I’ve recently taken a step back to look at my life here in Leeds compared to the one back in Barcelona, my hometown. Indulging in the realms of a new culture and ways of life that I am slowly becoming accustomed to, in the past month I have been well acquainted with a sense of pressure coming from some external, abstract force that seems to try and mold my behavior into one that does not align with my true identity.
I have come to label this force as an influence coming from several sources that have to do with not only “Uni Life”, but also what it’s like to live in a city so different to the one I spent the most critical periods of my life in, and one that taught me some intrinsic lessons about life that are worth sharing. It is because of this that I want to tell you about Barcelona, how it so beautifully offers you the chance to break away from the pressures of daily life into a state of tranquil enjoyment, and above all, to be you. Here is My Barcelona.
The first place I think of is a little square I never miss the chance to visit when I’m around the gothic quarter in the heart of the city. Although infested with sunburnt tourists and the scent of consumption and cash in the air, in the Barri Gótic you can still feel part of the small, mystical streets and be shunned by the insane baroque architecture anywhere you look. The specific spot I am so fanatic about is the Plaça Neri. Whilst to me it (quite emphatically) may be the epitome of peacefulness and quiet love, I am still sure you would at least be pleasantly surprised by the sudden quietness that swarms you when you enter this hidden square.
The most satisfying of days in the city are those when you just wander about aimlessly with good company, be it with that person you really fancy, your best friend that just gets you or even your own self. Taking Barcelona by foot with a slow pace is when you can best absorb the “spice of life” it has to offer.
To see a unique piece of artwork for free, look for a hidden mural in Plaça d’Isidre Nonell or as my friends and I like to call it, THE Wall. This piece, namely “The World Begins With Every Kiss”, from afar portrays the close-up of a sensual kiss between two women, and when you look closely you find that it is a mosaic composed of several photos taken in Barcelona, of its distinct views and it’s citizens of all ages performing acts of love. Every time I see it with my own eyes I become overwhelmed by the vitality that is reflected in each and every photograph, and how it so perfectly represents Barcelona’s way of inducing such inhibitionless enjoyment.
My last day in Barcelona before moving to Leeds I spent by the sea with my best friend Amber, in a lowly populated beach in Gavà, a mere 20 minutes away from the city. Being the particular spot I cultivated my tan on for most summers of my life, sequences of events throughout the course of the years have shaped the person I am now: from jumping as far as I possibly could off the swings as a child, to walking along the sand dunes with my mum as a pre-teen, to the revelational moment I first decided to go topless a few years ago. And as the loveliness can always be topped-up with a place that supplies fresh beer, good food and Barry White music in the background, I would end (or begin) my day at the beach in the Kauai: a giant, spacey, colourful bar right beside the beach.
If you ever choose to go the Kauai, you will understand what I mean by utter bliss as you eat a fresh tuna tartar with crunchy, artisan bread whilst you sip on a fresh Estrella and overlook the waves that swish behind the wild dunes before you.
Another kind of satisfaction that you get in Barcelona comes from the creative, funky places and events at your disposal. Being a city of innovation and entrepreneurship makes it all the more recreational, there is always something to do. On the first weekend of every month the Palo Alto market is set up to join some of Barcelona’s most prolific food shops and start-up companies where you will find all sorts of hipster-like people drinking Aperol Spritz and jamming to some avant-garde music. But to see this creativity in its daily function all you need to do is walk around the district of L’Eixample, and make your way down streets like Enrique Granados, Rambla Catalunya, or Aribau and discover the diverse array of places at hand.
The last spot I will name is found in perhaps the poshest district of Barcelona. Way uptown is the Turó Park, another place I’ve spent lots of scattered time in throughout my life. In the heart of the park is Pinhán Café, where spotify is always turned on playing the chillest tunes. This is where I spent quite some time in the summer sitting under high palm trees, sipping on some red wine, celebrating life and chatting up with my closest people.
I could point out countless more bars, restaurants, and shops that are so worth visiting in Barcelona, but that wouldn’t transmit the most important thing about this city. The essence of Barcelona is made of its sunsets and insane nights, how it touches both the sea and the mountains at once, and all of the people that make it as creative and folksy as it is. And although my views are deeply biased I can assure you there is something special in the air that makes this city so enlightening.
If you ever do decide to visit this place I would tell you to concern yourself with only one thing; which, as cliché as this may sound, is freeing yourself of that which constrains you. Let Barcelona teach you (as it did to me) what it feels like to live with ease, to let the day go by without a need to fulfil any sorts of expectations, and to let things flow in their simplicity.
Feature image credit: Patricia Boving