Thursday, 10 April 2008


A short break to Barcelona reminds me of the similarities and differences between cities, and also how much I have come to embrace London.

Barcelona is busy, quiet, scruffy and upmarket all at the same time. This was my first time there and my experience of it was largely of the scruffy, historic side of the city.

Given that, it made for an interesting contrast with London, which is often accused of being unkempt and lawless, but I found Barcelona much more so.

Behaviour that would not be tolerated in London – such as football fans drunkenly shouting and singing at 6am in the morning, drug-selling in the open and low-grade thieves roaming the streets at will – seemed to be quite normal in Barcelona.

It reminded me of Brighton back in the day!

It is not such a bad place, however. We just happened to be staying in quite a rough part. However, it did bring into contrast how much of a media panic London has experienced over crime.

I've lived in London for almost 30 years and have been a victim of a mugging or attempted mugging twice. (And I ain't never lived in a posh bit!) I went to Barcelona and someone tried it on within three days!

On returning to London, Britain's capital seemed slightly more drab, but certainly richer as well as more quirky. The centuries of accumulated wealth are easy to see, and the calmness and assuredness of a booming city is writ into people's faces.

Yes London has its problems, but it was a great thing to come back to town, sit in a pub and down a pint.

BTW One very (geeky) thing that I really liked about Barcelona: the subway train indicator boards give you a countdown, in seconds, of when the next train will arrive. Can we have this in London please?

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