by travel reporter Emma Kemsley
I type this from the balcony of my temporary apartment in Barcelona.The gentle hum and honks of motorcycles below. The chatter of friends over clinking glasses in the distance. The city is a glow of hazy summer heat and for the first time in six years, I have a swell of contentment. Butterflies not of nerves for a pending IVF but excitement for the future.
Nine failed IVFs, a termination for medical reasons at 20 weeks peak pandemic, multiple complexed endometriosis surgeries and the loss of both my mother-in-law and my perfect mum Tina have led me to this point.
Fertility, endometriosis and grief have taken their toll on me and my husband James the last few years. It’s worn us down. Shattered plans in an instance helped carve us a new future.
A move abroad was always in the plans for us, but IVF took over. One more try then we’ll move. A failed attempt. Another try. And another. Again and again. When you’re on the IVF train, it’s hard to get off. My life was stagnant. A mix of hormones and waiting. I wasn’t even sure why I was having fertility treatment. It simply become habit.
Losing my mum was a wake-up call. It turned my world upside down but somehow bought me back to life. I was shaken from my slumber, finally understanding that life is simply too short to settle for anything less than amazing. Time is precious and not a second should be wasted. I could no longer put my life on hold for a what if.
It feel’s scary to jump but we’re doing it anyway
Character Abel Morales said: “When it feels scary to jump, that is exactly when you jump, otherwise you end up staying in the same place your whole life, and that I can’t do.”
So that’s exactly what I did. I took the plunge by starting a new life in Barcelona. It means facing my fears but I feel stronger after starting the relocation process.
A move to the Catalonian city is not a decision I’ve made lightly. There are the financial implications to consider with relocation, and of course the complexities of Brexit, but most importantly the question of ‘where will feel like home?’
What did I want from life? Suddenly being child-free created exciting prospects. Summers chilling on beaches in the Med. Winters curled up in a cosy villa in Tuscany. The world was our oyster.
I began researching potential locations for our new home. I absolutely love planning trips and I certainly missed my calling as a travel agent. I have a talent for finding towns and villages away from tourism hotspots.
Sourcing stone-cladded boutique hotels with kind-hearted owners, cool country casitas or swanky sustainable villas without the hefty price tag. I’ve been known to graze knees scrambling down cliffs and rustle through bushes to find empty beaches.
Taking our dog with us
James and I, with our dog Fletcher in tow, embarked on a month-long road trip to find a potential new home.
Travelling through north Spain to rural Portugal taking in the dusty hues of Salamanca, white-washed and blue bordered villages of Evora, and on to the stunning Alentejo coastline. We continued south to Cadiz, then braved the winding roads to the mountains of Sierra de Grazalema. The area captured our hearts with its beauty.
Days were spent hiking discovering white cobbled villages with bright blooms overspilling into alleyways, where locals chatted on cast iron seats with mountainous backdrops. Sandy paths led us to glistening emerald natural pools and waterfalls.
I knew this little part of Spain would play a part in our future, however, despite feeling something extra special, a little voice in my head niggled that I return to Barcelona. We made the city our final stop of the road trip.
Navigating the chaotic narrow roads and a tiny car park in a 4×4 car was not the easiest, but the stressful arrival was soon forgotten as we slipped back into city life. Staying at dog-friendly Pol & Grace Hotel, our purpose of the trip was to ensure Fletcher could switch from country dog to city canine.
We spent three days walking around each neighbourhood, visiting dog parks, pin dropping locations and snapping photos of ‘for rent’ signs. Fletcher trotted along tail wagging, and it was clear he’d happily give up chasing pheasants across a field for chasing pigeons in a uber-cool concrete jungle. At the end of the trip, we found ourselves under the canopy of a no-thrills street bar making plans to move.
Barcelona stole my heart in 2018
My first visit was in December 2018, and I was there to meet with an IVF clinic. Within two days, under the twinkling festive lights, the city cast its spell on me. We returned for IVF in January 2019 staying for a month. I’d walk to the clinic in the sunshine, looking up at the beautiful buildings and balconies with their rows of flowers or washing gently flapping in the wind.
We dined al fresco on the beach under stripey white and blue umbrellas. Evenings were spent tapas searching along buzzing streets. Deep inside I could feel this would one day be my home. I returned for a major endometriosis surgery in March, followed by IVF in May and August, and an embryo transfer in October. With each visit my love for the city grew.
We ventured on a second road trip to Spain in the depths of winter. While the previous adventure was to determine location, this trip was to fine tune lifestyle. Could we live in Spain during the winter or were we seeing it through sunshine tinted sunglasses? And was Barcelona really the one?
The journey took us to the city of Valencia, the tiny high-hilled town of Cómpeta in Andalusia, Madrid, Alicante and a firm favourite of mine, San Sebastian. A city coastal combination is what we craved. Barcelona once again came out on top.
Sipping coffee in the morning under gothic grandeur, evenings by candlelight in intimate bars and restaurants with privileged views have become the norm. Barcelona forces me to enjoy a slower pace of life. Appreciate the simple things and savour the moment.
Under no circumstance is it an easy move. Getting to grips with Spanish legalisation is like a game of snakes and ladders. Finding an apartment even harder. However, it will take more than Catalonian esoteric matters to break me.
Barcelona is a fantastic place to visit for a weekend break. It’s a combination of stunning architecture, vibrant street life and gastronomic delights. Its international airport and efficient public transport system makes it an accessible cultural destination.
If you’re looking for an oasis away from the crowds but in the heart of the city, stay at the super stylish Casa Bonay. An interior masterpiece of botanicals, plush furnishings and colourful design. Stretch with a morning yoga class or cool off under a rooftop shower. It’s chiringuito serves up tapas and BBQ dishes – it’s open to the public too!
Barcelona is a foodie’s heaven
You’ll never be far from a Michelin star or the latest up and coming chef. For delicate fish dishes with a soundtrack of the Mediterranean Sea visit Fiskebar located at the Royal Maritime Club. With restaurants in Eixample and Born, Bronzo is a firm favourite for lowkey dining. Hearty bowls of pasta and pizza dowsed in truffle are among its dishes served to diners in a rustic setting of dim lighting and bare brick walls.
For your Instagram moment, visit Brunch and Cake. Colourful cocktails and even brighter breakfasts will be adorning your feed in no time. In recent years the white-washed, wicker decorated eatery has broken beyond its Barcelona boundaries to establish 12 restaurants worldwide.
The food scene is one of the reasons I love Barcelona. There’s always an exciting new bar or restaurant opening. I have only scratched the surface of this incredible city and I can’t wait to discover more.
For tips on relocation, beach hopping and city life follow me @emma_kemsley