Travels in Barcelona


Our temporary home overlooked a picturesque square surrounded by casual coffee shops and bars filled with local people.

The walls of the room were a deep blue, which contrasted nicely with the golden sheets that cascaded from the ceiling, causing a softened light, made all the more beautiful by the shadows cast by the well positioned pot plant.

The hippy chicness was topped off with the inclusion of two green leather chairs, possessing the curvature of an hour glass figure and golden tassels that complimented the drapes in this loose, but well curated room. 

Upon first leaving the apartment, I attempted to turn on a light in the hallway and accidently pressed the doorbell. The bell was nothing like what you’d find in the UK, it was a metal plate with a mini mallet that caused a ripple of deep sound throughout the apartment, reminiscent of the bell in boxing. It’s a much more organic and pleasing sound to that of the electric bells in the UK.

Just moments from where we stayed, Catalonya square is the heart of central Barcelona. It’s main streets acting as the arteries that feed the veins and capillaries of Barcelona’s side streets. The city is laid out in a series of blocks, with the occasional curved road thrown in as a response to absolute order.

The main streets are lined with trees, causing a ripple of branches overhead and, I expect, much needed shade in the summer.

On first impression, Barcelona’s beauty is only tarnished by the multitude of foreign touts goading passers by into their underwhelming bars. Appealing only to those capable of being won over by these blatant conmen.

The city itself was less colourful than I expected. Brightly coloured walls and mosaics, for what it is known, became photo worthy for their infrequency rather than their significance.

That being said, the Arc de Triomf and fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella were spectacular.

Other nice touches like the weaving branches in and out of railings and decorative pavement added an organic touch, along with the occasional sparks of illustrative flair that appeared on building sides.

Few would argue the significance of the beach to Barcelona. On reflection, we definitely visited at the wrong time to enjoy this key selling point. I can only imagine the abundance of scantly dressed people lining the miles of coastline, sipping cocktails in the many bars and luxury boats that align the ocean and neighbouring harbour.

The silver lining is that we experienced a side of Barcelona very few others will see, as locals gathered together to form blockades to protect their beachfront bars from the powerful swell that battered the seafront.

Much like the place, the people of Barcelona also surprised me. I failed to see as many attractive people as I expected. With weather accounted for, the hedonistic, casual hippy, fashion that most locals seemed to ascribe to left everything to the imagination.

We found that very few people spoke English, with only the young helping us in translating our basic requests to staff of restaurants and coffee shops. Never the less, people seemed to be more patient with us than I have experienced in other European countries.

As far as the kinds of people, there seemed to be a real lack of cultural diversity when compared to places like London. Whether this is down to the lack of opportunity, or the incentive to speak Spanish as a first language I don’t know. But I failed to see many foreign faces during our stay. The majority of what diversity there was came from the Chinese tourists and Turkish shop owners, who have cornered a number of streets off the main tourist strip.

While walking round the city I noticed a number of flags hanging from balconies that differed from the Spanish flag. I wrongly assumed it was to do with the Barcelona football team. But have subsequently discovered that it is the flag of Catalonia, and represents the battle for the people of Catalonia to become an independent state. The last major movement in 2012, but the remanence clear to this day.

Along with communal drinking, football and basketball, there is one activity that has clear significance in Barcelona and that is Graffiti.

There is graff everywhere, much of it terrible. Occasionally I stumbled across a striking shutter or well conceived concept for an awkward space and on the rarest of occasions, a well-drafted political statement, such as this beauty…

Not even the laid back Spaniards could let trump get elected without some form of reactionary outburst. The highlights of the Graffiti however, were the unusual quotes dotted throughout street corners, written over empty cans. Quirky pick me ups among an otherwise ugly mess. The ironic thing being that the only shop shutter not to be plastered in graffiti, was the graffiti store itself.

To highlight the significance of Graff in Barcelona. The long piece created by Keith Haring outside the Museum of Modern Art remains untouched of defacing. Showing the respect held for the art among the community.

This piece by Keith signalled, for me, the transition from street art to design. The design in Barcelona was strong. It’s clear they understand the concept that less is more. My favourite piece being the keyhole poster for the erotic museum, which vaguely unveils a series of flying vaginas and a stray cock pollinating one in the foreground.

Other less notable cultural quirks came from the market stalls of coin and stamp collectors. Hundreds of elders flocking round stalls in search of rare finds. It reminded me of my childhood years swapping Pokémon cards in Woolworths. The collectors may have been 70 years older, but they’re equally as short and enthusiastic to find a shiny something or other. It appears even elderly people need some outlet for their consumerism.

I take the mick now, but it was arguably my graphics teacher’s ramblings about stamp design that got me into graphics in the first place. Maybe I to am a closet stamp collector and haven’t accepted it yet.

With the beach not at it’s best, and no desire to start a coin collection, Natasha and myself put our faith in the food to deliver. To which it didn’t disappoint.

Along with the awesome street markets, selling the freshest of fruit juice and plethora of delicious cured meats. We made it our goal to try as many new foods as possible, as well as to sample the local staples of Paella and Tapas. After a lack lustre Paella, we almost reverted to our ridged British ways, but was thankfully saved by a beautiful bar and restaurant called Bar Lobo, which became our belated anniversary location.

After a happy accident of steak tartare, we indulged in several rounds of beautiful tapas including; patatas bravas, fried eggplant and honey, squid Andalusian style and cotchinita pibil, all of which were delicious.

There was only one way we could top off the holiday, with a beautiful cocktail and time to relax before retiring to bed. The trip was brief but fruitful, and a great way to kick off 2017. Slightly tipsy and full bellied, we strolled back to our room for a final night of deep, dreamless, sleep before returning to the UK.

Ricky Richards