Barcelona, in many ways feels like someone with multiple personality disorder does. You never can quite foresee what side of them will manifest from day to day.
The polar opposites, the endlessly changing landscape, the layers of history. It’s as if part of the ‘Somorrostro’ magic (what used to be a shanty town and where Carmen Amaya, the most famous flamenco dancer of all time was born) was left behind here by the gypsies and the city inherited some strange hypnotic force that tries to persuade its visitors, to surrender their GPS and annoyingly little folded maps, and instead allow the cities mysterious streets and beautiful architecture guide them. Barcelona is all about soaking up the atmosphere of the city, allowing yourself to relax and letting it present itself in a way that only ‘it’ knows how.
One day it looks like a scene from a music video or even Woody Allen comedy, and then the next day it becomes so artistically eccentric you can half expect Fellini’s ‘Saraghina’ to appear from the shadows.
Then there is the magnetic pull of the Gothic Quarter. A shocking contrast to the tranquillity of the nearby port. This area is so shrouded in curiosity and intrigue that you can’t help but become intoxicated by it. The proximity of the cramped balconies is ridiculous, so close that the neighbours can practically jump across to one another without fear or doubt of falling. Vocal children, piano playing, grafﬁti, make-shift cafe’s littering the piazza’s – which are subsequently forced into the shadows by the imposing churches that position themselves as sanctuaries between the chaos.
The ﬁrst time I came here I was completely star-struck after obsessing, unhealthily, over the ﬁlm Perfume: A Story of a Murderer. I was gob-smacked that Tom Tykwer was actually able to pull off Patrick Suskind’s novel (to an extent) that I quickly researched the area it was ﬁlmed, packed a bag and was on the next plane out. The ‘barri’ is teeming with inspiration. Visually it’s stunning, the Art Nouveau buildings are practically hallucinogenic with their swirling façades, religious devotions dotted on each street corner, and redundant ancient oil lamps frame huge wooden doors with frighteningly heavy locks. You can’t help but fall in love with the romanticism of it all.
Image MorBCN via Flickr.
Big streets, narrow streets, urban living, it’s a super metropolis that combines the city limits with all its modernity to the beautiful classicism of its cultural heritage. Luckily, the longer you stay in Barcelona the more the city will unveil it’s histories and delicacies and pockets of creativity. The easiest way to enjoy it is to be spontaneous. Try a glass of Rioja at a little bar that caught your eye, use a nearby church as shelter during the unexpected rain storm, or just allow yourself to get lost amongst the myriad of streets that are so small that no-one even bothered to replace the name sign.
A very highly stylised restaurant with mix of antique furnishings and high warehouse-like ceilings that are nice, if not a little contrived. The food however is a completely different thing – it is utterly divine. We were recommended here by the Sommelier at the W hotel whilst taking in its epic view over the city and very thankful for some insider knowledge. The food here is essentially tapas but with a culinary flair. Try the monkfish with potato and ‘botifarra’ or the velvety veal cheek served with slivered almonds.