If you’re in Barcelona, you know how hard it is to leave. It’s like trying to leave a great party before it’s over. You always feel like there’s something coming around the corner; more people to meet, more clubs to check out, and an endless stream of festivals and celebrations. If you’re traveling and trying to stick to an itinerary, leave Barcelona for last. This way, you’ll avoid the costly charade my best friend and I went through before finally settling down here.
The first time we came here as backpackers we fell in love with the city’s culture, history, architecture and the infectious joie de vivre. We had planned to go to Ibiza and Mallorca before leaving Spain, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away – or out of bed in time for check-out. We decided to forego the islands in exchange for more time in Barcelona which we hoped would quell our infatuation with the city. So, one week behind schedule, we made it out.
Upon our arrival in Nice, we slept for 13 hours straight; both of us nursing crippling hangovers and the ‘Barcelona cough’. Once we saw and snapped pictures of everything of importance in Nice, we relaxed and went in search of the type of nightlife we had grown accustomed to. What we found was a series of uninspired tourist bars that were over-priced and under-peopled. We walked home sober and 30 euros poorer to our hostel which didn’t allow drinking. Thankfully, we had smuggled 2 bottles of wine in to our room earlier. Soon after we popped the cork, we heard a knocking at our door.
It was a young, American guy named Josh who couldn’t sleep on account of his sobriety. We welcomed him in and quickly learned that he too had been to BCN - twice. He had just escaped for the second time and was now on his way to Rome; we were on our way to Venice. We shared stories of drunken debauchery, pick-pocketings & purse-snatchings, random make-outs, and late nights turned long days on the beach turned late nights once again. After all our reminiscing, we eventually got to sleep.
The next morning we checked out and headed to the train station to book our tickets to Italy. The train to Venice was leaving at 14:58. My friend, the one most in love with Barcelona, checked the trains leaving for Spain just for fun. There was one at 23:00. Normally, this would have been an easy decision, a three-hour wait to stay on course, or an 11 hour wait to return to where we came from. After a short conversation over a long joint we purchased 3 tickets to Barcelona and spent the day in Monaco. We planned to stay for 5 nights; on the 6th night, Josh left claiming he was ‘burning a whole in his wallet and in his liver’. The 7th night, we made it to Sants only to discover that our train was completely booked and made the shameful trek back to the city. On the 8th night we celebrated our last night in Barcelona for the 3rd time. The next morning we discovered that my friend had left her glasses at one of our favourite bars which doesn’t open until 8pm – 2 hours after our train leaves. One more night. We retrieved her glasses, partied all night, checked out in the morning and spent the afternoon at another one of our favourite bars (which is open all day) sitting in the sun and watching people stroll by. We had our bags with us and we were ready to check out Italy. Halfway through the 3rd Sangria we looked at each other and knew we were staying for one more night. That one more night turned into 3 more nights.
After we finally made our escape we spent the next 5 weeks in Italy and Greece. I had planned on staying in Greece and looking for work while my friend was returning home for the summer. She had one week left and had decided to spend it in Barcelona. I was left with the decision to go with her and spend the last week of our trip together, or stay on in Greece alone and make a home for myself there. On the day of her departure, three hours before her flight out of Rhodes, I hopped on a ferry to Athens and flew to Barcelona with her.
We spent her final week doing all the things we loved in the city and reacquainting ourselves with all the other people who had failed to flee Barcelona’s clutches. When it came time for my friend to leave, we packed up all her stuff and grudgingly waited for the clock to strike 4pm. We were in the final hours of our trip together. We had Sangria and avoided eye contact knowing that I had only to say the word ‘stay’ and she would. She had already lost one flight coming to Barcelona from Athens; if she were to stay she would lose her 800€ flight home as well.
In an attempt to distract ourselves from our impending separation, we recounted stories of our trip and laughed ‘til we cried at which point she finally broke down and admitted she wanted to stay. The Irish bartender had over-heard our conversation and brought over Vodka shots ‘to make the decision smoother’. He told us that he had seen this happen many times and that some people just can’t leave Barcelona. He, himself had only come for a long weekend over a year ago; the other bartender then told us that he had come for a week-long vacation from Scotland. After his trip he quit his job, packed up his stuff and has been calling Barcelona his home for two and half years. He told us about a couple of magazines that list jobs and available flats (such as Barcelona Connect) and convinced us it would be easy to find work even without papers or speaking Spanish. Three rounds of Vodka and 3 Sangrias later, with a team of regulars and staff surrounding us, we watched the clock turn 4:30, finalizing her decision. That was 16 months ago.
So if you’re feeling the urge to stay in Barcelona and struggling to quiet the voice in the back of your mind telling you to go home and lead a normal life, know that you’re in good company. Many great writers, artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs throughout history have been faced with the same decision and it has only made the city richer. In the words of that faithful Irish bartender, ‘some people just can’t leave Barcelona’.