The Life in My Years

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A photo accompaniment to the post Spain: Beginning at the End

It’s Sunday, our last day in Barcelona. Cora is sitting in on Sunday mass at Iglesia De Santa Maria del Mar, a grand 14th century church in the Ribera District. It’s an opportunity for both of us. It’s been three weeks since she’s been able to attend mass and what better place than in such a grand and splendid church. For me, it’s an opportunity to strike out and explore.

After walking a few blocks I glance off to my right and see a narrow street that’s barely more than an alley. It’s another of those tight lanes that have attracted me since we arrived in Madrid three weeks ago. In America, I might hesitate to step into such a mysterious, narrow, sun starved little street. Here in Barcelona, there’s no anxiety. These little streets have always led to some treasure or another and on this early afternoon, I’m not disappointed. I’ve discovered the portal to El Born and its outdoor gallery of street art.

Spain’s cities and towns contain webs of little streets and alleys and I’ve found that it isn’t hard to get lost. And that’s a good thing. Getting lost is the best way to discover hidden gems and accidentally wander away from the places where tourists roam. Within minutes, you’ve gone from a noisy street to a stone quiet passage where all you hear is the splish of your footsteps in the remnants of the previous night’s rain, and maybe a few stray notes of a conversation coming from a window above. You round a corner to hear the clatter of plates and glad voices coming from a little bar. Round another bend and it’s quiet again.

During closing hours, most storefronts are shuttered with corrugated steel rollup doors, and most of those doors are turned into after-hours canvasses by would-be artists, from taggers to accomplished muralists.

In El Born, as in many other of Barcelona’s districts, it isn’t just the corrugated doors that get a coat of urban art. Below, two works of art compliment each other; a fine old door polished by age and the work of a street artist.

Whether it’s random graffiti or a precise mural, El Born is alive with color.


At Bodega del Born, a tiny tapas bar, the customers create the art in the form of notes written on little tags that are displayed near the front door.

Did someone purposely stage the scene below for random passing photographers? The street was so narrow that I had to put my back up against the opposing wall and slide down into a squat in order to capture the scene.

Below: The window of a gallery in El Born displays the primary rule of art. It has no rules.


8 thoughts on “SPAIN: BEGINNING AT THE END. The Photo Tour of El Born

  1. Sheree says:

    Great street art and you have to love anything that includes a bike

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Sheree.
      Just like old barns and dogs, there’s something about an old bike leaning against a building that attracts photographers.

      1. Sheree says:

        Absolutely Paul

  2. Don’t you just love wandering “off piste” and discovering the secrets of the real city. I don’t recall reading too many Barcelona travel blogs which majored on this particular district!

    1. Paul says:

      “Don’t you just love wandering “off piste..” Absolutely. It was one of the highlights of the entire trip whether it was gigantic Barcelona or smaller Zafra. It was actually something that I came to appreciate maybe too late when I did my Midwest road trips and avoided big cities and attractions and sought out small towns and quirky places.
      Depending on which book/website you refer to, El Born is kind of muddled in with La Ribera. The travel books list the highlights as being Santa Maria del Mar and the Picasso Museum.
      Thank you for reading and commenting

  3. Toonsarah says:

    Yes, these tiny lanes in European cities are always worth the detour I find – Italy is very similar in that respect. You stumbled upon some treasures here! My favourite is the left-hand of the two shutter paintings I think 🙂

  4. Paul,
    With a nod to Robert Frost, onetime poet laureate to VT and later (unofficially as the first) to the US, you really did take that “road not taken” on your last day in Barcelona. What a movable feast of artwork you have provided us! Thank you, Stewart

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Stewart, I did. Taking those little roads not taken was one of the greatest joys of my experience in Spain. I loved the sights, the sounds, the smells, and, when I stopped for a bite, the tastes of those little lanes.
      I hope to return to Spain again one day.
      Thank you for reading and commenting,

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