Ten things I love about you

Barcelona once again has me hooked — I’ve been here a mere 3 days and I feel like it’s been weeks. The weather has been absolutely perfect, scorching hot but with a lovely sea breeze which makes it all so bearable. Fantastic.

I’ve had it in my head to give you my top ten reasons why I love Barcelona:

The coffee — I don’t know what it is about the beans they use here, but the coffee is absolutely world-class. I have mainly decaf coffee and unlike the UK, where they have to ask the other barristas where that old pack of decaf is and blow the dust off it as they retrieve it from the back of the drawer, the cafés in Barcelona actually have proper ground decaf coffee, some of them even give you a choice of bean! It tastes amazing and you have to remind yourself you’re drinking decaf.

The cafés and bars — this city has the coolest bars and cafés in the whole world, without a doubt, and they barely have to even try. The best of the bars have a casual chic and style which are beautifully understated. Round every corner is another gem, maybe a row of tea lights lead you to a cellar bar, or perhaps you glance through a tiny mediaeval window and find another dimly lit bar with couples whispering gently in the corners.

Born — the tiny streets have captivated me on both my visits, and this time I am staying right in the centre of the maelstrom of tiny mediaeval streets, bars and shops. Every day I still get a little lost getting back to my apartment, it still surprises me that I don’t yet run on automatic pilot. With the hot weather the tiny streets are doubly helpful, protecting you from the intense sunlight. You stumble out of a bar and suddenly you’re right in front of the Picasso Museum, next morning you take a walk over to the Santa Caterina Market to have a coffee and watch the fish deliveries.

The cat woman — I love the cat woman. She sits every evening on the c/ d’Argenteria with her cat and watches the world go by. The cat is the star of this particular little show, its wonderful little bow-tie makes me laugh every time I see it.

The galleries — Richard Meier’s MACBA stands out as the epitomy of Barcelona creative chic. It’s grand frontage gives way to a wonderful use of space inside, with gentle walkways taking you right to the top of the building. It’s an oasis of calm, and one of the first places I headed to on this visit.

Raval — it has many of the same tiny streets as Born but the atmosphere is entirely different. Edgier, noisier, darker and a whole lot more culturally interesting. Home of MACBA, FAD, CCCB and a bunch of other galleries and creative enterprises, I spent a lot of time hanging out here. My favourite boccadillo stand is here, and I seem to always gravitate back here eventually. I spent an amazing afternoon sitting on the cool shaded marble wall of MACBA reading Hunter S. Thompson and watching the skateboarders while the sun shone bright and a breeze gently cooled my skin. Lovely.

The summer evenings — have that lovely cool but still warm feel, as the sun sets and the locals get ready to party again after a hot day of doing, well, whatever the locals do here. The sky is still clear and the gentle breeze keeps you fresh and alert. You take a walk down to the harbour to look at the boats and the people, then back into the old city for some tapas and a cerveza or two sitting watching the world go by. Heavenly.

Street art — as you’ll remember from my previous visit I am a little taken by the quality of the street art here. I could spend weeks photographing the work on the walls and doors. Colourful and truly creative, it visually adds to the atmosphere of the city, it would be far duller without it.

Moritz beer — a local deli put me on to these, one of the local Catalan brews. Delicious and with a wonderful after-taste, I’ve had a few good nights on these. I wish I could take a crate home.

The lifestyle — does anyone here actually work? The locals seem to have got the whole work to life balance near perfect. They don’t seem to subscribe to the 9 to 5 ethic, or the 5 day week ethic, or for that matter any of the traditional western work ethics. Things get done here, food is made and sold, coffees are brewed and drunk, people work but they also play hard. This city doesn’t come alive until way into the evening. When many in London are heading for bed the Barcelona crowd are heading for the bar.