Welcome, dear reader,
I’ve been living in the San Antoni barrio (neighbourhood) for three of the nine years I’ve called Barcelona home.
Along with my partner, known as hitherto as The Plek, we seldom need to walk more than four blocks from our front door to find almost everything we enjoy.
This blog is about what we love about our part of this city; the people, food, bars, shops, animals and whatever else we encounter.
There’s a lot of life to be seen from our 10m2 balcony that looks over the Jardins de Cándida Pérez – and that’s precisely where we start.
Gardens (Jardins) Cándida Pérez
The Plek and I reckon, Rear Window style, there are about 200 other flats that peer into this central courtyard along with Biblioteca de Sant Antoni-Joan Olivé.
Some trees and bushes line and dot what is essentially a kids’ playground and outdoor gym, with some benches and seats.
It’s named after the singer Cándida Pérez, a master of warbling ‘cuplés’ (variety songs) who lived in Brazil, but was born and bred (then dead) in Catalonia.
Fortunately there is no audio homage playing here.
Afternoon siestas are often accompanied by a lilt from our resident blackbird who also likes to toot at sundown, sometimes sat on our washing line. The tax we pay is the occasional dropping on what were freshly-washed towels.
There is also a whopping great chimney in the middle of the park, the remnants of the Tarda Dolcos (sweets) factory. Locals reliably inform me that Tarda produced boiled sweets, chocolates and turron and closed its doors some 40-50 years ago.
Wildlife of San Antoni
Our lead singer is not alone. Flop down into one of our balcony’s street seats – furniture left in the street by neighbours for others to use – and a fine supporting chorus appears.
Swifts’ distinctive chatter greets us every morning in the summer. These migratory birds fly in and out of the balcony like charged alien spacecraft. They launch from the nests they’ve built in walls and crevices around the Jardins.
At night, bats compete to snatch a mosquito meal. Such rapier flight is essential; Peregrine Falcons have been reintroduced and we’ve seen one scouting for a swift meal.
Pigeons roost here, too, always watchful of seagulls who think nothing of attack-and-kill tactics. There are often a set of wings on display on a roof, folded out like an angel but lacking any body.
There are also a dozen or so domestic cats that scour these plains, looking for a kill. They are, however, absolutely awful hunters and we’ve never seen a successful chase.
Human’s in El Barrio
The gardens are incredibly important to the community. They are a space to hold a birthday party or concert and somewhere to let the kids blast off steam, to name but a few social functions.
OK, some Sunday mornings the screaming at 10am is a bit much, but apparently these children are to be considered as newts – and newts are good.
“If you can see children, it’s probably a healthy and happy city.” says Liz Zeidler, chief executive of the Happy City Initiative, a research centre based in Bristol. Read more here.
There’s a boules/petanque group, teens who come to learn dance moves, people training and keeping fit plus a plethora of dog walkers and the occasional drunk.
Candida would perhaps be proud of the karaoke parties, hear a rhythm in the pot-banging that has accompanied Catalonia’s political ups and downs of late, and, like us, want to shout at the folk who let their dogs bark at all hours.
Oh, and did I mention I saw some very impressive meteors burning up in the atmosphere one evening, just over the Med.
Hardly any neighbours use their balcony for meals, drinks and enjoying the breeze, so we get this almost all to ourselves.
Oh, and hats off to the guys who watch TV all day, every day, too. We know you won’t be reading.