“Owning” their city is important to the people of Barcelona. But have the locals of this tourist-flooded city really become strangers in their own town?
People here do not entertain at home (many of them have no yards, for a start); they meet for tapas, for drinks, for dinner, for the beach. It is completely normal not to know exactly where your closest friends live, just in which district. Residents certainly feel they have been driven away from La Rambla, the famous boulevard in the city's El Raval neighborhood. “Now, we only come here on April 23, to celebrate St George’s Day,” says one [St George is the patron saint of Catalunya]. “Other than that, we wouldn’t be seen dead here, especially in summer.”
It is a sad truth that La Rambla is no longer a place for local color. The boulevard used to be informally divided into sections, lined variously with flower stalls, booths selling exotic caged birds and pets, bookstalls and entertainers. It has been a place of trading since the medieval period, when market stalls sprung up outside the city walls, in a location where they did not have to pay tax.
But these areas have now merged into one long stream of tourist tat, identikit restaurants offering set-piece tapas from laminated plastic menus with pictures of the food. Glorious buildings line the boulevard: the Liceu opera house, the Boqueria food market, wonderful old palaces with intricate art deco designs on their facades.
There's plenty to enjoy in La Rambla, that's for sure. But the locals have moved on – they now favor the waterfront and Barceloneta over a shuffling mass of tourists, go-go bars and bad art.
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