Good grace

The money may be tempting, but there has to come a point where you draw the line and claim your city back.

Grace: it's a name that has fallen out of favour in the UK, associated as it is with Victorian flounced skirt-wearing ladies and Dickensian drawing rooms. If we ignore the archaic religious meanings and Greek mythological references of the word itself and stick to the more common modern definitions, the Oxford dictionary gives us the following very positive sounding attributes: 1. Smoothness and elegance of movement; and 2. Courteous good will, including under the plural, graces, 2.1. An attractively polite manner of behaving.

These are qualities I'm sure many Catalans would not readily associate with the British tourists who pour off the easy/economy/light/whatever-adjective-you-want-to-use-as-a-euphemism-for-cheap planes at El Prat and Girona. And that would equate with the fact that the connotations of the word have also nosedived in my native country over the years. In an age of supposed equality, grace would for many of my compatriots represent some form of pretentious upper class behaviour that puts on airs and sees itself as being above the hoi polloi of a modern cosmopolitan British society.

Strangely, however, to me at least, the name does seem to hold some popularity in the US, although for many reasons I don't see that as being so too appropriate. Perhaps we can attribute this to the popularity of American actress, Grace Kelly, who it was said embodied such qualities.

Now here we have a cultural difference, because in Catalonia, grace – or its Catalan form, gràcia – does often seem a fully appropriate term and can be found everywhere, especially in the capital. Indeed, it's not seen as an old-fashioned concept but as a positive way of doing things – Fes-ho amb gràcia!

There is grace in the architecture, the décor, the art and style of everyday life, witnessed in lobbies, buildings and ways of behaviour all around the main parts of Barcelona, but especially in the cultural hubs. There is also the other common Catalan meaning of gràcia, of course, that is, funny, as in Això no fa gràcia! But here I'm focusing on the meaning you would associate with the name for both people and places. And the fact is that the contrast of cheapo holidaymakers – whether British or otherwise - boozing their way round Catalonia's capital and the locals' innate pride in a city full of grace and beauty is starting to grate on those who live here. The money may be tempting, but there has to come a point where you draw the line and claim your city back.

So here's the thing: when you witness the various stag and hen tours belching, shouting and fighting their way gracelessly around Barcelona, when Passeig de Gràcia and the former village of Gràcia are beset by marauding pig-like Vikings who have travelled here in the name of “fun”, rolling drunkenly past Gaudi's architectural masterpieces and the graceful elements that accompany them all over the city, you realise that new mayor Ada Colau's desire to oust such loutish behaviour and welcome a more affluent and with it more graceful tourist to the city has to be applauded and backed with every possible means available.

Sign in. Sign in if you are already a verified reader. I want to become verified reader. To leave comments on the website you must be a verified reader.
Note: To leave comments on the website you must be a verified reader and accept the conditions of use.