Blue Monday, Tuesday’s Gone and … Wednesday Morning, 3AM

After the first proper lie I got in Barcelona, and we didn’t have to trek to Montmelo! With only two proper days left and dangerously low funds we decided to do the cheapest touristy thing to see as much as possible… a bus tour! Also Barcelona has two bus tour routes so we took advantage that!

It was a lovely sunny day and the open top bus gave a nice breeze, so I just enjoyed taking in as much as possible.

The first place we got of to wander around was Parc Guell and it was really good! It was crawling with tourists but it was ok and what added to it were a few buskers floating about who were really good. This was common throughout Barcelona, especially in the Metro where there is a scheme for “official metro” buskers (I think there is a similar one in London), some of which were really good!

 

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Due to lack of funds we didn’t get to do the Camp Nou tour (the choice was do the tour.. or eat!), which was a shame but I’m sure I’ll get another opportunity. Who knows I could have played some keepy uppy outside, got scouted and signed as the token crap player.. A Bébé if you will. I was also annoyed as I heard on Football Weekly on the flight home that Sid Lowe was there on that day. We did go to the Olympic Stadium though (free!).. but Espanyol don’t even play there any more!

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Went down la Rambla to buy some more souvenir tat for the family. I got my da a Barcelona helmet bottle opening fridge magnet (not FOM approved) – he’s always looking a bottle opener. I got my ma the “where I have been” mug I seem to get her now on every holiday I’m on. I got my sister some scarf or something. I got my granny a little glass Sagrada Familia, she likes mass related things. Got my granda sweets, he’s a big child!

Went back to the hostel to freshen up and used the Wi-Fi (to download some podcasts for the flight) and read about an impending ash cloud. Oh dear!

We went for some food that evening in the graffiti pizza place for a calzone which was quite tasty and a few €2 San Maguels and then around the corner for a few €1.60 (!) San Maguels and Leona had some €3.50 cocktails. I also think they undercharged us.

After a few beers and feeling peckish we got some chips (€1!) and hung out at the contempory art museum and watch the skateboarders dick about.

Tuesday

Choosing to save our money for food (or beer) we spent most of our last day at the beach. To my folly I put on sun lotion but as I was still wearing shoes, hence none on my feet. At the beach I wipped my top off (despite the fatness.. there was worse there!) and I didn’t manage to get all my back with sun lotion. I enjoyed just doing nothing in the sun and even messed about in the water for a bit. The boob novelty from the first day had worn off as it wasn’t just the attractive ladies going topless but also the elderly ones. One guy was running about with his lad out too. With that in mind I closed my eyes and drifted off for a nap. Felt like I was only asleep for two minutes but it was something like forty, and as I was lying on my side my exposed back and ankles got a bit “warm” from the hot sun! it was now half 2 or three so we walked over to the Moll d’Espanya to get some lunch. We then walked trough all the narrow alleys and streets to get back to the hostel (not until after a nice ice cream).

Went back to the hostel to shower all the sand and saltwater off me but I noticed my bright red ankles and bright red back. Had no moisturiser so just stuck some more sun cream to cool it down.

That evening we took one last walk around Pl. Universitat, La Rambla, Passeig de Gracia and aswell Pl. Catalunya where the #spanishrevolution camp out was still happening. We had been down a few times over the week to see what was happening and each time it was busier. It was great though, the cops weren’t about (that I could see) so there was no volatile atmosphere that you would get at protests over here. In fact there was more of a carnival atmosphere with people singing, banging drums and tambourines, seen a guy playing a ukulele (I should have played him my RATM cover ), there was stands to design your own banners.

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That evening we spent the rest of our money drinking beer and cocktails in the cheap (but quite fancy) pub from the night before then had a few chips. We went to bed quite early, about 11 or so, as we had to get up at 6am to get to the airport.Had to sleep one side and couldn’t move much due to the sunburn. It wasn’t going to be a good sleep.

The next morning I woke up and freaked out. When I stood up I couldn’t put pressure on my left ankle, due to sun burn, so I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk. After a while I realised my ankle would be fine as long as I kept moving and didn’t stand on it for too long.

Checked the internet on the ash cloud situation and to my joy Aer Lingus were flying as normal!

Walked around Pl.Catalunya to get to our bus (not through it as protesters were still sleeping/waking up and the smell of stale piss and weed was too much).

On the flight home I caught up with a few podcasts (Football Weekly & Sidepodcast) and landed in cold rainy Belfast. Got bus back to Great Victoria street and walked to the nearest bank to get my last tenner out (minus my card). We were starving so opted for a Maggie May’s, sadly it was bunged so we got some sausages, bacon and potato bread, caught a taxi home and had a nice fry and a big pot of tea!

Conclusion

Not really a conclusion. Just some random thoughts.

It was my first time at a Grand Prix and I’ll definitely do it again. A few things I would do different.

  • Try and not do it on the cheap. Though I still insist the grandstand seats were a bargin! I mean food and hotel wise.
  • Bring a radio.. or something!
  • Avoid a commute! Maybe go camping on site. Or at least stay in a hotel close to the circuit. Also, It is probably cheaper than going to a music festival like Oxegen.
  • Both Silverstone and Spa were an option I considered, but I was dubious because of the rain. Barcelona has reminded me that I am not good with warm weather
  • Silverstone and Spa are also options as I could drive there (via ferry) and bring a tent!
  • The dream is still Monza!
  • I will bring my own beer. And a big cooler box.

Who knows, maybe next year! Anyway, if you want to read a good blog about how to go to Grand Prix properly, read this , because that is how you really should do it!

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Easy like Sunday morning

Got a good night sleep and took our last trip to Montmelo. When we got there the town was even busier and the queue to the Tractor Bus was massive so we just walked it.

We got to the track at about midday and caught a bit of the Porsche Supercup race. It was actually quite good to watch and had a couple of good scraps. It was won by an English guy called Sean Edwards.

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After the Porsche’s we sat in the shade for a bit and waited for the driver’s parade. I’ve seen these on TV before and the drivers are usually on the back of a trailer together and wave, and in the 20 seconds it takes them to pass your view point. However, Barcelona did a good job. All the drivers were in the back of convertible classic car.

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Following the safety care the first driver was Vettel, then Webber who got a bigger cheer. Then the Williams drivers (Barrichello got a “Rubenooooooo” shout from me). Next was Alonso and the grandstand erupted!

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Schumacher came up the crowd were cheering exceptionally loud. Schumi lapped it up and starting blowing kisses. I realised the cheers were for local boy Alguersuari behind him.

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Further down Hamilton was getting pantomime boos and jeers, but credit to him, he had a big smile waving to the crowd. I think he was enjoying the pantomime villain status.

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All the drivers got a good reception (except Hamilton, though the English fans around tried their best!).

However, the biggest cheer went to the attractive CanalNou TV presenter who was recording a bit to the camera. The Spaniards behind us were the very loud in appreciation. Jake Humphry wouldn’t have got such a cheer. Jim Rosental maybe.

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A good thing about our seats was that once the parade had passed us and the last car had gone into turn one, it wasn’t long until the safety car and Vettel came into view coming out of turn 5. Another cool thing was once Alonso’s cheers were noticeably travelling through embankment opposite (as where the Hamilton boos).

Another nice moment was when a marshal was running behind the wall at the opposite side of the pitlane, and our grandstand went wild by clapping and cheering for him, and he gave us a wave. Once he ran round the corner, out of view of the grandstand, everyone started shouting for an “encore” and the marshal ran back out waved and turned back, which was met with another chant for an encore. The marshal “preformed” three encores!

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So after we essentially watched the driver’s parade twice we sat in the grass behind the grandstand to eat our lunch. We returned to our seats just before the pit lane opened so we could watch the cars spin around a few times and do their practice starts in front of us. Once the pit lane closed it was time for the anthems. The Spaniards behind us did their best to sing along to a lyric-less anthem, along the lines of “da-da-da-da-dadadah”) and then they swapped over for the Catalan anthem. During the Catalan anthem our grandstand appeared on the big screen again but I didn’t spot myself, again (BBC don’t show the anthems anymore so I couldn’t check when I got home either!).

With fifteen minutes before the start, the grandstand was the busiest it had been all weekend, and the crowd did their best to amuse their selves. The Spaniards were trying the Mexican waves again and chanting “Alonsooooooo”, and the big screen was showing random drivers and people on the grid to various levels of cheers. Some Moto GP rider appeared as well, to much applause.

Non racing highlight of the day involved a dude dressed as a Viking coming back from the beer stand. He was carrying four beers, careful not to spill it, walking up the steps shouting “Kimiiiiii Raikkionennnnnnnn”, met with some jeers from the Alonso fans and everyone else who thought he was just a knob. He then tripped on a step and fell over spilling all his beer. This was met by laughter by all who witnessed it. Surprisingly the Viking saw the funny side and waved/took a bow to the couple of hundred people pointing and laughing. He returned ten minutes later with four more beers, met with jeers again. He got to his seat and waved again and made sure his beers were safe before shouting one last “Kimiiiiiiiiiiii….”

The big screen in front of us started showing the official FOM into animation and it was nearly time. As the big screen was showing the TV feed the now obligatory shot of the “Paddock club” came on the screen and we were treated to shots of the great and the good drinking champagne and what not. This was met with a lot of booing (not as much as Anthony Hamilton mind).

The parade lap got under way and everyone stood to cheer the cars as they passed. Once they got round they lined up on the grid. I had to strain to see the cars at this point so I watched the big screen to see the lights. Even though the grid was quite a distance away the noise of the engines were getting louder. I stood up as in a few seconds the cars would be flying past, the revs were getting higher and the atmosphere was building. The lights went out and the crowd were cheering (I had Murray Walker in my head shouting “Go! Go! Go!”).

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Alonso got a good start of the line, passing Hamilton, which pleased the crowd. I kept watching Alonso hassle the two Red Bulls. Both Red Bulls were beside each other and it appeared Alonso would be stuck behind them into turn 1. Alonso then just swept out to the right and darts down a gap on the road, which from were I was sitting seemed rather tight, and managed to brake into the corner and overtook book Red Bulls. For a second there was an air of disbelief then it sunk into the crowd that Alonso had in fact taken the lead and there was a roar of cheering! The cars went into Turn 3 so it would be another thirty seconds or so before they got into view again so everyone watched the big screen with anticipation. When Alonso hit turn five, and came back into view, you could hear the crowds cheering when Alonso met their part of the track. It was so loud it did drown out the cars and the cheering followed him round until he went out of view again. Back to the big screen again until Alonso led the pack down the pit straight and everyone in the grandstand got up and cheered.

Every lap, for the next eighteen or so, the crowd rose to their feet cheering Alonso on, as he passed. I was counting down the amount of laps, hence the amount of chances Vettel had to pass Alonso into turn one, but it wasn’t to be as after Vettels second stop he got out with no traffic and managed to take the lead. Still, it was nice when it lasted and it became quickly evident that Alonso was going to start going down the listings. I just relaxed then and enjoyed the spectacle. Usually keeping an eye on the big screen and watching the cars pass down the pit straight in front of us.

Crowd appreciated Button taking Webber down the outside of turn one to the sound of “wow!” and applause. Perez was also passing loads of people into turn one, much to the joy of the Mexican couple infront of me who were hi-fiving after each pass (especially after he overtook Massa!). Massa later on crashed out right infront of us, however that bloody empty grandstand was in the way so we couldn’t see anything jut the dust in the air! Though Massa did go past in a mophead in front of us and his car was taken back to the pits in front of us too!

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I thought going to Barcelona Grand Prix would be good as in previous years not much happened and therefore would be easier to follow from stands. In fact the opposite happened as it was full of overtaking but it was great to watch. There was even stuff which the TV missed, for example, some of Perez’s overtakes!

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Towards the end crowd was enjoying Hamilton chasing down Vettell, though he ran out of laps. People started leaving before the end, but we stayed to watch the podium, even waiting to see if they would let us on the track so we could go down to the pits and shout abuse at Eddie Jordan, but it looked like it wasn’t happening so we got out of there.

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Took our last walk through Montmelo and got in the ridiculously long line to the train station. Once the train arrived there were no seats so I just stood, then at the next stop a load of cub scouts got on, with their camping gear and decided to sit on the floor. Had to watch my footing, as they were so small I could crush them with my oversized feet.

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We got off early to go do some touristy things (I dragged Leona to Montmelo for 4 days, it was only fair!). We got off at Clot and got metro to Sagrada Família . Thankfully the kids got off at the same train station so I didn’t have to worry about squashing them. After looking at the big church and bought some souvenir tat for family we went to a McDonalds for a cheap and cheery dinner, also we took advantage of the free wi-fi so I could read up on the race I had just been to (!), also read up on the Premier League scores to see who got relegated.

After that we went to the magic fountains, which we weren’t able to see due to the motor show. There was still motor show related things about, like fences and all but that didn’t stop enjoyment of the fountains as they looked nice. We first watched them from a distance (at Mirador del Palau Naciona ) and then walked the long way round to the bottom.

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It was now dark so we got the metro back and went to find a bar. Walked around for a bit and witnessed an attempted pick pocketing (the girl “victim” realised what was happening and punched the guy in the face and the three bad guys ran off). With that we decided to avoid the dodgy dark alleys we were walking down (seriously!) and went to the bar across from our hostel (most bars down that street were closed). I inhaled my first pint and savoured my second. They were playing the Strokes first album while we were there, which was nice.

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Saturday Sun

We had intended to get up early to see the GP3 qualifying and the first Mini race, you know, get our monies worth. Didn’t happen, slept in, and even then it wasn’t enough. Got up and headed to the market and bought some bananas and fruit salad and jumped on the metro at Liceu. At Sants the queue for the ticket machine was considerably bigger than the day before. Headed to the platform and there was a big crowd waiting for the train. Went to the very end of the platform where the crowd was thinner and when the train arrived we jumped on and found a seat with little difficulty, though I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t a double decker train.

The train pulled off and it was quite full. It was bunged by the time we went through the next two Barcelona stations. We were joined by an English and the man in Mclaren gear gave a cockney sounding “aw-right?”. Arrived at Montmelo and essentially the entire train stood up to get off. The English guy quipped “Why is everyone getting off here?”, to which I replied “Dunno, must be something going on today”. How we laughed. Looking back, it wasn’t that funny.

After the slow walk out of the train station, there was still no sign of the alleged shuttle bus so we had to walk again. I took advantage of this to buy some cheap and tasty baguettes at a food stand for €3.50. Plus you got a free, and more importantly cold, bottle of water (the bottles in my bag were very warm by now!).

Walked to the end of the street with all the merchandising stands and to our joy there was a non FOA approved shuttle bus (a tractor pulling some carriages), and even better it was only €1. Jumped on the shuttle bus (for arguments sake, I’m calling it a bus) and a girl then took photos of all the passengers. This was for the non FOA approved souvenir photograph (€5). Some dude with long hair and a beard (like me a few months before!) in a Ferrari t-shirt appeared behind us in our shot. When I got the photo I turned to the fella and showed him the picture. He seemed uneasy, maybe thinking I was annoyed, but I thought it was a funny.

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Had a conversation with a Mexican guy (the giant flag was a give away) in front of me (“¡hola!”, “¡hola!” “¿que tal?” “¡bein! ¿y tu?” “¡muy bein!” … based on learning Spanish in school, I think all Spanish conversations are like this!).

Then the shuttle tractor bus departed and we travelled to the circuit “in style” and at just past walking speed. We even passed the English couple from the train and gave them a wave; they recognised me and waved back.

The shuttle tractor trailer combo dropped us off at the roundabout near the gate for the main grandstand and just as the previous day we arrived at the track, just missing the start of practice! Security through the turnstiles was a bit stricter than the Friday so that slowed us getting in. Watched the rest of FP3 in which not very much happened, except towards the end when I smelt something burning. Leona pointed towards the big screen and Nick Heidfeld’s car was on fire! Realised where had stopped then turned to see smoke in the distance behind the pit complex.

After FP3 we sat in the shade for a bit behind the grandstand. The qualifying started for Porsche Supercup, we weren’t in a hurry to see it so lost track of time while enjoying the shade, but when we heard the engines roaring we wandered back up to the grandstand to have a watch. After it was over we went back to sit in the grass and had lunch. It was one o’clock by this point and it was really warm, plus I was inexplicably tired and, despite my sun glasses, my eyes were getting sore from the sun… so I just lay on the grass and used my hat to cover my face and waited for qualifying.

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About fifteen minutes before qualifying we head back to our seats. The grandstand was a lot fuller, though there were a few empty seats. Looking over at the general admission area you couldn’t see the grass with people on it. The stupid grandstand in front of us, blocking turn 6, was empty (!). The crowd was a bit livelier too. There was a crowd of Spaniards behind us trying to get a Mexican wave started, by stamping their feet to make a drum roll and shouting “whoaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…. Ehhhh!” (of course I joined in), but despite many attempts the wave died after a few sections of the grandstand, to which the instigators hurled (light hearted) abuse at the people who didn’t join in.

When the same group weren’t waving Mexicans they were chanting “Alonsooooooooo, Alonsoooooooooo!”. There were quite a few English people around us trying to chant “Hamilton!”, though this was less effective.

The big screen was showing random shots of drivers in the garage mostly to cheers from the crowd, except when Hamilton came up which got a pantomime booing, then Alonso came up and there was a massive cheer. Suprisingly, when Anthony Hamilton came up on the screen he got a bigger booing than Lewis.

Then our grandstand came up on the screen and everyone around us started cheering and waving. I couldn’t see us but Leona said she could (sadly it was before the BBC start showing the feed so I’ll never know!). As we got closer to qualifying the helicopter flew above the main straight into the distance, obviously to do the “Apocalypse Now” esque camera shot they show at the start of the session.

Then came the little animation intro on the big screen and we were off. As we know nothing much happened in qualifying and, despite the big screen, it was difficult to keep track without any commentary. So I had no idea why Rubens had dropped out in Q1, had no information on Heidfeld and didn’t realise Kovalinen had got through to Q2 (the penny didn’t even drop when I saw him leave the pit lane). If I had of brought an FM radio, the circuit provided commentary in English, but who has portable FM radio’s these days! When the drivers posted their fastest laps the crowd gave applause for each of them, especially for Webber’s pole lap, and, of course, Alonso got the biggest cheer for coming in fourth.

I didn’t bother taking any photos from qualifying, as the cars would be too fast for the camera to keep up.

Then just as qualifying finished the grandstand was deserted! Though, a few stayed to watch the GP2 race. I was happy though as it meant I could lie down over 5 seats for a bit of rest. It was still really hot, so I used this as an excuse to go to the kiosk and buy some beer. Though I really wanted to stick my head in the bucket of ice the beer was kept in. Went back to the grandstand to watch a bit of the GP2, which I was excited about as it is usually entertaining. Sadly, not this time. I videoed the start from my iPhone, though I didn’t realise there was a crash on the pit wall so didn’t catch that. This brought the safety car out for a few laps and when it went back in the race was a bit processional, which was a shame.

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We decided to head back to Barcelona. Thankfully the queue for the shuttle bus train express wasn’t too big so we got back on that and went back to the train station (we also got to see a bit more of Montmelo: Win!). There was a wee lad (about five) with his da in front of us. The kids Ferrari hat blew off his head and he nearly lost it. The da shouted at him. I felt sorry for him for being shouted at, and his da wouldn’t buy him the souvignier photo, but then I remembered the lucky wee so and so got to go to a grand prix and got a Ferrari hat!

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Got back to Barcelona and I went back to the hostel to shower and freshen up. Leona went for a walk. She met me back at the hostel and took me to a nice burger place she found. The first place we’d been to that didn’t sell Estrella! After dinner we went for a walk around la Rambla and found a Starbucks which sold the Barcelona mug (for the collection) and went to a bar/pizza place around the corner from the hostel for a few beers/cocktails for the lady. Went to bed excited for the race the next day

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TFI Friday

Alarm set for something ridiculous. Well, 7.51am, not that ridiculous for normal people. For me it was pretty ridiculous, but I didn’t care, because the alarm said “Practice!”
Yeah, I was excited to say the least. Practice started at 10am, so I wanted to get away quickly, I just had to quietly encourage Leona to wake up. I wasn’t as subtle as I intended so she wasn’t pleased. Oops! She went to shower so I went to reception to make use of the wi-fi. Had a look on twitter to see what was up and seen some work related crap that was posted on Facebook, which temporarily pissed me off, for like 2 seconds, then I remembered I was going to Practice! Yay!
Packed a few bottles of water and lifted a few muffins etc from the hostel breakfast buffet and headed to Universitat metro station. Got to Sants Estació station and took a wrong turn on the way to the main train station part and ended up outside and across the road (!). Went back into the train station got our tickets and looked at the giant screen to find out where we were going. There was far too much information on the screen so I asked an official looking man “¿Montmelo?” (I finally got it right!), he replied “catorce”. He smiled as he watched me count “once,doce, trece, catorce” into myself and I realised it was fourteen. Saw a screen saying Granollers-Centre leaving in two minutes so we ran down the escalator. Got to the platform to see a double decker train (a double decker train! Wow!) and jumped on. Just in time too, as thirty seconds or so later it pulled away! The train was packed too, mainly with people in F1 related clothing. It stopped in two other stations in Barcelona (Passeig de Gràcia and Clot) and it got even more full! So going to Sants was the best thing to do!
Got to Montmelo and there was no sign of the shuttle bus service mentioned on the Circuit website. This was grim, as my legs and back were still sore from all the previous days walking. Walked through the town at a leisurely pace and as I passed the stall with the €5 hats. I purchased the retro Williams hat, from the day before. As a Ferrari fan I was also tempted by the white Raikkionen Ferrari hat, sadly it was rotten dirty so I gave it a miss! Also seen a stall which were selling ING Renault hats both (Alonso and Piquet ones) for €5 which found surprisingly cheap. Stopped at the shop to pick up a few snacks and bottles of water, and then headed towards the circuit.
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We got close to the circuit and then I started to hear the roar of engines. Checked my phone and it had turned 10.00. Even though we were still on the road the cars were loud! We got into the circuit and just headed for Grandstand J, even though we could go anywhere on the circuit (Except grandstand C for some reason), we thought it would be easier as it was right beside the gate we entered and so we knew where we were sitting on Saturday and Sunday.
We were walking towards the grandstand and the cars were getting louder and louder, while we behind the grandstand a car drove past on the pit straight and the roar echoed around. It was amazing. Walked onto the grandstand to the barrier on the very front, this would be as close as I would be able to get to the track and it would be an opportunity to hear and feel a car fly past me. I only had to wait a minute or two and a Michael Schumacher came up the pit straight and I could hear the engine rumble as it was coming out the final corner. It was relatively quiet as I watched it pass the start line it wasn’t until it came to the end of the pit wall the noise exploded. For a split second, just as it came level with me, the noise was so intense that I could feel a pain piercing my ear drums and then the noise dropped off relatively quickly as the car went into the next corner. I was blown away and, as you can see from the video, the first words that came to my head were sweary
We went to our seats that were on the ticket, and I thought it wouldn’t be as loud, a few more cars went by and I decided it was best to use my complementary earplugs provided by Formula1.com (cheers Bernie!).
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The view from our seats was excellent. We could see the start line up to turn 1 (though we would have to stand/lean forward to get a clear view of turn 1). We could also see the exit of turn 5 to the exit of turn 8. Annoyingly our view of turn 7 was blocked by a grandstand which was empty all weekend! We also had a giant screen right in front of us. For 160snoops (the cheapest grandstand tickets!) it was really good!

Tried to take a few more photographs but it was a tad pointless as the cars were too fast for the camera to catch them! There were people there who were obviously pro’s at photography as they had quite a lot of expensive looking gear (especially compared to the Panasonic Lumix and iPhone we had). However, the pit exit was right in front of us we could get pictures of cars doing their practice starts. Can’t remember much from practice 1, the main reason being nothing happened except Pastor Maldonado crashed and after the session ended as truck drove his car right in front of our stand. I do remember a few other, minor, things such as every time a Force India drove past it made a strange noise as it braked into the first chicane and the Renault was by far the loudest engine! (note – I first wrote this a month ago. I now know this was because of off-throttle related high jinx. I think)

 
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Once FP1 ended we watched a bit of the GP2 practice then decided to walk to another grandstand. Walked through the tunnel at grandstand K (under the track!) and headed to the general admission zones. Saw a gazebo with some classic cars in it which was randomly there, still, was nice. We walked round to an embankment just after turn nine. I got a hotdog and beer for €9 (!) and sat to watch the Qualifying for the Mini Challenge.

 
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For the next F1 practice session we went to grandstand B, with the thinking we could see alot more from there (turn 10 – 15) plus it’s a more technical twisty area so the cars would be going slower. Leona went for a burger (€5.50) and didn’t like it so I finished it off (it was a good day!). I thought, as the cars wouldn’t be accelerating, my earplugs wouldn’t be needed. I was wrong, mainly due to the really loud Renault (note – at the time I didn’t know about the throttling in corners). FP2 wasn’t that eventful either (to the extent Leona fell asleep for a while, without ear plugs! How?!), though the view was great so I was happy.

 
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When I got home I checked iPlayer to watch practice but they only had the audio. Just as well really as not much happened, but it was my first time seeing F1 cars in anger and it was awesome!

 After FP2 we walked around to the main grandstand to watch a bit of the GP2 qualifying. The idea being we would sit in the shade for a bit (though we ended up not sitting in the covered part!). Before going onto the grandstand the echo behind was amazing, and it was only GP2 cars!
 
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The program went on to half six but we left at about half four and headed back to Barcelona. Leona was saying she needed a hat so on our 2.5km walk to the train station I stopped at a stall to buy her a one of the Renault Alonso hats (she didn’t want a Piquet!) and we jumped on the train back to Barcelona.

Back in Barcelona we sat at Pl. Catulanya for a bit. The #spanishrevoltion protest was a lot bigger than it was two days before. Watched that for a bit and walked through the crowd.

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We then went to some pasta place on La Rambla and had some rank lasagne which looked like it was microwaved. Walked down La Rambla a bit more and then through Mercat de Sant Josep. We decided to buy our lunch there before trekking out to Montmelo the next day. We then headed to a bar across the road from our hostel and had a few pints of Estrella for myself and Leona had some frozen dacaries (at €3.50!). I got a portion of chips for €1 as I got some munchies and then headed for a needed kip.

 

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Thursday Pit Lane Visit

I had surprisingly slept well, despite the heat, I got up at about nine, and went to avail of the free breakfast. Today was the day we went up to the circuit to pick up our tickets. We ordered from formula1.com and they sent us a voucher, we had to print said voucher and take it to the circuit and collect the proper tickets at certain times (between 1-4pm Thursday, or on Friday). Being a glass half empty person I was worried there would be some monumental cock up, and I would probably be on edge until I had the ticket in my hand (or technically speaking round my neck on a lanyard).

However, at 4pm there was an open pit lane event for fans. So we planned to get to the circuit for about 3pm. That meant we had a couple of hours to go to the beach, get some lunch and jump on a train. Simple!

The breakfast the hostel put on was alright. Muffins, quasants, orange juice, coffee… that sort of thing. They didn’t have any “real” tea… so I tried some vanilla tea. It was rank! So I used the coffee machine. All it seemed to do was produce espresso so I had a bit of sugar and milk with it and it was surprisingly alright.

Leona checked the map and we got the metro to Barceloneta and we walked along the same waterfront we had the previous day to go to the same bit of beach we were at the previous day. As we were there at half nine the beach wasn’t crowded and it wasn’t as hot as it was the previous day.

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Leona went to frolic about the water while I had to phone my bank. My mum sent me a message the previous night to tell me the bank had phoned home and to phone a number. Turns it my bank card had been cloned, thankfully no money was taken (not that there was much to take!). Normally I would have got annoyed by this… but I was at the beach!

After an hour or two we elected to go for a walk and find some liquid refreshment. Initially we both wanted some coffees and we found a small café which had a sign outside advertising coffee for €1.30 and bottles of San Maguel for €2! Who was I to resist? It was just past noon.. so it was ok. They were out of San Maguel but they had Estrella. They even had bottles of “Duff”, real Duff! Like the Simpson’s!

After that we dandered through the alleys for a bit and then went to find some lunch. Went to a Subway, just for convenience (and lunch), asked were the nearest Metro station was and jumped on. To which the fun began!

We were supposed to go to Passeig de Gràcia to jump on the train for Montmelo, but in a moment of confusion we got off at Pl. Catalunya. Left the Metro station to go to the train station part, bought our return tickets to Montmelo easily enough, passed the barrier and then we realised there was nothing to indicate what train platform we were going to. The main reason was we were at the wrong station but at this point we still didn’t realise! Oops!

Asked the man at the ticket desk “¿habla inglés?”, I wouldn’t be competent enough to try this in Spanish, he pointed me to some security type man. What follows isn’t my finest hour.

“¿habla inglés?”

The man does a wavy ‘so-so’ hand gesture. Here is when I realised I didn’t know Montmelo was infact pronounced Montmelo.

“¿Monté-mello?” I ask

The man looks very confused. I try something more specific.

“¿Circuit de Catalaunya?”

Not understanding what I meant, he replies with “we are in Cataluna”

Then, in the stupidest, most desperate attempt of … I don’t know what the hell, I moved my arms in a steering wheel motion and made car noises…. Fist in mouth cringe!

Thankfully Leona saved the day (after giving me a look of disgust) by saying “¿Montmelo?” in the way its spelt.

The man straight away knew what the sensible person meant, after wasting his time with the idiot, and told us to go to Platform 2get the train to Blanes, get off at Clot.

Excellent.

Sadly the train didn’t show up for ages and time dragged, and nothing was suggesting the train was to show up, I kept getting up to check the screens, and a nun took my seat! Time was ticking and I was getting more and more concerned that the ticket office would be closed by the time we arrived. The screen changed for the next train, Blanes, then it arrived at about 2.40. We jumped on and I was relieved we were moving again. Got off at Clot, and went to a lady working on the platform. The idiot spoke again “Monté-bello?”, Leona corrected me straight away to avoid further stupidity. We got sent to the correct platform and checked the timetable. One was due within minutes. It arrived about 1455. This meant we had an hour to get to Montmelo, and walk to the ticket office (the web gave accounts of a 40min walk!). It was close!

The train to Montmelo only took about 25 minutes, when we got out of the station there was a giant yellow sign pointing to the circuit, so we walked. The town was setting up for the weekend, with many stalls selling merchandise, burger vans, beer stalls. Montmelo appears to be quite industrial and it’s in the middle of nowhere. Though, the mountains look nice. The place must make a fortune from the Grand Prix.

We walked along the main road and came to a turn off which possibly could take us to the “media accreditation centre”, though no one thought to put a sign up. Two Spanish girls walked passed who had their passes already. Tried to stop to ask for directions but they didn’t speak much English. I tried to point to the accreditation centre on the map and Leona pointed to their passes. They got us to follow them. They walked very fast! After ten or so minutes we walked up a lane in the woods and then my heart sank when I saw the main grandstand. I knew we were at the main straight, while we were supposed to be beyond turn 3 or so. The girls we followed had gone into the circuit! There was a box office type place there so we thought we’d try there anyway. A heated Spanish conversation was happening there (some fella must have made the same mistake!), by this point three English guys and a couple joined the queue. One of the English guys talked to the lady behind the counter, and she told us were we had to go. It was 3.45. We had to walk fast!

The couple ran on, I walked at pace with Leona jogging to keep up with me (I have very long legs) and the English lads walked behind us. Chatted a bit to them but not much, I was getting moody and not for talking. Got as far as turn 3 and an English woman shouted over to point us in the right direction. We weren’t far. A police car nearly ran us over when we were crossing the road (wasn’t used to cars being on right), Leona told me later on the English lads where taken aback when I shouted over “watch out for the peelers behind you!”. Walked a bit further, seen the sign for accreditation centre. It had just turned four o’clock. Another English couple were walking up, I asked was it still open, and they told us yes but we had to hurry. So Leona and I ran, sprinted in fact. I ran ahead but she had the vouchers and they were in her name, but maybe I could stall them. I ran in. The doors were open. I went to a table, out of breath I asked if they were still open and the man nodded. Leona ran in behind me and got the vouchers out. The man then informed us that they were open until five! After the long walk, worry of missing out and the final sprint I was a bit pissed off about hearing that, then Leona gave me my free lanyard and earplugs and opened the envelope to give me my ticket I was very happy! Plus the coke machine in the corner was on so we had a well deserved drink.

We walked back, at a more sedate pace, to the gate at turn 3. As we walked we could hear over the loudspeakers random bits of Spanish then a “Pedro de la Rosa”, the open pit lane had started. The woman at the bar who pointed us in the right direction asked us if we got there ok. I told her about the open to five thing and she laughed.

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We scanned our tickets through the gate and went over the bridge and we could see the pit straight and the first corner. I was relieved we got there, and excited! I skipped like a schoolgirl (not really) to grandstand J where we would get to the pit lane. En route I could hear bits of random Spanish then “McLaren Mercedes” and Lewis Hamilton saying “its great to be here”.

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We walked up the pit lane, first past the ‘new’ teams, poor guys didn’t seem to have a crowd out side. There was a crowd outside Force India as Sutil and Di Resta were doing an autograph signing. Just caught the end of it though as they left soon after Though I get get a pic with Di Resta. Next we walked up to Renault where Petrov was doing some signings when Jenson Button cycled past to do a lap of the circuit.

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Walked to the top of the pit lane to have a look at the GP2 cars and safety car, when Schumacher flew past on his scooter, he then waved to the crowd for a bit and went back into the garage.

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Webber then came out of his garage and the crowd loved it. It seemed he was out for quite a long time. I didn’t try to get close as it was a bit too crowded!

A while later on Button returned from his cycle.

It was good at the weigh bridge as there was less people hanging about and teams then started to bring some cars down for weighing, there was a slow traffic jam so there was a couple of cars just waiting, and it was good that the common folk can get so close to the cars.

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Walked further down, but that just led to the paddock. No chance of getting in there. Though I did notice that there was a reserved parking space for Vettell (as World Champion), beside Bernie and Jean Todt.

After a while we walked back down the pit lane where Schumacher was doing autographs etc there was another mad scrum, but I tried to get a photo anyway.

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We hung outside the Williams garage for a bit as it looked like they were going to do some practice stops or maybe Rubens will come out for a bit (neither happened), while waiting an attractive lady presenter from Canalnou did an interview with some random lads. At the end they started chanting “Alonso!”. I was beside them so I’m pretty sure I got on Spanish TV. A bit of noise was coming from the top end of the pit lane. Alonso came out and threw some hats into the crowd.

Lewis Hamilton also cycled past. But he wasn’t wearing a helmet!

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The Virgin team push one of their cars past us and we we able to see the car up close. That was really cool and we got to watch Torro Rosso do some practice stops.

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My legs and back were killing me from all that standing and walking, I was also very tired with the heat, so we decided to go. Took a few photographs of me beside the pit lane line (I couldn’t cross as the light was red.. hur hur hur), and I took a photo for three Italian guys beside the pit exit light and they took one of me and Leona.

We were there until about 6 oclock and our last photograph is of Jarno Trulli cycling past with and empty track and grandstand infront of him. I like that photo!

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Sadly we had to endure a walk back into Montmelo. When we got back we both were sore so we stopped in the shop to get a drink and had a sit on the bench. I saw a box of hats in one of the stalls with €5 so I had to investigate. They were all rubbish except for a Williams hat c98 (with Winfield logo!). I laughed when I saw it as it was pure retro. I didn’t buy it which I regretted.

Got to the train station and the train pulled away as we got to the platform. This meant we had to wait, but there were seats so it wasn’t that bad. The next train arrived a while later and it was empty! Happy days! No messing around for a seat. We got of at Sants and jumped on the Metro back to Universitat (to break a twenty for the ticket machine I bought two Cornettos, they were excellent!).

Went back to the hostel to get showered and changed, then we went for some food. Went to a restaurant at a street corner and sat outside. Had two delicious pints of Estrella and some chicken, Leona had some lasagne and some Malibu and pineapple thing, we both shared a salad as a starter and tried olives for the first time (we have sheltered lives), we discovered we didn’t like them.

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It was about 11pm after we had dinner so we headed back to hostel for some kip as we had to get up for Free Practice starting at 10am! Yay!

My Homage to Catalonia – Part One

Wednesday – 3.59am.

Only a few hours of sleep had happened, and I kept waking up. I was quite excited. Then, at four o’clock, my ‘cheapo’ iPod alarm clock lit up to play “Weezer –Holiday”

In my sleepy state I recognised the intro, and then the bass and drums kicked in. I jumped up, I was very confused and annoyed. Took a few seconds to realise what was going on. The bass and drums were very harsh. It felt like Pat Wilson was kicking my head in 4/4. I got out into the cold and walked over to the radio. Rivers Cuomo sang “Let’s go away for a whi..”. Then I ripped my iPod out.

Thought it would be a nice touch the night before. I managed to get 15 seconds in. I’m not a morning person at the best of time.

Immediately after that my phone alarm goes off. The “alarm” sound on an iPhone has got to be the worst sound ever for an alarm ever thought of. Instead of nice soft tones like Grieg’s “Morning” for example, Apple thought it would be great to have an alarm that sounds like a seal being clubbed.. over and over again. They should just rename it “terror”!

Anyway, I suppose it was time to get up. Only half an hour until the taxi arrived. Yet I was ready long before that. There was nothing on the TV (it was 4am!) so I just flicked through the music channels. Every one seemed to be playing that Jennifer Lopez song! Leona joined me to finish her tea, I drank the remainder of the milk while we watched MTV JLO and waited for the taxi.

We were getting a taxi to the Europa Buscentre then getting the bus to Belfast International airport. It would take about 45ish minutes to walk. But we decided against that as it would be dark and drunkards coming out of Thompsons and other Belfast establishments would be knocking about. It normally takes 15-20minutes to drive there in rush hour. Our bus was at 5am and we decided to give the taxi driver half an hour to get there.

The taxi was a few minutes late. We would only have twenty seven minutes to get there. The radio in the taxi was playing that Jennifer Lopez song! It was very bright out and the roads and streets were deserted. The overturned milk truck we had envisaged hadn’t transpired therefore our taxi ride was uneventful. We got to the bus stop with a mere twenty two minutes to spare!

Nothing exciting happened while waiting for the bus. Which is a shame as the time then dragged. Nothing exciting happened on the bus journey. Which is a shame as it dragged, I also found it infuriating as it seemed to be driving up the empty motorway at like 40mph. We checked in online so headed straight to security. Once through security we spent the last of our sterling on Starbucks. The departure screens advised passengers for our flight to “chill out and relax” or something ridiculous like that. About ten minutes later the screen changed to “HURRY UP!” (I’m paraphrasing), so we trekked it to our departure gate.

Once at the gate I found it surrounded with what can be described as ‘formula one nerds’. I know I’m quite the nerd myself.. But at least I’m not middle aged wearing an overpriced Ferrari shirt with all the sponsors all over it (fair enough if it was at the track.. but the airport? Really?). Still, I was excited and wanted to make “new formula one friends” and talk about how excited I am to go, Leona advised me against it. Just as well though, as we were about the board. Aer Lingus were smart enough to assign seats so there wasn’t that mad scramble, we just dandered on. On the place there was no one sitting beside us. At first I was like “I want to make a ‘formula one friend’!”, then I thought about the extra leg room, at 6’3” I was well chuffed about that! I’m not a great flyer so at take off I just ate Worthers Originals and grabbed onto the arm rests. Once the seatbelt light went off I watched the Christmas Episode of Father Ted on my phone. Mainly because it was there! I was very hungry at this stage and some people had ordered the cooked breakfasts. They smelt lovely.. Yet overpriced. I managed to resist.

We arrived in sunny Barcelona ahead of schedule. Went through their sunny airport, passed their sunny customs and went to find a sunny bus stop. The bus had just left so we waited on the next one as I practiced the Spanish for “two return tickets please”. It was the first time I had to use Spanish since my in GCSE in 2002 (I got a D). The bus came fifteen minutes later and we got on. I said to the driver “dos billete de vuelta, por favor”, in my head he this sounded perfect but the driver responded with a “¿Qué?”.

I then said “erm.. return? Er… dos, er.. por favor. Gracias.”

The driver seemed to understand that so we got on the bus.

Our flight, and a flight from Dublin and Cork, arrived at about the same time so our bus seemed to be full of Irish people, and it was packed. Off we went to Barcelona city centre. On the way in we passed a crappy five a side football pitch, Leona made the funny “Look, there’s Camp Nou!”, I thought this was hilarious, the rest of the bus didn’t seem to. Another thing I noticed on the way in is that the tower blocks had San Maguel adverts on top of them. In Belfast there are pictures of hunger strikers. I’m surprised Diageo haven’t considered it.

Our hostel was quite close to Pl. Universitat and we were the only two people to get off, to some difficulty. Once we got off the bus, we had to find some breakfast/lunch as we were famished! There seemed to be quite a lot of food places about but we wanted to get something simple, a burger or something, we walked into a place called “Pans & Co.” which is a chain which sells subway/burger hybrids (it’s the only way I can describe it!).Leona went to order first and asked for a Chicken and Bacon (that’s what it was called on the sign). The lady replied in Spanish which was too fast for me to hear and Leona replied “¿Patatas Fritas?”, the lady replied again and Leona said “¿Coca?”. I was impressed. She later admitted she guessed what the lady was asking but seemed to have got it right.

Here came another chance to show my five years of learning then failing Spanish wasn’t a waste. In my head I wanted to say “I would like the same please”, to which my mouth translated into Spanish as “¡Dos!” and I pointed to Leona. Both Leona and the teller looked perplexed at the idiot before them. So I saved the day by saying “chicken bacon, patatas fritas y coca cola”. Lucky I did, otherwise I would have looked a complete idiot! Phew!

Anyway, food was dead on and saw a giant photo of a dude who looked like my buddy Marty (who frequently visits Barcelona) so I kept laughing at it every time I looked at it!

It was about four hours before we could check in, but we didn’t want to drag the bags around with us all day so we got our bearings and went to find the hostel. Turns out it was just around the corner but we thought we were on the wrong street, just by chance Leona spotted it. We buzzed the door and went in. Hostel was on the second floor and as we walked up the stairs all we could hear were babies crying (turns out there is a day care centre under it) which, at first, was a little unsettling! Walked into reception and, thankfully, the dude spoke English. He just told us to leave our bags under a shelf in reception. At first I was weary but there were other, more expensive looking, bags there. Besides no criminal mastermind would steal my bag full of boxer shorts etc.

So with three or four hours to fill we went for a walk. Passed the Museum of contemporary art and did the tourist thing by heading for La Rambla. We walked down the middle of la Rambla, as it seemed did every other tourist in Barcelona at that very moment. The statue guys were really good, especially when you compare it to the arse in Belfast who just moves around. It was also cool to look at all the stalls and have your choice of all the tat you could buy. What wasn’t cool were the guys trying to flog some squeaky thing. Essentially it is the most irritating thing in the world, you put some rubber thing in your mouth and your voice goes squeaky. I don’t know how there is a market for it and how the market isn’t saturated as for the next week any touristy place I went all I heard was “Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak…”.

After a bit of a wander we ended up down by the docks (well there were a load of boats about) and had a sit down to see what we wanted to do. Leona saw a cable car in the distance. So we decided to go towards that. At this point we realised we forgot to lift the suncream and were still wearing jeans. The sun was out and it was roasting (in Barcelona? Who’d have thought it?) – this will be a tough few hours!

We proceeded regardless and we got all of 50m when we had to wait for the bridge to comeback because there was a fancy boat wanting to sail out of the harbour. So we waited about five or ten minutes in the heat and when the bridge reattached itself the crowds flocked over. We found our route to the cable car blocked by a giant shopping centre / aquarium / cinema. We walked through it and the air con was a gift. While there we thought it best to use their “facilities” and then went back out the other side and bought an ice cream. This was very tasty!

While enjoying the ice cream a nice lady was handing out pamphlets. I didn’t want to be the rude English speaker so I politely accepted, had a read and the only bit I could make out was a hashtag called #spanishrevolution.

We then headed on and we realised had we walked 50m the other way at the start (as opposed to where the bridge is) we would have got to where we were then. Still, we looked to the positives (ice cream and a Spanish socialist newsletter!). Walked passed the Catalan history museum and then along the other side of the waterfront towards the cable car. Got some cold drinks along the way as the heat was intense (a sign we passed said 33oC!

Along the way there were a few graffiti. One was “Tourists: why not visit your fucking grandma!” which I found unfair, I’d visited her at the weekend! The next one was “Tourists: Madrid is a nicer city” which made me laugh. That was the only anti tourist sentiment I had seen all week.

En route to the cable car we seen the beech so we thought we’d go for a sit down and get a rest. We sat on the path at the edge of the beech and looked over the very calm Mediterranean Sea. I noticed something at the corner of my eye: BOOBS! I didn’t want to seem like some sort of pervert that you hear about so I slowly moved my head another direction and to my surprise there were more boobs! It seemed topless sunbathing was socially ok so I told Leona my observation and I was so excited shocked I sent a text to Marty. He replied and warned me not to wander too far as there is a nudist beach populated by elderly trannys. Duly noted.

I’m not an avid fan of the beech, but Leona was saying she wanted to go before we left Belfast, so I suggested we go back the next morning. How nice am I?

Off we went to the cable car. It is part of the Metro network so we assumed it would be the cost of a metro ticket €1.45. When we got to the queue we realised it was €10 each. We’d got that far so we went on it but had we known before hand we wouldn’t have bothered. View was nice though.

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The cable car brought us to some park (cant remember the name) and we had a sit down for a bit. We decided to walk back to hostel. Weren’t sure how to get there, but we knew the general direction. Sort of.

We got lost.

Not lost. We walked through some dodgy looking places and we just thought we were lost. Turns out we were on the street beside the Contemporary art museum. We walked a bit more and found it, so we knew where we were going from there.

Got to the hostel and checked in. Had a conversation with the fella at reception about the merits of Irish being an official language (he was wondering I had two places of birth on my passport). I agreed with him it was pointless but couldn’t be arsed explaining it further.

The room had the feel of prison cell. No natural light, the main light was some UV thing. But still, it’s only a hostel and it was only for sleeping. Got out of my jeans and stuck on some suncream. My arms and face were only a little bit burnt.

It was about 6 or so by the time we got sorted, so it was time for dinner. Went for another dander and found a pizza place on la Rambla (nicely named Rambla Pizza) which had beer and pizza offers. I was sold.

Got a nice roast chicken pizza and a 500ml Estrella, Leona had some ham and pineapple thing with a smaller girly Estrella. She doesn’t like beer so I drank hers too.

After dinner we walked up to Pl. Catalunya and seen some sort of protest kicking off. We joined in on the march, for a nosey and tried to get on TV. This was the #spanishrevolution that the socialist newsletter was on about. Had a look around and then we walked up Passeig de Gracia and Leona figured out we could get to some “magic fountains”, which are apparently brilliant, by jumping on the Metro. So we got the Metro from Passeig de Gracia to Pl. Espanya.

Once at Pl. Espanya we found an International Car Show, sponsored by Seat, blocking anyway we wanted to get to Font màgica de Montjuïc … also the car show had half price entry for anyone with F1 tickets. Alas, we were getting our tickets the next day so we decided to head back. Got the metro back to Universitat and headed back to the hostel. It was about 10 at this point and we were wrecked. It had been a long day.