I have been away to Barcelona. A few days’ welcome holiday, a break from the usual routine, a chance to enjoy warm sunshine and discover a new part of the world.
I took my notebook, but for once I did not keep a travel journal. It will be a place not easily forgotten. And though the fine detail of what and where and when may slip over time, I did not want to be distracted from the sheer experience of absorbing all I could.
We walked for miles. Used the metro and our feet to find our way around, venturing as far as the shoreline of La Barceloneta and up the mountainside to Montjuic.
We ate spectacularly well. From multi-course tasting menus, to simple chicken and vegetable skewers, we sampled plenty of the local cuisine, fish, fruit, pastries, jamon, tapas, rice, ice cream…
My memories are already a heady salsa of sensations. Sunshine and city streets steaming after a morning thunderstorm. Sunburned legs climbing metro steps and fruit juices all the colours of the rainbow in the market.
Friendly greetings and an international array of accents, French, American, Arabic, Australian. The language of Catalonia itself a beguiling mix of French and Spanish, that I could begin to read but had not the ear to catch more than a few common phrases.
Days spent exploring the sights, the architecture, galleries, museums, parks, squares and twisting streets. We explored the creations of Antoni Gaudi, learning more and more about his masterpiece architecture as we explored the buildings he designed.
I’ve come to a new appreciation of this man’s work; his genius. I had previously thought it was all about the showy facade, using shapes and forms to strike a pose on the city’s streets. But as we looked inside and found out more, it became clear that the design was functional as well as beautiful. The inspiration of nature’s form can be found in every small detail, from the wood carvings and tile designs to the lights and chimney pots.
Barcelona is a place of dreams. Where the chimneys of Casa Mila, or La Pedrera become guardian knights on watch in their roof top battlements. The gingerbread gatehouse of Park Guell becomes an elephant with its trunk raised to the sky.
The cathedral of stone looks like melting candle wax under the city’s heat. Turn a corner and the forms become angular and cubist. Open the door and you’re in the heart of the Tardis.
In Casa Batllo, a trick of the light seen through a dappled glass screen pitches you up through an underwater world to the roof, where a dragon rests, its skin a shimmer of green and browns, while its backbone winds down through the snaking stairwell.
These surreal and dreamlike landscapes make perfect sense when you walk among them. But once out of the sun, my senses shift back to black and white, to the linear realities of basic geometry.
So my Barcelona journal is like the trencardis – the mosaic ceramic fragments Gaudi used to decorate his buildings. Old materials recycled and brought to life as something new. A kaleidoscope of broken pieces, slotted together to fit natural curves and contours.
I’m left clutching slivers of heady sensations. The tapas taste of Barcelona as a tango in a cobbled square, the swirl of arabic poetry and a sharp, minty mojito in a small dark bar, that we enter as strangers and leave as friends.
Our favourite place to spend the evening, with the best mojito in Barcelona is: