By deciding to emotionally splurge about Barcelona, I've unwittingly introduced a cyclical structure to Of Dresses and Dolls. It was in the sunny Catalan capital, whilst waiting for a night bus at 3am, that I first put metaphorical pen to paper (back then it was via notes on a 1st Generation iPod touch) and voilà, this blog was born. Naïve as I was back then, I was utterly unaware of just how much bearing this city would come to have on my life. Although I'm still very much a tourist each time I go back, much like Montjuic's magic fountains, the city remains an unrestrained, bubbling source of happiness ready to inspire me anew with the dynamism and life force that sweeps down its streets. No matter how many times I return, I click imperceptibly into a mode of optimism driven by a feeling of exploration, touched by Barcelona's signature kick back and relax attitude.
When trying to pinpoint the reasons for Barcelona's inescapable charm, I'm left floundering in a state of indecision. Is it the city's geographical variation? (There's nothing like going from the beach to a mountain in twenty minutes) Its architectural wonders? Its rich history as the capital of Catalunya, (the politics of which are still very much alive today) or the wonderful blend of cosmopolitan, open-minded people who flock to this artistic hub ready to set up a cool concept store, an organic food shop or the buskers who take to the streets, saxophone in hand, adding music to the colours of this already buzzing atmosphere. Of course one factor can never be isolated in certainty, the answer to my self-demanded question is that it's a fusion of all of the aforementioned.
Each time I visit Barcelona, I notice something new. A little observation - some original street art in Gracia, a newly opened Pinxhos Bar or looking up to a plant-draped balcony in Barceloneta. These small details interiorise into a bubble of happiness and blooming hope. This feeling is most definitely heightened by the eye-searingly blue sky overhead.
Perhaps that is why Barcelona is so addictive; certainly my levels of serotonin go through the roof when I'm there. However the anchor-like sense of attachment I feel for the place is due to the the future potential I feel the city holds. Whilst the American Dream holds no specific appeal for me, the Barcelona Dream is most alluring.
I think it's Barcelona (yes, I'm going to personify the city) who opened by eyes to the wonder of architecture. This newly discovered chapter of appreciation was undoubtedly formed by Gaudí's irrefutable masterpieces. Upon arriving in the city it's impossible not to notice the scale and number of magnificent buildings. Home to the Kings of Modernism, there's always thrill of stumbling upon one of Gaudi's works around the next corner; a wrought iron basilisk popping up unexpectedly in the residential area of Pedralbes or the hexagonal paving stones as you stroll up towards the majestic, iridescent dragon slumbering a-rooftop on Casa Battló. Curving smooth lines wrap around the entire building of La Pedrera and the mosaic & marble aqueduct-esque création at Parc Guëll provides an unbeatable vantage point over the city. Fingers crossed the melted wax-like structure of the Sagrada Familia with it's hauntingly beautiful skeletal interior, will be finished before we hit the next millennium...
The ecological consciousness in Barcelona is evident from the numerous organic food markets displaying an abundance of vibrant fruits and natural stores selling hemp-woven furniture and rope-soled espadrilles. There's a mutual exchange of love between the city, the citizens and the surrounding nature. Consuming, as we do in all cities, but with a care and delicateness that is poignant to see. Cool bars with foliage-covered courtyards, tapas bars decorated with hipster, bonsai-cacti and understated neutral street art are just a few of the harmonious havens created by this hippie, green outlook. It's a well reputed fact that the gastronomic scene in Barca is second to none and absolutely one of the city's selling points. Every single type of cuisine imaginable is on offer and served in a great variety of restaurants. There's gastro-chic bars, dark wooded bodegas, minimalist modern restaurants, simple yet delicious Sicilian take out pizza/pasta bars, vegan eateries, heavenly brunch spots and piled-high food markets. In fact, it's almost too easy to arrive in Barcelona and make eating a productive past time (guilty as charged). But afterwards, pick up the city's energy; cycle, roller-blade or long-board along the beach front to burn off the calamari, rosé sangria and cobwebs of the night before.
The ornate peacock window of Casa Figueras; Barcelona's oldest coffee house
Gracia's market may have been closed, but the walls were alive...
Pistachio-cream wedding-cake houses in the Plaça de Sol; be prepared to fight for a table on the terrace!
Tapas innovation along the Poble Sec's bar clad streets
The only place to go for those €1 fresh fruit juices
Stumbling upon golden palaces in the heart of leafy, shaded gardens
Concept art store in the winding streets of the Gothic quarter
A literal greenhouse, nestled in the calm of the Born
Alsur Café, a delightful fusion of brunch, jamon iberico and interior design
A purple haze of graffiti; snapped mid-cycle down the Diagonal
Hip tapas in the Plaça Commercial; seared tuna steak and incredible Gin & Basil cocktails
Double-dosing on love
Unexpected geometry just off the Ramblas
Cute little cacti.....until you accidentally spike yourself!
Scandinavia-style lighting amongst Gothic, vaulted arches
Eclectic and colourful, this jewel jumps out on an unassuming side street
One of the network of hidden roof terraces; from a beautiful and unforgettable weekend
A breath of fresh paint in the Born
All this incredible history, the stone buildings, variety of quarters, street festivals, live music, original art and vibrant culture imbue Barcelona with bohemia, innovation and beauty. This heartfelt affinity makes it definitely a place in which I can permanently see myself in no more than a few years.
Happy Exploring to all the wandering souls out there!