Barcelona on 35mm – June 2016

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Last month, Grace and I went over to Barcelona for just over a week. I’d been before, but Grace hadn’t, so a trip had been on the cards for a while. Our last few journeys had fallen over the winter months as well (including a visit to Iceland in November), and I felt like we needed some sun for a change. We do live in Glasgow, after all.

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Originally, we were only meant to stay for a long weekend, but as time wore on I realised that that wasn’t going to cut the mustard, and so we ended up extending things with some cheap return flights thanks to the BA air miles I have accumulated.

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I only took the Leica M2, to shoot entirely on film as that’s something I’ve not done much of this year. What’s more, with the exception of one roll, I only took the one kind of film for consistency – some Kodak stuff that I bought in bulk that expired in 2001 or something ridiculous. The results came out pretty nicely; with a definite blue colour balance – almost cross processed.

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When you work from home and get the opportunity to be out and about, you tend to make the most of it. We ended up walking almost everywhere, and walking a lot, which was great.

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We took a wander along the length of Barcelonetta beach one day, and I got sunburned all down my right hand side in true Scottish fashion, as I didn’t realise quite how strong the sun way. At one point, a football dropped down onto the walkway from the bridge above, and some locals called down for us to kick it back up to them. It was a significant distance away, and I was never well known for my footballing prowess. I could just imagine slicing it and the ball going crashing through a restaurant window, so decided against it. Luckily for me, there were some young chaps nearby who took the task upon themselves. Just before they ‘kicked’ it back, we heard one of them go “blast it Davie”, at which point the other fellow did indeed ‘blast’ it – right up and over the head of the guy on the bridge.

“Were they Scottish?”, Grace asked.

“Why yes, they were.”

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After witnessing the amusing incident above, we stopped for a pitcher of sangria. Of course it was ridiculously over-priced, but it was what we needed at that point, and that’s allowed when you’re on holiday.

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One of the other things that you need to do if you visit Barcelona is to go to the market. They have the best cherries I have ever tasted… and I love cherries.

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There are all sorts of weird and wonderful things available in there.

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The juices were delicious, but don’t be fooled by the cheaper ones; it’s a false economy.

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Of course, you can’t go to mainland Europe and not have a beverage or fifteen, and obviously we did just that.

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There are a whole bunch of really cool bars in Barcelona. You just need to find ones that aren’t rammed with drunk British arseholes, which can be tough… but not impossible. As is probably the case the world over, the more rock/alternative music orientated establishments were relatively free from such cretins, and so we spent a fair bit of time there. Who doesn’t like a saxophone beer tap anyway?

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It’s all about finding the tiny places down the alleys, away from the main streets in Barcelona, and luckily I knew of a few areas from the last time I was here. After eating a delicious Catalan sausage at one such places, we bumped into this amazing artistic donut place… which even had kronuts. If you haven’t tried one, you have to. They are life changing.

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We met up with a friend from back home who was over with his kids for a holiday as well, and he panicked at the sheer selection of donuts on offer

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I discovered that there was a Mikeller bar in the city, and despite it definitely not being a local thing, I had to make at least one visit… as we aren’t blessed with such an establishment in the UK. They did tell us that one would be coming soon, but of course it is going to be in London, so that’s no use to any of us. The last one we went to was in Iceland, so it was a pleasant change to see the massive price difference here…

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As it turned out, we were one of the only people in there when we went, due to the time of day. That was fine, as we just sat and sampled various things whilst gradually getting pished in the sun. We chatted to the guy behind the bar for a while too, and he gave us some tips for places to check out, which turned out to be pretty useful – even if they were just confirming some things that we already knew.

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For the first portion of the trip we were staying down right slap bang in the middle of the Gothic Quarter. The flat was right at the top of an incredibly narrow staircase that seemed to go on forever. Luckily, when we finally did make it all the way up, there was a huge private rooftop patio/balcony thing that we had all to ourselves. Fantastic. It almost made up for the fact that the downstairs neighbours were always suspicious of our comings and goings… AirBnB is popular in Barcelona, but not all that popular with the residents, or the local authorities.

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Barcelona’s a strange city, unlike any others I’ve ever been to. The way people often talk about it, you end up with the impression that it must be instantly mindblowing, which it really isn’t. In fact, I find it pretty underwhelming at first. The beauty of Barcelona though is that it creeps up on you; it doesn’t flaunt its greatness in your face. It takes time to settle in and get the rhythm of the place, and when you do… well then it feels pretty wonderful. It’s one of the few places in the world that I’ve ever felt properly relaxed, and there’s a lot to be said for that just on its own.

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I’m really not sure what these beds were for.

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We found a wee place that did ‘tapas’ style food, which was really more like the Italian ‘cicchetti’ that we had spent a lot of time eating in Venice.

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The idea is pretty simple. Get a plate… pick a bunch of things, and then at the end count up all of the sticks. Each stick cost something like one Euro. The choice was pretty amazing, and we ended up in here a couple of times whilst waiting for nearby bars to open up.

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Sadly, one of my favourite bars in Barcelona had shut down since I was last there, which was pretty gutting. I had spent months telling Grace about how much I wanted to take her, and how much she’d like it and blah blah… We turned up a few times and couldn’t work out why it wasn’t open. Google had it down as being open, but apparently nobody has updated the listing yet, as it most certainly was not. The bar? Avesta. One of the homes of the infamous panther milk.

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We did manage to get some though, as we met up with my old friend Rachel, who is responsible for me getting into taking photographs in the first place many years ago. She just so happened to have moved out to Barcelona recently, and her mum was out visiting – so we ate some tomato bread and drank leche de pantera like wonderfully civilised people.

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For the latter half of the trip, we shifted locations from the centre, over to a flat near to the famous Sagrada Família. We again had a pretty sweet rooftop balcony situation.

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I’m glad we broke up the trip in this way, as it meant we got to see and spend time in two totally different parts of the city, that we wouldn’t necessarily have come to if we weren’t staying there.

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I stalked this guy for a bit to try and get a picture of him carrying the painting along the street. It looked too wonderful to pass up.

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One thing that we did that isn’t necessarily on everybody’s Barcelona bucket list is to visit a maze that lies to the north of the city.

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I’ve always had a bit of a thing for mazes. I think I like the way they look, and the concept more than the reality. Either way, this maze was set in a really nice park, which apparently was free entry on Sundays (a nice wee tip from our Mikeller bar friend there!).

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We rather disappointingly managed to get to the centre immediately, but then got lost trying to get out again – which is more what I expected. I can’t help but think of Harry Potter whenever I come across mazes now (which, admittedly, isn’t all that often). I feel like there should have been something a bit more exciting in the middle though.

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One thing we did not do was go to Park Güell. But why!? I hear you cry. You can’t go to Barcelona and not go to Park Güell! Well, here’s why: I have been before, and I think it’s over-rated. Yeah, the Gaudi structures are weird and impressive, but as an experience, it’s a pretty crappy one. You have to pay to get into the most interesting bit (and wait for a certain time slot), it’s not that big an area, and it’s literally full of idiots the whole time you’re there. No thanks.

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Instead, we decided to check out a different part of the city – one that was apparently a bit less crowded than Park Güell. We opted to walk the whole way rather than faff about with the subway, which seemed like a great idea until we realised how steep the journey would actually be.

As we tried to find our way up the hill, we passed a huge set of steps and I joked to Grace that we would have to climb up them, and then with horror realised that we actually did. At this point I was having flashbacks to our time spent in Greece wandering around for hours trying to find the Jewish cemetery, climbing up endless steps like this.

As with much in life, it was worth the struggle once we got to the top though. Look at that view…

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Pretty stunning. We had lunch in a wee place ‘off the beaten track’ as they say, which was recommended by our friendly Mikeller barman, and that was filled solely with very loud and excitable locals. Once we’d eaten, we wandered along, taking in the awesome views all around.

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Each time we got a bit higher up, the view seemed to get disproportionately better to how high we had gone.

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We even saw a building on fire.

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The view itself was from the Carmel Bunkers – an old, abandoned military station that overlooks the city.

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This was probably my favourite thing the whole trip. The view really was stupendous, and reminded me a lot of Mount Lykavittos in Athens. I wonder what it is about being so high up that we find so fascinating?

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I couldn’t get over how the city just went on and on until it became a blur of colour. I’d recommend this place to anybody that has the stamina to make it to the top.

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I did have some more pictures from the trip that I was looking forward to posting, but the lab I’ve been using for the past while said that they hadn’t come out, which is pretty frustrating. I’m not entirely sure why they wouldn’t have come out, so maybe it’s time for me to start developing all of my own stuff again… and shooting more film again.

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