My plan for Barcelona was that there were no plans. I rolled in and just let Barcelona happen to me. Let’s just say that I was not disappointed. Yes, the sights were mighty fine, but it was the spirit of the people that surprised me the most. To them, community was the most important thing and it showed in almost every aspect of their culture. Here’s a continuation of Part 1:
4.) The Happiest Happy Hour
On our travels, we met a couple of guys who wanted to meet us at a place called La Xampanyeria that served sparkling cava, a drink similar to champagne, for about €1. We walked by La Xampanyeria three times before we realized that it was a tiny garage in an alley. The only reason we were able to spot it was because the after work crowd started piling into the narrow space causing the commotion to spill out onto the street.
The interior was tight but people did not mind cozying up to strangers. Above the counters were dead chickens, sausages and other unknown meats hanging from hooks from the ceiling. I’m a tall lady, so I had to duck underneath the hanging meat to order my cava. They had two to choose from: rosa or blanca – pink or white. Nicole and I decided to start off with pink. He poured two glasses of pink cava and wrote the cost on a tiny slip of paper — €1.70. I decided to get the first round and gave the man €2. He immediately gave us change which we left on the counter as a tip. Confused by the meaning of tip, the old bartender put the slip of paper with the cost and the change on a plate and pushed it towards us. We said “no no – for you!” He was so thrilled and treated us like the only customers in the bar for the entirety of our stay!
Eventually, our new friends joined us for cava and Spanish snacks (bacon, cheese and foie-grass roll). We decided that a great before-dinner-activity would be to buy bottles of said cava and drink by the waterside. So we grabbed a bottle of pink and a bottle of white (€5 each – can’t beat that deal) and did just that.
5.) A Universal Understanding
I relied heavily on Nicole’s Spanish speaking skills, which were primarily used to get us coffee and find bathrooms. Even though we didn’t quite understand the language, we felt no language barrier. Locals were patient with us. They took their time to try to understand Nicole and I and didn’t make us feel like we were wasting their time. Pointing, hand gestures and facial expressions were all accepted forms of communication.
There were several cases where locals refused to take “no hablo Español” for an answer. For instance, when Nicole and I visited the CNT bookshop (read more about the CNT here — the story is incredible), the older revolutionary running this Anarchist shop used flags and political stickers to communicate the history of the CNT and his mission for the store. Before leaving Nicole purchased both a CNT “Bandana” and “Bandera” after the store owner communicated their historical importance and current uses in political resistance.
We also ran into a handsome young man on the subway who really wanted to welcome us to his city. Though he didn’t speak English he did speak German, which we used during our subway ride as our way of communicating. Even though German was both of our second languages and we both struggled with an accent (you can take the girl out of Philadelphia, but you can’t take the Philadelphia out of the girl) we both enjoyed hearing about each other’s travels and what we both loved about our respective hometowns.
6.) Barcelonians are Happy
I am most surprised by how moved I was by the overall disposition of the people in Barcelona. They are truly happy. And I’m not talking about the joy that comes from a good day or from good news. There’s something about them that reflects their inner peace and positive attitude — and how did I notice? For one, people whistle and hum little tunes to themselves. Not an hour went by where I didn’t stroll past someone who was whistling or humming a song. A little bit of happy music seemed to give them an extra pep in their step.
Another hint that makes me believe that Barcelonians are an overall happy bunch of people is that everyone says “hola” as you pass. I will never forget one elderly man in particular who passed Nicole and I at an intersection. He walked with a cane but as he approached us tossed it up so that the handle was at eye level. He then used his cane to give us a little “tip-of-the-hat” gesture while cheerfully saying “hola”. It was not flirtatious but a greeting that made us feel like he’s known us for years and that we were part of the community. His borderline vaudeville skit with his cane was by far one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen and I will never forget how a little bit of kindness from a stranger can be remembered for a lifetime.
Overall, I got the impression that Barcelona is a city that brings together people from all different backgrounds under the revolutionary ideals of Catalonia and the old CNT: that no matter who you are, we are in this community together. So why don’t we put all differences aside, love one another and work together towards creating a happy city where everyone has a sense of belonging!