FRIDAY 20th OCTOBER 2017
12:45pm – The Big Reveal
Well, that didn’t exactly go according to plan. I picked Ollie up from school an hour ago, as arranged with his headteacher (I explained that we would never normally take him out of school, but Monarch had rather fucked up my travel plans), and when the lady from the office brought him out, he was sobbing. My immediate concern was that he thought something was wrong, or he was in trouble; but, no, he was crying because I was dragging him away from his power point presentation to the class.
Once the teacher had confirmed his group could make their presentation after half-term, he was somewhat placated – if a little jittery at being removed from school for a surprise trip. After all, my surprise trips are not always better than school, so he was understandably apprehensive.
However, as soon as we got on the train to Manchester Airport, I revealed that we were off to Barcelona – to see his idol, Messi, play against Malaga the following evening. To say his face lit up would be an understatement. Many of our family and friends apparently shed a little tear of joy, when watching the video of his reaction on Facebook, but being the rugged manly-man that I am, I naturally held it together rather well. *lies*
9:00pm – Epic Burgers and Shit
Following an uneventful journey (although, after the week I’ve had, anything other than a full cavity search was a win), we arrived safely at the Airport Hotel shortly before 8pm; and, having checked in, immediately headed to the bar for dinner.
Ollie has been buzzing, partly because our hotel room is apparently the best he has ever seen (clearly forgetting the ‘themed’ rooms at Disneyland Paris and Alton Towers, which we paid a small fortune for), with a bathroom described as ‘epic’ – he celebrated this fact, by immediately taking a large shit – and partly because he has just devoured a huge burger (with bacon) and fries, washed down with a glass of cold milk.
I wasn’t sure anything was going to top the bathroom, but the burger appeared to excite him even more, and he kept pinching himself on the arm throughout the meal, to ensure it wasn’t all a dream. Bless him.
To be fair, his burger did look amazing, and I only wish I had ordered the same. Unfortunately, being a manly grown-up, I opted for the ‘Blackened Aberdeen Angus’ burger, topped with foie gras, instead. I’ve never tried foie gras before, and to be honest I’m still not 100% on what it is, but it’s safe to say I won’t ever have it again. That’ll teach me for watching Masterchef, and getting all carried away in the moment.
(I have just Googled what foie gras is, and had I known it translates as ‘fat liver’, I would have definitely avoided it).
We have a very long day ahead of us tomorrow, so we’re off to bed.
SATURDAY 21st OCTOBER 2017
1:15pm – Hotel No. 2
No, not another of Ollie’s bowel movements, but our second hotel.
As explained previously (https://middlerageddad.com/2017/10/20/blogelona-part-i), I only booked the extra night in the airport hotel, because Monarch ruined our travel plans by going bust, so we are now checked in to our intended accommodation, for tonight and tomorrow.
This hotel is far more ‘budget’, and far less ‘epic’ (Ollie’s disappointment upon first glimpse of our new bathroom was palpable, and not immediately followed by a celebratory dump this time), but when we get back from the football tonight, it will be very late, and we’ll be ready to crash, so this is merely a base.
Time to explore before the match!
00:30am – The Camp Nou
The Camp Nou was every bit as spectacular as we had hoped – which was for the best, as we spent about nine hours there.
Ollie insisted we get to the stadium early, to look around the megastore and buy some souvenirs, so we planned our route on the metro system, and off we went. Any travel disruption, resulting from the Catalan Independence clashes in the city centre, didn’t materialise, and we arrived shortly before 2:00pm – nearly seven hours before kick-off.
Ok, the megastore spanned three floors, and contained every single item you could conceivably stamp a Barcelona badge on (Barça eggcup, anyone?), but even Ollie would have struggled to fill seven hours looking at red and blue tat, so we ended up sitting in the sunshine having some lunch – and a much-needed (large) Estrella for Daddy.
After a while, we were asked to leave (well, not just us, but everyone in the bar), so security could get the stadium ready. Fortunately, a separate area was open, where Ollie managed to fleece me further still, and we ended up purchasing three photographs of him alongside his Barça idols, as well as ‘signing’ for the club.
NB: May contain trace elements of photoshopping
He then played football for a bit, with a younger Spanish lad (Ollie didn’t ask his name, but did shake hands with him afterwards), and before we knew it, it was time to head into the stadium.
We’d been advised to take our seats as soon as the gates opened, to get those all-important photos, and although that meant queuing for a while (during which I was ‘persuaded’ to buy a Barcelona scarf), it did mean we got a spectacular view of the stadium before it quickly filled.
Having dined on a hotdog and some popcorn (following the Barça crisps Ollie had insisted on outside), our long wait finally came to an end, and the match kicked off.
Messi, in contrast to nearly every match he has played this season, had an uncharacteristically quiet ninety minutes on the pitch, but there were still touches, flicks, and jinking runs, which showed why he is the world’s best footballer. Luis Suarez (former Liverpool striker/cannibal), also had a quiet game, but whereas Messi interspersed his tame performance with brief touches of class, Suarez did the opposite, and his only involvement of note, was to miss an open goal. He then devoured a ball boy (whole) in anger.
The match finished 2-0 to Barcelona, and whilst Ollie didn’t get to see his idol score (well, he did, but it was ruled offside), he witnessed a Barça victory in one of the world’s greatest stadia – even if it was apparently only three-quarters full. We were also directly behind the goal for this:
We had an amazing day, only marred by the fact my camera was stolen on the way back to our hotel. Apparently, Barcelona is the pickpocketing capital of Europe (a fact, it seems, everyone apart from us knew), and I only realised it had gone when unloading my pockets in our room. I thought I had been careful, but obviously not careful enough.
Looking on the bright side (rather uncharacteristically), whilst we have certainly lost some precious photos that I had not yet downloaded, all the ones of this trip were taken on my phone, and it could have been much worse. My wallet or phone could have been taken, and at least we knew nothing about the theft, which is infinitely preferable to being mugged.
After the initial upset and anger had subsided, I consoled myself with the knowledge that, although I will never know what became of my lovely camera, if there is such a thing as karma, then the scumbag who took it will hopefully meet a slow and painful death, in the not-too-distant future.
That may sound vicious, but anyone who steals from a father and son, knowing they are taking not just something of financial value, but irreplaceable memories, deserves everything they get. If that happens to be syphilis, or a flesh-eating tropical disease, then so be it. Fuck ’em.
Anyway, time for bed. Tomorrow, we’re off to the Camp Nou again (no, really).
SUNDAY 22nd OCTOBER 2017
9:30am – Pickpocket Prevention Pants
Apparently, the nine hours we spent at Camp Nou yesterday were insufficient, so today we are returning to take the official tour. Well, we’re not coming back any time soon, so we might as well make the most of it.
Despite it being very warm outside – as it has been since we arrived two days ago – I have opted to wear jeans, as the pockets are very tight, and far more secure than last night’s shorts (even though my camera was concealed in a buttoned pocket).
If some prick thinks he can rob me today, he’ll have to go past my prick to get at anything, and if there’s one thing I will notice, it’s some Spanish reprobate manhandling my chorizo.
4:35pm – Camp Nou, Take Two
I’m very glad I paid extra to do the stadium tour, on top of last night’s match.
Not only was it ‘access all areas’ – with the exception of the home changing room – they offer a superb audio guide, with videos, games and quizzes, that kept Ollie entertained for over two hours. We spent ages in the museum, saw the press room, walked down the players’ tunnel onto the pitch, sat in the dugout, then climbed to the very top of the stadium to sit in the media box. It was brilliant.
On the way back, we eventually tracked down the police station, but gave up trying to report last night’s theft, when we were told that not only was there a two hour wait, but we needed our passports to do so (and I didn’t fancy dragging Ollie all the way back to our hotel to retrieve them). Besides, the place was full of Brits and Americans, who had all been victims the night before, and the majority had come off far worse than us.
In the end, I decided it was not worth walking a couple of miles, and waiting a few hours, for the sake of a camera we would never get back, particularly when our time was so limited. Besides, thanks to my security-conscious decision to wear jeans today, it was like the Amazon rainforest down there.
For our final evening, Ollie decided we should soak up some local culture and cuisine… by watching Liverpool v Spurs, in an Irish bar, while eating pizza.
MONDAY 23rd OCTOBER 2017
12:15pm – Bye Bye Barça
We’ve managed to negotiate our way back to the airport in good time for our flight, and we’re now sat playing Gin Rummy (with Ollie’s new Barça cards, obviously), while waiting to board.
We’ve had an amazing time, and I refuse to let a theft spoil that. Actually, I’m more pissed off that Ollie is currently destroying me 304 – 5.
Bonjour Barcelona (that’s Spanish for farewell)