Casual chic: How Barcelona helped bring out my inner babe

tip #1: get off on the right foot

Walk two blocks – any direction – down a Barcelona boulevard and at some point it hits you: the ladies here are hot. And if you’re like me, you’re not.

At least not initially. Fourteen-plus jet lagged hours later, eyeballs streaked with red squiggly lines, track pants stretched beyond the built-in Lycra capabilities, I resisted the urge to yank out the Iberian Airlines ticket and count the days til I could return to my stateside comfort zone.

But that’s not my style. At least it didn’t used to be. This default to casual chic (and really, I’m taking generous liberty with the word ‘chic’) has unwittingly risen with age: increasingly intolerant feet, faster fashion I can no longer keep up with (I am NOT Forever 21), and an obsession with must-make-my-ass-look-absolutely-amazing-or-I-won’t-wear-it attire have left me feeling a bit resigned to a life of comfort at all costs. My former days of plucking a vintage motorcycle jacket from a London flea market after hours of trolling through dusty hand-me-downs and careening over cobble stoned streets in 5-inch distressed gilded Prada stilettos are gonzo.

But with the man on assignment in this freakishly fabulous town on the Mediterranean Sea where endless sunshine, sweet little balconies poking out from every building and boutiques, cafes, and gelato galore expound, I had ten days ahead to take it all in and see what I could learn. From a girl’s POV of course. So like an anthropologist addicted to European coffee, I observed. Took notes. Lots of them as I passed many an hour strolling from one cafe to another (with a few side trips and scoops of gelato in between.) Here’s how I found my inner babe, and how you can too:

1. Get off on the right foot. Literally. The only sneakers (trainers, tennis shoes, kicks, whatever you wanna call ’em) on the streets of Barcelona are those hanging from the ankles of fanny-pack toting tourists from ho-dunk U.S.A. Bonus dork points for dark socks. And don’t think I didn’t try: I packed what I thought were a pair of super cool neon green Nike Frees that would pair beautifully with that fitted LBD. The look on my husband’s face said it all: Hell No. They had to go. But here’s the cool thing: there are shoe shops on every block, and damned if they aren’t comfortable as all get out! Here are a few brands I found, bought, wore, and stepped one foot closer into Babedom: Camper, Naot, even Aerosoles exists in this uber-chic town, with lots of cute, comfy options.

2. Choose your facial expression with extreme care. If you’re under 25, and spent quality time on a magazine cover or two, then go ahead and rock the Pout. Otherwise it resembles my cat after a sip of sour milk. I found, by observing the Barcelona babes of all ages, including a trio of sexy 70-somethings with interlinked arms walking up the Passeig de Gracia that a smile works wonders. They all beamed.

tip #4: take the front seat

tip #4: take the front seat

3. Banish the snacks. On a side trip to Girona (the one day I fell off the babe wagon and wore the ugly neon kicks), I whipped out a Kind bar only to receive a quizzical look from my lovely tour guide. “Lunch is in an hour,” she graciously offered. Barcelona babes don’t snack. They eat healthy, whole, from the source – as in not processed and packaged in a NJ plant – food at mealtimes. Not before, not in between, not after. Real butter, fresh baked bread, grilled vegetables in olive oil likely grown on a tree a few miles away, fresh seafood, even meat, even dessert. And every Barcelona babe I observed can rock a skin tight pair of yoga pants without a single dimple. (Not that they would of course, because that’d be falling into the comfort chic trap.) Point is, EAT. Eat well, not too much, not too little, and only at mealtimes.

4. Rock your beauty through subtlety. You won’t find bright colors here. At least not with clothing. A splash of fuschia or coral is more apt to be found on a Barcelona babe’s shade of lipstick or eyeglass frames. I sat agape at the sea of pedestrians who all seemed to get it: how to dress chic without overdoing it – a skinny braided belt; interestingly-shaped silver cuff. And, to my surprise, without having to drop a mortgage payment. Beyond the row of big time fashion houses (Gucci, D&G, Prada) I stumbled on a few local streets with amazing boutiques rocking price tags no more than what I’d find at a Forever 21 or H&M. I also observed the Prada and Escada bags hung off the arms of tourists, not locals.

5. Take the front seat. Wide boulevards, high density and an efficient traffic light system that commuters and pedestrians actually follow mean motor bikes are welcome. And to my surprise, at least half are driven by women. Hot women. Helmets atop salon-worthy locks and confident women powering their way to work or wherever. The whole scene spoke of equality. And I loved it.

So there it is. A short list of tips I’m playing around with since returning from Barcelona. I feel like a babe already.

 

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