Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Neighborhood, El Barri de Gracia

I can't believe I have been in Spain for two weeks already and have only just begun taking pictures and starting this blog.  It's a bit overwhelming- so much to see and do when setting up a new home, and so much stimuli to sort through before any reflection can occur! But I thought I'd start small, with my neighborhood, the place I have spent most of my time exploring thus far.

Meet my neighborhood, Gracia:

Gracia was once a separate village, but was swallowed up by the city of Barcelona in 1897.   This area was once famous for its liberal idealists. Several times in the 1800s, the town of Gracia was even annexed and won its freedom, before finally joining the city in the late 19th century.

In the 1960s and 70s, the neighborhood became trendy amongst bohemians and radicals, and you can still sense that alternative, artsy feeling in the air. The streets are a maze of crowded narrow lanes and plentiful with local bars, restaurants, markets, and small plazas to pause and drink coffee.

Modernista architecture (of which Gaudi is the most famous name) is tucked away throughout the neighborhood, but that's for another blog.  Gracia very much bears the feeling of a "neighborhood," though the crowds, noisy car traffic outside my bedroom window, and the cityesque "closedness" or guarded nature of people on the street remind me that I am still very much living in a large city. By the way, the population of Barcelona centre is 3 million.

My apartment building is situated on the corner of Gran de Gracia, the busiest street in Gracia, hence the noise outside my bedroom window, and Carrer de Sant Domenec, a narrow alley that only occasionally sees any car traffic.  Here's a picture of the view from my roof terrace across and down onto Gran de Gracia.

Here's the view outside my bedroom doors:

If you follow Sant Domenec away from this busy street, in just two blocks, the alley opens up into my current favorite thing in the neighborhood: The Plaza of the Village of Gracia.

If ever I am feeling down or overwhelmed, I am quickly at peace here with a cup of coffee and my book or journal.

Part of the reason I moved to Barcelona two weeks earlier than orientation was to take Catalan language classes. I have two hours of private lessons each morning with an awesome teacher who only speaks to me in Catalan and gives me homework every day; she also gives me brain's not hard at all to succumb to a siesta on the couch after class. More on Catalan later.  My lessons are also in Gracia, so every morning and early afternoon I walk through the heart of the neighborhood. In the morning, on my way to class, the older generation is out doing their shopping and sitting in the plazas catching up with old friends. These guys below are usually sitting at the benches right outside my class, where I sit and cram before my lesson. I feel as though once I start working, I will miss seeing Gracia at this time of day.

This is the neighborhood during siesta which starts at 2 when everyone goes home or out to a restaurant for their big, long meal of the day. Shops don't open again until 4 or 5pm.

More shots of the neighborhood in action:

Currently, Gracia is getting ready for a 10-day festival which starts this weekend, in which each street competes in its decorations.
The Festa Major de Gracia is supposed to be one of the largest festivals in Barcelona, with live music and streetfood abound. I've been forewarned that I shouldn't expect to sleep very well for those 10 days. Preparations are beginning, but I'll report back when the fiesta is in full swing! 


Nicole La Chica said...

Beautiful, Carrie. Thanks for sharing with us. Awesome. I love Spain!

Bones said...

As usual, you beat me to the blogging. This looks fantastic. We're shrouded in fog in Songdo, but loving the mission and vision of our school. I'll try to post up my first blog entry this weekend:) Miss you chica!

Erin said...

Gosh, it all looks so European.
Love the new blog and look and all that and can't wait to read more.

AngelaMae said...

Looks fantastic... like a scene from a movie, not a real place! Enjoy it to the fullest and I can't wait to read more about your adventures!

Stephanie said...

What a lovely neighborhood to live in! Let me know when you are ready for visitors. ;)