It all started for me when I was at University in Leeds back in 2003, and the time had come to choose our year abroad options. I was studying French & Spanish, and for me it was an easy choice to pick Spain over France, but as for a specific location I didn’t have a clue. It was actually my brother who suggested Barcelona, having visited there once before with friends, so it was through a combination of luck & a lack of other recommendations that I came to live in Barcelona.
I don’t think it was love at first sight; I was a fresh faced 20 yr old, frankly terrified about finding a flat in a strange place in a different language. I was certainly taken with the city though; I found a flat that was a stone’s throw from the beach, spent the days wandering around or drinking in a bar opposite the university (we were students after all), made friends with some amazing Spanish people (you know who you are!) and generally enjoyed myself.
When I left Barcelona 9 months later I was definitely in love. The time had gone so quickly it felt like just a few weeks, and before I knew it I was back in Leeds studying for my final year. I continued living in Leeds for another 4 or 5 years after graduation, always thinking that someday I would like to go back to my beloved Barcelona, but with always some reason not to – a good job, boyfriend, and I suppose fear that I wouldn’t find a job there. Things began to change after my 4 year relationship ended; as I suppose happens when relationships end, you look back at past ones; and I remembered Barcelona. I wasn’t ready for that yet but I was restless & as much as I loved Leeds & all my friends, I yearned for more. I looked (slightly) further afield, and moved to Liverpool for work, then back to Leeds for another 9 months, then to Manchester. It was when I lost my job in Manchester that I finally realised it was now or never – and took the plunge to go back to my old flame Barcelona; with a one way flight & my life in 2 suitcases.
As soon as I arrived I felt an enormous sense of achievement – I was back, and doing it – what I had been wanting to do for nearly 10 years! All the old feelings came flooding back; I caught up with my old friends, wandered around the Gothic Quarter, and saw that incredible view of the city from above Parc Guell. They say never go back to an ex, but sometimes it’s worth it. Since I arrived back here on 1st November last year I have loved every minute. Of course, not every relationship is perfect, and there are parts of Barcelona that irritate me – as every lover has their imperfections – the constant ‘cerveza beer?’ every time I go to the beach, walk down the street in the evening, or sit in the park. The non-stop stream (sometimes flood) of tourists walking so slowly they might as well not move, asking me directions in various languages, inquiring about how they hire a bicing when I am late for work….. But I don’t want to dwell on the negatives, and certainly the positives outweigh them many times over.
Barcelona definitely has something special about it, and many a restless soul has found its place here in the city. People from all over the world have chosen to settle here, and I have met wonderful people from places like New Zealand, China, India, Syria, Canada, America, all over Latin America & of course other Europeans who now call Barcelona home. Some come here for a holiday & don’t leave, some follow a lover here, some come to leave a past lover behind, others merely for an adventure; but all have fallen under the city’s spell. Perhaps it is the location between the sea & the mountains. Perhaps the architecture, the history, the culture, the night life, the food…. I am not sure exactly why they, or I, fell for Barcelona, or how long my romance will last. But as I sit here on the grass, in the shade of a palm tree in Ciutadella Park, with the squawks of the green parakeets in the background, I know I’m not ready to end this love affair any time soon.