I went to Madrid and back, the boys went to Milan and Cologne and back, Arane came to Barcelona and went back to Madrid, and then me and Arane will go to Sevilla and back. There is a song called Back and Forth that I really like by a guy named Sebastian Paul. He needs a little back and forth. So do I. That song should be the anthem of this post. In fact, I will link it below (click the picture for the Spotify link):



6AM. Barcelona Sants, once again. This time, instead of heading into the city, I am headed out. After zombie-ing my way down to the train station from my house, I got on the train with 6 minutes to spare. My sleep schedule is really screwed up these days, so waking up is really hard when you don’t usually go to bed until 3 or 4AM. Anyways, it is 6 in the morning, everyone on the train is half asleep, trying to sleep, or trying to get work done before starting the week in Madrid. And OF COURSE there has to be a couple of fatass Americans talking SUPER loud in English about how “my sorority does ____” and how “NOLA for Madri Gras was so fun I barely remember it”. Everyone on the train was so fed up with them after about 20 minutes, but they wouldn’t shut up. I made eye contact with three different people on the train, giving a disgusted look and signaling at them. After about an hour, I thought they were finally going to shut the hell up, praying that I would finally get a break from their voices, they decided to watch TikToks with the volume all the way up, cackling and talking about them. This continued for another hour. I almost envied the Spaniards, because at least they didn’t have to lose brain cells by listening to the subjects of their conversation. No wonder people in the world hate Americans. I do too.

Arane came and picked me up at the train station upon my arrival and took me straight to the Rastro. The Rastro is a Madrid staple; every Sunday people from all over put up little stands and sell used clothes, vintage items, books, and even food. A quiet neighborhood transform into a packed, bustling flea market. It is probably the closest thing I have found to a thrift shop here in Spain. In other words, it was my kind of place. Arane and I had a great time looking at all the junk, searching for patches, and digging through piles and piles of second hand Levis. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any Levis that were in my size; it sucks to have a 29cm waist :(

After the Rastro, we went back home to Arane’s, where I would just barely catch Alvaro before he left to go back to the police academy in Ávila. I was so tired after sleeping 3 hours, listening to the ignorant Americans on the train, and walking all around the Rastro that I wanted to get home and sleep. Me and Arane were already working out where I would sleep when Alvaro emerged from his room in his running clothes. I decided not to pass up the opportunity to go on a Sunday morning run through the Retiro with my boy, so I put aside my fatigue and laced up my Stan Smiths. We ended up running for an hour through a very packed Retiro, taking in the pleasant views and trying our best to dodge all the people on the different pathways.

Once we got back, Alvaro and his girlfriend headed out and me and Arane went shopping for some food. She really wanted some cookie dough ice cream that they only sell at this one supermarket called Dia. When the one right next to her house didn’t have it, we ended up going on a mission, walking a few kilometers to FOUR different Dias looking for her ice cream. I had bought some pistachio ice cream at the first super market, and when we got back home it was half-melted. We settled for getting stuff to make home-made edible cookie dough. Well actually, we had everything at home except for the vanilla extract. Who would have thought that vanilla extract would be such a weird item in Spain. I ended up paying FOUR euros for the tiniest bottle of vanilla extract that I have ever seen. When we got home, we ate spaghetti bolognese for dinner and made the cookie dough for dessert, which we ate as we played the WII. Playing the Wii is much more fun that you are probably thinking, I promise. We played WiiParty, where I kicked ass with my beginner’s luck and then got my ass kicked in round 2. It’s okay though, I got my revenge when we whipped out the WiiTennis. After WiiSports, we sat around and watched the third season of “YOU” until the early hours of the morning.

The next morning we had to wake up early to go and validate our tickets for the Van Gogh museum on Wednesday, so once we finally got back home, we planted ourselves on the couch and put on “YOU”. When the afternoon came around, we were having a really hard time getting up off of the couch. The only thing that ended up getting us off the couch was our hunger, forcing us to make the trek all the way down the hall to the kitchen. Our plan was to go to a very special spot to watch the sunset, but by the time we finally got up and moving, it was 6PM and the sun had already set. We settled for a night walk through the Retiro, which is one of my personal favorite things to do in Madrid, especially in such good company. On the way back, we met up with Laura (one of Arane’s friends who I am very fond of) and got churros and chocolate after a cold walk home. The guy that gave us the churros was so nice that he gave us three free heart-shaped churros on top of the extra churros that he gave us with our order. After that, we went home to chat with Valle (Arane’s mom) until we decided we were hungry enough for some döner kebabs (aka more junk food). I told the guy at the place that I wanted mine spicy, to which he responded “you can put your own hot sauce on, so that way if you burn yourself, you can’t blame me”. Apparently, their definition of “hot” is much different from mine, because I when we got home, my mouth was burning with the 8 little drops of sauce that I put on my food. Luckily I had the cookie dough to soak up all the heat :)

With Tuesday came my lunch date with Francisco. Francisco, for those of you who haven’t been keeping up with my posts, appears in weeks 3 and 7. He is a very wonderful and generous old man that I met serendipitously on the metro. On this third occasion of meeting him, I found out much more about him. He was born in the thick of the depression (1934, to be precise), but he comes from a wealthy family of Valladolid. He spent his entire life working as an architect between the richest areas of Madrid and Valladolid. He owns homes in the wealthiest areas of Galicia and Castilla de Leon, and Madrid. No wonder he can afford to treat me to 70-euro lunches all over Spain. PLUS, this time he gave me 150 euros in cash as a “Christmas gift”, which paid for ALL of the trips that I have taken/planned since I have been here. After our lunch, I convinced Francisco to let me treat him to a coffee, which we sat and drank until Arane came and picked me up.

After leaving the coffee shop, we headed downtown to meet our friend Aitana, who would take us to this amazing rooftop terrace, complete with a view of the sun setting over the west side of Madrid. We had to wait in line to get in by a massive, bald Romanian bouncer. I mean this guy was scary; he looked like he ate the bones of Soviet Russians for breakfast, and then washed it down with the tears of gypsy children. On top of that, he was wearing an all-black suit, looking like he just got back from a funeral. ANYWAYS, when we got to the front, I realized that I had lost my mask (typical Mana). So I tried to put my head down and walk in without my mask, so we didn’t have to leave, get a mask, and then wait in the line once again. When the bouncer caught me, I tried to keep going, patting down my pockets acting like I was looking for my mask, while saying “yeaaaah I have it here, just a second”. He, being from Romania and probably knowing the tricks taught to me by my Persian father, knew I was full of shit. He proceeded to grab my arm and escort me out of the building, telling me not to come back until I had a mask. Despite the girls’ dissuasion, I ended up going into the optometrist next door without a mask and asked very nicely so I didn’t have to buy a pack of masks at an overpriced store. Once I got the mask, we went back into the line. I made eye contact with my Eastern European buddy through the sliding glass door at the entrance, waving and pointing at my mask. He purposely made us wait longer than we really needed to, but when he finally let us in, he made sure to reprimand me about the mask.

We got to the rooftop right in time for the sunset, and enjoyed some overpriced drinks as the sun got swallowed by the horizon. We told stories, laughed at each other doing tongue twisters, and we even made fun of our Romanian friend, who we named “Dmitri”. On our way out, I ended up pulling him aside and shook his hand, saying “Look Dmitri, I’m sorry about earlier. I thought I could get by, but you were too smart to let me get away with bullshit”. He ended up saying it was okay and gave me a couple of pats on the chest that were so hard they could have bruised me. I think his brutish pats were a symbol of mutual admiration; one for me being “smart” enough to try to BS my way in without a mask, and one for him being “smart” enough to see through the bullshit.

After that, Aitana took us to this super cool Japanese market. It looked like any other other building in Madrid, but when you go in what seems like a little hole in the wall, it’s like you are transported into a hip, Japanese food court. Since it was a little overpriced, we just ordered a couple of egg rolls for each of us, then opting for a much cheaper McDonalds before parting ways. Since I refuse to eat the actual food at McDonalds, I got a McFlurry and fries, which won me some horrified looks from the girls when I dipped the latter into the former. I swear, I have probably gone to McDonalds more times in the past month than I have in the past 5 years. As if the McFlurry wasn’t enough, Arane and I decided to go to her favorite frozen yogurt joint on the way home. After all the junk, we were feeling bad enough to embark on the cold, hour-long trek from downtown Madrid. Arane walks very fast. In fact she walks so fast, that she will actually get 3 or 4 steps in front of me before she realizes that she is leaving me in the dust. She is also kind, so she will slow down to my pace, until she unconsciously starts speeding ahead, that is. By the time we got home, we were ready to get under some blankets and watch… you guessed it: “YOU” LOL.

Once again, we spent the morning laying around doing pretty much nothing. For those of you dumbfounded by me doing so much nothing, this particular doing nothing is actually quite okay with me. In fact, I actually very much loved doing nothing. Since I have already seen/done most of the touristic things in Madrid, I don’t feel any need to go out and see anything in particular. And then there is bigger reason, which is that I am really content with just sitting around and spending time with one of my most favorite people on Earth. Anyways, we finally got our butts off the couch to cook Iranian rice and make some very delicious oven-roasted tomatoes. Once Valle got home, we set out to the Van Gogh museum, where we were awe-stricken by the fascinating history, crazy life, and beautiful works of the late Dutch artist. Well I will say that while Arane’s mom enthusiastically went from exhibit to exhibit, Arane and I spent a lot of time goofing off. The way I would explain it is with a story. Because we laugh and giggle so much when we are together, Valle once scolded Arane and I for drinking too much, thinking we were drunk when we were just… well.. laughing and giggling like a couple of drunks. At least we are happy sober-drunks :)

Anyways, after the museum, we hit a coffee shop and headed to the train station. The Madrid-Atocha train station is BEAUTIFUL; it has a big space in the middle filled with all kinds of lush green trees. It also has a bunch of different floors and platforms. Even from a Barcelona-biased perspective, it is WAY better than Barcelona-Sants. BUT for whatever reason they scam people with the bathrooms. Literally right below where you go through security to get on the train, they have bathrooms that you have to pay $1.50 to get in to use the bathroom. Of course, I am way too cheap to pay that kind of money to use the bathroom. I figured I would just wait until I got on the train and use the surely-much-less-clean for free. But as soon as I went through security, there was a free bathroom RIGHT ON THE OTHER SIDE. I kinda felt bad for some of the people that went through security with me after I left the paid bathroom.

This goodbye was the easiest goodbye I have ever had to say to Arane, probably because I was going to see her in exactly 48 hours in Barcelona LOL. Hopefully the goodbye is this “dry” when I leave for Vegas from Madrid. I doubt it :")


Once back in Barcelona, I would have two days to myself to run some errands and get stuff done. The boys would get back to Barcelona from their trip around Europe in the afternoon, so I spent the morning grocery shopping for Arane’s imminent visit. I bought a bunch of her favorite things: carrot cake, lemon & lime yogurt, fat-free milk, walnuts, Caesar salad, and of course, cookie dough ice cream. Ironically, I had the same problem that we had in Madrid when looking for her favorite ice cream flavor. I went to FOUR Dias and couldn’t find the stupid flavor. I ended up just coughing up the money for the Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream, which is way better, but three times the price. Once the boys got back, me and Radek hung out in old school fashion: caffeinating on his balcony. After that, I spent the entire rest of the day writing my blog, even bringing my computer down to the Romanian restaurant with the boys so I could maximize my productivity. The Romanian restaurant below my house is a solid option for a meal. They have good food, good drinks, and good service. Well, the service was really good, until a group of really good-looking women came in and the waiter pretty much forgot about us. To be honest, I don’t even blame him. Once we got back home, Dot, my host family’s dog, was on some crackhead shit or something, because he was jumping all around on everyone, nipping at us playfully, and going over the the door and scratching at it so we could open it up and let the freezing cold air in so that he could go lay in his cozy bed in the opposite corner. I straight up was about to offer that little shit some chocolate covered grapes or something…

The next day me and the boys woke up and went to the beach. They sat and ate at a restaurant while I went to skate at the skatepark by the beach. By the time they finished I had already taken a couple of nasty falls and was all skated out. Since we had to kill time until Junior came down for his work out, we ended up having a beer and watching the sunset from my favorite pier. Once the workout king got down to the beach, we sat and joked around with him, doing our best effort to distract him from his work out. Once he finished, I realized that I was running late for my soccer game with the guys from my old school, so we literally RAN to the metro, got off and RAN through Plaza Catalunya, dodging people left and right, until we finally got to the the tram station to take us all the way up to the top of the city where my game was to be played. I had to maximize my time and change on the metro, so I dropped my pants in front of everyone and changed into my soccer clothes. Once we got off, I ran to the very top of the hill where the fields are and made it EXACTLY at 8:15 when the game started. We ended up losing 1-0 because of a stupid goal that other team scored. In reality we should have won, because I hit the post 4 separate times. It just wasn’t my day I guess.

After that, I rushed home to start cooking a bell pepper and dill soup dinner for the arriving Arane. She instead of taking the three hour train, she decided to save 20 euros or so and take a bus for EIGHT HOURS. On top of that, the bus was empty but the weirdo guy sitting next to her wouldn’t move seats, so she was kind of trapped in the window seat. By the time she got home, she was ready for a meal and a bed. Luckily, I had already bought all of her favorite things :) We ended up eating dinner, going for a walk, and watching Monster’s Inc. in bed while eating our ice cream (don’t tell my host mom).

The next morning we woke up and got to business. And by business, of course I mean do all kinds of cool stuff all over the city. This particular article of business happened to be ArtWine, which is basically the Spanish equivalent of Pinot’s Pallet, except here you get an open bar of white or red wine, plus a teacher to teach you how to paint. The painting that I chose for us was a dolphin jumping out of the water as the sun sets. We had a blast drinking glass after glass of wine, getting paint all over our hands and aprons, and doing our best to play the role of artists. The only complaint I would have about the place would be the fact that they played nothing but 80s music, which I really can’t stand. The hardest part of the whole painting was drawing the dolphin. I was among the fortunate ones, because my dolphin turned out SUPER good. But other people’s ended up looking a lot like three blobs stuck together in the form of an orca? Maybe? Anyways, it was pretty fun to go around and see everyone else’s paintings after we were all done. Arane also thinks that the teacher was gay and that he was hitting on me. Apparently, I was the only person that he kept coming over and giving pointers to. To be honest, I was too focused on trying to create a masterpiece to give it any thought.

Five glasses of wine and two masterpieces later, we decided to walk all the way home. The walk home from Gracia is one of my favorite walks, since it goes down three of my favorite streets in Barcelona, but it is pretty long, PLUS we had to haul our paintings. Good thing we were just drunk enough to embark on the journey. The thing about Gracia is that it is SUPER Catalan. This means that everyone and their mom speaks to you almost exclusively in Catalan, there are Catalan independence flags in every window, perroflautas everywhere (see week 8 typical Espaneesh vocabulary), and of course, communist, feminist, and any other uber-leftist propaganda you can think of in the form of shitty posters and graffiti. Come to think of it, why is it always these kinds of people vandalizing public spaces with these kinds of ideas? I don’t think I have ever seen someone vandalize an American flag or “free the markets”.

Pretty much as soon as we got home, we took a nap, only to be woken up four hours later by the boys calling me over and over again. As soon as we started sluggishly getting up, Junior called me saying that for whatever reason, his dad (who is very strict with him) is going to let him come out with us. I very excitedly bought his ticket, because that would mean that I got to go out to the club with my two favorite humans. Pretty much right as we lackadaisically getting ready, people started pouring into the house for the pregame before the pregame. I cooked us some spaghetti while Arane got ready and everyone else was getting rowdier and rowdier in the other room. Its about 9PM, everyone is all drunk, loud, annoying, and ready to leave while I am slaving away in the kitchen washing all the dishes in my “just-got-out-of-bed” look. At this point, I am all stressed out and hating life, because I have to get ready and get all the drunkies ushered out the door so we can catch the Renfe we can meet Junior.

ANYWAY, once we got down to Marina, Arane and I met Junior and walked over to RaVen, where everyone would be waiting for us. RaVen is a really shitty bar in Marina. I would even go so far as to say that it is the MOST shitty bar in Marina. They don’t have any music, the people that go there are an interesting crowd, and all the cups are super flimsy plastic. BUT, they have 1 euro shots and one-liter drinks for 4 euros, which allows everyone to get drunk for super cheap before hitting the clubs. Junior ended up having his very first shot with all of us. Somehow I ended up paying for 7 people’s shots, but it was totally worth it. The poor kid had to take a tequila shot. But on the bright side, if he starts with the shittiest shot in the shittiest bar, it can only improve from there. It was an honor to be able to take my little brother out for his first ever shot and his first time in the discoteca.

Drunk and ready to go, we entered the discoteca. The first thing that we did was go to the coat check, which costed me NINE euros between the three coats. Freaking rip off. Apparently it used to be one euro before the pandemic. After that the rest of the night was spent dancing, drinking, and screaming the lyrics to all kinds of different reggaeton songs. I danced bachata with Junior, jumped and screamed with the squad, and dropped it all the way to the floor with Gabriel, who somehow just disappeared LOL. This time, we didn’t have any issues with people in the club. In fact, we only made friends. Once 4AM rolled around, Junior had to go home and everyone was dead so we called it a night and took the very long metro ride all the way home. Cole, in true Cole fashion, threw up after Radek picked up a random beer and gave it to him to chug. Big screw ups. All in all, it was easily one of my favorite ever nights in Spain, because I got to sing and dance to my favorite music with my favorite people.

On Sunday we didn’t wake up until 4PM. Once we finally got out of the house, we went for a paseo around the city, walking down paseo de Gracia at sunset, which is one of my favorite things to do. We stopped by and had a very delicious coffee with some ice cream before heading back to the house and watching Monster’s University.

Normally, I would only write my blog until Sunday, but this week I will include Monday so that there can be a more natural stopping point with the trip to Sevilla. After waking up relatively late once again, I went and played ping pong with Cole in the park while Arane got ready. We packed sandwiches and snacks to take up to the mountain and pitch the hammock to watch the sunset. Obviously, it would be really cool if the sun set over the ocean, but there is something very beautiful about the how the sun dips behind the mountains, leaving the sky looking like a watercolor painting. On top of that, the light of the sunset pours over the city, almost bathing it in golden rays. It almost looks like an instagram filter over the city. Once the cold got unbearable, we packed everything up and left for Ikea, where we would walk through the exhibits and eat a very mediocre but cheap dinner. After that, we would come home and pack our bags for Sevilla, only sleeping three hours before our 6AM departure.