Barcelona has left an unbelievably positive impression on us both. It felt like it could easily be home with a huge mix of many ingredients. A big city without the feeling of congestion or pressure. It’s hard to encapsulate so many sights, sounds, and smells in a short story and I am not about to do it justice.
Landing here on Saturday afternoon we jumped in a cab (they hate Uber) and made our way into the city in around 20 minutes or so. Our driver told us he was the son of a Spanish father and a Dominican mom. He was born in the Dominican Republic but had shared his 50 or so years on this planet between both. This guy was a super happy soul and a very proud citizen of Barcelona.
He dropped us in the Placa Del Sortidor and we waved goodbye starting our stay here with a hugely positive experience. We were met outside #14 at ground level by Diego and after a quick introduction he showed us up to his Airbnb on the third floor. Diego is an Argentinian immigrant to Spain who first arrived 14 years ago with a small bag and his guitar. Diego plays Flamenco music and after a short conversation about his art it was wholly apparent that it is his passion.
He gave us a quick tour of the apartment and then took us through his little book of things to see and places to eat, drink and be merry. We took on board as much of the info as possible and Diego said his goodbyes.
We have come to learn that in the first few hours anywhere that not being too ambitious is the way to go. Diego mentioned a pedestrian street not far with dozens of pinchos bars. Pinchos or tapas are clearly the fuel that powers the locals to go late into the night.
Our first stop was just around the corner at the Cava (Cave). We were quickly welcomed and shown to our table. The decor of the Cava was not as expected. There was not one square inch of any wall that was not covered in a 3×2 photographs of Cava guests past and present sitting at their table enjoying ridiculously cheap Estrella beer and pinchos.
We were given a menu by the owner which was more of a picture book than anything else. It made it super easy for first time visitors to the Cava to make dinner choices.
A pint of very cold beer was one euro. Each pinchos was one euro. I can’t even remember what we ordered partly due to the volume but partly due to the Estrella (largely due to the Estrella). After 90 minutes or so we pushed away after our picture was taken for the wall and their Facebook. We wobbled down the road to where a pinchos nirvana awaited us on a pedestrian thoroughfare packed with hundreds and hundreds of late night diners.
A couple more stops along the way for an attempt to learn more about this culinary art and a few more litres of Estrella. Back to Diego’s place and certain destiny with a massive hangover in not too many hours from now.
I can’t remember the last time I had a hangover but there is a very strong possibility that I will remember this one forever. Wow! All the king’s Advil and all the king’s Asprin couldn’t put Humpty back together again. You only go around once on this planet and “there is no crying in baseball” so we chit, chowered, and chaved as my Spanish uncle Paco is known to say. Soon after we made for Sagrada Família to see what this Gaudi guy is all about. Our cab dropped us right outside and we were actually stunned at the church standing before us.
This place is unreal and has been in a perpetual state of construction for such a long time. It took a while to get our fill and from there Dale made his way into a souvenir shop for the purchase of a pleather FC Barcelona murse. No really he did and has worn it slung across his chest ever since. He says it’s a satchel and it’s where he keeps his things. This Wolfpack could do without that satchel.
But before I delve deeper into ridicule I have to say that without that purchase the following would not have changed our lives forever. At the time Dale actually paid good money for that abomination the young foreign gentleman inquired with Dale if he was going to the match? What match? The Classico! Tonight of all nights is the night that Barcelona hosts Real Madrid at the New Camp stadium.
Dale was shown where to inquire about tickets. We walked directly there and had a short conversation with a lovely Spanish girl who was manning a city run information booth. The stadium seats approximately 97000 fans and I was not expecting a miracle. Ok less than a minute later we each had a ticket in the same section but a few rows apart.
We continued from the ticket booth towards the port of Barcelona along the very wide and airy boulevards that remind me of Napoleon’s work in Paris. Many sights along the way. The lunch bell was ringing so the next place we saw that happened to specialize in Paella we went in and sat down.
Two seafood Paella’s were ordered along with two hairs of the dog that bit us the night before and the promise of a 12 minute turn around. We waited with anticipation for the local feast to appear. Job done and half an hour later we were stuffed with saffron rice littered with clams, muscles, head-on shrimp and various other recently swimming beings.
Next was a bit emotional for me. My mom has been gone a few years now but one of the things she encouraged me to do all the way up to her passing was visit Barcelona and stroll Las Ramblas. I did it mom, job done and I hope you strolled along with me.
It’s an awesome place and a beautiful street that terminates at Columbus’s monument near the port. We let it all sink in and then hailed a cab back to Diego’s. A little siesta helped out fabulously and at 6 p.m. we collected our things and went out for pregame pinchos and just a couple of Estrella. Back in a cab to Campnou and 15 minutes later we jumped out into the Frey. 97000 fans and thousands more there to just soak up the atmosphere or sell souvenirs to all that hadn’t already purchased a Barcelona satchel.
We got into the stadium with no issues just in time to look around and watch warm-up. Soon after we took our seats and set a meeting point for after the game. The rest is Classico history. The passion of the fans, the songs, the screams, the Barca way. This all made for an event I’ll always remember. Last but not least a big thank you to the British Blackburn Rovers fan who saw that my legs were too long to be comfortable and asked if I would like to change seats with his wife. Another huge win. His wife was sitting one row in front on the rail in a very comfortable primo seat that was at the front of the section.
I could not have had a better view. A 2-1 Barca lead was levelled by Real Madrid center forward and Welshman Gareth Bale in the second half that saw out 90 minutes and 10 minutes of injury time.
Every one of those minutes were filled with the voices of Barca fans with their songs and cheers. At the final whistle I wandered slowly from the stands and met up with Dale in the agreed location. We revelled in the experience and then made our way home. So late to bed and early to rise. Our plane left Barcelona this morning for London at 7:10. It was a great flight on EasyJet once again with speedy boarding. So here we are back in old blighty. The sun is out big time and we are gonna head for the train into town, the Grosvenor Hotel is our digs for the next couple of days.