Barcelona Culture

As professional as ever, we stuck a couple of meetings in our diaries and snuck out of work early, airport bound. Once through security we settled down for some food and more importantly Cava! This was soon followed by Easyjets finest (worst) warm sparkling wine on the plane.

Of course we were delayed. Of course. We landed at exactly midnight, precisely as the last train and bus departed without us. Standing in the dark outside the airport we attempted broken Spanish to airport staff – or at least my friend did, any language other than English (and even that sometimes) still beyond my grasp. Getting onto 1am we found ourselves bundled in a minibus taxi with a Spanish family we’d somehow befriended, all of us unable to communicate and driving for an hour into the heart of Barcelona.

airplane at night

The next day saw us head straight to the beach. Our poor English skin desperate for some European sun. The beach was crowded; with people practically sun bathing on top of each other. To add to this, with the exception of my friend and I, it was nothing but boobs! Big ones, small ones, old droopy ones, pierced, tattooed, every kind, just so many boobs! I didn’t know where to look; the British prudishness is hard to shake sometimes!

barcelona beach

We didn’t last long on the beach, both of us melting and feeling a little inadequate to the Spanish models patrolling up and down the sand, plus we had things to see.

sagrada-familia.sq

Sagrada Família is a large Roman Catholic cathedral designed by Anton Gaudí’s at the end of the 19th Century and still under construction today. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and the most beautiful cathedral I have ever been in. A wonderful combination of Gothic design, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and modern concepts and engineering. The cathedral’s construction was incredibly slow because it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. It is not due for completion until 2026, over a hundred years since Gaudí’s death.

sagrada familia facade

The outside is covered in the most intricate façade of various religious scenes; usually the church façades I’ve seen are Renaissance’s or medieval in style but these had angles and sharp edges echoing it’s turn of the century roots. The magic really happens when you walk through the door. It’s like walking into a prism; giant stained glass windows, refreshingly not depicting religious scenes but instead simply full of colour and light, cover everyone in a rainbow.

sagrada familia colour

For all the intricacies of the outside, the inside is nothing but space and light. The columns rise out of it’s belly like trees; it’s branches knitting together to hold up the roof. It feels like the building has grown from nature not built by man.

sagrada familia roof

What I found especially wonderful was that all are welcome, every religion stared in wonder at the light dancing around them, marvelled at the carved skill of the ceiling, took a deep breath and let every thing out. That’s my favourite thing about religious buildings, I might not follow the religion or agree with some of the teachings but I have never been to a religious location and not found it to be a sanctuary of peacefulness.

sagrada familia

Sometimes people just need somewhere to go to think, whether that’s a church or a mosque, a library or the local park. It felt like the Sagrada Família was aware of this –

‘Whatever your beliefs we encourage you to join in meditation. Put down your headphones and take a moment to get away from the hassle of life. If you are a believer remember the purpose of this church is to encourage prayer. ‘

sagrada familia ceiling

We returned to the hotel, dehydrated and exhausted. After a quick rest we got ready to leave and then something found it’s way into my eye. After at least an hour of me prodding it and watching as all my make-up slipped down my face; followed by me making repeated jokes of various landmarks having fallen into my eye – which I found incredibly amusing, my hungry friend who’d been waiting two hours for me, less so; we finally headed out.

Once my eye and jokes had dried up we headed to Las Rambla – a central boulevard which cuts through the heart of the city, a lively promenade filled with street entertainment, cafes, restaurants and bars – so basically a massive tourist trap. We wondered up and down searching for somewhere to eat, finally managing to find the worst restaurant in town. This downfall was rectified with some swiftly drunk cocktails and then one or two beers. Thing’s didn’t get too messy but I’m pretty sure I was lunging in the street and spinning on the subway train pole before we finally got home.

barcelona giraffe

The following day we made our way to Park Güell (Gaudí park). In the baking heat we climbed a steep hill before coming across an outdoor escalator. My friend smartly took the escalator but I felt the need to prove my healthiness and climbed the stairs. This was a mistake.  A big fat mistake. A big fat sweating, dripping, gasping, downing the water mistake. We then stood in the queue whilst I dripped and watched as the police chased a pick pocketer down the cliff face.

Gaudí park, also a UNESCO world heritage site is a architecture garden from Gaudí’s naturalist phase, focusing on organic shapes found in nature. Apparently there is lots of fascinating things about the park such as its geometry, Catalonian style, symbolism, political and religious messaging, mythology, iconography, history and philosophy however I learnt none of those things and just wondered around a nice park for the day; I suggest you head over to Wikipedia if you’d like to know more on any of that. For me the park consisted of wiggly paths, amazing views over Barcelona and unusual structures in Gaudí’s style.

gaudi park musician

We found yet another terrible restaurant for lunch, I melted some more and finally we dragged our suitcases to the train ready to fly back home in time for Monday morning work.

gaudi park lunging

 

 

 

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The Reluctant Grown Up

It sneaks up on you this whole growing up thing! I hadn’t noticed, the mirror would point things out but I’d be late, rushing out the door, telling myself I’d deal with it later. Later never came though and those anti wrinkle creams always seem just that bit too expensive. More worrying than the lines of life spreading across my face was the fact all my friends seemed to be growing up too. I wanted to yell at them ‘stop, stop now! I’m not ready! Stop moving on, I can’t keep up! Can’t we just stay where we are? Don’t leave me here!’.

getting old in the mirror

When I was three I was brought a swing. A beautiful swing in bright blue with a yellow seat. Too small to sit on without being lifted I’d lie across it until my belly ached pretending to be Superwoman. Sometimes I’d collect seeds from the garden and make various recipes presenting my own cooking show with ‘here’s one I made earlier’. Most of the time I would lie there and with every ounce of my being, will myself to grow up. I wanted independence, no bed time, not to have to eat my greens, to come and go as I pleased, I wanted to be big. I still can’t stand being told what to do, you can imagine what kind of trouble that mentality gets me in!

supergirl

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realised what a mistake wanting to be an adult was! Being a teenager sucked. Most people are hideous teenagers; everything about being a teenager is awkward and uncomfortable. Boys grow too quickly, becoming all gangly and tangled up in their own limbs. Girls get all these lumps and bumps.  And it doesn’t happen all at the same time either, you wake up and suddenly your hips have widened, a month later your legs have extended; my brother could come down for breakfast with another inch to his height than when he’d gone to bed. Your face turns into a pizza. Hormones rule your every cell making you completely impossible to live with, all mental stability lost forever. You transform into some sort of monster and all whilst your friends blossom into beautiful people. How did that happen?! I’d turned into an uncomfortable hormonal time bomb, ready to explode at any second and they became Disney princesses! Of course things eventually fall into balance and you come out of your teens cringing at pictures and glad to have just made it through. It’s hard growing up, the teenage years are just the start of it, it’s not until your twenties that your mind tries to catch up.

my so called life

It was only when my mother was suddenly sick, a woman who was the strongest person anyone ever knew, always holding everyone else up, that I realised I was suppose to be an adult. My mother was a beacon, a safety net, a solider in my corner, sturdy and reliable and simply impossible to be without. Not without faults, she was no saint and should not be painted afresh in death but incredible in all her flaws and cracks regardless. Without her I had no tether holding me down and I didn’t want to grow up any more, I wanted to be three again, lying on my swing.

swing

Whilst going through boxes at my brothers house I found my mum’s old diaries, decades and decades of her thoughts all recorded down. I read the entry from the day I was born, it was like she’d written it for me to read ‘one day you will know I died a thousand times in two hours for you’. ‘I worried for the 9 months I carried you that I wouldn’t feel the same way about you as I do your brother, that I wouldn’t have enough love in me for you both but oh I do, I do my darling’.

dumbo

We sat in a pub, my new house mates and I sharing pizza. Finally done with packing up mum’s possessions, with legal paper work, with commuting in and out of London everyday, I was now back in south London, the grief must be almost done with I told myself, I could get back to me now, I was on my way out. I thought.

Oddly all three of us house mates had lost our mums, we talked about it over beers. One of them had lost their mum six months prior to mine, he was further along the grief process than me. He explained that he too had fallen out with some of his best friends after his mum’s death ‘it’s normal’ he told me ‘you don’t have the same energy for people that you once had, some people are takers and some are givers, this doesn’t make them bad people but when some things happen, the balance changes and not everyone reacts well to that’. I felt so much better with this knowledge, some friends hadn’t liked that I changed or didn’t know how to react to me, that didn’t make them or me bad, it was just how thing are some times. I was tired of being shattered and have people tiptoe around me so not to cut themselves on my edges.

Beer-in-a-London-pub

I laid in bed that night, unable to sleep. I thought about Bridezilla, I was so angry at her. I was angry at myself. I’d spent years posing for pictures with friends. I’d never go on a night out without my camera, every event was documented. Thousands of pictures of us, heads leaned in and smiling a million memories recorded and yet I rarely turned the camera on my mum. In the darkest part of the night I panicked, why did I have so few pictures of my mother and I?! I searched through Facebook, the pictures on her computer, the pictures on my computer, I found too few. Pictures and pictures of Bridezilla and others; people I no longer knew, people who didn’t want to know me but not enough of my mum, why hadn’t I taken more? I fell asleep with it all spinning around.

picture memories

I was standing in the kitchen, she was by the sink making a cup of tea. ‘I haven’t even seen the last three episodes’ she expressed sadly about some TV show she’d been watching. I looked at her surprised ‘you still have time! You’re not dying, we’re not there yet’. She gave me a funny look, her eyes saying more than words could. ‘What? what are you not telling me?’ I panicked. Suddenly she looked very pale. I rushed over and she collapsed into my arms, both of us falling to the ground. I kissed her cheek and begged her not to die, screaming through tears. And then she died. Again. And it was all so real, the sobs catching in my throat as I awoke in the dark. That’s the hardest type of crying, when the world is asleep, where it’s all in your throat and your nose twitches and eyes catch and stomach turns; where you clutch your hand over your mouth so no one hears your sobs, hold your breath and hug your stomach, where you rock yourself to save from falling. When you can’t breath and you’re exhausted and everything aches and it’s just you and the night.

sky cries

The weird thing about grief is that life goes on, the clocks keep ticking and the world keeps spinning. How is this possible? Doesn’t the world understand my mother is dead? Everyone says time heals the wounds but what do you do before time does it’s thing? How do you eat and sleep and breath when you’re in the middle of it all? Even with all the time in the world, what do you do with the pain whilst you wait? I was tired. I was tired and she kept dying again every morning.

finding neverland sad