Barcelona has always been on the travel list, but this visit was unexpected. It was similar to my last visit to Berlin because I had planned to go to Lyon because the tickets were too expensive and the timing was not right, so I had to do it on the fly. The good thing about having a list is that you might not even notice it’s turn. I don’t know why we always travel in such a hurry, we never have a whole year’s itinerary planned out, booked a hotel and tickets, just waiting for the time to take off, like other friends do. We always decided to leave whenever we wanted to, so it was definitely more expensive; but the good thing is that peace in mind, the last two years of our unstable lives have seemed to dictate that we can’t make arrangements early.

We ended up booking five days and four nights return, Thursday to Monday. It was a novelty to stay in an airbnb house for the first time, but also because hotels are already ridiculously expensive. The house that I chose to stay in required a request, and I confirmed with the owner that the two of us were quiet people before finalizing it on the last day before we left. At this point, the cost of travelling from Barcelona to Madrid was already very high, and with the aim of not going on a rampage, I decided to abandon my plans to go to Madrid. I don’t think I would have gone to Madrid if I had been travelling alone, to cram my itinerary full, because apart from staying at home or shopping, I don’t really like being out alone these days, it feels like torture, whereas having company is enjoyable.

I woke up early on the 11th and made it to Antony as planned, only to find the correct check in hall twice, unfortunately I was caught up with a Muslim tour group and was too slow to move. The return trip was even more of a lesson, as we were behind a small but elderly group. We finally got on the plane and were so sleepy that we slept through the whole hour and a half. My husband even took a picture of us sleeping through the night in the middle of the flight. As soon as we got off the plane, we felt the warm and pleasant Mediterranean climate, much more comfortable than Paris. Pulling our suitcases along the way to the exit, we followed the various signs in three languages. We both figured that it would be Spanish, English and French. We found out later that the one that was very close to French was Catalan, the official language of Barcelona. When we arrived in Barcelona, the atmosphere of wanting to split up was everywhere, from the flags hanging out of the windows of the residents, to the signs we came across, to the independence leaflets, to the occasional rally, it was impossible to feel like you were in Spain. The Catalan region is close to France, and the food and housing is very much like that of France, so perhaps the Catalan language is more French than Spanish.

After leaving the airport, we found the Aerobus station and, as suggested by our landlord Fillipo, got off at the final stop, Plaza Catalunya. It was almost noon when we arrived at our destination, and the sun was blazing, but there was never a shortage of pleasant Mediterranean breezes in Barcelona, and the heat was not boring. I gestured to my husband that the ‘meeting place’ was “under the big horse sculpture in the middle of the car park and the fountain”, and as my finger descended in an arc, it was like a movie. I was waving and walking towards me. Although the photo wasn’t bad, he was much more handsome in person, and after a quick peek at his body, he looked like someone who worked out regularly. The guy didn’t speak much English, but he was able to communicate and gave us a big map with very unclear directions to key areas and started to show us how to get to his house. I thought to myself ‘I have a google map and I know how to get there’, but I didn’t want to interrupt him because he was so motivated. He then went on to give us recommendations on where to go, which areas were better, etc. I had wanted to go for a long time. I wanted to leave already, it was such a bright day and such a busy street, I didn’t have the patience to talk to someone for so long, even if he was handsome. Finally, we walked there, dragging our little suitcases. Just like Italy, this Catholic place has no shortage of beautiful churches. I prefer to see the details on the outside of the churches than the interiors (although they all have fantastic coloured windows). I love the way they always strike me as a visual treat even when they are in the nooks and crannies. I’ll never forget the surprise of my first glimpse of Florence’s Basilica of the Flowers, a 15-minute walk past two sizeable Gothic churches, then into narrow alleyways like Venice, but with many rows of clothes hanging out of the windows giving the impression of being in Shanghai. When we reached a rectangular pedestrian street surrounded by shops, I wondered how nice it would be to live next to this. Within minutes we turned into the street of our destination and found our way to the front door without a hitch. Next door was a chocolate shop, on the other side was a clothes shop and across the street was the back of an Italian restaurant. I couldn’t have been more excited to live in a place like this, and it made me look around every time I went out, thinking I’d make half a day out of it to check them all out! I like the small shops more than the big air-conditioned shopping malls with good ambience.

When we entered the main entrance we found out that the resident doors inside had no door numbers. We both pulled out our little brother’s hand drawn road map and tried to get to the door on the right at the end of the open road. It was really this one, and when we opened the door, he came out of a room and greeted us. I thought, “Did you just walk home too? Then why didn’t you bring us back with you? What’s the point of telling us all about it with a map? However, his house was really clean, except for the decorations, there was not a single extra thing outside, exactly like the pictures on the internet, except for the smell. I had no choice, it was the smell of the city and I had to get used to it with my sensitive nose. We mulled over the idea of going out to eat, and my husband casually asked where to eat, and the young man started again. He took out a bunch of business cards of restaurants, telling us one by one and recommending us to go on a sightseeing bus. Finally, we went out to look for food. It was already 1pm, but it wasn’t yet time for the locals to eat and only tapas were available, so we both picked 10 tapas and gobbled them down before heading back for a nice afternoon nap. The idea was to take our time, and we had four days to do so. I slept like a baby, but soon my stomach started to growl, I thought about my small intestines, I still can not stand to eat cold, and then I went back to sleep. The weather is so warm, my favourite temperature, not too cold, not too sweaty, not too hot and humid, I love you Mediterranean climate! By this time it was getting crowded. There was a really cute ice cream shop across the alleyway, with fruit on top of each flavour, and two full windows with no glass. Ever since I came back from Italy, I’ve loved sitting side by side, watching the people and the view. What followed was a stress-free stroll. In fact, when I look back today, I realise that I’ve been to the most interesting and very local places on this afternoon’s wanderings. Here are some pictures.

Can anyone tell me the name of the bread in the top right corner in a shape that is easy to relate to? The salesgirl taught me, but I still don’t remember!

Built in 1878 and used for 100 years as the central marketplace of Barcelona (and the largest covered marketplace in Barcelona), it was closed for repairs in 1971, but has been abandoned ever since. The ruins of a large number of medieval buildings were discovered by chance in 2002 when the municipality started work on the library there. These buildings were demolished to make way for the construction of the nearby military castle ordered by King Philip V at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in the early 18th century. The importance of this history to the Catalans, who wanted independence, led the people of Barcelona to decide to preserve the ruins and develop them into a cultural centre to inform visitors about the history of the war.


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