Being a guest as good as your host
For the last three weeks Neil and I have been languishing; no - revelling; no! Basking! In some of the warmest hospitality we have ever experienced. On this trip (and through our lives!) we have been lucky to be hosted by friends and family around the world. People have opened their homes to us, given us a place to relax and unwind, wash our clothes, take moments for privacy, and share their tables with us. And these past few weeks in Barcelona have been nothing short of a delightful example of the best kind of hosts you could hope for.
Maria and Dani have been hosting us in their home for 3 weeks. Neil and Maria have been close friends since they were teenagers, and Dani and I have been on the scene for around about the same amount of time. They share a charming apartment on the Ramblas de Raval that is filled with records and yarn and two cats. It is an unfussy home that has been curated for comfort, not for following any trends. We have been so lucky that they have a full spare bedroom available, and have been able to unpack our bags into drawers. It might be difficult to understand how good that feels if you haven’t lived out of a backpack for 7 months, but it’s pretty incredible.
Maria and I both share a passion (greed?) for food. I really enjoy cooking, and Maria is a real talent in the kitchen. While being on the road, it’s not always easy to cook your own meals, and even if you do have a kitchen in a hostel, you often don’t have the spices or oil you want, or you can’t get enough space to make something more complicated than spaghetti and sauce. I’ve been missing making meals, but we’ve more than satisfied the urge since being in Barcelona. I have loved how Maria will wake up with a notion for something in particular, and within 48 hours, no mater how obscure the notion might be, we’ll have a steaming bowl of it for dinner. She also has so much confidence in the kitchen, which she has been using to teach me scary things like deep frying. We made our own arancini from scratch the other day. Face your fears, friends - you might end up with delicious crispy balls of risotto.
Maria has among the most optimistic outlook on things of anyone I’ve met. She has an almost Mary Poppins quality of being able to make every task feel like a game, every chore feel like a treat. While I have a pretty positive attitude, I know I have a tendency to dig my heels in, and sometimes can only see how difficult things might be. Maria has a way of making things look easy, and because they seem easy, they feel easy. It’s like a magic trick. It’s something I’m going to try practising and taking with me, this Mary Poppins effect.
Barcelona is an incredible city. They architecture, the food, the hustle and bustle. I am a big city person, and I love the way there are bars on every corner, protests happening over here, theatre and music happening over there. There’s so much going on, I’m finding it just the right amount of over-stimulation. What I wasn’t anticipating is learning so much about Catalan history and culture. Maria’s partner Dani is Catalan, with a deep and passionate understanding of the history of this region. He has been able to talk us through a lot of the complicated history and show us fascinating relics of Barcelona’s complicated past that are hiding in plain sight all over the city. Having hosts that are passionate about their city and want to share it with you is a priceless treat.
Opening your home and your heart to guests is one of the most deeply human things we can do. I feel so grateful to everyone who has shared their space with us over the course of this trip. I feel like I’ve learnt so much about what it means to be a good guest - to be open with thanks and praise, to be sensitive to the needs of your host, to jump at the chance to make their life easier in some way. I’ve also learnt that being a good host, showing someone who is weary from a journey some hospitality, will mean more to them than you know. While I’m not ready for this trip to be over, I’m already looking forward to being at home so I can have my turn again at playing hostess with the mostest!