The part of Barcelona I most love is the seafront: the whole shebang, from Maremagnum to Diagonal Mar. I love walking down Avinguda Joan de Borbó early in the morning when the sea sparkles. The seafront is the outing of choice with friends and visitors, the perfect escape from computer-bound life in the Eixample. The misty outlines of ships on the horizon, the planes cruising to El Prat over the sea, the green-gold parks, the backdrop of Montjuïc, the salt tang in the air. It is so much the essence of Barcelona. And yet I will never take it for granted.
When Barcelona won the Olympic candidature in 1986, we were bombarded with details of the scheme to regenerate the city, a key element of which was ‘la recuperació del mar’. For too long, the excited copy ran, Barcelona had lived with her back to the sea. Now she would breathe again.
Before then, the seafront wasn’t part of our life. In fact it barely existed. Barceloneta beach was crowded, dirty and uncomfortable. Beyond l’Hospital del Mar, the railway tracks ran along the shore through an industrial wasteland.
My husband spent the last five months of his life in palliative care in the Clinica Barceloneta. We could see the sheen of sea and sky from the ward. We would wheel him along the boardwalk and around the park, and sit in the sun. Enric had always loved the mountains and disliked the beach. He couldn’t tell us because he’d lost the power of speech, but I like to think he found peace and closure by the sea in Barceloneta.
First published in the Barcelona Metropolitan January 2009, as part of a series looking back over 35 years in Barcelona.