I’m sitting here huddled in my new blaugrana scarf, watching as Camp Nou is slowly starting to fill.
The game is still 45 minutes away but the horns have already started blaring. The audience is already restless and despite how exhausted my bones feel, adrenaline rushes through, warming me up and raising excitement levels to the highest tier of this gargantuan engineering feat.
Barcelona had been one exciting race, running from one metro stop to the other to try and squeeze in as many sights as is humanely possible. I was a girl on a mission and I dare say, it was a successful one.
It still astounds me how many things you can accomplish if you set your mind to it. Whoever says you cannot see anything of a country in a couple of days has never done this job. When you are grateful for having been given as little as 24 hours to explore a new destination, you manage to make the most of it. And let me tell you, a lot can be done in a handful of hours. Just give me a couple of landmarks you wish to see, a preferred means of transportation and I will work miracles. I guarantee that you won’t feel your legs by the end. You might also feel a little bit dizzy and confused (don’t get me started on time zones here) but I promise that the feeling of satisfaction you will feel by the end will obliterate every ache in your body. After all just ask yourself, what do you remember after a holiday? How tired you had felt or how sore your feet were? No. The memories etched in your head will be those of the sights you have seen, the food you have tasted, the new friends you have met along the road. It is because of this reason that I forgo naps. I’d rather be out, soaking in the thrill of exploration while I have the energy to do so. Sleep will eventually come later. And let me tell you, I sleep like a baby.
Back to beautiful Spain. After we landed and checked in at the hotel, I made plans to meet a fellow crew downstairs who was willing to go along with my plans. I had made a list of all the things I wished to see and which I thought could be feasible in the amount of time we had at our disposal. Concierge procured a map for us (my best and most trusted friend on layovers) and we were on our way. The metro system in Barcelona is much the same as the one in Paris or London. I’m proud to say I never got us lost once (unless you count the time when I took the wrong exit at the last stop near the hotel. I could not for the life of me recognise the street I was in. It took some time but with the help of a passer by, who merely stood and pointed over my head to a rather big skyscraper with the name of my hotel in bright lights, I managed to make my way back. In my defence, it was dark). Our first stop was the Sagrada Familia, a colossal basilica, still in the throes of the building process. The architect was already very advanced in his age when construction began and as yet it remains unfinished. I remember getting out of the metro, standing on the escalator as I made my slow way up and the basilica revealed itself for me, inch by inch until I was out on the pavement and it’s sheer size took my breath away. The many spires of the structure reached up to the heavens and the intricate detail which went into the carving of the facade was just mind blowing. There was a small kiosk on the other side where we bought coffee and with our fingers wrapped around the cup for warmth, we walked around this unique landmark. Our next stop was Park Guell but not before my partner in exploration found a monastery. The yard was so peaceful that we went inside for a brief rest, a small nook of respite from the busy Catalan streets. At Park Guell we wandered around the pathways, fascinated by the queer buildings which were covered with appeared to be colourful glass and small mirrors. There was also a beautiful view to be glimpsed of the city of Barcelona and the sea beyond. Very soon we were on the road again to the iconic La Rambla where the trees lining the pedestrian zone were in the midst of wintery clutches. The branches were bereft of leaves so it was an altogether different scene from the one I am used to see on friends’ photos. It was no less beautiful though. It was at La Rambla that I found a stall selling tickets for the Liga match between Barcelona and Almeria. A friend of mine had mentioned the game a day earlier, suggested I should go as it was an experience on its own. Seeing the stall there seemed to make up my mind for me. I approached them, asked for a ticket on the highest tier and paid there and then. I could barely hold my excitement as we munched away on pizzas in a small pizzeria in an alley off the main road. I’d be going alone but I just couldn’t wait.
Which brings me back to the first paragraph of this post. I have only seen one stadium so far in my life, the Emirates stadium in London. Camp Nou seats about a 100,000 spectators and is the biggest stadium in Europe. Before entering I bought a scarf (which blended very well with my mustard coat I must say), wound it around my neck like a true Catalonian fan and trudged up the steps. Stepping inside the stadium was a memory I’m sure never to forget. Saying its is huge is an understatement. Even the photos don’t do it justice. A lot of seats were still empty even by the start of the game because the dimensions are just crazy. But the acoustics of the place, how voices seemed to travel once around the stadium before being lifted in the air was just amazing. And when Messi placed the ball in front of him to take a free kick, and the fans started beating twice on the drum and clapping once increasing in pace just before he touched the ball and scored a magnificent curving ball… let’s just say I can’t imagine how it would sound like when the stadium is actually full.
The next day in the morning, my new friend and I went down to the sandy beach next to the hotel. There was a lovely stony pier which served as a good backdrop for our pictures and we spent a good part of the morning there before heading back to the hotel for one last Cappuccino to end a very fruitful layover.
Barcelona was one hell of a ride I’m glad I took. It all goes down to a choice you make in the beginning. You decide whether you want to be grateful for having been given the opportunity and thus make the most of it. Or you could have a nap because you’re too tired to drag your feet around. Some people don’t feel sorry to have a spent their layover in their hotel room, maybe getting a massage and drinking wine and sometimes it is very tempting to do just that. As for me, I know regret would have eaten me whole. As my dear Caribou coffee napkin reminds me every day; Life is short. Stay awake for it.
Cheers to that.