Vibes, vino and viande (Or, why I’m going to need to revisit Barcelona)

Where to begin? I knew it would take me a few days to process this trip and what it meant to me when we left Spain and headed for home. I knew I hadn’t fully internalized everything that we had seen. We talked a lot during our trip about how it was impossible to name a ‘favourite’ or say which place we loved the most, because France and Spain were two totally different experiences. And they were.

There’s something about Barcelona. Maybe it’s Spain in its entirety. I haven’t seen enough. No, really. I mean that. I haven’t seen enough. I need more.

I said time and again during our time in Barcelona that it reminded me of Montreal. It doesn’t look like Montreal. It doesn’t smell like Montreal, although they do seem to share a deep appreciation for all things that belong in a carnesseria. Smoked meat and bagels in Montreal, jamòn serrano and Catalàn bread in Barcelona. Food in general is messy. It’s shared food – tapas passed around from hand to hand, portions generous and unpretentious. From the oily peppers so good in omelettes or on their own, to the manchego that gets sweaty and soft in the afternoon sun, to the calamari that my mom and sister claimed was the best they had ever tasted and which became the fastest-disappearing plate on the table, to the bread drenched in olive oil and tomato sauce that drips shamelessly down your chin as you eat it, food in Spain is an experience I am fairly certain I’m a better person having had. And again, I want more.

Cornets of cured meat. Unapologetic about the love of and indulgence in meat.

Cornets of cured meat. Unapologetic about the love of and indulgence in meat.

The calamari hadn't arrived yet. This was an example of a totally unpretentious hole-in-the-wall kind of place where beside us sat a family - eating, drinking, smoking, taking the time, mid-afternoon, to connect. This is another of the reasons I loved this city.

The calamari hadn’t arrived yet. This was an example of a totally unpretentious hole-in-the-wall kind of place where beside us sat a family – eating, drinking, smoking, taking the time, mid-afternoon, to connect. This is another of the reasons I loved this city.

There’s a vibe. A spirit of activism. One of the moments that will stay with me was walking through a courtyard where there were musicians busking and playing lovely music for the restaurant-goers enjoying a late afternoon lunch (nobody rushes there. Ever.) Their presentation was interrupted by two police officers on motorbikes, intent on breaking up their lawless performance. The musicians scattered, and the instant reaction of the lunchers was to stand and applaud the music, in solidarity and protest. The next thing that happened was beautiful; as soon as the police left a lineup silently formed and lunchers became CD-purchasers, quietly supporting the buskers and demonstrating their loathing of the police.

Random, quiet celebration of art, of music, of love. I have no idea what is in this building. But I want to meet whoever lives there.

Random, quiet celebration of art, of music, of love. I have no idea what is in this building. But I want to meet whoever lives there.

There is juxtaposition everywhere - beautiful old buildings transformed into storefronts, almost without exception sport some sort of graffiti. Quiet, constantly present, protest.

There is juxtaposition everywhere – beautiful old buildings transformed into storefronts, almost without exception sport some sort of graffiti. Quiet, constantly present, protest.

No.

No.

While we were there, we were lucky enough to witness another protest, one which has been taking place every year since 2004. These cyclists quietly cycle through Barcelona in various states of undress, most of them completely naked, to protest the overuse of fossil fuels. Yes to bikes, no to cars. Love.

Surprised, and immediately  full of joy and laughter when this passed us. I love this city.

Surprised, and immediately full of joy and laughter when this passed us. I love this city.

While we expected to bear witness to some crazy fashion in Barcelona, what we saw was different. Understated. Sexy. The men and women both give off such an earthy, self-assured vibe that it kind of makes one think that half of them have just crawled out of bed with a lover and are venturing out for sustenance. And it will be good food. Meat and cheese for breakfast kind of good. Wine late-morning kind of good. My sister commented at one point that she wondered if anyone in Barcelona worked. I’m sure they do. But nobody gives the impression that work is life. Life is for living. Food is for eating. Wine is for drinking. People are meant to be kissed. On the street. Nice and slow, because it’s worth the time.

Barcelona, I will be back.

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