Has ‘no, it’s too hot’ ever been a legitimate excuse for anything in England? Well, for one thing, it never gets hot enough. But in Barcelona, the Catalonian calor [heat] allows for life in the slow lane, as I discovered on a recent trip.
Upon arrival, I was struck by the beauty of the city, and how each building and touristic site followed the fairytale-like artistic qualities of the famous architect, Antony Gaudi. With the colourful and delightfully irregular Park Guell as its pinnacle, Barcelona is certainly a city that seeks splendour from every angle. Yet, with all this vibrancy, there lies a side to Barcelona that is relatively steady and relaxed.
It’s often said that everyone has their own pace in life. Mine is slow, making for the perfect pace in which to plod in Barcelona, as the city is anything but hectic. With the city’s famous Roman church, La Sagrada Familia, still unfinished after 130 years, it’s fair to say the Catalan people are not in any hurry. It is beautiful, yes, but don’t expect the bus to be there on time. Even in Los Jardins de Laribal’s breezy salvation, the pods hanging from the verandas appear lazy.
This is a place where the locals opt for wine and dine lunch dates, and the day slopes into a deep relaxation towards the afternoon (probably drunk on wine). During the city’s ‘siesta’ season, the hours between 2pm and 4 are often frequented by the heat and nothing else. Whilst it is relaxing as a traveller, I imagine it leaves the working citizen a little lackadaisical.
Yet, in Barcelona, the ‘siesta’ lifestyle is considered only in quotation. Despite the consistent, sleepy pm attitude, the citizens affirm that there’s no such thing as a Barna siesta and that the afternoon closing of the majority of local businesses has nothing to do with the Spanish tradition. I’m not entirely convinced.
While I was falling asleep on my sunny terrace, I couldn’t help wondering how London folk would view this ideology. As the chaotic capital, London is no stranger to hard work, and sandwich-at-desk lunch hours, putting it poles apart from the bodegas [wineries] in Barcelona. Quite frankly, I think the UK capital would be at a loss with the introduction of afternoon nap. Londoners would probably end up working through the ‘siesta’.
The siesta, although thought to be originating from Spain, started in Islamic law and is cited in the Koran. Considered a necessity as opposed to a luxury, the break, which is literally known as ‘midday rest,’ gave farmers the opportunity to relax for the hottest part of the day, to ensure that when they went back to work, their productivity would increase. All very logical. But having managed in the rainy UK without the siesta heat for almost 20 years, I’m inclined to believe that now, the siesta forms a great excuse to drink wine in the day.My advice: become a student. We don’t need excuses.
Despite the slow period in the middle of the day, the evenings and nights in Barcelona seem unrelenting. From evening films to all-night (and early morning) clubbing, the people of Barcelona come alive when the sun goes down. The magnificent Magic Fountain consumes the buzzy atmosphere that is missing from the middle of the day, as hoards of crowds pour into the open spaces and the area fills with a sonorous blast of current chart music.
With enough people to rival a Beyoncé concert, the quiet, picturesque fountains off Placa Espanya are transformed into a fun celebration, where visitors lose their inhibitions. Not just a one-off, the Magic Fountain display runs Thursday- Sunday during the summer season. What a way to celebrate the summer nights, especially if you’re revitalising after a siesta sleep.
Yet whilst I thoroughly enjoyed being nocturnal in Barcelona, I gained a new appreciation for the London commuter; whilst some Spaniards are casually napping, our tired suited workers are frantically tapping. For all the hard-working people out there, Barcelona is a salvation, where you can easily swap the constant tapping for un poco de tapas.