barcelona, spain - shaking out the stiffness in sun-drenched catalunya

On a good day, I'm grateful that Switzerland is a stunningly beautiful country, where everything is spotless and timely, and where crime and homelessness and graffiti and poverty and unemployment are essentially non-existent.

On a bad day, I feel like I live in a playground for wealthy, elderly robots, who need to learn a lesson or two in letting loose and living a little.

All that stress and tension of buttoned-up, strict, no-funny-business, unsmiling Swiss life -- I finally got to release it all, in Barcleona.

Barceloneta, Spain

It's like this: Switzerland is like going to have a dinner at the Royal Palace with the Prince and Duchess, where you are in an uncomfortable evening gown and stilettos you can't walk in, constantly minding your posture and worrying about whether you're using the right utensils for the right dish, and taking care to take only the smallest sips of wine, and responding to conversations with polite generalities even if you vehemently disagree.

Barcelona is eating home-made tacos in your boyfriend's favorite shirt on the couch while watching 'Rambo' with your best friend of 15 years, and opening a bag of Oreos for dessert.

Both are terrific experiences -- one is just more fun than the other.

Barcelona, Spain streets

Barcelona, Spain streets

Barcelona, Spain streets

Barcelona, Spain streets

Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona, Spain
PARC DE LA CIUTADELLA

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

This wasn't my first time in Barcelona -- Alex and I had been in 2014 over Valentine's Day weekend, as he'd gifted me tickets to an FC Barça game. World's best boyfriend.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

But this time around, I was traveling solo (Alex was on a two-week romp in California visiting friends). I was very very lucky to be crashing with an old friend from my Buenos Aires days, who happens to be The World's Best Guy, who generously let me crash in his apartment, cooked me incredible meals, and introduced me to some of the best people I've ever met.

 Not drunk at all, while watching Messi score a beautiful goal for Barça during the Copa del Rey against Bilbao.


The best food: this is leftover spaghetti carbonara cooked into an omelette. No more words necessary. God bless you, Eugenio.


 The best people.



Viola fed me nutella, lent me a sports bra, eagerly invited me along to a concert and to her goodbye dinner, and is generally the sweetest and funniest and most immediately lovable woman I've ever met. Naturally, she is Italian, which explains quite a bit.


We'd been drinking for hours, celebrating along with the rest of the city Barça winning the King's Cup, the sun was starting to come up and we were all about to fall asleep, when I asked Sam to take me for a ride on the back of his bike. Flying through the empty streets of Barcelona on the back of a motorcycle while the sun slowly crept over the top of the buildings was... unforgettable. Won't ruin the experience trying to shove it into appropriate adjectives. Thank you thank you thank you, Sam.

In my notes for this trip I wrote 'was wearing the shortest dress I own, naturally. The city was ours.'

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

We took a trip out of the city one morning to go rock climbing. This was announced to me at a bar: "Here's the guy we'll go rock climbing with on Monday." "Oh!" "Have you ever been?" "Nope." I wasn't prepared, hadn't packed for it. "Can I wear a miniskirt?" "Oh yes, that's preferred."

Penya Ginesta, Barcelona, Spain
PENYA GINESTA

Penya Ginesta, Barcelona, Spain

Penya Ginesta, Barcelona, Spain

I basically spent the day watching a bunch of fit, shirtless men demonstrating their athletic prowess. We had a couple six packs of beer and I got in half a game of chess while waiting out my turn. Win-win.



Adi and I belayed for each other and, naturally, became blood brothers. I only ever sent him in a free-fall drop to his death twice, and he survived both times, so. Win-win. A few months later he gave me the best haircut of my entire life that increased the amount of cat-calls I received on the streets of Barcelona by at least 500%, and that is really something. Adi, you are the absolute best.



Barcelona, Spain

Platja Nova Icaria, Barcelona, Spain
PLATJA NOVA ICARIA

Platja Nova Icaria, Barcelona, Spain

A rule of thumb for Barcelona's beaches: the further you go from the W Hotel, the less touristy the vibes and the more locals and topless bathers. Don't forget a bottle of cava or two; hangover be damned.

Platja Nova Icaria, Barcelona, Spain

Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain

Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain
 PORT VELL

Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain

One day, after hours and hours and hours of nonstop aimlessly walking around the city, I spent a good couple hours sitting on this dock, getting blown over by the wind, indulging my out-of-control love of boats and ports and all things water.

Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain

Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain

Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

La Cascada, Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona, Spain
 LA CASCADA, PARC DE LA CIUTADELLA

One blisteringly hot day I debated stripping down and swimming in this fountain, but weighed deportation risks, and instead stood in the shade under the roof at the top and felt the spray from the fountain cool my skin. Did the job. 

Barcelona, Spain

Churreria, Barcelona, Spain

Churros are a Barcelona specialty -- fried sticks of dough dipped in chocolate, a generous batch served in a paper cup with an army of napkins (you'll need 'em all).

Churros con chocolate, Barcelona, Spain


Eaten in their entirety at the base of the cathedral, listening to a street band while the sun beamed down on everyone mulling by with smiles on their faces, completely content.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain
 
Barcelona, Spain

Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain
MERCAT DE LA BOQUERIA

Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona's most famous market is widely represented with photos of its colorful produce and healthy juices for sale, but I was more drawn to the seafood stalls.

Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

This is the scene I remember most: watching those lobsters squirm around, clamping their claws. Live & fresh is damn right.

Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain
 
Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Once I managed to get locked inside Eugenio's apartment for 4 hours. I cooked myself eggs and hung out on the patio, watching the city pulse. There are worse fates. Selfie to remember these priceless, beautiful moments for all of eternity.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain
 Dinner for 10 at friends' flat in Barceloneta: homemade ceviche, tostones (fried plantains), and meat. All the fixins and glass of cava in the way, likely mine. 


This was one of two pictures I took on this entire day (the other was the ceviche, above). No idea why. Another beautiful, priceless memory to remember forever: dudes waiting for the ladies to get ready to go to the bar.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

There is a lot I didn't capture. We had amazing tapas on Carrer de Blai; listened to rap music while smoking shisha and downing wine on Eugenio's balcony in Eixample early into the morning; watched a concert from a skate park while downing cerveza beers sold for a euro or two by enterprising street vendors; met a gorgeous and hysterical ex-Floridian who became my partner-in-arms one drunk night, and for whom I reached into a toilet stall to retrieve a necklace, and told police we were a lesbian couple in order to get a friend out of a traffic ticket (success), which would backfire when later at a dance party called Nasty Mondays we were propositioned aggressively by two lesbians at the bar; showed up to board a flight on an hour of sleep, still absolutely drunk; taking good long sleep-of-the-dead naps on pristine beaches with a bottle of cava within reach; and all the motorcycle rides the daughter of two people who met at a motorcycle party could ask for.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you to everyone who made these two trips so wonderful -- but especially to Eugenio for completely over-the-top generosity in giving me shelter and food and allowing me to shake off a bit the Swiss stiffness and formality and coldness by showing me his city and the amazing people he surrounds himself with. See you all soon; drinks on me.

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