By Lucy Harbron - 15:23

By the end of my first day in Barcelona, I had concluded that it's the most romantic place I'd ever been. Not just because I was sharing it with my boyfriend, Louis, as our first holiday together, but the romanticism came from a culmination of people, culture, food, architecture, maybe even the weather contributed. The five days we spent wandering solidified my first impression as the whole trip was coated in the soft sticky sweetness of total calm and I felt it inside and out.

Staying with Louis' best friend Josh, we had the privilege of a tour guide that knew all the places to go to dip our toes into proper Spanish life as a break from the tourist chaos. We tried our best to live the life; we avoided chain restaurants, tried their cuisine, drank their drinks, bought from independent stores, and always said 'gracias' instead of 'thank you'. I think only by trying your best to live as authentically as possible in a new place, can you truly get a feel for it and see what it has to offer. And trust me, Barcelona has to offer a lot of romance.

Let's start with food, my favourite form of romance. It's been shown that sharing food with people makes you more emotionally vulnerable and open with them. Sharing food promotes sharing thoughts, feelings, sharing your life with others. And in Barcelona, no one eats isolated; my plate is yours. On our first night, we had paella by the beachfront. Myself, Louis, Josh and his wonderful girlfriend Cassandra, shared words and two big pans of seafood paella. But before we even picked up the serving spoon, we shared champagne and red wine and a toast to the holiday and friendship and the reunion of Louis and Josh; the biggest bromance ever known. The paella was good, but oh boy the tapas was better. On our second night, we shared with an entire restaurant, serving ourselves from plate after plate of pinchos. We ate Spanish tortilla, cheese, olives, tomatoes, we ate till they closed and drank our way through two bottles of red as we sat outside in a thin alleyway bustling with people walking past hand in hand and laughing. For me, Spanish food and eating culture is so romantic. Obviously there is something so special and lovely about sharing a meal with your partner, eating from the same plate sat side by side. One of my highlights of the trip was sitting with Louis, sharing some tortilla and patatas bravas, in a small cafe looking at The Sagrada Familia, one of the most breath-taking things either of us has ever seen. We sat in silence staring up at it, but still sharing as our forks touched, fighting over the last bites.

And I said no one ever eats isolated, but I didn't mean no one eats alone. While Louis slept I snuck a moment of solitude and took myself out for lunch. I sat there picking at tapas, sipping sangria and finishing off my book, and I didn't feel strange. There's definitely a taboo about people alone in restaurants, the image is often one of discomfort or loneliness, but not in Spain. I couldn't eavesdrop (one of my bad habits and favourite past times) as I couldn't understand a word, but I didn't feel shut out, I felt calm and as peace and part of the hustle and bustle of the square. It was warm but not too hot, I finished my food and my book and walked slowly back to Louis.

Surprisingly, for such a planner and a stresser, I found romance in the spontaneity of the place. Louis said this again and again; "everyone is going somewhere but no one's in a rush", and it was true. The streets were constantly busy with people going about their day, you'd see them stop and decide to turn into a bar just as we had, or people on the beach stripping off for a swim they hadn't planned or prepared for, but decided to dive in anyway. And their attitude of joy-following behaviour rubbed off on me. Although I'd come prepared with a new bikini, the thought of putting it on had sat heavy on my mind for weeks before hand, but in the air of calm carelessness, I slowly let go of my insecurities and enjoyed as I soaked up the sun and swam in the sea. Though this may have been a rookie mistake, we didn't book any tour or create any kind of itinerary, instead decided day to day what we would do and often changing our loose plans minute to minute, spending our money on impromptu drinks, souvenirs, and whatever else we wanted. To more seasoned travelers, our lack of preparation might be infuriating, but having both come out the other side of work and exams and stress, it was heavenly. And romantic, as we wandered around together just figuring out our day as we went.

Regardless of me and my time there, Barcelona is of itself a romantic city. It is a merge of old and new, from the gargoyles of the Gothic Quarter to bright, tall hotels. The streets are mazes of alleyways and wide open squares with people walking, people on bikes, people on skateboards, people on motorbikes going off in every direction. It is never quiet, for all twenty-four hours people are wandering and laughing and talking, sitting outside bars and restaurants, dipping in and out of shops, always going somewhere. The language, the people, the beautiful, beautiful architecture, especially the work of Gaudi, create a city that's so enticingly eclectic you can't help but be hypnotised. We walked around all day with wide eyes, and mouths alternating between open jaws of amazement and smiles, staring at the beauty of everything. I felt completely calm and happy, and luck that I could share the city, briefly, with Louis who always notices different things from me, so we both get to see more.

The post holiday blues is real, especially when you left a piece of your heart there.

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