View Salamanca cathedral fron the Tormes river.

A Tourist on My Own Turf

I realised one day that I am like a foreigner in my own country. Although I have explored Africa from top to bottom, I hardly knew my Spain. A holiday at home was well overdue and I decided to explore Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona. Located a good seven hour drive away from Salamanca, where I am from, on the other side of Spain, I was sure I would have some fascinating experiences.

Home again

People ask me what I miss most about Spain. There are so many wonderful things about my country of origin that it’s hard to decide on just one. One of the first things that spring to mind though is definitely the coffee. Aaaaah, the coffee. It’s not just the taste of the brands that are available in Spain you won’t find in Starbucks or Costa Coffee. It is the way we drink coffee in Spain. There is at least one café on every block and it’s not uncommon to visit your favourite café several times a day. Coffee is not just a beverage to perk you up in the morning, it’s a social thing, enjoyed by family and friends old and new. Salamanca even has a few famous coffee houses like the Café Novelty. Of course I get to explore Café Novelty and the other coffee houses when I visit family, but while I was visiting Barcelona a world of new and aromatic coffee shops beckoned. Instead of my usual mosquitoes, wild animals and weird foods, this holiday would be about coffee, art, music and fine dining.

Have you ever wished you had a soundtrack for your life?

Barcelona must be one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the world. Wherever you look, you see either art or music. Street musicians make you feel as though you are on the set of a film instead of a city, and have your very own soundtrack while exploring the overwhelming architectural art of Antoni Gaudí – which is everywhere in Barcelona. When you step into one of the cathedrals the soundtrack changes and you no longer hear the ambient notes of the buskers. Instead, you experience the raw emotion that gothic acoustics and organ music accompanying the angelic voices of a choir brings – while also being surrounded by some of the most breathtaking architecture in the world. After such an awe-inspiring encounter, coffee is very necessary.

Devilishly good coffee

It is the way we drink coffee in Spain
It is the way we drink coffee in Spain

My first coffee stop was Satan’s Coffee Corner. Believe it or not, the coffee there really was out of this world, the pastries to die for, and the shop itself cosy and warm. Once again the relaxed vibe soundtrack was activated. After exploring more of the streets of Barcelona over the next few days I visited many other coffee shops, like Cafés el Magnífico – with its truly magnificent coffee and pastries, and a great atmosphere. It has a coffee tasting area and a shop where I spent a fortune on coffee while reminding myself of the fortune I’ll be saving back in the UK instead of spending it at Starbucks.

Just like my Mamá cooks it

Of course I didn’t live on coffee and cake alone. In Spain food is great, and so is the beer. Whether you visit an expensive restaurant with fabric napkins or a little corner shop with plastic chairs and paper serviettes, you are almost always guaranteed to eat well. While I was growing up I heard about Catalonian food being different and yes, there are subtle differences. In Salamanca we have chorizo; in Barcelona butifarra is more common. Anyway, the food is just as delicious as back home and paella was widely available, so I was a happy camper. Highly recommended is a place called Gelida. Just eat whatever is going for lunch and you won’t be disappointed (neither your palate or your wallet!)

Back home?

The time to go back home to my home away from my country rolled in, and I was extra sad to leave Spain this time. I realised how many incredible things there are to explore right on the doorstep of my native home, and although my passion for Africa is certainly not dead, I decided that I would include a few more trips home in my adventures. Not too many though, with all the pastries, paella and beer I’d have to buy a whole new wardrobe if I spend too much time there.

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