“I wonder if that’s a blessing or an omen?” I asked ET. But as I thought about it, and about the dreadful weather (by Barcelona standards) we’ve had for the past week, I realise she could very well be making a wish for the rain in Barcelona to be replaced with their accustomed sunshine.
We’re in Barcelona, the city that hates rain so much they would rather be on fire.
We encountered rain on our very first day here, as we travelled to the La Roca Shopping Outlets (don’t judge). It wasn’t heavy, just the kind of annoying pitter-patter that doesn’t quite justify the need to keep opening and closing your umbrella. Nothing we Singaporeans can’t deal with, to be honest. And then on our third, in the midst of our market tour with Guillermo, we all jumped a little when the market reverberated suddenly with the rattle of the rain against the zinc roofs. This one was a real downpour, and we had to make a mad run for it with our groceries in the rain to his apartment. So I was slightly surprised when Christina, Guillermo’s girlfriend and our other EatWith host, told us that rain rarely happens in Barcelona.
“We hate rain!” she said emphatically. “Once it rains, we cancel whatever plans we make. We say, let’s meet another day”.
This is a city that is so accustomed to sunshine that even the escalators start to break down when it rains a little too much. This we encounter on our fourth day after the nth flight of steps we’ve had to climb since all the escalators at the subway stations have somehow ceased operation.
Joan, our photographer & tour guide through the Barri Gothic, has his own take on the weather.
“We are too used to sunshine. But you see, the weather affects who you are, your personality. That’s why the people from the Mediterranean are so warm and open, and we’re always outdoors. Unlike the people in the north, so dark and gloomy, always staying inside.”
The bloody rain even thwarted our plans on our last day. It rained the entire time we walked around the city learning about the Spanish Civil War, and then as we schlepped down to Parlament Street for tapas and donuts, and finally, made it seem like a really stupid idea to go down to the beach at Barceloneta in the middle of a torrential downpour. So it was back to the stores on Portal de l’Àngel, but these were stuffed to the brim with wet tourists and shoppers desperate to get their last bits of the Black Friday sale.
Yet even though the bulk of our days in Barcelona were filled with this uncharacteristic rain, it honestly did little to dampen the warmth of the city. Once the dark clouds rolled in, the people mysteriously disappeared off the streets. But in the brief moments of sunshine, the people emerge from different nooks and crannies, the streets are filled with the warm smiles and the sound of music filtering through every street and corner. The innate sunshine of this city presents itself in the hearty laughs of our hosts, the crinkled smiles of the waiters, the mischievous grin of the cod-seller, and the effusive greetings of the abuelo in the bodega as he offers us his homemade vermut. It’s seen in the amorous teenage couple who walk backwards on a crowded alley because they cannot stop hugging, and in the passionate, intense lip-locking session that the Asian couple at the entrance of the subway share, oblivious to the rest of the rain-swept crowd that politely parts for them. Perhaps it’s from years of soaking up the sunshine, but there’s a certain warmth here that permeates and pulses through the veins of this city, and that’s good enough to chase any rainy blues away.
Barcelona, you’re lovely in all weathers.