Anyone who knows me knows I have no shortage of crazy travel stories to tell, but my vacation to Barcelona was a new level of dealing with the unexpected. When I booked my plane ticket months earlier, I had no idea I’d be there for the controversial Catalan independence referendum.
We arrived on the day of the vote and happened to be staying on one of the city's busiest streets, where we watched march after march of flag-waving Catalans from the balcony of our apartment. That night in the main square, we stood among the locals as they watched the huge screens with bated breath, waiting to hear the outcome of the vote, as I tried to use my moderate Castilian skills to glean some understanding from the Catalan news feed.
Eating tapas at a local market counter the next morning, I learned that the entire city would be on strike the next day, not because I read it in the news, but because tourists kept coming up and asking (in Castilian) if the bar would have more of their famous pastries ready tomorrow. They wouldn’t have any tomorrow, it turns out, because they would be closed. In fact, the whole city would be closed due to the strike. This fortunate bit of eavesdropping changed our entire vacation.
We went back to our apartment and started rebooking all our plans for the next day, because, of course, it was the day when we’d booked all our advance tickets and a paella cooking class. Between rescheduling things online and finally just calling the Sagrada Familia directly, where I surprisingly got an actual person on the phone on the first try, we got ourselves entirely rebooked and went to join the locals in line at the grocery store to stock up on provisions for the next day.
On strike day, we headed to beach. As it turns out, everyone else had the same idea, because you can’t close the beach during the strike. That night, I pulled out the blanket I’d bought on the beach in Valencia a few days before and we had a picnic on the floor of our apartment with our grocery store haul.
In the end, we did everything we wanted to do, but not a single thing happened when or how we’d planned it. And it couldn’t have been better. As we wrapped up our trip watching the sun set from the balcony of the Barcelona apartment where our rescheduled paella cooking class was held, everything seemed like it had gone just right. It may not have been the trip I thought I wanted, but it was the kind of trip that keeps me traveling again and again.