–‘It’s a bit like The Village in New York’. This is what we first hear of this part of Barcelona. Others nod in agreement, when they ask where we are staying. Vila del Gràcia is our holiday flirt.
We have squeezed onto a couple of chairs at the bar in La Trini. The place is lively and busy, but the people working here seem calm and in control. They give us the menu and I order a tapas. Since I’m crazy about mashed potatoes, that is what sways my choice. I go for ‘fried octopus with mashed potato and avocado’. We drink our wine and half an hour later I am loving this place, after I have tasted the octopus. Delicious!
Vila del Gràcia was once a rural area where Barcelona’s rich had their second home. After the Industrial Revolution, Gràcia (which was now a separate city) was incorporated into Barcelona as a suburb. A cosy one too. We stroll around this bohemian neighbourhood with sweet smells in the air and colourful organic vegetables in the stores. There are many small designer shops based on fair trade. Walking past second-hand stores, shops with scarves and incense, stylish lamps, books and even a microbrewery (we never seem to find again), there is not a hint of ‘Zara’ or ‘H&M’ in sight, thank goodness.
There are tapas bars, restaurants and cosy squares squeezed in between the buildings. The streets teem with parents, the occasional dog owner, little old ladies with a cane, students and people on their way to a yoga class. Everywhere people sit and talk, share a pizza or drink freshly squeezed juice. The city’s outdoor areas are put to good use. There is always someone trying to sell you a six-pack of beer, or the guy who plays guitar on Placa de la Vila de Gracia in the afternoon, while every night there is a queue outside the cinema in Rambla del Prat.
Everywhere people sit and talk, share a pizza or drink freshly squeezed juice. The city’s outdoor areas are put to good use.
We go to Heliogàbal and hear a poet and a guitar player perform. In Catalonian. We understand absolutely nothing but we are still enjoying ourselves. We purchase our cheese and ham at the Mercat de Llibertat market. We buy wine from the store next door to where we live. We walk out on our beautiful balcony from where we admire the ornate roof ridge and listen to the sounds of our neighbourhood. Every night we walk around the narrow streets, heading down the Carrer d’Asturias and Carrer de Verdi. Find a place to sit, order drinks and tapas. Patatas bravas in many varieties, chorizo, cheeses, olives, mussels and a sinful, creamy broccoli soup.
Patatas bravas in many varieties, chorizo, cheeses, olives, mussels and a sinful, creamy broccoli soup.
It’s easy to be seduced by your stomach, but there’s lots of eye candy as well. The rustic, slightly worn, old and beautiful details. Whether it is buildings with adornments, tall windows with glazing bars or all the magnificent wrought-iron balconies. The city teems with drinking fountains where you can quench your thirst, whether one is two or four legged. The streets are clean, there are bins everywhere and the streets are regularly swept. It also seems that there is an agreement between taggers, graffiti artists and building owners that their art can only be done on roller shutters in front of the stores. With the random opening hours due to siesta and so on, there is always a piece that can be viewed.
I pick up one last piece of octopus. The plate is empty. We pay and head to the next tapas bar. The night is still young.