Barcelona is hot. It’s got that jungle fever. Everything sticks to you; your hair, your clothes, the car seat.
My first impression was not flattering. I landed in a haze at Barcelona airport, and an orange dust had settled in the city. I could only just make out the mounds which I soon realised were mountains. Somehow the ocean was crystal clear. As we dipped over the Mediterranean I could just make out the shape of my university. And that’s why I’m here.
After some taxi drama and miscommunication at the airport (DO NOT try to use Uber or Cabify), I got a ride home. The Barcelona airport is not in the city centre; instead, it was in the hospitala area, as my cab driver put it. Our talks were frank and brief, with neither of us knowing enough of the other’s language to communicate. So we resorted to signing and gestures.
Once we reached the destination, I stumbled onto the curb and marched my heftyt bags to the portal. After awkwardly squeezing my life into the elevator, I was ‘home’. Home, as it turned out, was all the way on the top floor. The spacious apartment was much bigger than I envisioned, and certainly much larger than my Airbnb in Paris.
After a quick shower, I made my way to the shops. Barcelona does not strike you like Paris does, with grand architecture and classical detail. My only impression so far is hot.
As I walked to the closest Consumer store, I heard the welcome sounds of Spanish bubbling on every corner. I think languages personify a culture well. The French accent gives a glimpse into how they live. They take their time with each vowel. Spanish is warm and spicy, with one sentence running into another that I don’t know how anyone else gets a word in.
Where I stay in Gracia, there are one of two ways: up or down. And I found out very quickly after my shopping excursion that I was heading up. Luckily, I found an outdoor or open air escalator. I am not sure what it’s called because I have never seen anything that lazy or genius before!
After I attempted to get an early night’s rest for the first time in a week, I woke up in the same hot mess I was before. The air almost consistently sits at 25°C and 70% humidity. There is no evening relief or midnight breeze – no Cape Doctor to tear the heat away. Instead, it just sticks to the city.
It is time for today’s exploration. I am currently staying at the upper level of Gracia, near the mountain where a cathedral sits beside some of Gaudi’s work. I took a walk south-west. Slowly but surely, the buildings became more stylised and more unique. Unusual shapes and colours began to unfold to a point where I would not be able to predict what came around the next corner. Cafes were folding out onto the road. Not with the boldness as in Paris, but they weren’t shy to be seen. Open spaces broke the dense apartment buildings and trees lined the streets.
It would be an autumn lover’s dream.
I even managed to stumble onto Gaudi’s first house that he created. Antoni Gaudi is a famous Catalonian architect who is famous for his distinctive use of ceramics to create mosaics which has become a signature of Catalan Modernism. His work is famous.
I also started noticing the cute little boutique stores and shoe shops spilling onto the curb. I had just about reached my final destination when a large, red brick building loomed overhead. Curious and tentative, I looped around the building before heading inside. The exterior was rather foreboding, but inside I was greeted by all the colours I could imagine. It was a fresh produce market set up inside an old church.
Fish, shrimps and all manner of seafood lay splayed on the ice. Boxes of cherry tomatoes, citrus, beans, mushrooms and bright purple eggplant lined the passageways. Above me, I could make out the remnants of the rose windows where the midday light filtered through.
I have found my corner.