Last week, I fell in love with Barcelona. Some cities just make beautiful sense. Barcelona is one of them. Long, straight Roman roads to follow, squares thronged by palm trees. Great architecture, café culture, the beach. There's this pervasive myth that cities are unfriendly places, and sure, in some cases that can be true, but sometimes it just isn't. Plus, some cities just lay themselves neatly out for exploration. Barcelona is one of them.
When I last blogged about Barcelona, I was summoning my energy to make it to dance class. That need to dance took me across the city, to El Institut Del Theatre. I barely speak a word of Spanish ("Learn Spanish" is currently top of my to-do list). The dance teacher translated for me and anyway, dance and the language of the body are universal. So, I moved and I danced. Halfway through I went to acquire water from a vending machine, but the only thing with the word 'agua' on it seemed to turn into lemonade when I poured it down my throat. (Learn the language, Roberta).
My conclusion from that night of dancing was if I can take myself across a new city to a class in a language I don't speak in order to dance, then I must dance more back in Bristol. Not such a surprise, but often I am just trying to figure out what feels like a necessity in my life; which paths to follow.
Opposite El Institut Del Theatre that night:
As a woman alone, I pay close attention to how safe I feel in a given area. In Florence last Summer, I felt fairly safe, but eventually a little worn down by street harassment from random men. In Barcelona, I was mostly left alone when on foot, and this felt like a relief. Walking back home that night, there was the odd catcall, the occasional glance or comment, but nothing too unnerving. As I popped into a shop to buy some water (actual water this time) the shopkeeper told me I was 'sweet' and then his gaze lingered on me. I thanked him and quickly strode off into the night.
In fact, though, Barcelona is full of sweet things (of which I may or may not have been one). Daily, I walked past the local "Cremona," its Nutella smell spilling out onto the surrounding streets. Eventually, I began to fancy that perhaps I, too, had become cocoa butter scented by proxy.
Eventually, the constant passing by sweet shops and patisseries without wandering in (I'm egg and dairy intolerant) led me to track down Gopal vegan deli, situated in George Orwell Square.
Gopal's cabinet, full of vegan goodies:
Gopal is a great little place, reasonably inexpensive, and purveyor of quite fantastic veggie burgers and cake. I'm not even sure I like donuts that much, but somehow I found myself acquiring this enormous chocolaty beast. It was a party in my mouth.
Meanwhile, on the housesit front, the kitty trio daily changed allegiances among themselves. By my final days they were arranging themselves in this fashion, so I can only assume all was good in the mysterious world of cats. (From left to right: Coco, Lolo, Gina).
Daily, I visited the wonderful Santa Caterina market, lurked in local cafes, including the colourful and part open air Mescladis. Mescladis is part café, part social enterprise; its mission to make urban spaces beautiful.
Committed to 'being,' not 'doing' I limited my sightseeing. One sunny day, though, I made it to Barceloneta beach. On that Spring weekday, it was quiet and delightful. Or, well...as quiet as the "SANGRIA MOJITO!" chants of the hawkers allow.
The day before I was due to leave, I acknowledged my tourist credentials and went to explore Barcelona's old cathedral. Whilst the interior is lovely, it was taking the lift up onto the roof that made my heart soar. My impression was of being right up in the (clear blue) sky; all the perspective in the world afforded to me. Breeze blowing, the city skyline spreading out around me, right that second, I was exactly where I needed to be. Barcelona, in its magic, is a place to which I'll return (and possibly return...and return).