Tag Archives: Barcelona

Someone I Once Met: Mr. Marijuana

Let me begin by excusing myself for allowing my wanderlust and creative writing to fall by the wayside. I also want to take my hat off to anyone who has ever worked full time and studied on the side. Or even better, anyone who has worked full time, raised a family and studied on the side. I have no family to raise and still I find it tough to find time for creative projects. So here’s to all you go getters doing all the things to better yourselves, altering priorities and giving things up. For a while.

So in today’s short little introduction to someone I once met I bring you Matt. Matt sprang to mind the other day when I was pondering my new and improved mindset regarding my stance on the legalization of marijuana. For those of you who are not yet aware, I recently decided to be more vocal about my position on the topic of legalizing pot. I’m all for it. I have many reasons and perhaps I’ll focus more on them in future posts.

I realized that the reason Matt holds a special place in my memory bank is because of marijuana. You see, once upon a time in 2013, I arrived in Barcelona for an extended vacation. I booked into a hostel and continued to stay there for a little over a month. At some point, my path crossed Matt’s.

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Barcelona is one of Europe’s biggest tourist attractions. Everyone comes to admire the works of Gaudi and the fantastically historic gothic architecture. What people don’t realize is that Barcelona is the new Amsterdam. One is able to buy marijuana over the counter so long as you’re a member of one of the many ‘clubs’ (Think ‘Amsterdam coffee shops’). The laws regarding pot are hugely relaxed in this area and as a result there exists an intriguing and ever-growing cannabis culture. For this reason, I beg any potential reader to understand that my, or anyone’s use of pot in Barcelona, is not an illegal activity.

(For a better understanding of Barcelona’s weed scene- I go into more detail here.)

Matt is a fan of weed. I realized this when I walked into our shared dormitory and was hit by a pungent, yet not offensive aroma. Matt, the culprit, had been puffing on the balcony. At some point during his stay we must have had a conversation about it and our respective stances on the plant, although my memory of it seems a bit fuzzy.

Since no-one’s hostel stay was as long as mine, Matt and co. came and went. I didn’t get to say goodbye, but under my pillow I found a small gift. Since he was flying out and since one can legally transfer the toxic liquid that is alcohol from one country to another but do no such thing with marijuana, He left me a little surprise.

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There was no accompanying note and there was no need for one. Matt had left me his pipe and left-over ‘stash’ as a parting gift. All I have is a faded memory of him, in and out the dorm room, and a strong appreciation for his simple gesture. I don’t have much more to say about Matt or our mutual experiences, it’s literally that small little anecdote. But I do think the fact that it has stayed with me regardless (the impression not the weed), speaks volumes for how much this subject means to me.

Marijuana/weed/pot/The Devil’s Lettuce is completely and utterly a symbol of peace and healing (and friendship), and so far from the demonized ‘drug’ we’re made to believe it is. If I think about it, I’m actually impressed by the power of propaganda- because that’s all it is. False information fed to the masses which we in turn lap up. But let me leave you with this; if you truly believe in the offensiveness of marijuana then you’re showing the same ignorance as Nazi lovers did when they blindly followed Hitler and his colossally unfounded bullshit. And I think Matt would agree. *Ends rant.

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Making the Video “Eye Spy”

Not too long ago, in a not-so-picturesque town on Spain’s Costa Brava, two green/budding media enthusiasts made a short film.

Aside from learning a lot about filming, editing and each other, I also learnt that Google Images can often be misleading. I guess any seaside village in the middle of Winter would be a little dead and gloomy. (Then again, I got no gloomy-feeling from my Winter trip to San Sebastian so I guess we’re back to “dead-and-not-so-picturesque”.)

That being said we didn’t come away empty handed. We picked this town randomly from a map for a reason- we needed to get out of Barcelona for a bit and wanted to make a video. Canet de Mar seemed the best option considering its proximity to the city- and off we went. Go Pro, Canon G12 and 650D in hand, we arrived ready to make miracles.

And that’s almost exactly what had to be done. There was close to absolutely nothing going on in our chosen little coastal town which made it difficult to film anything. In the end, we chose ourselves as subjects and that’s why you see so much of us in the film.

Less than 24 hours after arriving we had seen what there was to see and done our best at capturing it. We hopped back on the train to the city we were trying to escape. Luckily for us there was a lot going on back in Barcelona and for that reason alone we were able to gather enough footage for “Eye Spy”.

Although the weather didn’t play along, we did what we could to put together the best of our clips, sorting through all the over exposure and grey to bring you “Eye Spy: 48 Hours in Catalunya”.

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Here it is! A look into 48 hours in Catalunya, Spain. Brought to you by Wanderlust and Driftsole Media.

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Wanderlust Giveaway Winner!

For those of you who have been living under a rock or just haven’t noticed whats trending on all social media platforms, I recently held a mini competition/giveaway thing. For the rock dwellers; the idea was to get people to answer a simple question which put them in the running to receive a souvenir from my current location.

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While my current location recently changed from Spain to India, the souvenir, competition and winner that was randomly selected (on excel) remain the same. Sarah Britton of Cape Town, South Africa- congratulations!!!!

Sarah, its as if excel knew you were using a pencil case for a wallet!

Vaho, I couldn’t thank you enough for parting with one of your lovely wallets all for the sake of my little giveaway.

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‘Till next time Barcelona! Now its time to keep my eyes open for the next souvenir… from Incredible India.

 

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A Few Words Before Departure

Barcelona has been kind to me for the most part. I arrived two months ago to pursue a new relationship and accumulate a few teaching hours to keep my head above water financially. I managed to wrangle 9 hours of English lessons a week  and pursued the relationship successfully. Actually, Barcelona has given me everything I wanted.

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Although everyone says it all the time it remains unbelievable that times moves so quickly. Monday becomes Friday, then its Sunday and soon its December and we’re left wondering where yet another year has gone. I can only hope that the majority of you are using your time wisely since its so obvious that we have so little of it.

There are a few aspects to my current life that I reckon are important enough to mention here on my lust book.

1) In a few days time I’ll be landing on my first bit of Asian soil. I’ve ‘avoided’ Asia in my travels for reasons I can’t explain. At first it was to avoid the ‘obvious’ destinations like South East Asia, I wasn’t feeling particularly sheep-like. But I look forward to my Asian debut and I’m sure once I arrive I will wonder what took me so long to get there. I’m prepared to be blown away. {Don’t worry South America, you will always be dear to me}

2) Then another biggie is that a few days after my arrival in India, I’ll be meeting up with my brother whom I haven’t laid eyes on in two and a half years. A lot of the people that I’ve taught have openly wondered how one can travel the world like I do ‘guilt-free’ basically. They want to know how it affects my family life and I know some of them feel sorry for me. And they aren’t completely wrong- the lifestyle does detract from your family life.

But a life abroad is also allowing my brother and I to reunite in a foreign land that is known for it healing powers. Where we will spend two months exploring, learning, soul searching, catching up and making memories. Its not the same as meeting up for a weekend at the coast- this is real adventure.

3) I subtly hinted to my partner that the opportunity to travel Incredible India with me was presenting itself and it would be silly not to take it. A few weeks ago he listed the pros and cons of coming/leaving Barcelona for good/starting a new life with me somewhere new and luckily he convinced himself easily. So, in a nutshell, I will be with two very special men in India and not to mention my mother who will be joining us for two weeks. Sounds like a recipe for bonds-ville.

Travelling brings people closer together

Travelling brings people closer together

4) I have been investing a lot of time (and money) in improving my blog. I’ve moved to self hosting and as a result have been inundated with the problems that come with it. There is always an obstacle to overcome, and thus, something new to learn. I might not have a desk job and work nine to five, but I am working hard at achieving small, reachable goals which I do believe is more than some can say.

I hope I haven’t completely bored you with all my personal updates, but there you have it.

So long Barcelona, its been (mostly) a pleasure living in your busiest district. See you in India!

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Your random squares with interesting features have been epic

 

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Wanderlust Souvenir Giveaway!

{To participate, go to my Facebook page here}

Here I am on the Balcony of my apartment in Barcelona. With me is a wallet begging for a home.

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Lets rewind a little bit. Recently I’ve been thinking about holding a competition, a giveaway more like it. A chance for me to send a randomly selected follower a little souvenir from my current location. This is the first time I’ll be doing it, but hopefully not the last!

When I stumbled across a local store called Vaho, with its walls covered in colorful wallets, I had to step inside. Because, well, I needed one.

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I could see from a distance that each wallet, or item for that matter, was unique. Made from advertising canvases across Barcelona, everything they produce is sustainable. In the sense that its both recycled and strong. I needed a new wallet and thought you guys might too!

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So I approached them and asked how they would feel about sponsoring me a second one that I would offer to you guys.  Their online store means you can buy their stuff no matter where in the world you are- and you can design a custom made one too! Take a look at their shop here.

To enter is as easy as this:

1. Answer this question by commenting on the giveaway post on the Wanderlust Facebook page: “If you were born in Barcelona, what is your first language most likely to be?”

2. Share the post on Facebook.

3. For extra brownie points, invite 5 friends to like Wanderlust.

And that’s it! Each person who comments on the post will be in the running to receive my Barcelona souvenir 🙂

 

 

 

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Citizen of the World: Recapping 3 Years on 5 Continents

“I’m South African. I’ve lived abroad for over three years. I like travel, writing and photography. Those three loves are combined in my blog- read it, don’t read it. I’m not sure what’s next.” 

These seemingly random sentences usually follow one another in a conversation with someone I have recently met or am getting to know better. While talking about my adventures used to thrill me, now it just seems to roll off my tongue, parrot fashion-like. But recently I’v been thinking…. I’m about to make my Asian debut with a trip to India. Soon I can say that I’ve visited (and mostly lived) on 5 different continents in the space of three years. That, excuse the lack of modesty, is pretty damn insane! IMG_0124 What is especially insane is that I find it hard to see it that way. The past three years of my life have been a melting pot of extremes; cultures, climates, emotions and more. I’ve hassled with visas, bureaucracy and job hunts. I’ve learnt new languages and felt their barriers. I’ve made friends and enemies and left them all behind- quite possibly never to be seen again. And in the rare moments I allow myself time to think back, I slowly begin to appreciate what I have done, and what I have done for myself. After all, we only really appreciate things with a bit of hindsight and nostalgia. When you’re living it, it couldn’t seem more normal.

So lets recap.

It all began one wintery day in December 2010 when I touched down in Denver Colorado – final destination – Steamboat Springs. With three of my best friends beside me and a very menial four month job ahead of me, I could only imagine the fun my first ski season would bring. I learnt to ski, how to separate trash from compost from recyclables, how to adjust my accent so Americans could understand me, how to keep calm when said Americans knew so little about South Africa and how to live each day with my eyes and mind wide open. These, I can safely say, were the best days of my life. Stress was not a thing, the only scary thing was how easily I felt I could fall into the lifestyle of ‘ski bum’. IMG_0417 In April of 2011 I found myself back in South Africa feeling depressed. I read, googled and researched how I could get back to Colorado for the next season. But no amount trying would change the fact that it was impossible. All things considered, I would not be able to live and work in Colorado again. It was a sad realization. Either way, I was hell bent on following my travel urges, I just needed to find a new destination.

So many people were hopping on the South Korea band wagon, and I just simply wasn’t interested. However, I did realize that as a penniless travel hopeful, wherever I went I would have to work. And the only work I could easily do abroad was teach English- just please not in Korea. How about South America? And back to the drawing board I went. Yes, South America sounded good to me- culturally and linguistically and cool-factor-ly. Google told me that Chile was the best option for ESL teachers. And it was decided, I’d be going to Chile for the whole of 2012. But not before I slaved away in a terribly hostile restaurant environment for 6 months in Pretoria.

January 2012. How my parents put on such brave faces when their young daughter got on a plane bound for Chile is beyond me. After all, it is hard to ignore horrific stories of human and drug trafficking that plague the American sub-continent. Beyond that, I had little planned and I spoke no Spanish. If something had happened I may be of a different opinion, but from where i sit today I have only gratitude and pride for my parents selflessness. They knew how important it was to me and not once did they attempt to stand in my way.

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While my parents would always be there for me- the same could not be said for the boy who made up the better half of my early adult life. He was the ‘perfect catch’. But perfect catches have a way of getting caught, and it wasn’t long before I faced the dreaded “I’ve moved on” email. I was under the impression that I’d find my own new (latin) love but oh how wrong I was. The closeness at which I came to moving on can only be measured in tens of miles, and I spent 2012 in a string of loveless flings in the hope of finding one I cared about.

In between all that, I laughed, partied, explored an entire country, learnt Spanish, made friends that felt like family and ventured, solo, into Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. I was so happy living in Santiago, Chile, that I seriously considered staying on there. But as much as I would have loved doing just that, I longed for something different, something new. And so I returned home once again to figure it out.

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Early 2013 was spent half considering settling down and getting a real job and half considering continuing my nomadic lifestyle. I moved in with my girlfriends who now all happened to be in Johannesburg ‘making a go of it’. That fact alone helped me lean more towards wanting to stay. Its all too obvious that life moves on without out you and that friendships form and strengthen when you’re gone- just not with you. I loved having my friends around me again- after all- they’re the ones who helped make my ski season what it was.

But somewhere between not feeling completely satisfied with my travel accomplishments and a rude reminder about the reality of violent crime in South Africa, I decided I had to head out again. If I was so uneasy about staying it was clear that whatever (travel/lost/wandering) bug I had caught wasn’t yet out of my system.

It was back to the drawing board. Again I had no money and wanted to be abroad and after a catch-up phone call with a friend, I was persuaded to join the yachting industry. Working on board yachts in the Caribbean and Mediterranean  gets you a lot of money. One is paid stupid amounts per month (not to mention guest tips) to scrub, clean, iron, wash, smile and serve millionaires who choose to holiday on a floating hotel.

I saw an opportunity to work abroad while seeing exotic places and earning more money I could ever wish for, so I invested in myself by doing the basic courses and headed to the South of France. For one month I walked, asked, inquired, begged and eventually proved someone of my worthiness. Its a tough industry to get into, but once you’re in you’re in (assuming you’re not incapable of retaining a job).

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After my first guest experience I knew I wasn’t cut out for this job. And while many people are happy in the lucrative yachting industry, there are an equal amount who cannot see the value in it. Not even the money. After such a free and positive experience in Chile, I was so out of my comfort zone and towards the middle of the season I knew this would be my first and last. Not least because I didn’t enjoy seeing the world that way- your time is not your own and neither, quite frankly, is your life. I knew it was time for the drawing board again, at least this time I had money.

By October 2013 I was so tired out by 5 months of hard labour that I decided to take some ‘me’ time and venture off somewhere. Actually travel. Explore places and not just drool at the sight of them from my anchored boat. I decided on Barcelona for various reasons. Barcelona was easily accessible from the south of France, I could practice my rapidly fading Spanish, and finally, there was someone there who I desperately needed to see.

***Insert new dynamic. I spent a lot of time on social media during my season on board. At times, in hindsight, I was extremely lonely. It was a new and horrible feeling of negativity that I wasn’t used to. My previous experiences had all been so positive. On Facebook I linked up with an old acquaintance.

We had last been in contact at university and almost 6 years later, here we were talking about our respective blogs. This friendly social media encounter re-introduced me to someone I realized I knew nothing about. He had me laughing, feeling challenged and supported. I saw something there and saw it so clearly that I had to go see him – in Barcelona.

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If anyone felt anything it had not yet been mentioned- and then I told him I’d be staying for a month. I knew I needed more than a few days to let him see what I did. Six weeks later I returned to South Africa, puffy eyed and unaware as to when we’d be seeing each other again. It didn’t take long before we knew- this ‘being apart’ nonsense wasn’t going to fly.

Fast forward a couple weeks and I’m back in Barcelona, from where I write this (long) post. As much as I am an advocate for solo travel there’s no shame in finding the perfect (travel) partner. Someone who is just as discontent with letting the world pass them by. Its not long before I say farewell to Barcelona for a second time and arrive in India. I couldn’t think of a better place to take this relationship, which is essentially still an embryo, and help it grow.

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Un Cafe con Leche, Por Favor

Barcelona offers a lot to a lot of people. You’ve got Gaudi and his colourful, wacky architecture dotted around the city. You’ve got the Gothic quarter which dates back to Medieval and even Roman times with its labyrinth of tiny streets. There’s the beach, the cathedrals, the tapas and the wine. And hopefully one day I’ll get round to writing about some of those things. But today I’m here to talk about coffee.

I’m a tea person. I want tea when I wake up in the morning- milk and one sugar. Everyday for the first 18 years of my life, I woke up to a mug of hot tea next to my bed. I love tea. But in Barcelona I’m getting in touch with my unexplored coffee side- and for good reason. You cannot walk a block without passing a well established cafe that offers good coffee with whatever else they’ve got going on.

IMG_0391More often than not, cafes are synonymous with delicious pastries that take a lot of will power to overlook. I was pleasantly surprised but also confused upon arriving in Barcelona. I’d just come from France- land of the pastries- to find that neighboring Spain offers almost as high a quality and possibly a higher quantity of pastry shops. The main difference being that France own the bragging rights and according to the rest of the world- are the specialists in this area. And while this may be true, Spain comes in a close second, scoring extra points for humility.

IMG_2243Spain possesses a vast vocabulary when it comes to all things coffee, ordering a plain “café” will get you quizzical looks from the server. There are a variety of ways to enjoy your cuppa. The most popular choice is ‘cafe con leche’ (coffee with milk) which is an espresso with hot milk added. ‘Cafe solo’ would be your Espresso, Cafe Cortado is ‘stained coffee’ where just a drop of milk is added to the espresso. If you’re after a milker option the uncommon, latte-like, ‘Leche Manchada’ is a little coffee and a lot of milk. Cafe con Hielo or Coffee with Ice is an espresso poured over a block of ice. Cafe bonbon is sweetened with condensed milk. Cafe bonbon con hielo- sweetened coffee on ice.

*I’m a cafe con leche girl. 

Coffee culture thrives so well here that you can make it your mission to visit a cafe daily and not go to the same one twice – they are literally on every block, on every street, in every neighborhood.  They come in all shapes and sizes and of course some are better than others! We used to frequent the one featured below because of its close proximity to our house (15 steps away). Its definitely one of the quirkier cafes with a homly seating arrangement- popular for meet up groups and working on your laptop. But there’s definitely better coffee to be found- so we continued our search.

IMG_9358By the time I leave Spain I imagine I would have spent a fair amount of money on the coffee hunt, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cafe culture is special and brings people together- don’t mind if I do. 

IMG_2556**This just in: Just finished one of the better coffees since arriving here. From a very unsuspecting cafe filled with locals. Thats when you know. 

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Expats Perfect Catalan Dish- Cooking Rabbit in Barcelona.

One of my gripes/ guilts about living abroad is not putting enough energy into soaking up the local culture. Its easier than you’d think to just surround yourself with expats and forget that you’re in a country with a culture completely foreign to your own. This is the case not only for ‘westerners’ like Americans, Aussies and South Africans- Spanish speakers of different nationalities also find it difficult to assimilate into each others worlds. Here in Spain, Catalonia in particular, groups of Argentinians and Colombians gravitate towards each other just as much as the rest of us do.

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In an attempt to be more culturally aware (and also an attempt to feed our curiosity), my apartment of expats decided to cook a typical Catalan dish…. Estofado de Conejo en Tomate (Braised Rabbit in Tomato). The majority of us were up to the challenge of eating this gamey meat, a select few were less enthused. In Spain one can buy a rabbit alongside chicken and other meats in the supermarket. It’s easily identifiable.

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A wounded group of people followed through with their plans to prepare the meal. A farewell party the night before meant none of us were on top of our game and the effort that goes into food preparation didn’t go unfelt. For those not keen on consuming rabbit, there was a chicken alternative. While this meant double the workload it also meant we didn’t go hungry. There’s not much meat on a rabbit you see.

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Basic ingredients included: Rabbit (or chicken), tomatoes, celery, garlic, onions, white wine, bay leaves and a few other herbs (when in doubt use whatever herbs you can find). We chose potato wedges as a side dish which ended up working well with what was essentially ‘Rabbit Stew’. 

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Luckily for the rest of us, those doing the cooking aren’t half bad at it. Although calling a ‘recipe’ ‘directions’ is never a great sign so naturally I had my reservations. While we’re all meat eaters and very familiar with an uncooked chicken or whatever else, a dead, skinned rabbit, with head still intact, had us all intrigued. We may have even made it ‘run’. 

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The result was delicious! There was a lot not going for this dish- rabbit, being cooked by rookies, all of whom were men, all of whom were hungover and tired. But I salute them- tell me this doesn’t look good!

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Unfortunately cooking and eating typical Spanish dishes doesn’t improve my Spanish. It seems to be regressing. But I’ll keep you updated. 

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Smoker’s Paradise: Barcelona and the Legal Weed Scene

Arriving at a non-descript place, situated in a small but busy square, neighboured by various shops and restaurants, we ring the doorbell. Someone who looks like he smokes all day every day comes to let us in. I’m with a familiar face and we’re welcomed inside. My chaperone pulls up a chair and sits with some friends who frequent the place just as often. I’m on my own and head to the counter………

I did hardly any research prior to my Spanish trip for reasons I’m not really sure of. I knew I didn’t want to see a boat and be able to eat, sleep, socialise, ‘live’ at my own pace for a while. 11am mornings, early nights, late nights, see people, not see people. Sightsee on days I want to and not feel bad about some good, long chill sessions.

The whole Cataln culture and desire for independence thing was news to me when I arrived. But what I also had no idea about, and what actually affected my life directly was what came to my attention regarding the marijuana culture in Barcelona. In one sentence, smoking a joint is almost as socially acceptable as puffing away on a cigarette (although we all know that’s borderline taboo itself).

I was constantly aware of the smell of weed- on the streets, during the day, at night, at the hostel, outside pubs and clubs. Everywhere. It took me a couple days to finally come to the realisation that marijuana in Barcelona Is an accepted part of life. I mean this not only in the way that it is socially acceptable to smoke the stuff, but also in its accessibility.

Thanks to a loophole found in laws pertaining to marijuana in Spain, opportunists have managed to build businesses (legal ones) based on the sale of it. Yes- you can purchase weed, legally, over the counter. And once you’ve done that, you can pull up a couch in the establishment, roll yourself a joint and enjoy it in peace.  

These ‘clubs’ as they’re called are a relatively new thing but for a long time the law has allowed two marijuana plants per person, so long as its grown and smoked in the privacy of your own home. The loophole works more or less this way: They take your allowance of 2 plants and provide you with a regular yield at a fair price that you can collect from the club every day. For every member that joins, the club can then add and grow another two plants to their ever growing fields of herb. Obviously not everyone is purchasing marijuana from their ‘own’ plants, although some do.

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Drug use and possession for personal use do not constitute a criminal offense under Spanish law (crimes must have victims in Spain). All things considered, I felt comfortable publishing this photo.

Towards the end of my extensive hostel stay I was what you might call ‘accepted’ by the staff as ‘one of them’, or a little more than a guest at the least. Their ‘local’ club is conveniently located 2 blocks away, and as with any of these establishments, one needs to be a member to gain access. Id spoken to enough passing travellers to know that obtaining a membership at one of these places is as easy as one, two, three. Quite literally. 1. Arrive at club, 2. Sign up as a member with any form of identification and 20 euros, 3. Purchase the marijuana of your choice. Indoor, Outdoor, Sativa, Indica, 50/50 for 4,5,6,7,8 euro a gram. Your choice.

IMG_20131112_144615[1]Some clubs are a little nicer than others but they all provide the same function. You will always get a few different strains on offer and will never be disappointed by strengths and tastes as every batch is monitored for a high standard. On arrival you might be offered drinks and a seat and some of the nicer clubs will even host cinema evenings and club nights where you can get to know fellow smokers.

……..He photocopies my ID book, cuts out the picture and glues it to what will be my membership card. Then he puts it in the laminating machine and we begin to talk business. This is a first for me- purchasing marijuana in much the same manner as I used to rent my movies from the movie store. Being out of the loop in terms of what’s what on the ‘menu’, I ask, ‘what’s your favourite?’ A question I used to ask the movie store people.

I settle on one called 1024- an interesting name- the only one I’ve come across made solely out of numbers. I reunite with my friend and pull up a chair. I meet his friends. Also Argentinians. The one’s been to South Africa- on a rugby tour 15 years ago. I’m told what needs to happen next and I oblige. Even though there’s already one going round the table.

Want to read more about this unique situation? Here is a great article with some sweet pictures.

 

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Barcelona- a month in pictures

What better way to wind down after a long summer of work than to immerse myself in the captivating city of Barcelona. With so much to see and do, its only fitting that I stay for an extended period of time and really get to know it. Click on the first image to start the slide show and enjoy 🙂

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