Barcelona is world renowned for the home of all things Gaudi, the centre of Catalan camaraderie and as an epicenter of culture, the city which oozes sophistication was to became my semi-permanent home for ten short months.
Upon my first visit to Barcelona a few years back, it was immediately obvious why it’s popularity has soared over the years; before even scratching the surface of the city’s wonder, you are immediately in awe by everything it has on offer. The city is adorned with gothic cathedrals, art nouveau state buildings and modernist masterpieces which were largely ignored until the 1990s. Gaudi’s unfinished church was overlooked as a nuisance rather than the extraordinary, notorious work of art it is today. Many European cities pride themselves on historic and ornate architecture, but walking around Barcelona will leave you weak at the knees and a with a crick in the neck, the detail in the everyday is unsurpassed and it’s impossible to look anywhere but up.
A preconception of a life in Europe largely revolves around sun soaked evenings of strolling the cobbled streets lined with boutiques and ice cream parlours, before sampling the local cuisine and diacritic bars. This assumption is wholeheartedly true. The epitome of European life finds its home in Barcelona, evenings across the seasons are enjoyed in the fusion of traditional Spanish bars alongside the ever increasing Nordic, modernist establishments, homing the hipsters who have gathered from around the world and decided to call Barcelona their home. The eclectic mix of residents who have come to reside in the city is a nod to its fame and adoration which makes it the city it is today.
True Spanish authenticity is perhaps a little hard to find in Barcelona, there are without a doubt old school Spanish establishments; mahogany plaid bars free from seats and with only beers and wine on offer. But in comparison it is also home to an array of modern installations which boast cosmopolitan influence from all over the world.
This leads me onto one thing us millennials know all too well, brunch. Brunch in Blighty is an in-between meal which has risen to power above all other meals, with avocados now even more popular than the beloved orange.
In classic late to the party, Spanish style Brunch in Barcelona is leisurely on the rise, but it wasn’t always so accepted. Stubborn and stuck in their outmoded ways the locals and the older generation didn’t like this bizarre new craze. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt from living in Barcelona is that the development of the city is always with the tourist in mind, and Brunching in Barca has never been easier or more delicious, just another fantastic fad the best city on earth has to offer.
The feisty Catalan residents although they depend on us, the tourists, this definitely doesn’t mean they have to like us, the main issue surrounding the rowdy holidaymaker versus the locals is the noise. Barcelona is overcrowded, in a single, five floor building you can have as many as fifty people living there, you are literally living on top of each other. In swoops the noise ban, before 10am and after 10pm noise is a no no, in a government bid to appease the locals. Bending these rules can end up with buckets of water thrown over the balconies from above often with remarkable aim which is a sure fire way to dampen the start to your evening.
Although rowdy brits abroad irritate the locals, the Spanish are not stupid. Barcelona heads up the Catalan region of Spain and with its popularity exceeding that of any other city, Madrid who? It contributes a whopping 20% of the federal governments tax revenues, impressive for this this tiny five district city. The fiery Catalan people however are up in angst about this figure because despite contributing so much they only receive about 14% of federal spending. To cut a long, familiar story short, the Catalan parliament want a referendum and want to be independent from the rest of Spain, however the central Spanish government will never let this happen because Barcelona makes them rich. Capiche?
This fiery nature of the Catalans is reflected in their loyal commitment to protesting. Every weekend, without a doubt, a protest would happen around the city, staying true to their fervent stereotype the Catalans are even more dogmatic and opinionated, but perhaps a little short on ideas. Witnessing my whole neighbourhood pop their heads out their balconies one evening to bang pots and pans together for twenty minutes was perhaps a little more of a nuisance than proactive, alas only the Spanish would think of such a bizarre sign of solidarity and I bloody love them for it.
Coming from a little village in the middle of England and then living in Birmingham for three years, Barcelona is in a league of it’s own. The greatest gift I have had bestowed upon me throughout my short lived stay in the city, is the inherently Spanish love for life, people always applaud the Italians for the capacity to love, the French for their food, and the Dutch for their practically perfect way of life, but the Spanish capture all of the above. Barcelona defines relaxed, it changes us Brits from the highly strung stressed out individuals we are programmed to be to the laid back Larry’s the Spanish are. The Spanish motto focuses on their need to work so they can live; they do not live simply to work. Their love of life is unparalleled, they adore their family and friends and the zest they hold for life is forever endearing.
Without the desire for an abundance of material things and with a disregard for trends and latest material objects, the polar opposite to our British obsession. Living in Spain changed my outlook on life, I became more spontaneous, patient and relaxed because the environment allowed it. In Britain so many of us work ourselves to the ground, living for that one day off. I realise our abysmal weather plays a big part in our reclusiveness but the Spanish spend every day like it’s the weekend, and although it’s certainly not helping their economy, it definitely helps their hearts.
All in all, I became less British and more Spanish and I came to the inevitable conclusion that sunshine is at the top of my long list of loves about Barcelona and my emigration is an inevitability. Hasta Luego!
Words by Liv Rafferty