I have a bit of a fascination with abandoned buildings. Plants and weeds and bricks spilling out and twisting and falling in shapes, always more beautiful than anything anyone could have planned. Or maybe that’s why? There’s something cool about the lack of effort? Oh, this old thing? I just threw it on. And we’re not sure if it was frayed in a factory by a machine or in the midst of an adventure, or an accident. Oh these vines? This rubble? The peeling paint? Pfft, just natural beauty I suppose.
And these places! Un-googleable, un-searchable. You have to ask someone, and maybe you get a smile and a story or frown and a brush off and the chance to imagine your own story, who lived there, what did they do, why did they leave like that??? It sounds so dramatic, to ~abandon~ something, but maybe, maybe they just gradually forgot, or got bored of the work or tired of coming back again and again, they didn’t realise the last visit would be the last time, maybe that’s what makes it so tragic, so dramatic. They didn’t even care enough to say goodbye
10 de Julio
1:21 The thing where people put old stuff in the street to recycle, does it have a name? Like a Catalan thing / Spanish term maybe?
1:22 Mmh no I don’t think so
1:22 People would call it ‘Deixar els mobles al carrer’ which means ‘leave your furniture on the street’ and in Gràcia it happens on wednesdays but it doesn’t have a term as far as I know
Maybe you won’t be able to tell from looking at these pictures but: I drew these sketches with a smile on my face. My eyes are screwed up and squinting because of the early evening still-hot sunshine. I’m crouched over the paper and the heat and this posture are giving me a headache. I sit up straight and drop my shoulders (remembering the instructions from Luz) I can feel the tension run down from my temples and roll off my shoulders. I can hear music pouring from two different speakers on either side. Two groups of people and two songs coinciding. Mostly, the different types of music clash and add to the molstrum of sounds, the skaters, the shouting, the cars and the buses. Occasionally, it works. There are a few seconds where they sound in perfect harmony. Like a bad dj who doesn’t understand what he’s doing but occasionally, occasionally and by accident there are moments of magic.
I’m on a bus winding around these lanes. Past every corner I keep seeing my dream house: slate roof, colourful shutters, palm trees and a glimpse of craggy coast and blue sea behind.
This bus is free. It runs every Tuesday and Friday morning. Everyone who gets on the bus says hello to everyone else and when they leave they say goodbye in the same way. My french is really coming along. “Bonjour!!!” I say. I don’t understand all of the conversations but I’m smiling and nodding a lot.
Yesterday I saw a toddler being carried down the street. He was looking around at the city and pointing at everything excitedly. The buildings! The cars! The people! The balconies!!! He was so amazed and delighted at what he was seeing that he couldn’t help wriggling in his father’s arms and smiling at everyone he saw. It was early evening and it’s early summer and everyone in the street was happy to be heading home from work, even the people who were rushing or stressed felt a little bit better just for being outside, surrounded by the noise and the orange glow and the clear sky and the palm trees and the gentle heat and the thought of a cold beer waiting for them in a full plaza at the end of their journey.
I spent two days wandering around Colonia on my own but despite my best efforts, I didn’t get lost at any point. It’s small and the paths keep ending up in the same place. It feels like no matter what direction you walk in, you always end up heading down to the shore and the buildings frame the water like curtains either side of a stage. There’s an old town designed by the first Portuguese colonisers and it’s all set into a beautiful landscape. The biggest flurry of activity I saw was in the evening when it seemed like everyone in the town headed down to the water’s edge to drink mate and watch the sunset, that was fine by me.
The journey from Buenos Aires to Uruguay costs around €40-50, takes less than a couple of hours and as such is a well travelled route – as a weekend away, a visa run or a stop on the way to Brazil. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m glad that I chose to explore a bit and didn’t just head straight for the capital of Montevideo. Colonia shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if what you’re after is a change of pace after losing your mind in the gorgeous sprawling mass of Buenos Aires.
This old hotel in San Telmo was converted into a gallery and houses the studios and shops of more than 40 artists and craftspeople. We sat on the patio in the middle of all of the workshops until the sun started to set.
“.. una de las principales atracciones de la Galería, para vecinos y turistas, es el bar-restaurante de la planta baja. Allí también suelen juntarse los artistas de la casa para debatir en grandes mesas hasta que arremeten empanadas, vinos y cervezas.
Al caminar por estos pasillos, se respira el olor de las paredes recién blanqueadas, se aprecia el verde de las plantas que se extienden de balcón a balcón mediante hilos bien dispuestos.”
(Alejandro M. Zamponi)
The first time I went to Encants I was overwhelmed. The multi – levelled, mirrored structure creates distorted reflections of the stalls and mountains upon mountains of ephemera. Despite looking compellingly futuristic, Encants is reputedly one of the oldest open air flea markets in Europe. Dating from the 14th century, Els Encants has been housed in Glories since 1928 and is still up and running today. The metal canopy (the result of a renovation in 2013) also means the ‘open air’ market can trade in all weathers. This isn’t one of those trendy, or especially pretty, vintage markets but a real old style wade-through-tat-to-find-your-treasure and then spend 20 minutes bartering, to leave with a bargain, kind of place. Be prepared to spend some time rummaging with your elbows out and it will be great.
The market is located on the edge of the center of Barcelona but is easily accessed by metro to Encants (L2) or Glories (L1). There are food stalls on site and the Design Museum of Barcelona (Museu del Disseny) is a couple of minutes walk away, so there’s enough around to make a visit to Encants worth the short journey.
What’s your favourite place in the whole world?
Would you like an illustration that makes you smile every time you look at it to remind you of that place? I am offering personalised house and travel illustrations, check out my Etsy shop here.