After a day riding round on bikes, visiting a labyrinth maze in the North of the city, we walked back along the back alleys until we broached the Cathedral in the centre. Packed with tourists searching for that ‘unique’ shot, Nacho recommended we traverse to the right and showed me a small little square off the side where part of the film Perfume was filmed. It was a quiet little sanctuary in the middle of the city, those back streets that spook the tourists after dark. No one else was there at first until a local couple breezed through smiling. Nacho and his girlfriend circled the fountain as I took pictures.
Being my third time in Barcelona, I really didn’t need to see the usual sights. It’s an interesting city architecturally but its real prize is the life it holds. That’s mostly found amongst the cafes, bars and restaurants in old town areas like Born which teem with locals throughout the day. Most tourists don’t get that far though. You could argue Barcelona, a city that’s grown at incredible rates in the last 50 years from being a collection of villages to the metropolis it is today is always full of outsiders. That’s what makes it vibrant culturally and also explains how easy it is even for locals to get lost.
I was in Barcelona for New Year provided by my mate Pedro. We stayed in his family apartment in the centre but spent less than a few hours there. Pedro introduced me to all his family and friends and on the first night we had dinner at his brother’s house with his siblings, played some games and then hit up some nightclubs. The following day we went with his friends for some afternoon tapas, snacking and drinking and planned the evening. These cafes even on the backstreets are packed with conversation, clinking glasses and shouts for more food. It was a good start.
That night was New Years Eve and we headed to Victor’s place where about 15 of us ate cooked ham leg and caviar and drank wine and beer. At midnight, Spaniards eat a grape for each chime of the clock which isn’t as easy as you think! Later we each got a lantern, wrote a message for the year and went to the roof to light them up and let them be taken away (probably to set fire to trees!). Around 2am, we headed out to a house party next to the beach and drank and talked until morning. It’s the Spanish way. New Years Day started late, involving a drink/chat at a bar overlooking the city followed by a tour via Pedro’s crazy driving and via Puyol’s house.
Pedro flew back to England on the 2nd so I moved to Nacho and Riccardo’s place in the old town area of Born near the beach and from there, rented bikes to ride around the seafront in the unseasonably sunny weather. Riccardo took us all to an excellent Italian restaurant and proceeded to get into another funny discussion with the staff over ‘what is Italian food.’ The last night I stayed out late with Riccardo getting some tapas and drinks in various bars.
I saw Ramblas for the first time on my last day as I wandered to take some last-minute shots. I’d barely taken any. I suppose I didn’t really need to. I was there for the life rather than the photographs, the conversation over the stone and the food over the lights. I owe Pedro and the boys big time for setting all this up. It was a deep, cultural experience. A great start to a some year.