Barcelona: The Great Enchantress

Alex Paisner

Global Experiences' Barcelona Location Rep Nancy shares her experience moving to Barcelona.

The Mediterranean paired with the mountains looked perfect.  It was a scene that could only be crafted by the hand of an artist.  I landed in Catalonia’s capital on a beautiful Tuesday morning in September and I have not looked back since.

I moved to Barcelona last year as an employee of the Catalan government to teach English to young students at Montserratina School.  I did not know anything beyond this.  I had no friends; I did not speak Spanish and my knowledge of Barcelona fit into a thirty-six hour span of time from a previous trip.  I was entering a world of unknowns.  I was terrified, yet hopeful.

Robert Hughes, author of Barcelona: The Great Enchantress writes, “You are lucky if not too late in life, you discover a second city other than your place of birth which becomes a true home town.”  The sentiments one holds for their hometown are rooted in experiences, successes, failures, and the act of evolving.  Your birthplace is an arsenal of “firsts”—first steps, kisses, triumphs, losses.  Barcelona was the place where I first landed on my feet, alone.  Barcelona was patient.  The Sycamore trees lining Passeig de Gràcia hold all my secrets.  L’exiample is where I enjoyed my first three course meal alone.  Parc Ciutdadella is where I cried out of fear and confusion.  La Sagrada Familia is where I saw beauty in its purest form.  L86 is the bus line I rode to and from work every day, having my first conversation in Spanish and Marbella is the beach where I danced Salsa and saw the sun rise over the Mediterranean.

When I traveled back to the States for a few weeks in August it was difficult to explain my experience.  I told friends and family that I had fallen in love, but not with a brown-eyed Catalan man.  I had fallen in love with the “Great Enchantress” and until I returned to this beautiful metropolis, Barcelona would forever follow me with its history, modernism, iron balconies and cobbled streets.

Traveling, leaving your arsenal of “firsts” is terrifying.  I can relate, but having spent eleven months abroad I realize home is arbitrary and the world is beautiful.

A giant display of humanity, a phrase used to describe Barcelona’s famous walkway, La Rambla.  Street artists, beggars, gelaterias, animals, and tourists occupy this 1.2-kilometer stretch.  People travel from all over the world to visit the famous Rambla.  While the arching Sycamore trees shading the walkway are striking, it was not beauty that first drew me to this monument.  As I walked down La Rambla I felt a part of the world--privy to the good and the bad.  La Rambla does not attract one type.  It attracts all types.  On La Rambla you see the fruitless beggar, trying to conquer every hour with more hope than the last.  You see the decorative street artist displaying passion, attracting life’s favorite audience-youth.  You see the revered woman with her cane walking down the pathway with memories of Franco, reminded of the dark side of humanity.  La Rambla is a metaphor for life.

I have learned that traveling is the only way to witness life’s great performances.  Each city fosters a different performance with different characters.  Moving to Barcelona was the scariest and best thing I have ever done.  My experiences and “firsts” have expanded, giving me a more dynamic identity and now I am on the way to giving my best performance so far on life’s stage.

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