Due to a combination of overtiredness from the trip and nerves, I felt sick to my stomach as the plane landed in Barcelona. I was 17, I was going abroad for the first time, and I was about to meet the girl (and her family) that I’d be living with for the next month.
I needn’t have worried — I know that now — because that girl has been a friend to me ever since that summer. But before I knew her, her world was new and exciting and just a little scary. The next morning, Conchi came into my room to wake me up, speaking in the second language I had not yet mastered and way too fast to understand at half-asleep. I panicked. I had no idea what she was saying and I had no idea how I was going to get my bearings.
It all got better quickly from there — it was summer in Barcelona, and as high school students our job was to have fun, get to know each other and speak Spanish. Most days we’d head to the beach, or on a walk through the Barri Gòtic. I learned more in that month about the world, myself and new friendship than I ever had before, and that trip started a love affair with Spain that has seen me through five trips in 12 years and fostered a friendship with a family that treats me like one of their own.
That first summer, wherever we went, Conchi and my other Spanish friends all wore the same shoes — leather avarcas, which were worn-in, comfy and the ultimate summer sandal. On a later trip, I got my own pair, which I have long since lost, and I always have a pang of nostalgia whenever I see anyone wearing these sandals.
Seeing these avarcas for sale — imported from Spain — at Alder & Co. in downtown’s West End district, takes me back to that first summer, playing beach volleyball at Barceloneta and eating helado while “Asereje” blasted in my headphones.
Alder & Co. is a curated shop — but not like the very curated shop just a couple doors down. This place has a more accidental, even serendipitous, feeling. I love the collections, from brightly-colored books to rare finds like Swedish magazines and handcrafted housewares.