My first day in Barcelona off the cruise ship was exhausting to say the least. We woke up on the ship at 6, ate breakfast at 6:30, and disembarked at 7. As early as all this was keep in mind I also went to bed at 4am the night before. Stepping onto land and leaving the cruise ship once and for all was quite a dose of reality. No more buffets, no more housekeeping, off to Europe to live on bread and cheese and live out of a backpack. Fortunately, we had several more days of buffer sharing a hotel room with our parents. No hostels quite yet.
The first day I didn’t do much, mostly napping. I napped on the table in the lobby of our parents hotel, I napped on the tour bus around Barcelona, and I napped in the room after the tour. That night we met up with Ali’s friends and got some drinks off Las Ramblas. It was fun to see Ali with his friends, I don’t think he has many back in Florida. This was also the night of the European Cup Finals with Manchester United playing Barcelona. Kiana and I joined up with her friends from Argentina in the Arc de Triomf (Barcelona has one too) to watch the game.
This was definitely one of my crazier sport experiences. The plaza where the arc stands is about the size of a football field and it was completely packed shoulder to shoulder with people watching the game on a massive projection screen while a band played on a stage next to them. Around the plaza people formed a sea of red and blue playing drums, climbing lampposts, and holding their breath in a collective anticipation of the first goal. I stood with Kiana and her friends drinking Estrella, Barcelona’s cheap go-to beer, available from any random person on a street corner selling them out of a 6 pack.
Barcelona was the first to put points on the board and the plaza exploded in excitement. People lit off fireworks and flares all around us, right inside the crowd. Others popped bottles of champagne and sprayed the crowd. The fans behind us began to rapidly beat drums and dance about. It was a good five minutes before the crowd died down again. Later in the game, Manchester tied the score at 1-1. A Man U fan in the crowd, foolishly wearing a Man U jersey, cheered. A Barca fan saw him and punched him square in the back of the head. The Man U fan wheeled around and clocked him right back, mistake number 2 for the Man U fan, but who wouldn’t have done the same in that situation? A sea of Barca fans descended on the lone Man U fan beating him to the ground until he lay motionless in the street. It was a sobering moment to say the least. I’d never before seen this level of fanaticism and only now began to understand the level of devotion Europeans place on futbol. The attackers fled the scene and a group formed around the Man U fan to protect him until the paramedics showed up. Several paramedics in neon jumpsuits bandaged the Man U fan’s head and escorted him out of the park. The fight combined with the tied score made the game that much more intense. After what seemed like an eternity, Barca pulled ahead and the crowd was once again electric. A TV crew came through the crowd filming fans and Kiana and I made it into the video, which I later found out was for an Ecuadorian TV show, clip to follow shortly.
After Barca’s victory, the plaza migrated to Las Ramblas for much merriment. Kiana and I beat the crowd back to the hotel we were staying at and met up with Ali and his inebriated friends who’d been drinking and watching the game at the hotel. As loud and insane as the plaza had been, looking out on the crowd at Las Ramblas from our hotel was a hundred times crazier. Atleast 100,000 people were crowding Las Ramblas as far as the eye could see in all directions. People yelled, climbed everything in site, and lit off enough fireworks to provide a constant staccato of bangs until atleast 4am. Fortunate for us, the hotel provided earplugs to the guests.