Tuesday, March 24, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #334] Europe's San Francisco

My first trip to Barcelona was in April 1999, just after moving to the New York area (Hoboken, for the geophiles) to go to Stevens. My sisters had moved there after stints in San Francisco and Toulouse and my Mom and I went to visit them for Easter. I liked the city well enough (and fatefully met one miss Natasha Rankow my first night there), but did not feel driven to go back before now.

I had a sense I would like it better in my 30s than I did in my 20s and I was right. I wasn't sure what didn't quite gel with me back then, but I do now. Barcelona is much like San Francisco in spirit, mood and real estate; it's set between/on mountains and the sea, is perfectly manageable in size, laid back, easy, relaxed, pleasant, pretty - basically, how you think a city ought to be if you could design it from scratch.

Only I had just left San Francisco, a city where I had all those things, 18 months before as, lovely as it was, it just didn't speak to me - it's almost too nice. I needed something more frenetic, faster, crazier, edgier - just more. I had just landed in the home that would provide that for me, but hadn't realised it yet, but something in me felt it wasn't in Barcelona either, so it stayed pretty fairly deep in the back of my mind since then.

After more than a decade gorging myself on the more of New York and London though, I am full enough that I've added new things to my palate - dinners with friends, wine on a terrace, long, lazy days with no intents at all. In sating those pangs, but without losing the vibrancy of a city, you'd have to go far and wide to find a better place than Barcelona.

The original plan was to go with my friend Rachel Klem. However, her grandmother died the day she was supposed to come to London and she ended up going home to Vegas instead. I was very sad about that, but my trip instantly became a different one, a weekend for just me rather than reexploring with Rachel.

Freed from any potential need to do touristic Barcelona again, I could do as much or as little as I felt - and I stuck with the latter. Don't get me wrong, it was a gaycation so I was out till the wee hours of the night-stroke-morning (then again, all of Spain was), but I was at liberty to nurse my hangovers with reading, The Wire, Sopranos, Howard's terrace and everything else amateur tourists shouldn't be doing.

And I had a lot more fun out now than I did ten years ago. I am not sure if it's because I've aged into a comfortable place with what Barcelona has on offer, if its scene has grown, or I am just more comfortable being out in an unfamiliar city, but there seemed to be a whole lot more agreeable ways to pass the time between sun-down and -up than I remember. For me, this is the best and most important part of any trip I take (I will have plenty of time to look at tile mosaics, flying buttresses and Sistine Chapels when I am 60, thankyouverymuch). So with this improvement, Barcelona is now frontal lobe.

I feel recharged, and I am enamoured with Barcelona. I still couldn't live there, though - I have a few more years of gluttony left in me.


1) DSC00399 - Me out with the boys

2) DSC00400 - The only picture of the city I took. I knew Howard's & Sergio's place was central, but I had no idea they'd be around the corner from this!

3) La Sagrida Familia - lifted picture, but including it because it's just so damn cool.

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK


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