Barcelona

I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a terrible tourist.

I rarely read about a place before I go. I hardly ever travel with a map or a guide. And most of the time, I’m too impatient to queue for an hour to visit a local attraction.

During my 4 months in Barcelona, I genuinely skipped most of the city’s must see attractions, and instead chose to explore the city’s streets and neighbourhoods, its traditions and gastronomy as well as its gorgeous natural surroundings.

But a tiny part of me felt like my stay was incomplete. You see, it’s hardly impossible to talk about Barcelona without giving mention to its architectural masterpieces.

As an architecture enthusiast myself, my short time in Barcelona was heaven. Every day, I walked for at least an hour and absorbed the magnificent details of the façades.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Every now and then, I came across one of Gaudi’s many creations. For those of you who may not have heard of him, Antoní Gaudí is one of the city’s most celebrated architects. His work was strongly influenced by his 3 passions: architecture, nature and religion. I loved examining his art from the outside, looking for evidence of his influence in its details.

I have always been most intrigued by Gaudí’s masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, not only because it’s Spain’s most visited monument (despite of it still being work in progress), but because he devoted more than 40 years of his life to this project. Just imagine the amount of thought and detail he put into it! But each time I attempted to join the queue at the temple, I grew impatient and eventually left to pursue something else (like, sipping fresh orange juice on my favourite roof top). After all, I wasn’t a tourist – I was an expat.

Returning to Barcelona as a tourist one year later has given me the chance to see the city differently. This time I had no commitments, no errands to run, no sunshine to catch up with.

This time, I queued.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Standing in the main chamber looking up to the ceiling transports you to a majestic forest, with its shades and occasional light pouring in through small holes. Gaudí created this forest by developing his columns into tree branches as they reach the ceiling.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Throughout the Church, you will also find turtles supporting the bases of these tree columns and spiral staircases recreating the shape of a snail’s shell.

But my favourite detail was the colourful reflections of the sun shining through the stained glass – absolutely gorgeous.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (Spain)

Visiting the Sagrada Familia was one of my favourite activities during our long weekend in Barcelona. Queuing, it turns out, was totally worth it!

Have you been to the Sagrada Familia?

Today marks the one week count-down to my departure from Barcelona. Aside from a week exploring Costa Brava and another week back home in Tenerife, I have no further travel plans. Nor life plans, as a matter of fact. I am moving out of Barcelona and into some kind of expat limbo.

It feels wrong, but also right – for the first time, I don’t have a plan (a major accomplishment for someone who tends to pre-plan everything up to her free time).

Swing dancers in Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Barcelona has been an unforgettable and highly rewarding experience. I fell in love with the City the first day I arrived and have never felt any other way. I know I could live here for the rest of my life.

So then, why leave?

There are still many places I want to explore and many experiences I want to live before returning to Spain. I want to spend time indulging in outdoor sports and nature, learn a new language and be inspired by other cultures. I want to continue to evolve and be challenged by the World – adopting new skills, interacting with new people and adjusting to new cultures.

Certainly one of the traits (or possibly drawbacks) of being a Gen Y – seeking for constant newness.

What next?” is a question that has been popping up for the past month at least once a day. The truth is: I have no idea what I’m doing next. My Excel Planner – a financial manager’s alternative to an old-fashioned notebook – is overflowing with tabs, color codes, lists and calculations. My calendar shows a wedding in India late November that I can’t yet RSVP to due to not knowing which country or even continent I’ll be flying from. This is what Barry Schwartz must have meant with The Paradox of Choice.

September 25th, the deadline I’ve set to make a decision, is quickly approaching. In the meantime… any suggestions?

 

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A few months ago, I announced my sudden move to Barcelona. I needed a change of light and perspective, and the opportunity of working for an events agency at the 15th FINA World Swimming Championships Village came right on time. Being part of it has only confirmed my passion for the events industry.

Not everything was glitter and glam, as we tend to believe when seen from the outside – there were weeks of 16-hour work days and the constant feeling of high pressure and accountability. Of course, every day had a little crisis: a sudden power cut right before a live broadcast, the need of a quick solution for the hottest day of the year, heck, we even had a Catalan manifestation for independence!

But living and breathing the Championships does not only mean last-minute problem solving and crisis management – there is some space for fun in it, too.

Xop (the mascot) posing for me at Planet Water Village

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Celebrating Spain’s stellar performance in the synchronized swimming finals

BCN2013

Seeing Olympic legend, Michael Phelps, up front

BCN2013

Watching some of the best divers jump from 27 meters height

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Admiring the swimmers (this already says enough, right?)

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Promoting Fideuà outside the competition venues

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Celebrating the end of shift with a glass of ice-cold gin & tonic

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Experiencing BCN2013 in such an intense way has been inspiring and energising.  There have been moments of near despair and moments of uncontrolled joy and laughter – and I would never doubt a second to go through it all again.

Torre Agbar, Barcelona (Spain)

Torre Agbar stands out among Barcelona’s architecture (and that’s quite difficult to achieve with 10 of Gaudi’s famous art works dominating the city centre). Each time I see it from the distance, it reminds me of the Gherkin in London. No wonder it did – with its somewhat phallic shape, it has also earned some funny nicknames among the locals (just as the Gherkin, ahem, 30 St. Mary Axe). Never mind that the architects true inspiration was the rock formations in Montserrat.

But there’s more to this building than its comical shape – It represents the gateway to Barcelona’s new technological district.

I’m continuously impressed with how far architecture can go technologically. Probably one of its key features is its nocturnal illumination. The tower has over 4.500 LED luminous devices that enable it to create images containing up to 16 million different colors on the façade. This system also allows the fast transition between colors, creating amazing effects on the outside of the building.

I haven’t had the chance to shoot its colors at night – but rest assured I won’t leave before doing so!

Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Summer has arrived in Barcelona – Locals have finally ditched their boots to jump into their sandals. Not that I hadn’t worn sandals or summer dresses until now – in the contrary, all I had actually packed were sandals and summer dresses. But for some odd meteorological reason, May in Barcelona could almost be compared to April in London. In fact, on my first week in the city, it rained so hard that I saw small rivers forming in my neighborhood. So much for Mediterranean climate. Anyway, that was up to a week ago. Now that the sun is out and temperatures are up, I have spent my weekend doing what any reasonable person in my condition would do – being lazy at the beach. This was also my main reason to go to Sitges. Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Sitges is a town southwest of Barcelona particularly known for its Film Festival, its openness to the gay community and its many beaches (17 in total – for nudists, semi-nudists and non-nudists). At just 30 minutes by train from Passeig de Gracia Barcelona, I was sold. At arrival, I went straight to the sea. I picked a small beach next to the old town and its little church, frequented by young locals and tourists. After 2.5 hrs boiling under the sun, I could only think of drinking a cold bottle of water somewhere in the shades. It was right there – while looking for rehydration – that I realized something: Sitges should also be known for its old town streets and alleys. Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Sitges, Barcelona (Spain) Sitges, Barcelona (Spain)

Have you been to Sitges?

How do you choose a neighborhood in a city you’ve never visited before? How do you know whether you could fit in or will always be a stranger?

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Choosing a neighborhood in Barcelona was definitely no easy decision for me. While looking for rooms on a budget and having to rely on pictures and descriptions on the internet, I admit I was worried about ending up in a rough area. Or somewhere far from all the happenings. Or what’s even worse: in the heart of all the happenings. It’s not easy to decide where to live if you haven’t visited the city before.

Of course, some research beforehand narrowed the alternatives. But at the end – What really makes me feel at home is a place that fits me. And that, I could only find out once I was in Barcelona.

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Maybe I had great advisors in London, or maybe it was just damn good luck – but somehow I’ve got the feeling that, for the first time, I’ve found my place at the very first try.

Vila de Gràcia used to be the central area of an independent village called Gràcia. Barcelona slowly grew in dimensions by absorbing many of these independents villages that surrounded the city back in the XIX century. Gràcia, I was told, was one of the last villages to become part of the city – which is one of the reasons why it still has a village atmosphere. Neighbors recognize each other at the bakery and milk shops (well yes, there are milk shops!) and kids play football on their local square while their parents drink a cold caña and catch up.

In fact, you can still overhear older residents talking about baixar a Barcelona (which means going down to Barcelona in Catalan), as if they were outside the city.

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Vila de Gràcia belongs to the District of Gràcia which, while being one of the smallest districts in Barcelona, is also one of the most complete ones. As a friend recently told me: there’s no reason to leave Gràcia unless you are consciously looking for it. Everything you need is at arm’s length. Fashion, sport, nature, architecture, food and culture all melt together in an area of little more than 4km².

This closeness and village feel was exactly what I loved about living in Lausanne and later on made me move from East London to the South West.

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

I know for certain that this place fits me and I equally fit it.

What do you like about your neighborhood? What makes you feel like it fits?

Life rarely goes as planned

Swing dancers in Vila de Gracia, Barcelona

The day I quit my job in the finance to pursue a career in corporate communications and events, I knew it was going to be tough to adjust to my new lifestyle lifestyle. I knew I would have to climb down a few steps of the corporate ladder and adjust my expenses to a lower salary.

But what I did fail to think of back then was how hard it would be to get a job in a new industry in the first place.

Although I secured a 3 month internship to gain industry experience, I know that this is only temporary and soon, I’d be facing uncertainty again.

Do this, move there, give up or go home.

BCN2013

My worries had been blurring my vision. I wrote lists of options, pros and cons and juggled with my future. The easy choice was to quit London and move somewhere else. The more painful alternative was to stay in London and continue to send out numerous job applications hoping to get a response.

None of them felt quite right.

And then I realised there was a third alternative. I reached out to my network – friends, alumni, family. If I could get one more experience in the industry, I would, hopefully, be fit for London’s competitive job market. Soon after I started, things began to fall into place – I got in touch with someone I knew from Uni who had also changed career paths and had landed a job in a small events agency in Barcelona. A few calls later, I got a temporary contract to work at the 15th FINA World Swimming Championships!

So, what’s next?

Cadaqués, Costa Brava (Spain)

For the next four months, I’ll be living and working in Barcelona. Sure, at the moments it’s something temporary – but it’s also the invaluable industry experience I am currently short of. It’s 4 months in a city I had never visited before, so I’m surely covering my need of travel and adventure as well. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that this city happens to be in the Mediterranean coast side and offer some of my favourite dishes in every corner bar (pincho de tortilla, anyone?).