Outside in the wild Arab morning, I slip my keys under the door, walk to the main drag, and hail a cab, asking the driver to take me to the matar. He speaks little English, but points to his white knit kufi and says he believes in he codes of Islam in Frenglish, completely unprompted. I tell him that’s great, and the rest of the drive we chat about the beauty of Algeria, the food, and the people. He is nice, but charges me 1000 dinars for the 20-minute airport ride ($5.50 USD), as I forgot to tell him I believe in the code of the taxi meter. Thankfully, what he charged was not too far above market; I have been scammed for much more in taxi cabs the world over, from Vegas to Vietnam. If I ever go bankrupt, it’ll be because I was too lazy to negotiate a fare, or else forgot to ask the driver to turn the meter on. I come from the Uber generation, what else can be said?
I am happy to give the man my money, as I know I can’t unload my dinars at a fair rate anyway. In the airport, I pass through immigration and am welcomed to Algeria by the officer, despite leaving Algeria and not entering. Not once have I been welcomed to a place both on arrival and exit. Hospitality in Algeria knows no bounds and can even be nonsensical at times like this. Grabbing my passport, I enter the terminal before I realize that all of the restaurants, duty free stores, and exchanges were by the entrance, and I would have to be welcomed a once again back into Algeria if I wanted to get rid of my money. Thankfully, there is a man selling stale pain au chocolat croissants and juice by the gate, so I get rid of some of my dinar coins and eat until my Air Algerie flight to Barcelona begins boarding.
* * *
An almost comically short flight takes me to terminal two in Barcelona, and I thought about how no sane tourist would take the more expensive seven-hour ferry, as I had done on my way into Oran. However, I am no sane tourist. Before I leave the airport, I try to exchange as many dinars as I can into Euros, but they will not accept around 1200 of my dinars because the bills are ripped or the coins are in small denominations. Thankfully, the money does not go to waste, as there happens to be an Algerian woman behind me at the exchange who is happy to take my money for when she returns to her motherland. As for me, I am on a mission to find my mother. Both of my parental figures are off in a McDonald’s somewhere in Barcelona, sipping overpriced Cokes, so I head to the metro. Spain is hot, and the metro is hotter. I change trains three times, and wind up sweating profusely at the McDonald’s. The three of us grab lunch and I recount my last two days’ voyage to North Africa.
Barcelona, in the opinion of this cynical, sweaty American backpacker, gives the impression of being Spain’s New York, in the worst possible way. The next few days we spend eating overpriced food, and staying in an overpriced hostel, as the heat dries us like raisins. We spend a morning on the beach, which is practically the only free thing in the city, and watch the 2-Euro coldcervezacoldbeer-men duck behind the tanning, generally topless, tourists whenever the cops drive by on their golf cart. The days pass in Picasso-like abstraction as we three Bernabeis make the most of our remaining family time sipping reunion sangria and lamenting our having left the beauteous and affordable south and west of Spain.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.