My Life in Barcelona

My life in Barcelona is about the simple things.

Raval Street Art in Barcelona - By Ben Holbrook

Thoughts, reflections and photographs by Ben Holbrook.

It’s about ham that glows like gold and melts like butter.

It’s about street gangs of 80-something-year-olds who hang out on public benches all day smoking cigars and giving people dirty looks. And 30-something-year-olds who still live with their parents.

It’s spending days and nights at the beach with children shooting rockets at each other… and at you.

Nightclubs that don’t open until 1am. 

Being amazed by the vibrant architecture on a daily basis.

Elderly Spanish people talking ona bench in Sants, Barcelona

The gang at the end of my street.

Barcelona breakfast with wine at 8am - by Ben Holbrook

8.30am. Breakfast.

It’s about waiters who don’t give a damn how long you’ve been waiting.

Waiters who expect you to know exactly what you want without seeing a menu.

It’s about finding amazingly attentive waiters who greet you with a smile and a menu, promptly take your order, but forget to bring half of what you ordered anyway.

Menus that advertise “brave potatoes” and “untidy eggs”.

It’s about constantly being amazed by how god damn good Catalan wine is.

Life and light on Carrer Ferran in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter - by Ben Holbrook

Light and life on Carrer Ferran.

It’s about nights that begin at whatever time you wake from your siesta.

Saturdays that don’t stop before Sunday starts.

Palm trees and the Mediterranean sea breeze.

Sun-blazed beaches.

It’s about the Chinese bazaar shopkeepers who pretend they’re not following you around to check you aren’t stealing.

Buying 12-packs of beer at the supermarket for €4.44 and world-class wine for less than a tenner.

Spanish leg of ham / jamon - by Ben Holbrook

Bright as gold. Melts like butter.

It’s the infallible self-belief possessed by every single Spanish person when talking about absolutely any subject.

People on the street who appear to be on the verge of fisty-cuffs but are actually just talking casually about what happened on Big Brother last night.

It’s about people walking down the street while having intimate conversations on their phones and not feeling the need to whisper. 

Girl wearing Catalan flag in Gracia, Barcelona - by Ben Holbrook


Anarchy in Barcelona - by Ben Holbrook

Apples and anarchy.

It’s about intense displays of public affection.

It’s all “Vale, vale, vale!” and “Claro!” and “Que chulooooo… no?”.

It’s old timers showing the youngsters how it’s done, drinking wine and reading the paper at 8.30am in the morning.

Finding the best wines and tapas at the grungiest little dive bars.

Barceloneta beach at sunset - by Ben Holbrook


Votarem! ~ 01/10/17 Catalan Independence Vote in Barcelona

Patiently and peacefully waiting to vote ~ 01/10/17

It’s deliberating over the quality of your bravas and tortilla as if they were the work of a genius, but never quite being satisfied.

It’s about streets drenched in light.

Art at every turn.


Passion for politics.

It’s hating Las Ramblas, it’s loving Las Ramblas.

It’s complaining about all the guiris at Barceloneta beach, but going anyway and having a grand old time.

It’s wearing shorts and t-shirts in winter and being genuinely surprised when it gets cold.

Plaça del Sortidor, Poble Sec, Barcelona - by Ben Holbrook

Sunday vibes.

It’s moving in with random people who become lifelong friends. Feeling heartbroken when they leave.

It’s about going on adventures to new countries and spending half the trip talking about how much better Spain is.

It’s speaking your very best Spanish when you enter a shop or bar and the staff responding in perfect English.

It’s being offered a job because you’re a native English speaker.

It’s making friends with other native English speakers and spending most of your time with them, speaking English.

It’s reading the English version of El Pais.

It’s meeting locals who speak to you in perfect English and can’t understand why your Spanish is so bad… 

… despite the fact that you’re entire life is in English.

Plaça de la Concòrdia, Les Corts, Barcelona - by Ben Holbrook

Plaça de la Concòrdia.

It’s going for a bike ride and stopping at a terrazza to cool off with a beer, then arriving home hours later and realising that you’ve left your bike locked up back at the bar.

It’s meeting the love of your life and talking about starting a family, but worrying about giving your kids names that sound good in Spanish and English.

It’s about realising you are no-longer entirely British, that you are also a tiny bit Spanish, and also Catalan. That you no longer belong anywhere, actually. 

It’s about living well and making the most of each day.

My life in Barcelona is about the simple things.

Rambla Badal, Sants, Barcelona ~ by Ben Holbrook of

Home sweet home.


So You Want to Move to Barcelona ~ A Happy Expat’s Guide


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