“Ah! Hiii!” says my friendly colleague as I enter the staff room a full hour after we said goodbye at the local school. “Where have you been?”
I am sweating -near steaming- under my Robocop biker jacket about to faint from hunger and thirst (getting off the moped each time for the first week feels like you have just run a marathon).
“Umm…” I paused before completely lying and saying I had some things to do.
The truth was I had been circling round Barcelona for the whole time having missed a turning and got swept up in the current of lunchtime traffic. I had eventually made it to Tibidabo, parked up my wee Vespa and locked her up, only to decide she was a little too far over the line and that I would inch her back a bit. In the delirium of post kiddies class mayhem/ moped whirlwind I threw my keys into the hatch under the seat and, with that one fatal nudge, managed to bring down the seat and lock myself out. I was keyless, lunchless and at the highest point in Barcelona – far, far away from my flat.
Nothing can prepare you for BCN’s roads
Weaving in and out of cones at the top of Monjuic with my instructor wearing an airbag jacket seemed a world away when, on day one, I found myself in the thick of evening traffic on Los Cortes Catalanes with its umpteenth number of lanes, darting mopeds and huge Harley Davidsons. I must have drifted out at least seven blocks from where I was supposed to turn off from pure fear of veering in any direction but straight on. With the wind riding though my pathetically thin jacket and the roaring of engines all around I made the decision there and then to get myself to this almighty Outlet Moto I had heard of, where everyone goes apparently, and get myself a proper jacket.
Bones are priceless, for everything else there’s Mastercard
Outlet Moto is a bit like Decathlon but for bikers and is stacked floor to ceiling with stuff at discounted rates. I guess it’s quite TK Maxx-esque, for any Brits reading this. I arrived 15 minutes before close and confessed to the first person who approached me that it was my first day and that I was terrified and would he please sort me out with something that would ensure I would make it home in one piece if anything were to happen (but could it also please not look too manly). What do you know – he found me one. Shoulder, elbow and forearm protection, 100% waterproof and with a belt around the waist making it nice a feminine. I also had a spine protection put in for an extra 15 euros. It was, I think, the quickest purchase of my life.
A friend who also has a moped was telling me that at the beginning people often get really sore arms at from all the tension – I did not have this problem but what I did have was, genuinely, aching forehead muscles, which goes to show just how wide my eyes must have been during those first few jaunts. Arriving at destinations has quickened in the last couple of weeks (write off getting anywhere on time for the first while as travel somehow triples as you get used to the one way systems and the swarms of other vehicles) and the need to slither onto the pavements for a breather is less. From what I understand, taxi and bus lanes are just for taxis and buses….if the police are around, otherwise: free-for-all, dude.
Dropping the moped has happened a few times, overfilling and having petrol splutter all over moped has occurred once too….all and all there have been enough blunders in this first month to make it understood that riding a moped is most definitely not just like riding a bike.
Mecca of motorbike gear: Outlet Moto (Carrer de Pallars, 65) **You need to ring the buzzer to enter!!** They also do online sales within Europe http://www.outletmoto.com/
Photography: Colorín Colorado (Carrer Sant Lluís, 56) Marta and Raquel also offer their BCN Photo Tour in English, Spanish, Catalan and German http://www.colorincoloradofoto.com/