Traveling is a great way to learn new things. When you go to another part of the world you can have all kinds of new experiences and encounter different perspectives from other cultures. But it can be hard, especially on a whirlwind tour of multiple countries, to get below the surface and really learn something about the place you are visiting beyond the cut-and-paste speeches of a typical tour guide. Luckily, this past spring while I was traveling Europe, I was fortunate enough to have my own personalized tour of Barcelona, Spain—and I have the steampunk community to thank for that!
Fellow Geekette Kayla first met our friend Xavi on a public facebook group for steampunk music. When she heard I was going to Xavi’s homeland, she passed his contact information on to me. Xavi is a native of Barcelona who is heavily involved in the local steampunk scene. He hangs around Madam Chocolat, a specialty steampunk and Lolita boutique owned by his girlfriend Magdalena and her sister Blanca, and also hosts local steampunk events.
A few days before arriving in Barcelona I contacted Xavi on facebook. He warmly welcomed me to his city and offered to show me around. Using the spotty wifi in my hostel, my roommate and I managed to arrange to meet Xavi at his girlfriend’s shop during my first day in Barcelona. After showing us around the shop, Xavi took us on a geeky tour of the city. He pointed out nearby oddities like the Aliens4Sale shop full of “alien specimens” just around the corner from Madame Chocolat.
Then we explored a magnificent sci-fi bookstore called Gigamesh that had everything from steampunk literature, to Star Wars extended universe novels, to Pathfinder manuals and game accessories. I was thrilled to find that many of their books were in English, and I wound up picking up a little anthology of steampunk stories to take home. Afterwards, we wandered around the city, with Xavi sharing tidbits of history and local legends.
Another day, I met up with Xavi and Magdalena at the shop again and we walked over to a lovely Alice in Wonderland-themed café called Pudding. The place looked like you had stepped straight into Wonderland, with giant mushroom lamps rising from floor to ceiling and swaths of fabric draped overhead. The downstairs section was child-friendly and filled with games and toys to keep little ones entertained. As we were drinking our tea, we were surprised by a well-dressed group of Xavi’s friends, including a charming Lolita fashion designer and the woman credited with introducing Lolita to Barcelona.
At the end of my three-day stay, I was sad to leave Xavi and Barcelona behind. But I was even sadder to miss the chance to meet the members of Abney Park—one of my favorite steampunk bands—whom Xavi was picking up from the airport the following morning for their Barcelona show. While I would have loved to have stayed longer, I am grateful for the opportunity to have gotten a personalized, geeky tour of this beautiful city from a friendly steampunk local. I have found that many members of the steampunk community love connecting and sharing their knowledge with fellow geeky friends, and this is no less true abroad! So if you ever find yourself in Barcelona, be sure to stop my Madame Chocolat, and pay Xavi a visit.