay, Ben Watt was not on the lineup. Shitty. We made do by exploring the club. Smoking Jo almost kept us on the Terrace indefinitely. We pried ourselves away to check out Ben Corbel outside (awesome) and came back to hear Cassius, who was just relentless. We whooped and screaming over their set it for around an hour. After a bathroom break, I was lured into the main room by a Jay Tripwire track I hadn’t heard in years. Lo and behold, Clau found a platform for us to dance on. I spearheaded the trip upstairs, barged my way up front and leaned over the railing to see Nic Fancuili. I have NEVER heard this guy crank out a set like I did that night. He’s good in New York and Miami… very proggy but never ever like this. More whooping and screaming ensued when a cute girl named Rachel from Manchester in a gold lame bikini, bright green eyes [rolling into the back of her head] and brown hair teased up to wazoo came to join the party. She explained how she loved everything: her job as a lapdancer, Nic Fanciulli and Americans, which I found alarming. (She obviously had not been to a Walmart in the past few years.) She explained how she loved all the most exciting parts of the US, “Vegas, Texas, DC!!!” Very sweet girl. Must look her up on Facebook and tell her to avoid Texas.
We headed back onto the terrace at around 1 am with our new friend Ace (Hi Ace) to catch Sasha and James Zabiela tag-teaming. They were good, as expected. It wasn't the most energetic set I've seen out of either one of them but they played a solid set peppered with some of my favorite tracks (Zabs played "Holding the Moth" and Sasha played "Destroy" and "I Need Medicine"). We danced and drank in front of the booth with some nice Welsh people who apparently liked Americans as well (I still don't get it) until Sasha and Zabs left the decks at 4 am. 5:30 was when the club entered it's sad, scary and desperate hour, so we left. We got back to the hotel and each battled one quarter of a granola bar before bed. The granola bar won.
MONDAY, IBIZA - skip if you don't like techno, mullets or adjective abuse.
We woke up, gauged our head trauma from the night before, discovered that the Spanish won't make yolk-less eggs for me (though I'm sure they were obliged to add spit to mine for requesting such) and made it to the beach by 1. The water was calm with steady wave-lets. I swam out as far as the breakers and back then walked along the pier to check out Figueretas and the islands off Ibiza's coast. We lounged and called it an early day to grab dinner and head to DC10.
DC10 was what I imagined Ibiza to be: A small space crammed with 3,000 of the most unique, insane, dynamic people fueled by love of the music, mountains of drugs and a rare type of energy so intense and volatile and wonderful that just being in the room makes you feel excited and a little nervous all at once. There were wall to wall mullets, facial piercings, pixie wings, painted faces, buckets of sweat dripping from every happy dancing maniac under that no-so-soundproof makeshift roof, plumes of trapped cigarette smoke burning your eyes and big bad security shoving through, zeroing in on That Guy and escorting him out with a trail of concerned, equally fucked up friends. No matter the state the people around us were in and no matter how many times I got burned with a cigarette or had a drink dropped into (into, for Chrissakes) my boots, track after filthy fucking track kept us in that unbearable insane asylum for 4 hours. There was not a single filler track played the entire time we were there. I had no idea what dj's were on since we couldn't push close enough to the booth. We did hear Tania though, which was quite evident by the chanting and "Tania Volcano". I've never been in a room with that many people that seemed to feel the same way about the same type of music my friends and I dig. I wouldn't know how to recreate that energy in another venue - and I don't think you could, even with the same dj's. I guess it was the people that made that party... they certainly were dedicated, to say the very least. To spend hours on end on that enclosed terrace with a smile on your face shows that you mean business. If Sven Vaeth weren't playing at Amnesia, we easily would have stayed all night. We should have cleared our entire day and night for this party though. And we should have worn disposable clothing.
We freshened up at the hotel before heading back out and made it to an empty Amnesia by 12:30. We hung out in the side room for an hour or so, moved back into the main room and staked our claim on the first step of series of platforms. We parked it there for the entire night along with our new NYC Space Invader friends Bill (who looks like Billy Corgan) and Claire (who is a cute little ball of spunk). Amnesia did a great job keeping the theme of the party, Disco Invaders, going with dancers and the most theatrical performance I've ever seen in a club as Sven Vaeth came on. This inspired Clau and I to quit our jobs next spring to come back and be part of it. Definitely feasible.
Sven was a lot trancier than I thought he'd be. I expected the uniform of mullets and pixie wings at the Cocoon party as DC10 but noticed a more polished crowd. Nevertheless, the music was enjoyable and though it was trancey, we weren't subjected to the same synthesizer sounds for 4 hours as is customary practice for other big room dj's. I'm P not naming V names D.
The night wound down and we decided to leave. Bill gave us the name and number of his friend in Barcelona whom he said could show us around. Claudia screamed over an aggressive pick-up attempt, which caused the guy to flinch and me to snicker. We left happy, tired and without voices.
TUESDAY, IBIZA - skip if you don't care about my desire to leave you forever.
Tuesday was mellow. Breakfast, Bora Bora (which barely had music playing until 5:30 pm), near-heat stroke and dinner in the only non-tourist spot we could find in Ibiza town. Fantastic wine and mussels. Afterwards we did some shopping and tequila shots. I declined a 16 year old Italian boy's invitation to "go to bed with him" but I did help him pick out a Pacha t shirt for his girlfriend.
Claudia had been feeling under the weather all day. Regina and I were ready to rage at Carl Cox at Space but we all decided we'd have more fun if we kept things low-key until the following night at Pacha (ah, hindsight...), thus we retreated to the hotel.
It's about this moment that I commenced what Claudia calls the greatest meltdown she's ever seen, thank you very much. Now, I don't quite know if it started as I was walking downstairs or in front of the confused yet fascinated man at the front desk (who was so very creepy and charming all at once) but I started to get the overwhelming feeling that I was missing copious amounts of awesomeness all over the island. Then I realized I would be leaving in one day and I would miss all my favorite dj's and parties (I had STILL never seen Luciano) after I left for home. By the time I got back up to the room with a Formentera ferry schedule in hand, I was on the brink of tears. Then I opened the door and cried that hideous silent cry that closely resembles a full body dry heave. The girls laughed. I cried some more. There was a little cursing involved. We had our obligatory mid-week heart to heart where I vented about wanting to move far far away indefinitely. I also expressed my fear of getting old and losing precious time. Then Gina pointed out that I was, "...still wearing my retainer for fuck's sake and [am] not old." We all laughed again, turned out the lights and went to bed. Epic night.
WEDNESDAY, IBIZA - skip if you DO like Erick Morillo, you tacky motherfucker
We had the best beach weather on Wednesday, our last day in Ibiza. We baked, befriended and berated some nice British men in the water (they tore into my Jersey accent which sent me into fits of giggles), ordered fruity drinks, survived death cab on the Disco Highway and came home to shower and change for Pacha.
Aaah, Pacha. Something inside me told me to avoid Morillo at Pacha at all costs. However, I listened to advice from Ibiza veterans all summer long, so much so that my judgement was a bit skewed. Normally, I know exactly what dj's I do and don't like and where I want to and refuse to go. But people assured all three of us that dj's we would never go see in New York are great in Ibiza. Lesson learned: Erick Morillo may be a good Erick Morillo in Ibiza, but he will never be a Sasha. Ibiza's an island off the coast of Spain, not Never Never Land. It was an unrealistic assumption that Morillo would morph into a techno dj just because of the venue. Even the club wasn't "my thing". I'm used to dark, dingy clubs with dirt and fraggle rock rooms. Pacha was a bright, flashy club with vocal house and a [very good] restaurant attached. [red flag #1] Still, we gave it a shot.
Inside, we hung out on the terrace while drinking to lounge music, passed through El Cielo (the room Cielo in NYC's meat packing district is named for) and hung out in the main room, complete with carousel horses (red flag #2), twiggy dancers in lingere and a sparkly "Subliminal Sessions" sign. Morillo bopped around behind the decks in his shades, occasionally fist pumping (HUGE RED FLAG #3) to his own catchy tunes. We heard some local favorites, including the track that assured us that, "We love house music," the one that reminded us that, "This is house music," just in case we forgot and my personal favorite, the one that enticed us to, "Open our minds... to house music." Claudia left at 2 because she felt sick. Regina and I tried our damndest to stick it out but decided to leave around 3 because the musical fruitiness was escalating exponentially.
This is where we started to get nervous that we had become those pretentious dicks that pay a $20 cover just to have the right to not enjoy the music and then bitch about it on Rhythmism. com immediately after a 6 hour afterparty. But we made the effort to try something new - something we would NEVER subject ourselves to in New York, and something a pretentious dick wouldn't try at all, period. The people at the party were dancing, having fun, enjoying the music. The party itself was awesome... for someone else. Gina and I tried desperately to get out and ended up in the bathroom. Great. We asked some nice British girls how to get out, ("Wot, d'you mean out of the loo? Oh the CLUB? Whyyyy?), hopped in a cab and went back to the hotel. I put on my terry short shorts, my dad's police academy sweatshirt and walked and talked with Regina downstairs as we bummed cigarettes from the locals. We flirted with the idea of going back to Amnesia but by the time we thought of it, it was close to closing time. So, we smoked, watched men indiscreetly meet for sex acts behind the docks (yes. yes, we noticed you.) and headed back to the room before the sun rose. This shall forever be known as the night I wore gym clothes in the biggest party island in the world. Fail.
THURSDAY, IBIZA/ BARCELONA - skip if you don't like downtime, runner's high or flaking on plans.
Thursday was a beautiful day to be in Ibiza. Tough nuggets for us because we were flying to Barcelona. A nice consolation prize though, I must say. I made it through the entire flight without tossing my cookies or crying. Huge success. When we arrived in Barcelona, we found out it was a national holiday, so everything was closed. Museums and shopping were out so we looked for tapas. Having eaten yolks and fried everything all week, I decided to be obnoxiously American and have a California salad in Spain. Unfortunately, Spanish California salads consist of lettuce, avocado and an entire pig so I opted for some more fried potatoes.
The girls took the rest of the afternoon to unpack and nap. I neglected my suitcase and walked over to our sister hotel to go to the gym, making sure to get utterly lost on the way. After 30 minutes of wandering (the other hotel is 5 minutes away), 400 crunches and a 5k on the treadmill, I was smack in the middle of the best runner's high I've had in years and wandering around Barcelona again. Everyone was out and about on Passeig eating outdoors, riding bicycles, dozing on benches, strolling. I walked wide-eyed down all the wrong streets admiring the "old-ass balconies" and architecture. I made sure to get lost again as well as get hit by a bicycle before returning to my room. I love Barcelona.
That night we had another 3 hour dinner in the Gothic Quarters, got lost, had our first run in with a gypsy who wanted Claudia's Fendi bag and fell asleep before Christian Smith's farewell Barcelona party at 2 am. I tried to stay out to catch his set ("I'm not going back, Regina! YOU TWO go back! Give me the ticket! Give me the effing ticket!") but decided it was best not to stay out alone and to get my first good night's sleep since before Vegas. I read French Vogue for an hour and passed out.
Friday, BARCELONA - skip if you don't like Picasso or retail snobbery.
We started out our Friday feeling productive, planning to hit up several museums but we only ended up making it to the Picasso museum. Now, I'm not one of those people that goes to Moma on a Saturday to marvel at the video installation "art" and talk about its meaning. I've tried twice, it just won't happen. But Picasso broke my heart in the best possible way. We walked through the gallery at a leisurely pace, admiring the portraits and pastels and blue and rose periods, the cubism, the brush strokes up close and the whole shabang from afar. The Madman was my favorite. I was sure to pick up photo postcards of Pablo and stick them all over the wall in front of my desk at work. The showroom manager wonders why I've wallpapered my area with a "shameless womanizer". I tell her it's because I totally would have "done" him just to get her going.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around and going into shops. We stumbed upon a flea market outside a church in the gothic quarters where I bought my "bodacious rosary" that cost ten euros and was about six feet long. The man who sold it to me talked about me in Catalan and laughed as I actually forked over money for the hideous wooden POS. I told him it had character and I probably need a rosary that size anyway... it'll be a great piece for my eccentric spinster aunt collection when I'm living alone in 20 years. Retail therapy did not work in Barcelona, as the cute specialty boutiques were spread out and the retail stores kind of sucked. Poor planning on my part but now I know to create a map of local designer boutiques for future travels.
That night we had dinner and wine, as usual, and cabbed it over to the marina to check out the lounges. The venues were beautiful, music was enjoyable and bartenders looked like aspiring models. Oh my. We crashed around 4.
SATURDAY, BARCELONA AND LAST DAY IN SPAIN - skip if you don't like campy montages of strangers laughing and running around a foreign country together.
When Regina had called Dave, new friend Bill's Barcelona contact, to show us around, I was skeptical. I was shocked he even answered the phone, for one and more shocked that he agreed to meet up with us the next day. I explained to Regina that people THAT nice are either cyclops-hunchbacks or want to sell you into white slavery. I banked on the cyclops prediction. We agreed to meet at 2 pm, which left the morning for us to grab our last breakfast together and hit up Sagrada Familia. The church was under construction, which obstructed our view of where the pews would be as well as the altar (altar? I'm such a bad Catholic...) but we inspected the perimeter and read about the nature-inspired Gaudi architecture. Beautiful.
1:30 rolled around and we headed back near our hotel to a huge circular park/rotunda type of deal. Dave told us to meet him in the center of the star, which is where I was convinced he was going to off us and drink our blood. We got there a bit early and waited for a guy in a green shirt. He arrived on time, third-eye and hunch free. Shocking development. Dave was actually a great guy.
We hopped on the metro and took it to Gaudi Park. Picture-taking ensued, as well as stopping to listen to the street performers (the musicians around the streets in Barcelona put New York's dented saxophone players to shame) and admiring the view once we reached the top. On the way down, Dave bought us ice cream, which cemented him as a cool dude in my book. Claudia yelled at a man for complaining about me in Spanish. I was pacified by sweets so I didn't even notice.
Another trip on the metro and we were in an area with huge government buildings and hundreds of stairs leading up to one museum or another... we didn't end up going in but went to catch another glimpse of the city. Gina and I raced to the top of the stairs. I was winning. Gina cheated. I fell. We both laughed. We made it to the top and walked around the perimeter of the building underneath archways covered in vines. We found a shaded area and stone benches to sit and - lo and behold! New friend Dave whips a bottle of red and 4 cups out of his backpack. (Dave for President). We drank for a bit and headed back down the hills and stairs. I (was bombed) picked purple flowers on the way down and put a ton in my hair before noticing all the sap stuck to them. Good times.
Claudia needed to take care of souvenier duty for Pat and her family so Regina, Dave and I continued into the Gothic Quarters again, listening to more Underworld-esque street performers and ransacking the cute underwear in Intimissimi on the way. We found ourselves back at the flea market but this time, there was a full band and hundreds of people packed into the little square. We rocked out to some oboe and watched Catalonians dancing together in circles. It filled me with so much joy I could have burst. Then a cute old woman that reminded me of my Great Grandma Mamarelle shuffled by and I cried for a change. We continued to walk through the maze of stone walls and graffiti, stopped in an area where people were executed by firing squads back in the day, listened to the saddest Spanish guitar in the world and found a Starbucks for some skim cappuccino. It was then that I felt my slow reintegration back into American life. We reflected on our day and indulged our caffeine needs. Dave then escorted us back to our hotel, screaming and running against traffic with Gina and I (one of my favorite hobbies) all along the way.
Our last night, we toasted to, "seeing many places with the few people that matter", over dinner and headed out to Elephant Bar (beautiful place) in a more affluent area of the city. We came home tired, fulfilled and ready for New York.
GOODBYE BARCELONA - skip if you don't epilogues.
I went alone to Mexico two summers ago, which gave me a lot of time to think. During that week, I promised myself that the next few years of my life would be dedicated to seeing as many places as possible. I was slow to follow through and have yet to get some parts of my life in order, but I do feel as though I'm getting my act together, listening to myself more and making up for lost time. Spain was an excellent first step. Or was it the second or third?
While in Spain, I felt like I had lived there for years. When I got home, I felt as though I had never left... until I realized everything I had missed. My feelings of calm were a bit stunted by Merril Lynch being sold to Bank of America and the series of economic horror shows that followed the rest of the week. An entire division at my showroom had dissolved, people quit and the remainder of the team had traded roles and moved seats. Mornings are colder and the sun sets before 8 pm, all inside the measly few weeks I had been gone... It's amazing what a tiny speck of time can change.
For a few days after I returned, "home" looked like trees and roads and buildings and shapes and nothing at all like home. My first night back in the city was exciting though and I celebrated by wearing my black suede Miu Miu d'orsay stilettos, skinny jeans and a white cotton tee. Very New York.
I feel inspired to continue exploring different cities in hopes of relocating for a few years while I have no ties here. After, I would like to move to NYC indefinitely. I don't know how tangible a feat this will be for me but time and more travel will tell. My next endeavor is London with a day in Paris during Thanksgiving, pending day off approval on Black Friday. I will be going alone to scare myself a little and to try to see what it feels like to know nobody in a new city. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll catch myself at afternoon tea furiously brainstorming a way to avoid ever coming home. I'll most likely come back. If not, I promise I'll write.
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