I’m kind of a snobby tourist. I don’t like offices of tourism and find that, most of the time, the people who work there don’t want to help you. I understand their frustration – tourists are annoying. They’re the most annoying type of people. They are usually the most sheep-like of the sheeple. And it’s annoying. So I don’t want to associate myself with them. I don’t want to wait in line at some church I couldn’t care less about or eat at one more disgusting and over-priced tourist trap, where the waiters stand on the street, corral you inside, and then ignore you for the rest of your dining experience. Most of all, I hate tour buses. Why get on a bus? First of all, buses suck, period. Second of all, you’re flying past monuments and buildings, inhaling street fumes, and being gawked at by locals who think you’re a big dork for riding on a tour bus with your camera around your neck and a fancy new hat you got at a tourist shop and wouldn’t dare wear in your own country. FUN!
But my parents don’t really like to walk around very much. Their stamina is pretty impressive for Americans from a city that literally doesn’t have sidewalks, but at the end of a day spent walking around, they’re complaining of pain that I hope I never have to experience. Given that my parents didn’t want to start a Vespa gang with me, we settled for a compromise: GoCars.
These little yellow scooters with a bumper car built around reach a maximum speed of 30 km/hr, according to the man who sold us our tickets and made us sign a “Yes, we know it’s not technically legal for foreigners to drive in Spain” contract. In practice, I don’t believe they move that quickly. The car is equipped with a GPS – but it’s no physical, interactive map: it’s a British woman who gives you directions from the car speaker terrifyingly late.
We took off from the “garage” and headed to La Sagrada Familia, which my parents hadn’t yet seen. Okay, now we’re ready to tour my favorite city, Barcelona! If you go straight, you’ll head toward the beach. If you turn right, you’ll go into the city center, our invisible tour guide said. As she says this, the beach is right behind us. The city center is to our left. Many times during the ride, she would get confused and start her directions over, obviously registering that we were going the opposite direction. Helpful.
Then we drove to Park Guell, Gaudí’s famous inner-city forest. Driving in front and leading my parents around a city that wasn’t necessarily familiar to us but was still a cluster of new to them, we gained too much momentum for one hill and turned a curve long before my parents’ car quit working and poor ol’ Mom was forced to get out and push my dad in the GoCar up the hill. Keep in mind, we’re looking for a place to park at this point, and tons of tourists are watching with delight and curiosity as my 5’4″ mother pushes this bumper car up a hill. No big deal. We park next to each other and explore Park Guell before heading farther up the city’s hill to a monastery.
After a while, I took my turn to drive.
Get in the far right lane. I know this is a bus lane, but don’t worry – you’ll be turning right soon. Turn right. Okay, now we’re on the main street in Barcelona. We’re in the left lane. Turn right here. Do not go into the tunnel. The tunnel was about 200 meters ahead and the traffic was busy – buses, taxis, and angry Barcelona drivers sped past us, locking me into my lane with a trail of angry cars behind my parents, who were behind me. Hearing her directions and seeing a short opportunity to move, I jerked the car towards the right, locking myself, and my parents’ car, into the median between the tunnel-directed traffic and the traffic of the street we needed to be on. After about 5 minutes of no breaks being given by city drivers, we made our way to the correct street. Kuba’s pants were soiled and my reputation as a terrible driver was strengthened.
“Are you done driving now?” Kuba asked. I recognized my last-born-child need to prove myself capable and decided it would be beneficial for all of our futures if I let someone else drive. This is where things went downhill. As we climbed uphill, we looked for a place to pull over.
Turn right here, and then immediately get into the middle lane. The right lane will take you to the motorway, and you do not want to drive on the motorway. We pull into the middle lane and are stopped at the light. Cars pile in behind and around, and mom and dad are nowhere in sight. Little do we know, their little engine couldn’t make it up the hill, and at this time, mom was probably pushing dad, yet again. We turn left into a gas station and wait for them to catch up. Seeing their little yellow car make it over the hill, I noticed they weren’t in the middle lane. I watched their little helmet heads bobble in the car as they cluelessly turned right, down to the motorway.
An hour later, we made it down to the garage and found my parents, alive and well, enjoying tapas and drinks outside in the sun. “Give me more credit than that!” said my dad in response to my fears of motorway death in a GoCar. He hadn’t turned down the highway after all, but went up to the next block and decided to give up and head to the garage before he got too lost.
Hours later, after sunset, we saw a very confused couple sitting in a GoCar, making a U-turn and yelling at each other.
Tourists, the GoCar isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you have the guts and happen to be in one of the few cities where they’re used, I highly recommend it.