Did I ever tell you about the time I went backpacking across Western Europe? I was just outside of Barcelona, hiking in the foothills of Mount Tibidabo…..
For those of you not familiar with this story, it’s from the TV Show Friends and it’s known as the magic story you use when you want to have sex (Youtube link here – Part 1, Part 2). I’m not debating whether or not this story works but there definitely is something magical about Barcelona.
There are many amazing places all over the world. However, the reason Barcelona is elevated to magical is for reasons which contrast directly with the reasons for why Paris, London or NYC are so amazing. This is because your memories of these cities are generally built around their iconic landmarks. However, in the case of Barcelona your memories are built around happiness. Ask anyone that’s been to Barcelona and I guarantee that the first thing they think of is not a place or an event, but of how they felt about the city. Sure, these memories are populated with some iconic landmarks. La Sagrada Familia is a mecca for any architecture buff and would populate any fond memory of Barcelona. Yet, its still not the main reason for why the memory is so fondly treasured. More so its definitely got to do with the lifestyle, the people and the culture. So good are the vibes that are generated by these factors that it creates another of our favourite first world problems; the feeling of surreal happiness which is quickly followed by the question – ‘Did it really happen?’
The sarcastic side is that if it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen. This can be a problem in a city if there’s a lack of instantly recognisable features in the backgrounds. However, on the outrageously optimistic side, the possibility that you can get so swept up in a city such that you question if you actually visited there is just as difficult to contemplate.
As the magic of this great city is essentially provided by its people, lifestyle, and experiences, we have to consider the following:
My most interesting experience was with a tour guide. While in Barcelona, I went on a Sandeman’s ‘Free’ Walking tour. This company has multiple tours available in a variety of cities so I encourage you to check them out if you haven’t already.
Anyway so what made this truly memorable was my guide, Elena’s story for coming to Barcelona. Even in the event it was exaggerated, it beings to reveal some insight into just what makes Barcelona so magical. The short version of the story goes something a little something like this:
I came to Barcelona 2 years ago after I finished my university studies back in Italy. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to travel. So one day I stuck my thumb out on the side of the road and two guys stopped for me. I asked them where they were going and they said Spain. So I jumped in and off we went and ended up in Barcelona. We didn’t have anywhere to stay and didn’t have much money so we ended up sleeping in a park for 3 months. I promise you i’m not weird and if you get the chance I recommend trying it…
Elena’s since upgraded to an apartment with no windows (apparently its only 100 euros a month) and she’s proud to say she’s going to move into one with windows next month. I’m not saying you should try her style of accommodation, but there must be something magical about Barcelona to make you want to live in a park for 3 months.
2. The lifestyle
Being near the coast in the Mediterranean, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be in for some great weather. Obviously when you factor in a week long festival celebrating the end of summer (La Mercè) on top of the weather, you’re definitely going to have a good time. However, you don’t need me to quantify how much fun it is to be drinking Cava in the sun.
Instead, let’s explore the enjoyment of soaking up the happiness of the place as you move throughout the city. For me, the highlight is hanging around the harbour. A bike ride or stroll along the esplanade as you soak up the sun is definitely worth doing. Unfortunately if you want the beaches you need to head just outside of Barcelona.
Furthermore, getting lost in the ridiculously narrow streets which quickly swallow you up into some kind of crazy maze is actually pretty cool and really exposes the heart of what makes Barcelona great. There’s always a surprise after each bend, not to mention great food scattered all around. With the exception of maybe Florence, this is the city I would choose to disappear in.
3. The Experiences
A visit to Barcelona is not complete without a visit to the Sagrada Familia. Despite still not being finished, the site is breath taking. Pre-purchasing your tickets is a must and if it’s your first time to Barcelona, you might as well go up the towers. I recommend choosing the shorter one (I forget the name) as it offers seaside views compared to the mountains of the taller tower. I’m not a huge architecture buff so some of the interior designs do start to make my eyes glaze over. However, you can’t deny the out of this world designs as you marvel at the structure which doesn’t seem to follow the laws of physics.
This defiance of the law of physics takes a slightly different approach at the Camp Nou. For anyone remotely interested in sports, this is a can’t miss. Assuming FC Barcelona is in town, the sheer atmosphere you share with 80,000 of your closest friends has to be experienced to be believed. No sporting atmosphere comes close to a passionate football match. Furthermore, watching Lionel Messi (as well as Neymar and co) perform the outrageous, is on another planet. I’ve seen countless hours of Messi video footage which leaves you with you face in your hands as you try to contemplate how the hell he did that. However when its live, things just happen so fast that your brain doesn’t event have time to properly process them, before your mind explodes with an almighty flood of endorphins. For the record Barca won 4-1 against Levante that night and watching the city embrace their team was definitely an experience to treasure.
This is just a taste of what Barcelona can offer. Even now when I think back to the city, I still don’t picture iconic buildings or specific events. What I remember is just how fun and happy this place is. This is why I want to conclude with a hashtag so I can relive the magic that is Barcelona.
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