The city from a new angle: Hidden City Tours
I sat down with Lisa Grace, founder of Hidden City Tours, a provider of walking tours of the Old Town of Barcelona with those formerly living on its streets.
Julia Bürgi (JB): Lisa, tell us a little more about how this project started.
Lisa Grace (LG): I used to live on Escudellers, which has lots and lots of homeless people. We were there for five years and I had the same people sleeping in my doorway. I had a dog at the time and used to take it for a walk every morning and my dog would “socialize.” I had not really given [homelessness in Barcelona] very much thought, to be brutally honest, and I ended up getting to know some of the homeless guys – you feel quite responsible, they’re you’re neighbours.
JB: What an inspiring story. Who are your tour guides? What are they like?
LG: Not all homeless people are rough. One of the guides, Juan Carlos, is quite timid and afraid of authority. Sometimes he will look at me during the tour and say “Can I say that?” and I say “You are completely free to say whatever you want… you must get used to the idea!”… He’s slowly and surely coming out with his own stories [during the tour].
He actually began using the showers at Arrels, a charity which helps you get off the street, while he was on the streets for ten years, and now Juan Carlos actually works on Saturday afternoon as a volunteer at Arrals. He has come full circle.
JB: Where does the tour go that makes for a special experience?
LG: We start in the Gothic and we move over to the Raval. It’s moving more towards being in the Raval because I think there are more social issues to comment on there, making our tour different.
There’s this really nice place that we pass by called El Chiringuito de Dios (which translates as “God’s Beach Bar”) run by this German guy that is completely run on donations.
JB: Where would you stay and what would you do if you were a visitor, besides a tour?
LG: [My daughters and I] go to Ciutadella Park, a great place to go and run around. There’s La Carretera de las Aïgues, you really can escape the city there.
I would probably stay down in the the Old City. There is quite a vibe down there… the narrow streets and old buildings make it really unique. You’ve got all those Gothic palaces! There’s a place on the corner of Banys Nous and Carrer de la Palla called Caelum. They sell sweets [and] in the downstairs, are the old Roman baths that became the Jewish baths. It’s the “real thing”.
Hidden City Tours by reservation only by contacting email@example.com or calling +34 655.585.156