Sunday, 8 November 2015

Chater 112: Catalonia - Barcelona's Hidden Gems

It was meant to be my one night off in Barcelona. No school concerts or circus happenings on the cards, just a quiet night in. I spent the whole day relaxing with a good friend, who happened to be over from London and has also lived in Barcelona for a number of years. Swanning around in the hotel's rooftop pool, gazing out across the skyline and daydreaming, we gently floated back to when we were living in Catalonia first time round, and by six o'clock we were pretty horizontal. Then came an invite to a party in a hidden Hoxton, and I really was twenty again. There was a gallery opening down the road from the Arts House cinema on carrer Floridablanca. Plants everywhere, vases like clown faces, produce served from the local "huerta" collective, donuts (coconut with a dulce de leche centre, imagine!) and bins of beer bottles, topped with a house DJ on the first floor. So much fun.

As the party wound down we headed in the general direction of a prohibition-style cocktail bar "La Boadas", which a circus performer in the UK had recommended. But, in the company of a young Chilean designer, ended up in Gypsy Lou, drinking pisco with ginger ale, soaking up the live band and the circus-themed studenty art work for sale on the walls. I felt very much at home there, and found myself merrily chatting away to a gorgeous Swedish surfer on the next door table with an exciting new app in the pipeline. We were reminiscing about hanging out in the beach town of Cullera. It was the one thing we had in common. But his memories were from yesterday, while mine of Jorge and his crew were yesteryear, some twenty years BC (Before Circus), and I suddenly realised it was way past the bedtime of this old clown. 

Mohamed Bandie
But, bowing out, Barcelona wouldn't let me go without one last curtain call. On the last morning, I woke up to go and listen to my son's school choir sing at a Mass in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia. My Sunday Best comprised an outfit last worn at the Edinburgh Fringe. A cream lace dress teamed with my brown velvet circus ringmaster's jacket, with brass buttons. Maybe that's what gave me the confidence to volunteer to read the bidding prayers, in Spanish, at the service, much to the surprise of the rest of the congregation. Afterwards, relaxing over some farewell tapas with some of the other parents, in a square just off the Ramblas, I noticed a guy with a Cyr wheel strolling along. It turns out Mohammed, who has been learning Cyr wheel for four years, was looking for space to perform. A random art fair, stalls everywhere, had made it impossible that day, but there is a wonderful video of his that takes you on a ramble through Barcelona. I watch it now, and am transported once again. Life is like a circus, with performers of all variety round every corner, ready to surprise and delight you when you least expect it.

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