* To be fair, rugby is played mostly with the hands and is still called "rugby football." WTF.
** To be fair, I have fond memories of watching American football on Sundays with my father. Of course, they're fond because they gave me the opportunity to pepper him with questions. "Daddy, who are the guys in white? Daddy, who are the guys in red? Daddy, what's a down? Daddy, how many points for a field goal?" Inevitably he would get frustrated enough to tickle me until I was reduce to a puddle of happy giggles, which was the whole point of the exercise anyway. So I'm not sure the game itself deserves much credit for that.
We popped out of the metro station at Les Corts and walked quickly through the sharp cold wind to the stadium. At the first access point, we ran up the stairs to the gates and peered at the stencil graffiti, which goes all the way around in the picture below with Marco. "Catalonia is not Spain" alternates with "Estat Catala."
|Marco in front of the stadium||Plaque and flags at a side entrance|
At each access point, large signs hung above the steel gates, listing the prohibited items.
Marco wanted to take the tour of the stadium, which ran from 10 am to 2 pm on Sundays, so we trekked (it's a huge stadium) to the access point near the store. As we walked, we saw a huge crowd of people standing a ramp descending to a parking garage with cameras. It seemed an odd place to videotape, but that was before we saw Frank Rijkaard (the only black coach in La Liga) arriving. A cheer went up and many shutters clicked. This was at around noon. The game started at 9 pm. Obsess much?
The first thing I noticed when we entered the stadium was a large drawing by Juan Miró, who was a faithful Barça supporter.
We ambled through all of the places we were allowed to access. We saw the locker rooms, the commentators' viewing area, the interview room, the field (although we were only permitted to stand on the sidelines), and all the levels of the stands. I took innumerable photographs for Marco, most of which would probably only hold interest for other Barcelona fans. We posed with cheesy cardboard cutouts of the players. I made a kissy face at Puyol, my favorite Catalan defender, which got laughs from the photographer. Unfortunately, it cost 10 euro to get a copy so we passed. I'll only subject you to a few of the shots. First, one of Marco sitting in the dignitary section of the stands, where the seats have cushions, an unheard-of luxury for mere peons like us.
Below is a shot of an old table football game from inside the football museum. The careful construction of the goal nets and the elaborate player cutouts delighted me.
After the tour, we visited the huge two-level FC Barcelona store, where fans can sit on the steps and convince themselves that they've died and gone to heaven. I bought a warm beanie because I needed it. It got me a lot of attention for the rest of the trip.
We lunched at the Princess Sofia, a five-star hotel, not because we particularly wanted to, but because it was damn cold out, the wind shrieked around us, I was getting sick, and it was close to the stadium. Hot tapas and coffee later, we headed for Montjuïc.
Montjuïc (Jewish mountain, although really it's a hill) houses a dense collection of museums, gardens, and the installations from the 1992 Olympic Games. An hour and a half of one afternoon is nowhere near enough to see all of it. We didn't try. We followed paths around until our feet were sore and took in the views and the buildings and the sculptures. When we return, I'd like to spend a couple of days exploring. I want to visit all the things I didn't get to see, like the botanical gardens, the National (by which they mean Catalan) Museum of art, and the cemetery where Juan Miró is buried.
|Jardí de les Escultures||The flame at the Olympic stadium|
One of my favorite sights was the telecommunications tower next to the Palau Sant Jordi, a smaller 17,000-person capacity stadium. (The Olympic stadium holds 65,000.) Lots of people hate it. I adore it. I mean, look at it. It's a space station! It rocks!
I also enjoyed the abstract post-and-wire sculptures in front of the Palau Sant Jordi. I have the feeling we were there at just the right time of day to appreciate them.
Our last view was of the Castell de Montjuíc before we took the bus down the hill to the metro station. This image is underexposed, but given the dark history of this fortress, its use as a political prison and the executions that were carried out there, it doesn't seem inappropriate.
We went to the hotel for a siesta before the game. We arrived early so that we could watch the players warm up and have a chance of seeing them rather closely. I wanted to sample the stadium food, too. We ate strange sausage-filled sandwiches served in fat baguettes, salty unbuttered popcorn, and truly awful beer. Oh, and Chupa Chups. They're a Barcelona-based lollipops empire, in case you didn't know.
I couldn't take great shots of the game, but here's one that amused me deeply.
Exhibit A: just before the game started. Observe my poofy-haired defender Puyol in the middle (#5). On the far left are Marquez (#4) and Ronaldinho (#10), the ugliest, happiest, ponytailedest midfielder in the world. Ronaldinho has his hand on Marquez's hip. He does that to the other players a lot. I think he might be a little bit gay. Oh, that makes me so happy.