Before being able to enjoy a week in Barcelona, I first had to get there. Baby steps.
The day before my departure, I went to my morning classes, then hopped back on the bus to make lunch at the cité. In the midst of eating, I remembered that it was the last Thursday of the month, le changement des draps! But I couldn’t get my new sheets until one, after the lunch break, which left me only twenty-five minutes to get back to campus. I didn’t have time to drop them off at my room before catching the bus, so that’s how I ended up carrying two sheets (both flat and fitted!) around all day.
I had two pieces of mail in my box, which I grabbed on the way to class. One was a slip for a package and the other was a letter from l’Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration telling me to show up for my visite médicale on the second of March, two days before I’d be back from Barcelona. How convenient. After class let out, I went into the office to ask for a different appointment…for what was in fact, the second time. My first letter had arrived in early January, but I ignored it, choosing two weeks in Andalucía over an afternoon in a waiting room. So, I felt a bit sheepish about having to go in and break the bad news to them once again. But to my surprise, the woman at the front desk offered me an appointment then and there! A doctor asked me a few questions and then, venez par ici, I was next in line for an x-ray of my lungs, a process that required me to be completely naked from the waist up while having to make small talk with the radiologist. But at least I can cross “exposing myself to the French government” off my list now.
Clothed once again, I was ushered into the office of one more doctor, who seemed a bit grumpy that another patient had been tacked on at the end of the day, but I smiled and answered her questions. She actually ended up being quite nice, showing me what things were on my x-ray (heart, lungs, stomach, spine, large intestine, small intestine: I’ve got ’em all!) and telling me that I had a near-native accent (énorme!!).
So I strutted out of the OFII, my ego well stroked, with my x-ray tucked under my arm and my titre de séjour stuck securely in my passport, opposite my visa. Youpi! Now on to the post office!
Though the slip I’d received said my package wouldn’t be ready to pick up until the next morning, I thought I’d see if it was already available so I could have it before I left for Spain. My French language skills at an all-time high, I convinced the clerk to go look for my package in the back room…une réussite! I walked back to my dorm, sat down at my desk, opened the box to find brownies baked by my mom, and opened my inbox to find dozens of notifications left by visitors to my blog, which had been featured on Freshly Pressed that day (hmm, but which was sweeter?…brownies from maman!). I scarfed down some treats and basked in glory for just a few minutes before rushing off to the kitchen.
A relatively new tradition, a few of the girls on my floor cook dinner together on Thursday nights. That week, I was in charge of planning the meal – American breakfast! For dinner? Absolutely! Country potatoes, smoked salmon omelets, a salad with artichokes, and tiramisu ice cream for dessert. So indulgent, but so wonderful.
But I was late! My friend Sarah was having a goodbye party and I wanted to be there to see her off. She called me from the bus stop when I was making my way down the stairs and told me the bus (the last one of the night!) was coming. I asked her if I should run, she said yes, probably, so I did, and caught my breath on board. The night was spent chatting with friends, none of whom wanted to see our dear Sarah leave Nantes just yet. I would have liked to have stayed longer, but I kept thinking about my room that had yet to be cleaned and my bag that still sat empty on my floor. So I said farewell and took the twelve thirty tram back to the dorm. Packed and asleep by three. Not bad.
I got to the train station the next morning with no problems. Even though the train I took went directly to Charles de Gaulle, it didn’t give me very much time to get to my flight. So, when the announcement was made just outside of Le Mans that we would be delayed by fifteen minutes, I checked my ticket and hoped twenty would be enough to get to my terminal, through security and onto the plane. It was, of course. But yes, yes, of course my boots set off the metal detector and yes, yes, of course I was patted down.
But then I was on the plane, and I slept soundly all the way to Barcelona.
The plan had been to meet up with a friend at the airport, but he had instead boarded a train that took him an hour out of the city before it made its first stop so he could get off and find one going back into town. Having studied and lived in Barcelona for a couple of months now, I think he was a bit embarrassed by his mistake, which is, naturally, why I mention it here. But really, it posed no problem for me and I heard it was a beautiful ride along the coast.
I took the aérobus to Plaça de Catalunya, where I bought a CD from the Fnac and did some people-watching for an hour or so. When I finally connected with my friend, the sun was still out, and I was excited to spend six days discovering Spain’s second largest city.
As it turns out, trying to take pictures of my x-ray was a lot of fun, too!