Barcelona. She loves you.  

People rave about falling in love with a place; with the great cities of the world. After a trippy visit of a few days, and the realisation of fledgling, romanticised pre-visit expectation, the monumental metropolises of the New Yorks, Parises and Londons tend to simply confirm their well-documented command over their visitors. The route to finding your amour with Barcelona is different. It is not you first that falls in love with her. Rather, it is Barcelona that will fall in love with you. She invites you to her with a patient devotion to finding your reciprocation. As she urges you in, she always maintains her poise; lounging on the attractive side of vulnerability – want, not need.

She is artful in her courtship. Her streets begin narrow; and gently arced. The soft-pastel-painted apartments that line them reach tall in relation to the width below. The shady closet they create offers you her abundance in small doses: melodious whispers of rich blue sky; wafting, sweet scents of jamon and gambas, garlic and paprika; harmonious musicians playing in front of their hats; and utterances of architecture, both ancient and modern. Her carefully crafted flirtation means you are never overwhelmed. She gives you the opportunity to imagine what is round the next corner before each inspiring revelation. Just an ankle, or a wrist. A plump-lipped smile brushing away a cascade of glossy, chestnut, Iberian hair. A shapely curve transforming a brief glance into a gaze and a pathway to a gleaming gem on an inherited necklace.

This is unlike New York, whose warbling take-me-or-leave-me, I-am-what-I-am, I-do-it-my-way chutzpa is class A addictive, but exhausting. Or the pretensions of gold-leafed Paris; turning her nose up across marbled bridges and strutting off behind lofty columns, so as to make you crave most what she will barely allow you to have. Or London’s spoilt, high-maintenance whine – demanding your gifts and energy with no guarantee of anything but tears and occasionally endearing chaos in return. No. Barcelona cares, craves, gives. She wants you to love her and will coax you in every way possible to achieve it.

She is a city of extravagant details and lavish design, yet turbulently – and seemingly willingly –adorned in bright colours on her every doorway by her impassioned populace. She feeds you her gifts at a pace you prescribe, each delicious dish definitive of variety and contrast. She beams warmly; drenching herself in yellow, orange and unpolished gold. Even in the wet, her shelter is intoxicating. Passers-by spill into anything-but-dry bodegas, which pour comfort and camaraderie from stocky wooden barrels filled with deep red wine.

That said, Barcelona is more than mere gentle flirtation and subtle persuasion. She wants you to love her. On leaving the old town she opens like the petals of a purple, sun-kissed orchid in full-bloom. Narrow, shadowy alleyways spread into long, wide boulevards. They stretch north, east and west, kissing occasionally in a spacious diagonal confluence of converging direction. Were you somehow not yet moved, along one such artery she will spectacularly enter your bloodstream and turn you completely towards her. As the Cathedral Sagrada Familia grows thick and tall out of the earth, her soles will begin to dance flamenco on your heart, until it gratefully beats out of your chest and into her grasp.

The incomparable sight and your unavoidable reaction are dazzling and dramatic, yet equally humbling and tranquil. If still you somehow resist her, she will expand your lungs with a climb to her highest point before taking your remaining breath away with a view across her glorious entirety. From Park Guell’s peak, green leaves spill onto pinkish buildings that tumble into the turquoise sea beyond. If by this point you remain unbowed, you are undeserving of her love. Yet, unperturbed, she will keep trying nonetheless.

Ultimately, to resist falling for her completely is a futile pastime. Give and give and give she shall, until no shred of resistance remains. You will leave enrapt and yearning to return to her unconditional adoration of you. When you do, she will love you just as before. All she asks is that you think of her, once in a while, and remember gratefully that it was not you that first fell in love with her; but she that fell in love with you.

Text, 2015. 

Images, 2015-2016.

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