Catalans Abroad

Laura Calçada


A city of diversity

Why did you leave Catalonia?
It was early September 2013 when I set foot in the city that never sleeps - or never used to. The financial crisis was still kicking in Barcelona. I was reluctant to leave my beloved city at first, but I was 25 years old and had no professional perspectives there, though I tried for a while to find an opportunity that could help me grow in my own country.
Why New York City?
My father once told me that after finishing my university degree I could do a Master’s in Journalism in New York City. I was 20 years old and that idea got in my head. It became a dream, a kind of lighthouse. “One day I will study in New York City”. Seven years after getting my Bachelor’s degree in Politics from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, I had the opportunity to live in the city as an au-pair, when a friend of mine left the house where she was babysitting two boys in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
What do you think is the best thing about living there?
The sensation of pride you have while living in a city and experiencing things that a lot of souls can only imagine.
What would you most like to change?
The recycling process. It is obscene how much food is wasted and how much plastic is used. Basically, the way they deal with garbage.
What do you miss most from home?
Fuet! The beaches too, though you can always catch a train and head to the Rockaways or organise a getaway to Montauk. Also, how clean the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat and some Metros are compared to the NYC subways.
What characterises your neighbourhood?
A mélange of Hassidic Jews, African American, Caribbean, white young liberals and Millennials concerned about the planet, old folks and toddlers. The occasional cockroach when summer comes, the smell of marihuana, fancy coffee shops side by side with Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. The great Dominican joint Puerto Viejo or the pizza place Barboncino. The loooong Eastern Parkway, the West Indian Day Parade, the magnificent Brooklyn Museum… Crown Heights in Brooklyn is a must. I hope they stopped some of the awful urban developments.
What’s the best experience you had in New York?
Getting adoptive parents, Marlene and Collwyn, getting a brother, Marc, falling in love with Fanny, and getting my Master’s degree in Journalism from the Craig Newmark Journalism School.
Do you plan to come back to Catalonia?
I actually came back on April 2018. Two years ago. The first three months I would still say I’m sorry in the metro when I bumped into somebody. I would also use American expressions when talking. It wasn’t easy, I was missing the pace of New York City so much. Bartenders and waiters in Barcelona were so slow they would make me lose my patience. Job wise, the salaries here were incomparable with the ones there. But then, here we have the coffee breaks, and the afterhours in cozy squares, and the sun. The sun, man! What an amazing climate and food we have here. I got used to our rhythms and routines again, I’ve been able to write some interesting pieces and right now I live in a little beach town with my beau, a grumpy and adorable writer. The adventure continues.

CATALANS ABROAD new york - united states


Where are the best places for visitors to stay?
The best place to stay in New York City is the place of a friend or of a friend’s friend because accommodation prices are really high. If you aren’t lucky enough to have this option available, I know a number of people who stayed at the Hotel Pennsylvania. There is also the Roger Smith Hotel, where the General Manager is the Catalan Pere Sanchez Frigola. You can find cheaper options checking Airbnb or looking to rent a room in a shared apartment through Facebook groups.
What do you consider the highlights for any brief visit for the first time?
Central Park, for sure. Also the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim, the MoMA. A walk around the Village, both the East and the West: Greenwich Village. Washington Square Park unites them both. Eating dumplings at Golden Unicorn in Chinatown. Lying on the grass in Bryan Park in front of the New York Public Library. Admiring the Empire State and the Chrystler Building. Times Square, although locals avoid it completely. Visit the Apollo Theater in Harlem and walk around the nearby streets, eat some of the soul food you can find somewhere up there like Manna’s.
And if visitors have more time or make a return visit?
Explore Brooklyn. Every neighbourhood in the borough has its thing. Greenpoint, Park Slope, Prospect Park with an awesome Botanical Garden, Ridgewood, Bushwick, Willliamsburg, Crown Heights, Clinton Hill, Flatbush. Brooklyn is something else. You can also visit the Rockaways and Coney Island if you want to see New York City’s beach.
Can you recommend a place to have lunch with friends?
I’m struggling with this one because there are a number of places I’d tell you that have closed since I lived there. The restaurant industry in NYC is the best and also unpredictable. Try out the Jamaican place Miss Lily’s or Fiore in Grand Street, Brooklyn.
Where would you have a special or romantic dinner for two?
Indochine. Cosme. Fedora. Café Mogador. New York City has more than enough wonderful places to eat.
When’s the best time of year to plan a visit?
The best months to visit would probably be September, October, November, April, May and June. I would certainly advise against December, January, February and March because it is freezing and it often snows. July and August are normally too hot.
What’s the best kept secret about the area?
I’m not sure if I can share a secret? There’s a cool thing, and it’s that you can get a decent seat at the opera for $25. Type MET Opera rush tickets in your search bar and follow the instructions. Oh, and Sake Bar Decibel in the East Village, which is temporary closed due to the Covid-19 crisis; I really hope they make it back as it is one of my all time favourites. Also the thrift stores like Beacon’s Closet and department stores like Century 21 to buy great clothes at unbeatable prices.
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