If the title Sun City wasn’t taken by its friendly neighbour across the pond, Barcelona would definitely have that title. Instead, dubbed ‘The City of Counts’ owing to its history as the seat of the Count of Barcelona between 9th and 15th century Catalan, it is now a hotbed for tourists, trade fair, fashion and avid socialites. Located on the northeast coast of the mountainous Iberian Peninsula region, facing the Mediterranean Sea, the 101.4km² city inhibits around 1.6million people and is the 2nd most populous municipality of the Kingdom that is Spain.
Attracting trekkers from all walks of life all times of the year, it was a refreshing site to see empty beaches and less crowded markets during my stay there earlier in the year. I wanted to live like a local for a week, experience the Catalonian lifestyle as well as be surrounded by the native people and the best place to stay I determined, was near the beach. Set a block from the Nova Icaria seafront, SB Icaria Hotel encapsulated the entire definition of the perfect Barcelonan stay with a 12 minute walk to the Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica metro station and a 25 minute stroll to the architecturally imposing grand Sagrada Família church.
I stayed with 2 girl friends, bubbly and a bag of laughter throughout the trip. We stayed in a 3-bedroom suite on the 3rd floor of the building which was just as well since I actually couldn’t get a room in the hotel a week before. I’d been so sold out on the idea of staying at the beachfront luxury W Hotel that by the time I’d saved up enough the hotel had booked out everywhere. Infact, Id left it so late that no hotels in the entire Ciutat Vella District had vacancies. Flights booked, bags packed and nowhere to stay was quite the conundrum to face. Safe to say I’ve never made the mistake of saving up for a hotel ever again. The girls flew out a day before me, so arriving and checking in wasn’t much of a problem. My Ryanair (Yeah, we cheap like that) flight FR9044 from LDN STN arrived at BCN El-Prat on Thurs 03 March at exactly 16:00. A quick taxi ride had me so lost staring at the beautiful city; I’d arrived at my destination long before my mind had. I paid and exited, still lost in the towering buildings and the soaring sun rays that pierced through them.
A shower was first call. We all had our Aluminé skin care range decked out like a showroom floor in the bathroom. My go-to is the Soy & Baobab Shampoo and Conditioner- everywhere I go, it’s a must. Ofcourse anything over 100ml doesn’t get through security so in the spirit of making things happen, I got 4 x 25ml bottles straight from Amazon and took my trusted toiletries on their first little adventure. Unpacked, passport silently sealed away, clothes neatly on pegs in the walk-in wardrobe and heels attentively stood in a line, Barcelona was about to get a taste of an excited british Somalian.
The hotel offered breakfast buffet every morning which was delishhhhh, a quaint outdoor swimming pool with an enticing hot tub – the ultimate instagram backdrop we later learned– and a gym and sauna that in hindsight, I wish I used more of. Whilst we spent our morning nonchalantly by the pool every day, our evenings were a cultural excavation of restaurants and diners and beaches. Close by, we had our midnight €1 fries spot at Parc de Mar’s very own McDonalds. Walk down the beach from there towards the wharf with luxe-grade yachts and fleets of Bugatti’s and Bentleys of very wealthy high rollers, you’ll see a two-storey food and dining destination below ground level. A lively area with a great buzzing atmosphere, we had tons of food concepts and seating options available. Most nights we found ourselves in Jerusalem, a Mediterranean Restaurant and bar with added Shisha/Hookah lounge. They stayed open until about 3am every night, and we’d just eat and enjoy each other’s company with locals all around us, and fellow foreigners making conversation. Felt surreal to be honest, to be in such a calm state in a completely unknown environment with strangers and unfamiliar territory. Yet so tranquil, and so peaceful.
The sounds of the ocean and waves lapping at the beach will forever remain in my conscious mind. Looking out, you could see nothing. The moon played hide and seek during my whole stay, and so not much natural light was available to illuminate the sea. You’d look out, and it would be pitch black. And yet, so thunderously loud, as if it was right beside your ear, the rhythmic pulse of the sea and its steady, throbbing heartbeat ruptured your thoughts and demanded your attention. It was unmatched by anything else in nature. I don’t even think I can put in a nutshell how my skin would erupt in goosebumps at every wave or how humbled it made me to hear it. Amazing, and quite simply hypnotic. An empty beach at 4am, with nothing but pitch black in front of you. I sat down on the sand once or twice, the waves could’ve towered over me and I wouldn’t have known. The experience was surreal.
I made some lifelong friends during that stay- people from other cities in the UK that to this day, still hit me up on social media to ask about the next rendezvous. I appreciate them all.
The girls had rented out the room for 4 nights. I was staying for 5. They checked out and I was left in another predicament. Never will I forget this leg of the trip. On my journey, I’d seen only one other Somali pair on my flight into BCN. I’d smiled, we had shared conversation and by the end of the flight… we were in my head, friends. They were staying in the same hotel so naturally, I’d see them more and more during my stay. For the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t go downstairs that night and just book the room we had to check out, for myself. Instead, I went to the first floor and knocked on their door and left my things in there. I don’t know whose handbook I got this from, or what the plan was… just acted. To this day, I could never forget that I knocked on someone’s door who I’d met on a flight and just stayed in their room for the night.
2 things to be thankful for. 1 is that they were a mother and daughter pair; otherwise it would’ve been totally awks. Not that it would’ve mattered. I mean… would it have? Hmm. 2nd is that their flight was at 3am and the room would be unoccupied for the remainder of the night. The room was still checked in, I mean… could God be looking out for me any further?! Lovely pair, great and truly self-effacing people. The mother took a nap at around 11pm and like the crazy insane person I am, I lead my new friend away at 11:30pm and we took a stroll to the beach.
Listen, the ocean at night is hypnotic. You’ll crave for more. I’m a “reflector”, I like sitting back and just meditating and reflecting on what I have and finding inner peace. Quiet places appeal to me. It was perfect. We strolled around, made some Jamaican friends who we probably – by their drunken state- should not have spoken to. We grabbed food, took some pictures and leisurely laughed way into the night. 1am came. They left. I had the room to myself.
I remember just as I shut the room door, my Whatsapp dinging. I’d reconnected with someone I’d met years before, and they happened to be in Barcelona same time as me. My flight out of Barcelona El-Prat was at 18:05 so I’d have a few more hours to indulge in some sunshine before heading to London. He came to my hotel that morning, and after some breakfast and checking-out, we left. The sun was beautiful. The air felt cleaner for some reason. It was such a beautiful day. In those last few hours, in that last stroll out of the hotel, I realised just how beautiful and peaceful the morning was. I missed every sunrise because I’d been out so late and needed to sleep. This was the first time I was out this early, and boy was it just gorgeous. A street peddler I’d grown familiar with near the restaurants approached us. He was selling fresh roses. He signalled to me and said to my new friend “Why not a rose for the lady?” My friend smiled. I got red and white roses to call mine that day, and still have them somewhere in my trip treasures, stored in a box deep in my room. My first ever set of roses. Sometimes, I find them and sometimes I smile- recalling memories long gone of laughter and sunshine.
If ever any of my readers find themselves in Barcelona, make sure you take a bus from Plaça d’Espanya towards Palau Saint Jordi. From the PSJ website, the buses you want are 55, 13 and 150. The winding hills give you the most breathtaking panoramic views of Barcelona city, the ports with boats and yachts, and glistening crystal clear water as far as the eye can see. Cross the road and you get a ‘Great Wall of China’ vibe with a huge wall and a city of chimneys and fresh clothes hanging out to dry beneath you. Take the bus back down to Plaça d’Espanya and explore the square, Valetian Towers, the shopping mall of Arenas de Barcelona and a whole host of cultural entertainment it offers. Make sure you take the first Montjuïc Cable Car station taking you 750m above ground and connecting you to the Montjuïc mountain and castle, if you’re a stickler for a good view.
I absolutely loved Barcelona. Next time, I’m vlogging it.
Do you have stories from your time in Barcelona? Perhaps a tale from another city? I want to hear about it. Drop a comment below… I love hearing back from my readers!