Monday, September 7, 2009

The Third Happiest City in the World

Forbes had an article last week ranking the happiest cities in the world and Barcelona came in third behind Rio and Sydney and ahead of Amsterdam.  So why are people so happy? 

Well, as the article states, it's more a reflection of perception than reality, and quotes Michelle Finkelstein, a vice president at a travel agency "The beauty of the city and its environs, along with affordable housing and business opportunities, is the fantastic lifestyle" to prove its point [Italics mine].

But seriously why Barcelona?  The weather's good, but no better than Malaga.  It's got man made beaches, but nothing like further down south where they're real like Cadiz.  And it's certainly not the cheapest place in Spain as any one who has been here can attest.

Still, like a rose is a rose, a beach is a beach.  And, compared to Los Angeles, where it can take anywhere from an hour to three just to see the ocean, having somewhere to go for a dip that's not more than 30 minutes by metro does have its advantages.  Summer days and nights can be spent down at chirringuitos, drinking and dancing with the faint surf of the Mediterranean in the background, while in the winter they're the perfect place to take a stroll on those sunny but crisp January days and wonder how ten surfers are going to catch a foot high wave.

The old city center is like most throughout Europe: dark windy streets lined with bars, shops and restaurants that's easy to get lost in and it has a gothic cathedral with big spires.  But there's this slight quirkiness that makes each place a little bit kitsch and eccentric, giving it a buzz and a vibe like the cooler parts of San Francsisco and London, but without the pretension.

And, while both Paris or Prague are stunning to name a two, Barcelona has the beauty and the intimacy of a small city, where going from one end to to other is forty-five minutes and one zone on the metro.  Best of all, it's far from provincial and probably the most cosmopolitan place in Spain. 

Add all that up and it makes the idea of living there obviously appealing.  The reality as the cliché goes is in the details of actually doing it.

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