So I just got back last night from a wee trip to Barcelona from Saturday to Tuesday. Stefan and i went over to visit our mate Simon who we met a couple of years ago when travelling around Europe. Simon lives in Barca with his parents (his dad is Spanish and mum is S. African) who live across the street from the Nou Camp stadium (seriously, the picture on the left shows a view from their apartment balcony). Simon is a season ticket holder at FC Barcelona and was able to get us great tickets for Sunday nights match against Athletic Bilbao. Barca won 3-0 and it was fantastic to see Ronaldinho turn on the fancy footwork in the second half.
Had an amazing trip and one of the big highlights was experiencing a bit of Spanish culture by staying with Simon's family. Every Sunday his whole family (2 brothers and 1 sister) descend on the family home for a meal together. Simon's dad has been cooking his famous paella (see pic to left) every Sunday for the last 35 years and it tastes absolutely amazing! Not only that but it was a fantastic experience to sit around a table with a Spanish family and be part of their culture. Spanish families are still very close which i was surprised to hear. Sometimes we are arrogant enough to think that families in other countries couldn't be as close as our wee families in NI. Simon's family was one of the most friendly, hospitable, affectionate and loving families i have ever met and so it was a real joy to spend a bit of time with them - they all spoke good English too which helps cos my Spanish is about as good as my Chinese!
Outside of the Barca match we did a bit more sightseeing around the city. As Stefan and i had been to the city before, Simon took us to less touristed and more inaccessible areas outside the city. Barca is surrounded by a few hills and one of these hills called Tibidabo has a lovely old chapel on top of it (see pic to left). Simon knows of our religious interests and so he thought this particular place would be of interest to us. Not only did it offer some fantastic views over the city (see left) but there was a jewel to be found inside that i just blew me away. Inside this beautiful old building there was a room that tourists were not allowed into - it was a prayer room. After asking a few questions we found out that this was a room for 24/7 prayer. This immediately excited me and so i got Simon to ask the priest how long people had been praying 24/7 in this room for? I was completely taken aback when he replied 40 YEARS! That kinda blows our 3 day prayer crusades out of the water eh?!
Other place we seen were Sitges, a beautiful coastal town, the olympic village and the Dali museaum in Figueres (not sure what i think about Dali except that he was a crazy genuis)! All in all a great trip and Simon was a great host! We are already planning the return leg to Ireland before the end of the year!
A very funny story happened to me on my way home. Simon and Stefan dropped me off at the airport for my Ryan Scare flight home to Dublin (Stefan was flying to Manchester later that day). You know the bit after check-in when you go to departures and have to put your bag, coat and contents of your pockets through the x-ray machine and then walk through the metal detection. Well i beeped - and i never beep! So the guy told me take off my watch and belt which i duly did but lo and behold i beeped again! So this disgruntled Spanish guy then pulls out a hand held version of the metal detection machine and begins to wave it around my body starting from the top. Suddenly the machine starts beeping when he gets to the right pocket of the jacket i was wearing. As it dawns on me what is in that pocket my face quickly turns a shade of crimson. He signals to me to empty the pocket and imagine my embarrassment as out of my pocket i pull a condom! Now before you write me off completely as a lost cause, let me explain what had happened 10 minutes before this moment! Simon has a friend who works for Durex and so he has a bag in his boot filled with free condoms that he gives to his mates. As a bit of a joke, when i was leaving, my good friend Stefan discreetly placed one of these in my pocket without me realising. As i stood in the check-in queue i found it in my pocket but not being near a bin to dispose of it i returned it to the pocket with the intention of dealing with it in a few minutes - but of course i forgot all about it until i find myself emptying my pockets in front of this disgruntled Spanish bloke with no way of communicating to him that i have been set-up! Anyways, my embarrassment quickly subsided and i was able to have a good old chuckle about it all the way home!