Barcelona Travel Log — Day 10 — Barca, Barca, BAAAARCAAA!

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We’ve decided to stop talking about sleeping in as though it were a random occurrence, because frankly, it’s become the norm. After sleeping in and grabbing a light breakfast at our favourite Catalanista cafe down the street, it was time to get our museum on at the MACBA and CCCB (not to be confused with the CCCR…or TCBY if you’re an illiterate with a food addiction). Everything seemed normal until Jeff attempted to flag down the bus and instead of lowering the ramp the bus driver attempted to run him over on the curb. Apparently that’s Spanish for “the ramp is broken.” Perhaps it means “The ramp is broken, now I break you.” Otherwise, our trip over to the MACBA (pronounced Mac-Bah by us, exclusively) was moderately uneventful, but did allow for a stroll through a beautiful neighbourhood and past the Philosophy, Geography and History departments at the University of Barcelona ($10 if you can pick the fake faculty). Unfortunately, after fighting our way through a mob of skater boys (who said see you later boy) we discovered the MACBA was closed…only on this specific Tuesday…apparently…dicks.

Reluctantly, we headed next door to the CCCB, also known as the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, to see an engaging exhibit on the similarities and differences between three Catalan speaking Spanish port towns: Barcelona, Valencia, and Mallorca (home of Uncle Carlos, the hotel wunderkind). We all found the exhibit quite interesting as it compared the development of the cities, although the section about mob influence and political corruption was a bit scary. Jeff, being his usual jerkish self, decided to start looking behind the exhibit and found a collection of ladders which he claims to be a commentary on capitalistic drive in modern society. He even signed the guestbook praising the ladder portion of the exhibit. It really was quite moving. Now everyone at the CCCB will also know that Jeff is an idiot. On our way out, Jeff’s eye was caught by a Werner Herzog DVD collection in the window of the bookstore, prompting the discovery of an amazing graphic novel section! Good news Tim Blackmore, we found you the best present ever.

With our minds full, it was time to fill our food sacks, which have been stretched to fat-person size over the past few days. Just around the corner from the CCCB we found a hip little restaurant offering 10 euro 3-course meals (common occurrence that most restaurant offer and they’re generally awesome). All was well until Jeff opened his fat mouth and asked if they had a wheelchair bathroom. Cue the dramatics. While the wheelchair bathroom was quite nice, getting to it required a little trip in an elevator which has, for all intents and purposes, been converted into a storage closet after years of disuse. To complicate matters further, the non-English speaking staff were left giving us directions through hand signs and interpretive dance, leading to Jeff and Melody getting trapped in the dark elevator when trying to get back up afterwards. Luckily, fists banging on the wall is a universal sign for “Get us out of here!” and the staff came to help after a few minutes, but this didn’t stop us from taking another 10 minutes getting out of the tiny, lightless space. To pass the time, Jeff on put his 4-ways and had a little elevator rave party. Too bad all the boxes in the elevator were full of water and not Estrella.  Eventually Jeff and Melody did escape and all was right in the world again. It should also be noted that while the restaurant’s black rice and calamari was good, it paled in comparison to Clara’s aunt’s version that we had several nights before. Also, it dyed Melody and Jeff’s lips black, making them look like goths. Perfect, it’s not like the huge electric wheelchair didn’t stand out enough here…

Photo of the store "The Punt Slot"

Could a caption possibly make this funnier?

As we were heading to the bus stop to nip by the hotel before traveling onward to the FC Barcelona museum, we discovered we had wandered into what can only be described as the “Gaybourhood,” with tons of gay pride flags everywhere–including the “gay” fish and chips shop. What made it gay, we will never know. Can fish be gay? Does a gay fish taste better than a straight fish? Do the religions fish persecute the gay fish? Also, do you like fish sticks? What are you, a gay fish? Anyway, along our way we discovered this hilariously titled shop, The Punt Slot, which caused us to laugh hard enough that it was worth stopping and taking a photo. For the record, we think the store had something to do with car racing…but who even knows. We’re so mature.

After a quick pit stop at the hotel to drop some stuff off and refill our wallets, it was finally time to visit the most important museum of all–the FC Barcelona museum! For those not in the “know,” this is the museum dedicated to the Barcelona football club (soccer for you queer North Americans). As it turns out, our hotel is actually walking distance from the stadium where the Barca team plays, although it was a bit of a lengthly walk. From the outside, the stadium looks quite similar to the Skydome in Toronto (Rogers Centre if you’re a corporate sellout). As we got to the gate, we discovered it was 20 euro each to enter the museum, which seemed a bit steep so Melody decided to bail. The real Barca fans, Clara and Jeff, soldiered on and were strangely only charged 21 euro for two tickets and a really nice Barca museum handbook; and people wonder why Jeff is bad at math!

An FC Barcelona painting by Tapias

An FC Barcelona painting by Tapies that Jeff wants to own, desperately.

The museum was quite impressive, featuring all of the trophies Barca has won over the year (seriously, like a million), some cool old shoes and soccer balls, and tons of interactive multimedia exhibits. One of the coolest parts was a huge touch screen board where you could choose what country you were from and it would tell you what past and present Barca players are from that country and how many “members” are registered from that country. Canada has never had a player lace them up for Barca, but has 60 registered members and one fan club located in Montreal. Upon returning to Canada, Clara and Jeff intend on starting a London Barca fan club called “The Real Madrid are Sissy Girls Barcelona Fan Club.” Message if interested in joining. Some other interesting moments were seeing the actual field, hearing the Barca theme sung by a filmed choir of people from all over the world, and discovering that Barcelona is essentially the undisputed European Champs of roller hockey. Perhaps Jeff would fit in here quite nicely after all!

A statute of a man who looks like Marx and appears to be wearing nothing but underwear

Unless Jeff has missed something, this statute appears to celebrate the time honoured tradition of an underwear clad, topless Karl Marx delivering the opening kick at every FC Barcelona home game.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the museum was the emphasis on how the Barca club is not just about football, but rather, about promoting Catalan identity, social responsibility, and democracy. The museum was quite political, perhaps one of the most overtly political that we’ve seen so far, calling openly for pride in the Catalan identity that bordered on separatism. It was interesting to see how the club was giving back to the community as well, linking up with Unicef and UNESCO to promote these ideals in the developing world and help educate youth living in poverty. While Jeff is sure the Toronto Maple Leafs are extremely involved in charities around Toronto, he’s never seen this type of overt political message connected to the team, which was really curious and engaging. To give you North Americans a good analogy, this would be like if the Montreal Canadians openly supported separatism in Quebec or if the Dallas Stars openly called for cessation from the United States. While Clara felt some of it was a bit over the top and far from genuine, Jeff truly wanted to believe in the spirit for changing the world that FC Barcelona seems to exude. Also, they’re a disgustingly talented football squad.

While tonight would be fairly uneventful as Clara’s feet began to get sore from all the walking, we did want to mention an exciting (read: horrifically dangerous) game of frogger we played hopping across about 8 lanes of traffic traveling at high speed beside the Barca stadium only to discover there was no curb cut, forcing Jeff to drive half a block into oncoming traffic before finding an intersection. Some may have found it terrifying, but Jeff found the near-death experience exhilarating. Allegedly, he faced worse while on the trip to Ottawa. As was a theme of the day, Clara and Melody just think he’s crazy.

So that was the day in a nut shell. As the minutes tick down to our return, it’s becoming harder and harder to leave. Both Jeff and Clara are dreading the flight home, preferring to just stay here instead. Despite the fact that “vacation” has been our dominant mode for the past week and a half, things are genuinely different here, offering a different pace of life that’s both exotic and appealing. The city is as beautiful as the people friendly and with whispers of Catalan independence drifting by in the wind as it curls around your ear, there is a general perception around here that if you don’t like something, change it. If something is wrong, make it better. If there is a problem, fix it. If Canada is a nation of static status quo, this is a city in flux, bolding blazing an exciting trail into an unknown future of potential rather than fearing an oncoming disaster.

For whatever reason, it just seems a lot easier to breath around here.

– Jeff and Clara