January 3th: The day for the Camp Nou Experience. FC Barcelona’s home pitch is Camp Nou, not far from where we are staying and even though I’m not the world’s greatest football fan, I can recognize the importance of this stadium in the big footy scheme of things. Our tickets had been purchased in advance from the Tourist Centre in Placa Catalunya and it was decided then that only Eamon and I would venture to Camp Nou – Pip being even less the world’s greatest football fan than I. This left us with an syncing issue – Pip would venture off into the great Barcelona unknown solo and we would meet her several hours hence in a retro, no phones feat of strategic planning. We also needed to visit the bank on the corner and pay the rent into our host’s account – also an intimidating activity with no knowledge of local banking customs and armed only with the bank details on the screen of my phone. To steady our nerves for the banking ahead, we veered into the bar next door to the bank on the corner for coffees and pastries. Steeled and calmed by caffeine we pressed the red button on the door of the bank and trooped in like the Marx Brothers out of a lift only be faced with a bank that resembled a lounge room with two staff sitting behind desks and a few natives milling about in a free-form queue. I gave the woman who served us my best, “Sorry I don’t speak Spanish – Do you speak English?” and was relieved to hear her answer, “Yes. Of course”. Problem over – rent paid. All that stressy build up for nought.
Pip went her way and number young son and I went our’s to the Metro and to not too far away estacion Collblanc, about a kilometer or so from the stadium. There are actually a number of stadiums in the complex and only the smaller ones loom into view as you climb up the hill towards them which left us ready to be underwhelmed until the real one appeared. As far as stadia go, Camp Nou seems quite intimate for a 99,000 seater. Very steep sides and only one side covered, but still quite intimate until you see someone high up on the other side looking ant-like. The tour starts in the Museum
– a large dark room filled with artistically under lit items of football historical importance and a trophy cabinet that lined the entire room and was filled with 2m high trophies. The walls were all touch screens and, like Tom Cruise in the Minority Report, you could expand and zoom and close and open pictures, movies and documents. I suspect that there is a minor nuclear power plant somewhere powering this museum.
After the museum, the FC Barcelona Experience moves you out for a teaser of a look at the stadium from half way up the grandstand, then takes you down into the guts of it – down through the press rooms and the well-appointed dressing rooms (featuring spa baths and ice machines and massage tables in sparkling new condition) and finally down the players tunnel, where after stopping in at the tiny chapel, you can continue down, with the sound system blaring out crowd noises and drumming and screaming fans into the dugouts on the sideline. It’s actually quite goose-bumpy heading down there with all the noise, even though you know it’s an empty stadium. After mucking about in the dugouts and taking pics for ages, we headed back up into the stands and even higher into the glass-fronted press box that is suspended from the roof of the stadium. Here the sound system blares out commentary in many languages and the video screens show the press in action including my special favourite, the guy who yells, “Goooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllll!”. After the press box, the tour, surprisingly ends up in the FC Barcelona Megastore, about the size of your average IKEA and filled with hundreds of eager fans queuing to have their names affixed to the back of a red and blue jersey and almost all I suspect, opting for the number 10 of Leo Messi.
But for us, the Megastore experience held no magic and the time was fast approaching for our rendezvous with Pip at the designated rendezvous with Pip point – corner of Diputacio and Passeig de Gracia. We had several Metro trains to catch and about a 700m walk between two lines in about 15 minutes, but had wisely built in a half hour buffer before Plan B (the meet you back at home plan) kicked in. We emerged from the Metro and walked 10m to see Pip heading over the road in a remarkable feat of travel rendezvousing.
Lunch was on all our minds and particularly a filled roll of some description – the bread here is spectacular, not too heavy, crunchy and flavour-full. Rub a bit of fresh tomato on it and fill it with Jamon or cheese or vegetables or tuna and you have a delectable lunch, which we did.
Pip noticed that the restaurant downstairs had opened for the first time since we had been here and we determined to eat there this evening – it looked real noice. We further determined that number young son would be happy to eat a supermarket pizza and stay upstairs while Pip and I went to restaurant – Restaurant Mediterrani. This was an evil and extremely successful plan. We enjoyed our food immensely – a shared dish of ‘Important’ Potatoes, served with clams and a delicious broth; Pip chose a duck leg served with truffle, and I opted for steak, which was sliced fillet on a bed of gnocchi in a beautiful truffled broth with tiny onions. All this washed down with a lovely Rioja and followed by Catalan Creme for Pip and a superb Lemon Cream for moi. Really, the boy wouldn’t have enjoyed himself.