Grand Tour—Futbol

It’s amazing how the viewpoint of different viewers changes the perspective. Elyn and I traveled to Barcelona for a visit with my son, his wife, and their two teenaged boys, who had just arrived from their home near Boulder, Colorado, USA. For Elyn and me, it was a family visit and a chance to see how the boys are growing up. For the boys it was the beginning of their European football (soccer) tour. For their parents, the purpose was to introduce the boys to a part of the wider world. This is their first travel outside the North American continent.

On the first day, while I was watching the boys swim in the pool at their rented condo, I asked them what they thought would be the highlights of their time in Europe. With no hesitation they listed their top destinations: the Barça stadium in Spain and the Leicester stadium in England. This, in spite of the fact that their trip is scheduled to include both Paris and London along with Barcelona. Both boys are avid Barça fans and serious soccer players themselves. (We always know what to give them—Barça clothes and gear.)

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So, on the following morning we all piled into a city bus and went to Camp Nou, the stadium and museum/shrine for Barça football. The boys were clearly excited and could hardly wait. Camp Nou is an impressive venue and the Barça energy there is palpable. Crowd noises are piped in from hidden speakers, along with commentary from sports broadcasters. Everyone is wearing Barça gear, and flags are waving from the hands of even the tiniest children. It's almost a religious experience. The museum is impressive, with glass cases along one wall displaying hundreds of trophies, souvenir shoes and other memorabilia. There is a special corner devoted to the exploits of the top Barça player of all times, Lionel Messi, including gilded soccer shoes and golden soccer balls. The boys saw all the trophies the team has won since their founding in 1899, viewed a film about the history of the club, visited the visiting team’s locker room, stood on the pitch itself, and purchased as much Barça gear as they could haul away. We offered to give them their birthday and Christmas gifts in advance, and they were overjoyed to walk away with Barça caps and team jerseys custom printed with the names and numbers of their favorite players. They also bought souvenir pieces of the Barça turf encased in plastic, photos of themselves standing beside the most-recent trophy, and photos of them arm-in-arm with their favorite players—all through the wonders of modern technology and considerable cash from their parents. The visit was deemed a total success, and when I asked if their expectations were met, they exclaimed YES in unison.

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The main attraction out of the way, we could now visit some lesser venues, such as the Sagrada Familia basilica, and other sites designed by the innovative late 19th and early 20th century Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi. My daughter and her husband drove up from near Tortosa, Spain, and we had a family dinner for the eight of us at El National Restaurant on Passeig de Gràcia. On the way to the restaurant I took the boys to the three-story Apple Store on Plaça Catalonia. The store impressed them more than the beautiful plaza it stands in front of.

Now my son and his family are on a high-speed train to Paris, to be followed by a train ride through the Chunnel to London. Whether Leicester stadium is reached remains to be seen. The kids may have to make do with the Eiffel Tower and Buckingham Palace. But what really matters is that they got to see Barça!

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