What makes a person feel at home or at odds with a travel location? Is it the people? The architecture? The choice of activities? Or just a random feeling that cannot be defined? I wish I could explain it because maybe it would make me feel more comfortable with the fact that I have not fallen for a city that everyone else seems to think is amazing. The artwork, the food, the nightlife, the beach, the shopping – everyone seems to love Barcelona. Everyone except for me.
I just finished my second visit to the city and, um….yeah. I don’t feel I really fit in. I loved watching the movie Vicky, Christina, Barcelona and even if I didn’t meet Javier Bardem and get whisked way for a romantic weekend, I thought I’d love wandering around the beautiful, artistic city by the sea. Having sangria and paella by the beach checking out all of Gaudi’s amazing architecture, and dancing into the wee hours of the morning.
Well it turns out that I’m not a huge Gaudi fan (though I can definitely appreciate his talents), the sangria and paella I’ve eaten by the beach were disappointing and terribly overpriced, and I’ve yet to dance until sunrise anywhere in the city. Instead in the evenings, I come across enough sloppily drunk tourists and prostitutes that I’d rather just head back home.
And in Barcelona, more than in many other cities I’ve visited, I felt I had to be very aware of theft and pickpockets. I’ll say nothing of my beloved 7-year-old iPod that seems to have wandered off within 5 minutes of me getting off the airport bus. I’ll just assume I dropped it and leave it at that.
I can definitely take the blame for part or the problem. The first time I visited I was alone and this second time I was visiting a friend who had been in the city for less than a week and was just getting her bearings on her surroundings. Perhaps if I had a local to give me some suggestions or to take me around to their favorite haunts, I’d see a whole side I hadn’t seen before.
And its not that every experience I’ve had there is negative. I do have to say, whether or not I ever come to love this city, I do love Barceloneta, their easily accessible beach. I’ll go out on a limb and say it is my favorite city beach, even beating those of Rio de Janeiro. And when I did follow a friend’s recommendations, I found one of my favorite restaurants, Cerveseria Catalana. While I’m not much for the Spanish clothing styles, they do have some great areas to wander and shop for gifts, shoes and housewares.
But for both the good and bad experiences I’ve had in Barcelona, I just don’t feel this city like I did other cities. London I loved the minute I stepped out of the cab from the airport. Beirut made such an impression on me that I’ve visited even when news and state department reports say I shouldn’t have. Even Madrid, which most people seem to feel is a far cry from Barcelona, felt to be more my style. I know there are a lot of Barcelona fans out there, so please help me. I am sure I’ll be heading back there again one day so please give me suggestions for whatever it is you love most about the city. Maybe Barcelona is just one of those cities that I’ll come to love with time and discover. But I can definitely use your help!