Why did you leave Catalonia?
I had never thought that I would ever go to live abroad, I had never even considered it. But my partner – who is a scientist – had a good job opportunity to continue growing in research and I joined her. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but it has been the best of all.
Tell us about the place where you live.
I live in Saint Louis (Missouri, United States). At the age of 43 I had to reinvent myself again in the world of journalism, as a freelancer in another country and in another language. Although I collaborated in various media such as RAC1 or L’Esportiu, I needed more stability until the editor of Grup Comunicació21, David Centol, proposed to me launching Exterior.cat, the website that explains what Catalonia does in the world.
How long have you been living there?
For four years, and almost two years without coming to Catalonia due to the pandemic.
Are you happy with the job opportunities you have found in your adoptive country?
My partner is very happy with that. The United States is a country full of opportunities and myself, as a journalist, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to write various reports on Saint Louis or on the current affairs of the country for Sàpiens magazine or the newspaper Ara.
What do you think is the best thing about living there?
Saint Louis is a very quiet and economically affordable city, compared to other cities in the country. We live in a very cosy neighbourhood. The city is quite disintegrated but it also has magnificent parks and green spaces. One of the best things about American life is the schedule. We get up and we go to bed earlier. Everything seems more balanced.
What would you most like to change?
I would change a lot of things, but maybe then it would stop being Saint Louis or the United States. However, what I would most like to change is a better public transportation network. Beyond the big cities, everyone else is using cars too much. Of course, the distances are huge, but to get anywhere you always have to take the car. And I would change that without thinking twice.
What do you miss most about home?
Of course, family and friends. Having been born near the Mediterranean, I miss the sea and the Catalan lifestyle. I miss the food, the wine – although we can still buy it here – and the contact with the people. Americans are rather reserved and distant. At first, there are cultural differences that strike you and are difficult to adapt to.
What do you take home as a gift when you return home?
Generally clothes, which are much cheaper in the United States than in Catalonia. When we travel we try to take away a souvenir, such as a plate of a state or of a national park. The gift we will take with us when we return to Catalonia will be all the experience accumulated over these years.
What characterises your neighbourhood?
It is spacious, full of green and has one of the most beautiful parks in the city. One of the streets where I always like to get lost is Flora, with beautiful houses, all with their garden and porch. I like the four gastronomic places in the area – the cheese store or the brewery – which preserve a typical American midwestern architecture.
Are there any places to avoid at all costs?
Yes, obviously. Saint Louis is a city struck by racism, and the north of the city is where many African Americans live with poverty, crime, and violence. According to an official ranking, it is the third most dangerous city in the United States. There are many murders by stabbing, one of the great misfortunes and disgraces of the country.
What is the best experience you have had in your adopted country?
Beyond the daily routine, the United States is an extraordinary country to travel around. In fact, you have to travel and do it by car, despite the huge distances. We were able to visit the most attractive national parks with spectacular nature and animals. The best experience was Yellowstone, Utah parks and coming across a bear in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado.
Do you plan to return to Catalonia?
Yes, we already have a set date: February 2022. It will have been five years of personal growth at cruising speed.
CATALANS ABROAD saint louis (united states)
Where are the best places to stay for visitors?
The best place is the Clayton neighbourhood, although it is the most expensive. For those who want to wake up with views on the Gateway Arch, with the Mississippi at your feet, choose the downtown area. Not to mention that Saint Louis is a stopover on Route 66.
What do you consider the highlights for a brief first visit?
Downtown you can see the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River, an iconic space. It is a must to walk through the Forest Park, which is much better than Central Park in New York. And especially The Loop, where local artists gather for a must-see visit to Blueberry Hill, the venue where the legendary Chuck Berry, who was born in Saint Louis, played.
What if visitors have more time or make a return visit?
Get away from the city and discover Missouri. In the summer we love to swim in the river, taste some wine in a winery or sleep in a cabin in a tree. That’s how Jack, Tom Sawyer’s inseparable friend, did it! I used to watch his adventures on television as a child, they took place here in Saint Louis and Missouri. Who would have thought that when I was older I would end up living here?
Can you recommend a place to have lunch with friends?
Given that the meat is exceptional, I would recommend ‘Salt and Smoke’. It’s a restaurant where you can combine all kinds of beef from Kansas or Colorado. And all accompanied by all kinds of sauces.
Where would you have a special dinner for two?
There are many places, but I would choose ’360’, a restaurant with the Gateway Arch in front. At night, it is beautiful as the surroundings of the arch are illuminated.
When is the best time of year to plan a visit?
Before and after the summer. Saint Louis is a city of contrasts. Very cold in winter and very hot in summer. Therefore, April, May and September would be the best months to visit it because it allows you to walk around without getting too cold or too hot.
What is the best kept secret about the area?
In the early 20th century Saint Louis was one of the most important cities in the country, both economically and socially, mostly for being a strategic point for the passage of the Mississippi River. In addition to being one of the most populated, the city has a clear French heritage, which can be still seen nowadays in many of its corners. What’s more, the local architecture still shows that splendid heritage of the city’s glorious past.