“I spent hours admiring the light coming through the stained glass”: Views from Nobu Adilman’s Spanish flight
Featuring straight vermouth, Gothic architecture and a 15-metre human tower
Who: Nobu Adilman, co-founder of Choir! Choir! Choir!
When: April 2022
Whenever I travel for work, I try to tack on a couple of extra days for a personal trip. Last spring, I was in Portugal with my co-founder Daveed Goldman, hosting a Choir! Choir! Choir! session for a corporate event. When we finished, I decided to spend a week in Barcelona. A friend from university, David, and his wife, Silvia, had moved there during the pandemic, and I’d never been to Spain.
When I arrived, I went from the airport to meet Silvia at Soho House, where she surprised me with a massage booking at the spa in the basement. It was a great way to enter a new city: completely relaxed. Then I met up with David, who was having a beer on the patio. That first evening, we went on a tour of small restaurants. We went from dive bars to classier places and caught up on life while drinking straight vermouth, which was new for me—apparently it’s a thing in Barcelona.
David and Silvia rent an apartment in the Gothic Quarter. The building has a gorgeous art nouveau ironwork elevator and an inner courtyard. We explored their favourite neighbourhoods, like El Born, where I visited a traditional espadrille shop, and El Raval. One of the highlights was seeing castellers in an area called Gràcia. Groups of people build human towers up to 15 metres high. It’s a Catalonian tradition, and it brings people of all ages together. It was an oddly touching experience at a time when Covid had ripped our sense of community apart. I was thinking about how Choir! shows also have that element of togetherness, but they hadn’t fully bounced back from the pandemic yet.
In the days that followed, David and Silvia went back to work, and I toured the city on my own. I spent an afternoon at the Sagrada Família—a church designed by Antoni Gaudí that has been under construction since the late 1800s. I was amazed by how he fused nature and religion and pasted it on the building’s exterior, which looks like a melted candle. Inside, the church is devoid of religious iconography save for one cross hanging in the middle. The rest is just light and colour and open space. It was so peaceful. I spent hours there, admiring the light coming in through the stained glass.
At that time, I didn’t know whether Choir! was going to survive the pandemic. I had lost my drive, but being singularly blown away by a city renewed my faith that things would get better—and they did.