There is a plaza at the end of my street. The three-storey buildings that form the plaza’s outside perimeter are all apartments, with one small restaurant and a small shop on the ground floor. A few benches are scattered around the plaza, and no vehicles are allowed here — not even motos.
I sometimes take a book with me, sit on a bench, read and observe Spanish people be Spanish. One time I go, it’s about 9:00 or 10:00 pm, which is about the time I think many Canadians and Americans are getting ready for a night’s sleep. Many people have left their window open, so I hear the clatter of dishes, the chatter of families together, and a blaring television. One man enters the plaza, walks up to one of the windows and whistles to get the attention of his friend living on the second storey. Two other men behind me share a boisterous laugh.
The plaza’s rectangular shape, with the windows facing inward, seems to echo the sounds. I’m sure people from one side of the plaza can hear everything from the other.
I have stumbled a number of plazas around Barcelona. Some plazas are different, and are meant for traffic, but many are for pedestrians. Actually, I’d say they’re for living, for enjoying. I found one plaza at the dead-end of a street, about the size of my spare bedroom back in Winnipeg. There were apartments around, and benches to sit. I found two women chatting and two other people reading.
It’s not just the plazas that are meant for enjoying. Many streets are also ramblas, where the middle median is lined with trees and has plenty of room for people to walk and sit. You’re probably familiar with “The” Ramblas in Barcelona, the famous one at the heart of the city, filled with tourists looking to buy souvenirs. But, there are a number of ramblas here, and there are often people who sit and chat.
This is an endearing aspect of Spain to observe. The streets are not just a means to get from one point to another. The streets and plazas are for getting together, enjoying the beautiful day, and taking a rest after a long day’s walk (my main use of the ramblas’ benches 🙂 ).
The tourist who comes to Barcelona and sticks to The Ramblas, the beaches, or other tourist sights is missing out on seeing a more authentic Spanish city. I encourage whoever vists Barcelona, or even another European city, to turn off the main road and explore. I was surprised (and also not surprised) at how few tourists were strolling down Rambla del Raval. It’s not far away from “The” Ramblas, and you can find restaurants and grocecy stores there too.
I think building codes are different here too
Just for fun, let me share another observation.
I think the buidling codes are different here, which contributes to how sound easily travels down a stree and into your home. To wit, here’s the keyhole to my apartment: