The 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona transformed the city in many ways and it is often cited as an example of a mega-event that has left a positive economic and cultural legacy. One of the biggest impacts involve the creation of a new beach culture that was absent in the past, even though the city is right next to the Mediterranean Sea. Sand was imported from Egypt to line the coast and money was invested to clean up and revitalize neighborhoods by the water. These changes drastically improved the seafront so much that Barcelona is listed by both National Geographic and the Discovery Channel as one of the best beach cities in the world.
On my last full day in Barcelona, I didn’t know what to do with my morning. I had an afternoon ticket to Sagrada Familia, so I had several hours to kill before then. It was a really nice day, both sunny and warm, so I didn’t feel like being in buildings the whole day. The temperature was even going to reach the early 80s (in Fahrenheit), which I don’t think I had experienced at all in Europe before that. I decided that the best way to take advantage of this weather was to head to the beach.
I packed some swim trunks in my bag, though I wondered if I was ever actually going to use it. From my hostel, I took the metro to the Barceloneta station because I looked at my map and saw it was close to the beach. I actually thought that there was just one beach in Barcelona, but there are actually seven or eight of them, depending on who you ask. I found a good, sandy spot near the water and plopped myself down, taking in the sun and the sounds of the sea.
This was the most relaxed that I had ever been in Europe and I could probably have spent a whole day just lying on the sand. It was like all my worries about life had disappeared. I walked around in the the water a bit and it was really cold. There were also a lot of rocks, which I assume was what must have covered the beach before the sand was brought in. I thought that would be the extent of my entry into the water, but then I considered how fortunate I was to be here and how I didn’t know when I’d have the opportunity to do this again. I didn’t want to have regrets about not really immersing myself in this experience. I wanted to swim in the water, but for some reason, I was holding myself back. I realized that I just needed to get over my apprehension and jump in. I’m so happy that I did it. I got used to the water after a while, so the cold didn’t bother me anymore. It was my first time swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and I enjoyed it a lot.
I went back and forth between the sand and the water a couple times. It was just a relaxing day and it was also interesting to do a bit of people-watching. There were guys trying to sell various alcoholic drinks out of a cooler and women offering to massage some sunscreen (or sun tan oil?) on your body for a price. Several (mostly older) women on the beach went topless, which I totally did not expect, but should have. All sorts of people were there.
Before I left, I grabbed an interesting-looking rock from the water that I wanted to keep to remember just how awesome my time at the beach was. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it by the time I returned home from Europe. I was really annoyed with myself because I had placed so much significance on this rock and how it was a reminder of when I felt the most peaceful in a while. It wasn’t something that I could just buy online or reproduce. It was a rock that had actually touched and probably been designed by the water of the Mediterranean Sea. It seems a little silly now, but I guess I just wanted to hold on to the feeling I had as long as I could.
On my way back to the hostel, I bought a panini from a shop by the hospital and ate it on a bench with some pineapple juice.
I thought about just walking through Parc de la Ciutadella again to get to the hostel, but I was on a little bit of a time crunch and opted for the metro instead. On the way there, I did see this interesting sculpture by Antoni Llena called “David i Goliat”. I assume that it was created for the Olympics since it was put together in 1992.
Going to the beach really cemented Barcelona’s place in my heart. I guess, when people transform the beach for the better, the beach transforms people too. /cheese