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  • scarlettsangster

Discovering Barcelona (during a pandemic)

I’ve been learning Spanish during lockdown–for something to keep my brain busy. Every Wednesday I take a two-hour class with International House London, and now I can read short stories in another language. Pretty cool, right?

This July, they briefly lifted travel restrictions, and I jumped at the chance to escape the monotony of my life in a rented London box-room. Of course, being me, I didn’t book a traditional holiday. I went to a Spanish school in Barcelona for a weeks’ intensive language course.

The school, Camino Barcelona, was just a five-minute walk from Urgell metro stop, 15 minutes from La Ramblas and 20 minutes from the gothic quarter, perfect for sightseeing, cafes, bars or even a cycle down to the beach. Though it might sound ironic having chosen to learn the language, I’d never spent much time in Spain before this trip. At least not enough to really appreciate the culture, the architecture and sheer beauty of the quaint side-streets, tree-lined promenades and chalky apartments blocks with their iron balconies.

But what made the week all the more magical was the complete absence of tourists.

With much of the world still unable to travel, I got the unique experience of enjoying Barcelona at face value. We saw La Sagrada Familia without being forced off the pavements, wandered Park Guell for hours bumping into only a handful of people, and enjoyed leisurely evenings chatting with the locals outside tapas spots we didn’t need to pre-book.

I’m sure the next trip I have to Barcelona will feel quite different, though I can’t help but hope she can retain at least some of the tranquility I got to enjoy. Will people rush to refill our capital cities after the pandemic? Will the pace go back from nought to three-hundred as abruptly as it was brought to a halt? I have to say, I quietly hope it doesn’t. If only this trip had been an accurate representation of how the city usually feels, I believe I could quite happily have stayed forever.

For now though, back in my London box-room, I can’t help but stare longingly at the globe on my bookshelf, and dream about how many more sleeping cities I would love to discover in such a raw and humble way as I first met Barcelona.


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