A week has come and gone and I am noticing that it's taken a while to get my feet planted firmly on the ground. I've been walking. A lot. Every day, in fact, as I work to find my way and become acclimated to my new temporary home.
In Barcelona everyone walks. Morning, noon and night, the streets are filled with people. In fact, el paseo (the walk or the passage) is one of the day's main activities.
Barcelona is divided into sections; L'Eixample (where I live), El Raval and Montjuïc, Port Vell and La Ribera, and La Rambla and Barri Gòtic, and each of them is dramatically different from the other. In many ways, the uniqueness of each of the areas makes Barcelona feel like many different cities in one, rather than one big city in it's own right.
Todos los dias, caminó. I walk. Everywhere. Sure, there's a metro, a great metro in fact, easy to use, inexpensive and very accessible, but the metro is underground and while convenience has it's place, discovering a new environment and becoming comfortable in one's new "skin" sometimes requires that we step out of our comfort zone. So instead of hopping on the metro, I walk. A lot. In fact, my feet have not stopped hurting since I stepped off the plane and it feels GOOD!
In the morning, I walk to the school. It's only 6 or so blocks from my apartment, through my neighborhood, past at least a dozen cafés, mercados pequeños (small shops) and tiny little restaurants serving everything from tapas to pollo asado to pescado del día. It's amazing really. A typical neighborhood restaurant has three or four tables plopped on the sidewalk and most often, the tables are full of people eating, chatting, sipping a mid day café con leche or drinking una cerveza. One wonders how they all stay in business but perhaps it is easier to keep the overhead down when your venue is 10 feet of concrete sitting right outside your kitchen. In fact on my block alone, within 25 yards of the door to my apartamento are two cafés, two restaurantes and a little sandwich shop.
One of the things I love about Barcelona is the diversity of the city itself. When I first started telling people I was coming here, everyone, who had been here before said to me "Oooohhhh, you are going to love Barcelona. It is my FAVORITE city in all of Europe." and "Wow, you are so lucky! If I could live anywhere in Europe, I would live in Barcelona."
Really? I thought, having never been here before. Those of you that know me know that I, being the granddaughter of Italian immigrants, am partial to Italy. I love the old buildings, ruins on every corner, tiny courtyards with magnificent fountains, beautiful squares where the local children throw breadcrumbs to the pigeons, open air markets with fresh fruit and fish and handpicked mushrooms, magnificent churches with stained glass, colorful ceramic tiles and delicate pastries that pack on the pounds just by looking at them.
And that, my friends, is Barcelona.
But so is crazy, Dr. Seuss-like buildings with turrets that spiral to the sky, and pristine white beaches filled with people playing a socceresque brand of volleyball that is played without using one's hands (imagine how hard that must be). For those who like shopping (my friend Lesley, for instance) the Passeig de Gràcia, one of the more "central" streets in Barcelona, is lined with the finest of shops, from Jimmy Choo to Cartier, to Desigual, a clothing store that touts brightly colored patterns for the younger Spaniards and for those of us who prefer wandering the small mercado artesanias, there are any number of them selling leather goods, handmade jewelry, freshly baked pastries and oh so many gelaterias on every corner.
There are galleries and museums and cathedrals and so much more, but it's high time I get going. I've got some walking to do.