Sun-tanning in La Barceloneta

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Truth be told, Barcelona was a let down. The place just didn’t appeal to me. I travelled there with full expectations but realized, Madrid was the city for me. Barcelona holds the art nouveau crest with its crazily beautiful architecture but I would still pick Madrid anytime because of her rich historical culture. El Prado of Madrid won me over effortlessly while Barcelona had to tempt and cajole me into submission. True, this city is never dead. Even at 2am there are people walking on the streets – it is safe, I can vouch for it. It is in this city where I learnt (and failed) how to salsa with Spanish men and it is also in this city, where I jogged mile after mile, free from the constraints of familiarity and security.

I missed the southern hospitality while I was here. Tapas tasted different and the fact that I was no longer in Andalusia was starkly painful. Despite all these (I sound as though I am criticising Barcelona, I know), this city’s hidden beauty lies on the pavement as you walk past buildings you never thought could have existed. It was also in the way party-goers crawl the pubs and clubs (I was too tired at this leg of the journey to even think of partying) excited and child like to find what the nights have to offer. I ended up tanning at La Barceloneta for two consecutive days, the sun too appealing and I, too lazy to discover the scent of this city. Even the sun is different in Europe – lighter, less harsh – I was barely two tones darker even after two half days of lazing on the beach.

Nudity seemed normal. Women bared their breasts and southern regions without a care; men did not stare. Only tourists did, some with their mouth wide open. I smiled. We aren’t used to such openness after all. Even the Americans I met in the hostel were gaping over the fact that European females bared their bodies as if it was normal (well, it is normal) and how was it that their boyfriends can be so nonchalant about it? “Where do I look? Where do I look?”, he repeated himself and we laughed – all of us new to this blasé culture.

I met a 56-year old divorcee while I was there. She told me never to marry someone who does not like to travel – I would be miserable – and that love should be of two complementary souls not mindless sacrifices after sacrifices. Apparently he was mentally ill and mistreated her. She stopped travelling entirely. Two decades of her life was spent being miserable. They separated and now, she’s travelling anywhere and everywhere fulfilling her wander lust. I guess it is never too late to pursue what you want. You only need courage and moments of epiphany.

Sometimes I look back, think of the times I spent on the road and Barcelona would always remain colourful and vibrant. Even La Ramblas with its ripped off touristy souvenirs and endless Barcelona FC jerseys tug at my heart strings. I will never fit in if ever, I settled in Barcelona but maybe it is because of this, Barcelona remains impressionable and dream-like. After all, this city does not breathe to please her people. The people breathe to please her.

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