12 January 2009

On being a better hostess

We have had house guests for a few days, which is always fun. And it has been a bit of a letting-go process for me, because I have lately come to realize something about myself: I have a bit of a problem when it comes to visitors. I want everyone who comes to Barcelona to love it as much as I do, and furthermore, to have a sense of its history and understand something of Catalan culture. (I don't have high expectations or anything.)

This presents a difficulty because I used to experience a vague dissatisfaction when visitors would (most naturally) compare Barcelona to City X, their personal favorite or current residence. Or when I couldn't transmit a whole history lesson in one walking tour of the city. Or when a guest would rather skip something that I considered absolutely essential, or sleep until noon and miss seeing that museum with the amazing paintings/architecture/history/view.

The first step in solving the problem is (as ever) recognizing it, and although that took a while, it finally dawned on me that it's not up to me to control other people's experience of this city. Everyone has different rhythms, different travel styles, and totally different interests when it comes to sightseeing. It's not about me. No one else is going to have the same exact vision and experience of this place. My job is just to provide friends and family with a home away from home, a jumping-off point for city ventures (or not).

(All of this should be obvious, but I'm a little slow when it comes to these things, tending to believe what my control issues/type A proclivities tell me: i.e., that I am right and everyone should see things just as I do.)

So this time around, I've been as laid-back as possible about advice-giving and tourism suggestions, and not stressed about whether our visitors have seen this city in its best light, or discovered the "right" back streets. The Mister and I explained, as we always do, a bit about the Catalan language and culture, but only to the extent that our guests asked about it.

From there, it's up to them to make their own discoveries. And besides, as I tell them (and myself), they'll have to save something for the next visit!

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