Racing with a summer storm
A road trip to the city of dreams
We were stuck in traffic for just over an hour, yet it seemed like merely twenty minutes had passed. Barcelona didn't waste an opportunity to make a lasting impression. The city was busy, hectic and ever-changing. It was easy to fall in love with it and we had barely seen anything just yet. My first memory of the capital was the limited view I had from the window of Bibi's car. She was driving and my mum was sitting on the passenger seat next to her, asking if it is always this crowded.
'Barcelona doesn't wait for anyone,' Bibi told us and, truly, everywhere I looked people seemed to be competing for the privilege to find their space amongst the crowd so that they could be part of the city's heartbeat.
Barcelona was alive as if dancing to it's own rhythm. Just like a Spanish song that can make everybody - from club divas to laid-back leisure seekers - get up and move, the city too, had a way of making you feel alive. The streets were bursting with life, cars were slowly making their way towards the city center and drivers on motorbikes were cruising past, swiftly working the traffic lights in their favour.
'Every time a friend comes to visit me, Barcelona is the first place I take them to. I would never get tired of showing it off.'
At the time, it has been five years since Bibi had moved to Spain. Barcelona, with its breathtaking scenery, diverse cultural scene and unmistakable metropolitan vibe had stolen her heart from first sight and she wasn't the only one who felt that way.
Few are the big cities that hold an element of secrecy because nomads are loud and proud about the great places they explore. Spain's mega-city has often been praised for all the things it promises to be. I didn't want to hold on to any big expectations but as soon as we saw the sign on the side of the road welcoming us in, I had to give in.
In many ways, Barcelona can feel like it belongs to everybody and nobody in particular. The place keeps giving. From the flea markets we passed by to the juicy grapefruits we bought from the local fruit stands, every corner was claimed by crowds of people who wanted to take in the magic of the city. Every alleyway we turned to, every cobbled street we walked down on, each café we stopped by - it was all different parts of the same identity. A city of contrasts. A kaleidoscope of eras. A dream come true.
Bibi was just as eager to explore as we were, even though she was our guide, leading the way. Even a year later, when I think about this trip, I keep remembering all the aspects of the city from a new perspective. The panoramic view from the top of the hill we walked to after taking the wrong turn in the alleyways (twice), the borderline freedom whilst standing on the steps of Parc de la Ciutadella, the wave of awe that came over me the second I laid eyes on Sagrada Familia... The way that the city made me feel - curious and humbled, taken a back by the beauty and inspired by the atmosphere - it filled my heart and soul with the kind of joy I didn't know existed until then.
A storm followed us on the way back. We met up with Bibi's husband, Plamen, just before we were heading home and he hopped on in the driving seat. The sky quickly darkened. The summer had a temperamental control over the weather and this evening was a proof of just that.
Plamen was a fast driver and he raced with the storm to try and get a head start. From where I was sitting in the back seat, I had a front row view of the moody skyline. The thunderstorm started before the lightnings struck and the blinding white light illuminated the road ahead. The car was gliding over the wet asphalt. We could hear the raindrops drumming on the rooftop and the side of the car.
It had been a while since I had experienced a summer storm and to my surprise I had forgotten the smell of the earth that rose from the ground afterwards and the scary display of power that nature sometimes treated us to. It crossed my mind how small we were in the grand scale of things, how small the car was and the road we were following home. Another lightning struck and it made me look up at the sky. To think that we were driving back to Lleida on the way back from Barcelona made me smile. I had never felt the kind of fulfillment as I did in that moment.
The storm passed and nature calmed down. Surely enough, just as I had imagined, as soon as Plamen parked the car and we stepped out, the rich scent of the earth, which was soaked in the shower that fell from the sky, filled up my lungs. The world looked different now, the way it oftentimes does after a long lasting summer storm, and I too, felt like part of me had changed. Travelling has now become a part of me and I would always be grateful to Barcelona for everything it gave us.