I have recently been to Barcelona.
The way I pictured Barcelona was mainly influenced by conversations with friends who visited or live there and George Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia".
In my imagination, Orwell's description has always been the most romantic, even though it was set in the 1930's war-time. I pictured a city engulfed in a myst of culture and traditions. I imagined working men and women sitting in cafes, either whispering or shouting their political views. I thought of those brave simple people that 70 years ago took arms against fascism, driving taxis against military barricades. I thought of street artists.
I can not say I was entirely disappointed with Barcelona but its hard to hold a dream while standing at the door of designer clothes shops, McDonalds, KFCs, Irish pubs and souvenir shops selling the same snow-globes in every corner. Here and there I found niches of what my Barcelona would have looked like but the vast majority was a Spanish version of Oxford Street.
It is very likely that I was stuck in the tourist trail and missed all the places that could have filled my standards. Maybe it would have been different if a local had guided me away from the blond tourists wearing Che Guevara t-shirts and Gucci bags.
Nevertheless I found Barcelona's homage to Orwell. A dark little triangular square in the middle of the old town.
I sat there and thought of the International Brigades, the anarchists, the Republic. I thought about art, about life and about choices.
My day-dreaming was interrupted by a spanish-looking young man handing me flyers with discounts for yet another Irish Pub.