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A few months ago I met Lionel Shriver. She believes that enjoyment lies in anticipation, and experience is always a disappointment in comparison to what we imagined. When she said this she was talking about food. The pizzas we lust after and the foreign food we long to return to. I took objection to her stance. While sometimes things don’t live up to memory or expectation, sometimes they are even better.
For many years, I was wary of going to Barcelona. Everyone told me I’d love it. I suspected they may be right and I held it up as a jewel – a city I’d one day go to and fall in love with – a place I’d feel I belonged. I finally got there, aged 23, fresh from a difficult break-up and ready for renewal.
I found myself lost upon arrival, walking down a darkened street – Carrer rather than Ronda Santa Pau. That one word difference providing an unfortunate entrance, with prostitutes in the doorways and the seedy stares of passersby. It wasn’t the city I’d imagined.
Ten days later and I was in love. Beyond my arrival, the city had revealed every reason I’d been led to desire it. The characterful independent bars, the evocative winding streets, the beach and the joy de vivre of the summer evenings. Most important, I made friends. I had planned to stay for a month but I doubled that and returned to live there within the year. Though I no longer call it home, the love affair is still going strong. I return whenever I can.
Now Berlin is my new Barcelona. For years I’ve intended to visit. For years, I’ve been told I must. The art, the independent culture, the cafes, the buzz of a city filled with start-ups. It has all the ingredients of a place I’d surely love. But in all my years in London, I never managed to make it. I was saving it like an orange smartie. I wanted to give it time.
That time is now upon us. For the next few months, Steve and I need to be in Europe – logistical reasons for the film. We toyed with Barcelona, Lisbon, even London, but our minds are finally made up. We are moving to Berlin.
We went there for a weekend to confirm – to taste the city and make sure we didn’t somehow hate it. We stayed in Kreuzberg, we drank in local bars, we had dinner with friends, and we wandered the art-filled streets. Despite falling down with food poisoning, we also started to fall in love. There was no taste of disappointment.
Berlin, we are ready for you.
See you on 1st March.
Where we stayed in Berlin
For our three-night trip to Berlin, we stayed in Kreuzberg in an apartment through GoWithOh. It was a great location, in walking distance from the bars of Oranienstrasse, but far away enough not to be noisy. It was also a 20 minute walk from the centre of Berlin and the famous TV Tower. Moreover, it was beautiful and wonderfully spacious. Thank you GoWithOh for inviting us to stay there. All opinions are our own, and we’d most definitely recommend it. From £31 per night, it’s a bargain.