In 2011, I lived in Westminster, on the third floor in a shoe-box like dorm, the corner one. My window opened up to a neighboring building’s brick wall and the alley below was a hot spot for old, bipolar homeless folk who spoke and sung themselves to sleep when the sun went down. My expectations for a year-long life in London were different than what I had imagined.
Living in London is not for the faint of heart. The pushy people, influx of cultures and manners and the general unfriendliness that a girl raised in the South experiences can be, to put it lightly, discouraging. Life in London did get better, but at a time when it was bad, I had the surprising opportunity to visit Barcelona - a city that was polar opposite than the one I was trying to get used to.
Behold “Barcelonetta” - the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean.
The first thing I remember about my four day trip to Barcelona was the sun. So. Much. Sun. My nap on the plane ride over was delightfully interrupted by the city’s bright sky. I walked off the plane and into the rays - I dined at the only table facing the sunlight and spent hours just sitting on the beach basking in the heavenly hallway.
It’s incredible at how little Spanish one can speak to get by in the city. I, being determined to become a local, only took public transit, never asked for directions and never pulled out a map. I used up way too much data on my Blackberry using GPS. (Yes - this was the dark ages of when the Blackberry reigned supreme.)
My first stop was Park Guell - an area I had only read about it art history books. The sun was out, my jacket was off and up I walked to the top of the cobblestone hill, weaving in and out of people in the La Salut neighborhood.
The construction and design of Park Guell was commissioned by Eusebi Guell, a Spanish entrepreneur who profited from the Industrial Revolution, to Antonin Gaudi, a vegetarian architect who believed in utopian socialism, was inspired by nature, architecture and religion and barely passed his studies to become an architect.
You can almost read Gaudi’s inspired thoughts in the the uneven stone columns, hanging purple flowers, high rocky arcs, and uniquely, imperfectly cut glass and colored tile. The trees and flowers paint the perfect piece of art around the masterpiece. It’s an unorthodox direction Gaudi took, away from the more traditional artistic structures and design of his time. The open spaces, winding stair cases and an uphill climb to the top of Mount Carmel create a rather confusing path for large crowds to begin their tours. Yet, once you reach the top - there is a silence as tourists quietly float over the city next to the 3D shaped cemented cross.
Positioned perfectly in the area that resonates the most sound was a band that was playing in the middle of the park that overlooked the city. I don’t remember (or really cared) what song they were playing, I was more enthralled by their sprit and passion. Even amidst the heat of the day and sweat on their brow - the musicians didn’t didn’t seem to care what song they were play either, only that they were making music.
I could spend hours describing how I accidentally ordered fried pig’s blood for dinner (I was also vegetarian at the time), when I met a friendly Canadian who had been robbed of all his money in Gothic Quarter by two women or how I shared a bottle of champagne with a group of old Frenchmen, conversing in broken Spanish as we watched a French rugby game near La Ramba.
In a city so foreign, so different from my life in London, I found myself at home, making friends and wandering the streets as a true local. In four days - I became a Catalonian.