the experience reminded me of what it was like when I first visited Barcelona WE ARE NO LONGER ABLE TO ENJOY THE BEAUTY THAT SURROUNDS US
In line with my vow to write only positive words in this column henceforth, this month’s reflections attempt to continue with the theme of positive consequences emerging from the current crisis. Clearly, these are testing times for everyone, and it is therefore more important than ever to accentuate the positive and count our blessings. This came easily to me the other day when I instigated a new health regime with my son to get us fit, after months of lockdown had left us both in less than optimal shape. There are no excuses here, plenty of people have managed to remain in shape despite the restrictions, by exercising at home, walking for miles around their rooftops, etc. but in our case a combination of factors meant we just hadn’t been looking after ourselves physically.
So what does the new regime involve? Well we eat healthily enough, so no real changes there, it was just a case of making sure we get some daily exercise. And this is where I can count my blessings, because my nearest park happens to be Parc Güell, and as many of you will know, parts of it that were previously by paid visit only now have open access to locals, even if the authorities are taking the opportunity to do plenty of refurbishing while the tourists are away.
My first walk up there with my son was revelatory – even though I’ve been walking there regularly in recent times, I had not been allowed to pass through the aforementioned pay areas and therefore had completely forgotten just how spectacular and unique that part of the park is. There’s no point in me trying to wax lyrical about Gaudi’s columns, arches and ceramic sculptures here, as readers will be all too familiar with them, but it is worth me emphasising the pure glorious sensation of walking alone around this fabulous architectural triumph, something neither I nor my son are ever likely to be able to do again just a few short weeks from now. We took the time to stop and admire the ceramic structures, from the walls to the decorative motifs to the world-renowned salamander itself, albeit from a distance due to the work being carried out. And the whole experience reminded me of what it was like when I first visited Barcelona in 1990, before you had to queue up and pay to get in, before you had to listen to endless tourist chattering and tour guide instructions. I was a tourist myself back then, of course, and jealous that anyone could have this as their local park. So much so that I returned five years later and made it my own local park, or at least one I could visit whenever I liked.
One message I now believe these often bewildering times should have reaffirmed for many people, and not just those who live in Barcelona, but those anywhere overrun by tourists, is that we are no longer able to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us, because we have sold it. Which doesn’t seem like a very positive reflection after all, unless we somehow learn lessons from it for the future and find ways of reclaiming the local heritage we can no longer enjoy, something I have very much been encouraging my Barcelona-born son to do.