Was at Basel EuroAirport on the Swiss-French-German borders, exhausted from a sleepless night at the dorms, thanks to INTENSE “girls’” snoring whom I was sharing rooms with. During check in, I was told that “there has been a tickets overbooking” -my ears refused to listen and was like “oh no, my bad luck again, come on give me a break”, she continued “accordingly Swissair will offer you 250 euros in addition to another flight ticket after 6 hours if you accept to give away your flight ticket”. I thought to myself “250 euros, WOW, now I will be able to do the longed for shopping, and will spend quality time on a non-budget trip”, but a thought struck me “what if after I gave it away, the next flight never arrives? what if it crashed & I died? It was my destiny to be on my initial flight, psychologically I am not ready for any surprises or willing to take any risks, a 6 hours layover is too much, haven’t slept the night before, no no that’s not the smartest idea, would rather arrive early and spend those 6 hours wandering around Barcelona than arriving late drained of all energy unable to enjoy the day”, not hesitant for too long, I replied with a slight sense of guilt “No, thank you I’ll stick to my flight.”
Around the boarding gate was the weirdest vending machine, that instead of selling snacks & drinks, sold toothpaste, shaving cream and CONDOMS. Who would need condoms right before boarding anyway?
Arrived at Barca totally worn out, so I decided to try one of the tourist traps by hopping on a hop on hop off bus, truth to be told it is the most convenient option whenever tired and traveling solo in big cities, where places are not accessible on foot, as you get a first glance on the city as a whole whilst comfortably seated and listening to loads of historical useful info. The bus went from one station to another, until it was at Camp Nou, the legendary Barcelona football club stadium, a moment longed for ever since I became a football fan -back in the late 90’s- and looking forward to once I decided to travel to Barcelona. It was around 8pm, the museum was already closed and the ticket shop as well, I wanted to avoid tomorrow’s tickets queue but now that it is closed, there ain’t no escape. Out of curiosity a walk around the stadium was a must, noticed crowds entering the arena, I knew that there weren’t any games to be played during my 4 days stay, so why the crowd? I talked to one of the security guards: “Hola, would you please tell me when does the ticket shop open?”, in excitement he answered with broken English and a big smile “eet opens at 9”. Pointing at the crowds I said: “why all the crowd? why are people entering the arena? is it for free or should I already have tickets?”, he replied in more excitement: “Go, go, go eenside.”. Completely taken off guard, I couldn’t believe that I am actually entering the arena.
It was huge nicely decorated with the MES QUE UN CLUB sign, filled up with true fans cheerful and excited, chanting the Blaugrana anthem, wearing the club’s t-shirt, bands performing at the middle of the field, found myself a good seat, my heart filled with joy, as if accidentally came across my childhood crush, it intensely skipped a beat. For God’s sake being at Camp Nou was no more a wish or a dream, I was cheering and singing along in a language that I do not speak, songs that I did not even learn by heart. It was not long before I had to leave in order to catch the last hop on-hop off bus stopping at Camp Nou station, I did not feel an urge to stay, the music and atmosphere were great but I had to rest in order to be in great shape on the next day.
On my way out of the arena, I wanted to make sure that I had received the right piece of info, I managed to ask one of the security guards: “Hola, would you please tell me when does the ticket shop open and the museum as well?.”, he replied: “Hola, it opens at 9.”, me going down the stairs asking randomly: “Are these celebrations only on today, or there are more tomorrow?”, he responded “No, only today and the team is coming.” Me climbing slowly up the stairs, staring at him in disbelief: “what! Which team?”. He replied in a “how stupid this girl is” tone: “Barca team.”, I said “Do you mean the football team? Messi, Pique, Iniesta, Villa?”. Smiling totally understanding how excited I was he said: “Yeeeees.”, I told him with a big fat smile: “You can’t be serious! Are you? Why are they coming?”. He replied: “To celebrate their Copa del Rey trophy.”
Me hesitating my steps, my eyes rolling, looking up & down: “Oh my God, I can’t believe it. Can I get in?, Oh no, this can’t be real, it’s too good to be true”, Him in excitement: “Go, goooooooooo.”, climbed the stairs very quickly, so excited, yet not believing, looking back at the guy saying “Graciaaaas”. Shortly the bands stopped performing, the lights went off, a duo came in singing “I got a feeling” in Spanish or Catalan, then another duo sang “Amigos para siempre”, a girl doing acrobatic moves on hanging ropes, the lights went off again, from one corner spotlights were focused on Iniesta who came in speaking, followed by Valdes from another corner, Xavi from a third and Puyol from a fourth, thought to myself that “this is Super, but come on, that’s it? Where is the rest of the team? Weren’t all the players available so only four of them showed up? That’s saaaaad! Am I not going to see Pique, Messi, Villa, come on where is Guardiola? I’ll wait and see”. Shortly Fireworks were beautifully done in a rhythmic sequence, a Golf car driven through to show off the Copa del Rey cup, followed by the whole Barca team; where every player was called individually and his fans would cheer for him -Messi got the most cheering of all- until the team was complete by the entry of their technical team headed by their coach Guardiola -It was his last championship as Barca coach. They all lifted the cup cheering, singing “We Are the Champions”, confetti and fireworks kept coming (Celebracion Copa del Rey 2012).
I was still in denial, not believing that this was actually happening, after all the bad luck I have had through my travels -from almost getting kidnapped, to bumping hard into a tree, from missing several flights and connection trains to crossing the highway carrying my bike– I am finally rewarded in this way! This is sooooo unbelievable, if only I had accepted the 250 euros offer I would have missed all of this, I would have missed something that I wouldn’t have wished for in my wildest dreams. It was on my bucket list to visit famous football stadiums and watch live games there, and all of a sudden with no planning, effortlessly, without spending one single penny I was lucky enough to witness a trophy at Camp Nou. This is literally when luck finally smiles back at you.
Moments of awesomeness
– When you get a message from your mobile operator as you roamed in three countries at the same time (Welcome to Switzerland! Welcome to Austria! Welcome to Germany)
– You were planning to have an overview on a newly visited city, but the city offers you in one day something that you would have never imagined, so you end up falling in love with it.
– Amazing things could happen when you least expect them, without prior planning, so don’t always go by the book, make your plans more or less flexible and make room for out of the box ideas.
– Whether a football fan or not, you cannot miss visiting Camp Nou by touring the stadium and entering the museum.
– To have the complete Barcelona experience and a real sense of place you cannot miss:
1. At least visiting one of Antonio Gaudi’s masterpieces. Although will not be completed before 2026 a visit to La Sagrada Familia is a must, this church is not similar to any church that you’ve ever visited as it’s a mixture of gothic and art nouveau, Park Guell is also a not to miss, a mix of good scenery, wide greenery surrounded by sculptures & modernist art architecture, and Casa Batllo after having a glance at its spectacular colorful facade you will understand what I am talking about (Passeig de Gracia has a wide selection of houses, you’d truly enjoy walking down there).
2. Walking at Las Ramblas, where all sort of goods is sold from pets to ice cream and spanish delights, from souvenirs to accessories & tour tickets, eating tapas, and to not miss La Boqueria for an exceptional food market experience, as well as Placa Reial where lies one of the finest and cheapest restaurants in Barcelona serving Catalan food Les Quinze Nits (queues are endless but totally worth waiting).
3. Savoring seafood and paella (noodles paella is insanely delicious, very moist with a pinch of lemon for a bitter taste). The best and cheapest seafood restaurants are those lying near the beaches, not near the port & the best churros -a cruchy dessert sugar n’ cinnamon coated- are those sold near the port specially on weekends and special occasions.
4. Walking down La Barceloneta and enjoy a swim in one of the beaches along the shore on a sunny day.