Welcome to another edition of “I Love My Neighborhood”, where I ask expats from across the globe to share the joys of local life they’ve found in their corner of the world.
If you’re just joining in now, feel free to check out the other cities that have been covered so far here.
In doing this series I’ve discovered something: quite a few expat bloggers live in Spain. And even the couchsurfers I’ve hosted in Paris have all been American expats living in España. I’d previously never had a strong desire to visit the country, despite what I’ve heard about its tapas, sangria, and beaches — but all those expats can’t be wrong right? And reading pieces like the following from Jessica, a Californian in Barcelona, are really starting to change my mind….
Jessica of ¡Hola Yessica!: Why I Love L’Eixample
The Eixample is one of the most gorgeous sections of Barcelona. It’s filled with wide, tree-lined streets, outdoor cafes, and some of the most incredible architecture I’ve ever seen.
I actually ended up in the Eixample by coincidence. When I arrived here, I needed a place to stay, and a friend was moving out of her wild six-person apartment. So it was the perfect opportunity to have a crazy, highly social summer. I originally wanted to live in the edgier (to some people, dirty and dangerous) Gothic Quarter or the trendy Gràcia neighborhood, and didn’t think I’d be staying here too long. But the Eixample has won me over slowly.
Here’s a bit of history of the area: built in the 19th century, it’s one of the newest neighborhoods in the city, filling the gap between the Gothic Quarter and the neighborhoods that used to be small separate towns of their own. The whole neighborhood is built on a grid. The buildings were originally supposed to have 2-3 sides with individual building gardens in the middle, but Barcelona got too big! Now they’re all four-sided, though there are a few gardens dotted around the neighborhood. Check it out from above — it’s almost impossible to get lost here!
Now, here’s why I love living in l’Eixample:
It’s super central.
I live just off of Passeig de Gràcia, one of the most beautiful and popular streets in the city. It’s also ten minutes away from Plaza Cataluyna (the city’s center square) and the start of Las Ramblas (the most famous street in Spain). I’m fifteen minutes away from the beach too! Because it’s so central, I often come across surprise art displays, outdoor markets, and free public events.
My apartment is usually a 20-minute bike ride away from anything in the whole city because it’s right in the middle. So whether I want to grab a cerveza with some friends, hit the beach, relax at a pretty park, be a tourist, or go out for a crazy night of clubbing, I’m almost always within biking or walking distance.
And speaking of walking, I used to live in the most-feared neighborhood in the city on the street nicknamed “La Calle de las Putas” (the prostitute street!), so it’s a nice change to feel a little more relaxed as I walk home late at night. I’m pretty sure my mum feels the same way!
I get to bike past two of Gaudi’s most famous buildings on my way to work – Casa Batllò and Casa Mila/La Pedrera. Some of the streets are lined with Gaudi’s specially designed tiles, so even the floor is magical! The famous La Sagrada Familia is also just ten minutes away.
He’s done so much of the city that I’m constantly finding out about new buildings he’s designed, and most of them are in my neighborhood. If they’re not by Gaudi himself, they’re usually by one of his rivals or somebody mimicking his style.
My apartment is actually really close to the famous Block of Discord — one street where there are tons of beautiful but kind of crazy buildings all crammed together. Barcelona almost looks like a really chic version of a theme park at times, and this street is definitely one of them.
So every day, when I pass by at least one internationally-recognized architectural wonder by Gaudi or another equally amazing (though less famous) architect, I remember that I’m so, so lucky.
My favorite cafe, Marti.
This is the cutest Spanish bakery in my barrio. It’s got amazing pastries and bread, and delicious cafés con leche. The ceiling is painted like the sky, and the walls are covered in quotes about happiness. Late afternoon, it’s always full of a mix of local families on their way home from school, retired friends out for an afternoon snack, students from all over the world, construction workers, and even the occasional tourist. It’s a great place to get a feel for who really lives in L’Eixample.
My neighborhood is always full of people, but it very, very rarely feels actually crowded. Locals and visitors of all ages love to take evening strolls in this part of town just to take in the sights. Right now, you can really tell they’re enjoying the beautiful springtime weather. There are tons of outdoor cafes that are always filled with groups of people happily chatting and enjoying good food, drinks, and company. I absolutely love the buzz of being surrounded by happy people.
The longer you look, the more surprises it has.
At first, I thought this neighborhood was posh, boring, and a little lacking in life. While it’s not super exciting 24 hours a day like other neighborhoods are, the Eixample has slowly grown on me.
I love being close to everything. I love finding new restaurants and cafes – there are three I love within 200 meters of my apartment that I just discovered! I love finding the uniquely detailed buildings on every corner. Some look like they’re wrapped in ribbons; others have intricate ironwork balconies overflowing with flowers; and yet others have gorgeous stained glass windows. Each one has stunning details, but you have to look for them — kind of like the neighborhood itself.
About Jessica: Jessica is a 20-something girl from Manchester, England who grew up in southern California. Right after graduating college, she jetted off for some aventuras in Barcelona, where she’s kicking off her quarter-life crisis in style on the Mediterranean. Check her blog out at ¡Hola Yessica! or on Twitter @HolaYessica.
Except for ‘Barcelona from above’, all photos are courtesy of the author.