I was so used to call myself a dreamer through all my life. And lately I have seen so many of my dreams coming true, that I don’t know what to call myself any longer. A dream catcher? 🙂 Here I want to share my Spanish dream.
My first visit to Spain was to the city of Barcelona, six years ago. Anyone surprised? Me not :). It is definitely the most visited city in Spain (and then you discover the difference between Catalonian and Spanish mentalities, but it comes later…). My friend has been to Spain before and wanted to spend every morning on the beach – “because it is our summer vacation” (and coming from Norway where the summer weather is unpredictable, you’d better use those sunny days wisely). So our beach mornings were long, stretching over into late afternoon. Then we would take subway to get back to hotel, tired from the sun, jump (or crawl) in the shower and stroll out in the open arms of the city waiting for us. It was the time to do some sightseeing and eating tapas. Drinking sangria became a habit too (of course 🙂 ). We did it all: walking on La Rambla and buying tickets for a flamenco show, taking pics in Parc Guell and partying in the club. In the infamous style “been there, done that”.
Honestly, I didn’t care much about the beach. We had only six days in this city and I was hungry for meeting the soul of Barcelona. I believe, that every city has its own vibe, its own soul – and I was very curious about The Great Enchantress, as they sometimes call her, Barcelona. My wish was to wander through its narrow streets, where light falls mystically from above, to look into windows of the bars, to sip coffee in a local café and listen to the locals sharing their daily life. This is my passion. I always want something more than a touristic experience, hopping on and off through the place like in the theme park. I want to get under the skin of the city, to feel its energy, to watch, hear and feel its people.
So on our last day I dropped out of the beach routine. After delivering my friend to the subway station close to the beach, I walked off aimlessly without knowing where I was going. The avenida was broad and not cozy, I went along a park wall that smelled weirdly (it had a Zoo inside) – no narrow streets, no local cafes, but I still felt great, like I was on a discovery tour))). I went through the park with a fountain and a lake, which is the biggest park in the centre, as I discovered later, Parc de Ciutadella, found Arc de Triumf, made some weird turns but still landed in El Born and Barrio Gotic, the core of the city. I had a map on me, but I guess, I was not using it a lot. Sometimes I choose just to walk and let the road take me wherever it wants.
Little did I know at that time that the life will bring me many more times back to Barcelona. Six months later I met a man from this city (who lives in Norway, mind you), we even dated for some months, but our life took several weird turns and two more years before we could get together. Now it has been a while, and I start loosing the count of the times I have been in this city. It feels right to call it my second home. Every time we stay here in the neighborhood, just perfect for the dream I was dreaming: old buildings, narrow streets, locals living their life, authentic cafes and restaurants. I have my favorite park here, and my favorite walking way to the beach. I know a bakery where I can sit and read a book sipping my cafe con leche ,watching the people crossing the market square outside of the window.
On my first discovery tour through the city I had a dream of local authentic life, and I didn’t know then that this kind of life cannot be found in the center of Barcelona, which has big avenues, great buildings and streets forever changed by the tourist industry. There are not so many locals sipping coffee in the bars of Barrio Gotic and other touristic city parts (which I find a sad fact, by the way). But there is a lot of authentic life style to be found in the neighborhoods, the barrios. And I am happy to have discovered some of them.
This February I am back to the enchanting city, making it my purpose to explore the barrios, the different parts of the city off the beaten path. And I want to share my discoveries with you. Hope, that it will be an inspiration to the travelers of that kind who like to see the soul of the place and fall in love with it.