Thursday, 31 July 2014

Random reasons why Barcelona is so cool

Beth of "Besudesu Abroad", mentioned in a recent facebook status that Barcelona's city symbol is a dragon, and wrote "How badass is that?". She was expressing her feelings for this amazing city. In this post I'll try to write a few VERY RANDOM reasons why Barcelona is cool!

One of the dragons in Parc de la Ciutadella

I'll start with a quirky one. In Barcelona you can easily see groups of old Catalan men playing boules. How amazing is that!? While when I was a child I used to sneer at old men playing this sweetly old-fashioned game in my grandfather's village in Piedmont, I am now excited whenever I see 'boules' in Barcelona. It reminds me of times gone by, of local authentic life, something you can easily perceive in Barcelona if you stop for a while and order a café con leche at your local bar around the corner.   

Old men playing boules near Arc de Triomf

Since I arrived here, I have already been to a film screening on the beach where you bring your own towel and your own food, and I enjoyed an independent movie for free in a special setting. Moreover, I have been to another of these picnics with film in Montjuïc, for a fraction of the price you would pay in London. Entertainment in Barcelona is varied and reasonably priced. Even on the beach you bring your own food para picar, which gives you the impression of a very laid back city where for the most part you don't need to be dressed up.

Cinena on the beach in Barceloneta

Barcelona is full of foreigners: wherever you go in the city, chances are that you'll meet people from all over the world, and not only in the most touristic areas. As a matter of fact, Barcelona has a high concentration of people who have chosen Barcelona as their home, either because they like to party or because they like the culture and the language. Spanish people even have a word for light-skinned, blond tourists or residents: guiris.

Tourists and locals in El Born district


You never know what you may find after turning a corner. Yet another modernist house? Or a futuristic building with a glass surface? Just look at this picture I took in the neighbourhood of Poble Sec, for example. This is El Molino, but it's not just a kitsch theatre that takes its name from its Parisian counterpart. Oh no, it's an actual music hall, where you can watch a show while you have dinner. It's not a recent attraction: its name was changed from "Pajarera Catalana" to "Petit Moulin Rouge" in 1910.

El Molino
 
In some neighbourhoods I caught sight of some amazing street art, like this graffiti I found in Parc del Clot, close to the futuristic Torre Agbar.

Street art in El Clot


In order to completely change the setting from metropolitan to pseudo-rural, one day I headed towards a peaceful and fascinating place, a park in the northern part of the city with a labyrinth in the middle, and romantic gardens with grottos and waterfalls. Parque del Laberinto de Horta was designed between the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. It costs only 2,23 to enter and it's free on Sundays! It used to be a site for open-air theatre in the 1880s and 90s. Surrounded by a Mediterranean woodland like much of the city's northern hills, it's a relaxing place to spend a few hours, breathing the aroma of pine trees.

Parc del Laberint de Horta

The restaurants. Oh my god, the restaurants! And I'm not talking about your average tapas place in front of the Sagrada Familia where the paella is frozen and everybody orders sangría without looking around and realizing that locals hardly ever drink it. Since I came here, I've been stuffing myself with every kind of exciting and delicious food: Asian-fusion tapas bars, pintxos from the ever-fascinating Basque Country, or even vegan burgers. All of this for an average price of 12€ each, wine included! I'm still dreaming of those wonderfully-garlicky mushrooms with bean and alfalfa sprouts I had at Samsara in the vibrant neighbourhood of Gracia, or the Vietnamese-style dumplings at Mosquito in the hip barrio of El Born. 

Amazing dumplings at Mosquito


Sea and mountains, mountains and sea. One of my new friends here in Barcelona said that before she turns 30 she wants to accomplish a few things. Among them, skiing in the mountains and bathe in the sea in the same day. Incredible as it may seem, this is possible in Barcelona! I haven't been to the mountains yet, but I hope to take a trip to either Tibidabo or Montserrat sometime soon.

 
Barcelona city beach
The city beach in Barcelona

Plus, I learned to prepare sushi!!! I was never a big fan of sushi, preferring to order ramen or tempura at the Japanese restaurant, but it turns out this was because I always had mediocre sushi. The sushi I learned to prepare with my new flatmates was delicious, and very cheap too. Overall we paid 6€ each for lots and lots of sushi with salmon, tuna, surimi, mango, avocado, cheese and cucumber. This is the start of a new life of Japanese dinners for me and my friends.

Preparing sushi

Modernist architecture. Gaudí is only the tip of the iceberg: there are many other architects who have shaped the city, for example Luís Domènech i Montaner, who has designed Palau de la Música Catalana. It's a building that doesn't get as many tourists as Casa Battló or Sagrada Familia, but is also lovely and immensely interesting.

Palau de la Musica Catalana, Barcelona
Palau de la Música Catalana


Did you like this preview of Barcelona? Do you think the things I mentioned make the city cool, or do you prefer any other European city?

1 comment:

  1. Some great reasons to love Barcelona here! Love the idea of watching a movie on the beach, especially when it's free and it's an independent film, sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon.

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