This past weekend I once again journeyed away from Sevilla, this time flying to Barcelona, which is located in lovely Catalonia.
|Casa Battló at night.|
To say the least, it was a busy weekend. We spent the better part of each day on our feet, hurrying from one architectural marvel to another, and only calling it quits after the sun set. Yup, absolutely exhausting. Thankfully, my friends are, well, my friends…And that means that an evening curled up with good books while feasting on bread, cheese, chocolate and cheap champagne is just as good (probably better) as a night at a discoteca. So we were nice and rested for the next day's adventure.
Our program guide, Antonio, introduced Barcelona as a city of fantasy and magic. At first glance, that's a little difficult to see. After all, Barcelona is a huge metropolitan city, complete with skyscrapers, flashy lights, and an upscale shopping district.
But that's what's special about it. The fantastical is subtly woven into the modern city, making Barcelona a living example of urban fantasy and maybe even magic realism.
Let's take a stroll, shall we?
|Casa Battló on the right. Notice the scaled roof.|
We exit the hostel and there, just a block away and standing on a perfectly normal street, is the Casa Battló, which in my opinion belongs in some sort of twisted Candyland. The walls are supposed to look like a garden, while the balconies and columns are meant to represent bones. Kind of creepy, right? The roof is scaled, like the back of a dragon, and the chimney is San Jorge's sword--being plunged into the dragon.
The dragon is the symbol of Barcelona, and it's everywhere (but still subtle enough that you have to look for it).
|The roof of La Pedrera.|
|La Sagrada Familia|
Magic and fantasy are everywhere: in the design of the sidewalk, the fountains that dance to changing colors, the paintings that line Las Rambas.
As I said, Barcelona brings urban fantasy into the real world, so the city got me thinking about writing in the genre, especially because my WIP is, among other things, urban fantasy.
Why does it appeal to us? What makes it special?
I'm no expert on urban fantasy (my current WIP is my first venture into it), but I might have a little insight.
In general, people like cities. For hundreds of years we have been migrating to them, usually in search of work, or in order to escape the trials of country living. We're naturally drawn to them, usually not because of aesthetic appeal, but because of the opportunities they offer. Yup, cities are goldmines of opportunities, and not only in real life. Plot and character-wise, they're invaluable.
You aren't going to find a character like this in the countryside:
|Not gonna lie, this guy was probably my favorite part of the trip. He was standing at the highest point of the Parc Güell, playing guitar in front of an elevated cross, while singing "Jesus Christ Superstar."|
|A bar in Barcelona called "Bosc de las Fades,"|
which translates to "Forest of the Fairies."
Yup, it's enchanted forest themed.
But where does the fantasy part come in? Well, cities offer opportunities, but once you throw in elements of magic, those opportunities become endless. Absolutely anything could happen.
Of course, there's more. Urban fantasy allows us to bring magic into our own lives. While deep down we realize that we probably won't ever be whisked away to Middle-earth or Narnia, we can go to cities like New York. Like London. Like Barcelona, where it's easy to imagine magic happening all around us, though we may not be able to see it.
And no matter how childish it is, we always hold onto that hope that someday the fantastical adventure will be ours. At least, I do. In Tangiers I hoped to find a magic lamp. In Rome I wanted some angels and demons (get it?). And in Barcelona, I was just itching to fight off a dragon.
|Barcelona viewed from the Parc Güell. I can easily imagine a dragon soaring through that sky.|
Unfortunately, I didn't find any fairies or dragons (I guess I wasn't looking hard enough. Or I'm just a silly muggle). Though I'm in Istanbul this week, so you can be sure that my quest for a magic lamp will be renewed!
Enough of me! What about you? Have you ever been to any "magical" cities? Or if not, which ones would you like to go to? What are your favorite urban fantasy books?