Monday, June 01, 2009

Back from Rome ...

We had a unique perspective on the Champions League Final.

United fans from birth, Ben and I have been Barca season ticket holders at the Camp Nou for two seasons and thus able to witness the full glory of this season of incredible football. We have big hearts, big enough to encompass a passion for two teams of this stature. And then this happened.

Having got our tickets from another Barca member, we sat in the Olympic stadium behind the goal with thousands of other Barca fans, possibly the only two in the entire area who supported United.

We’d agreed appropriate secret signals and gestures to make if United scored and how to react. It was all theoretical. They didn’t score, and after the first flurries of the opening 10 minutes never appeared likely to. United didn’t turn up and for the first time I can remember I felt embarrassed for them.

I’ve seen them well beaten before and seen them play badly on far too many occasions. But I can’t remember having seen them get it wrong so badly, to play so at odds with how they needed to play. Four days on it remains a mystery. Did they underestimate Barca? Did they think their counter attacking power could overwhelm a team lacking three mainstays of defence and with two other key players just back from injury? I’ve no idea. Time to move on...

But if we were going to see United lose, sitting where we were was the best place to be. I’d have hated to be enveloped by the gloom at the United end. To witness the utter delirium of the Barca fans up close and personal was a truly wonderful experience, even for Ben whose bravery despite being broken hearted was incredibly moving. His neighbour gave him a big hug at the end along with a lapel badge from the Mataro Barca supporters club.

The Barca fans applauded every United player as they received their loser’s medals with the exception of Ronaldo, who got widely whistled for being the sullen, whinging genius that he is.

Returning to Barcelona took us back to a city submerged in utter happiness in a way that cannot really happen in most of Europe’s big cities where two or three big teams occupy the hearts of their citizens.

Take what promotion to the Premier League has done for small towns like Hull and Burnley and multiply that by a million to reflect the scale of the achievement and the population and you have a glimpse of how Barcelona and indeed Catalonia (for this is a national team in effect) celebrated the Champions League and the treble.

A million people were on the streets of Barcelona for the open top bus parade with every man, woman, child, baby, dog and shop front dressed in azulgrana. Almost every village in the region had a big screen in the main square for the locals to watch together.

Joy unbounded and indeed joy unprecedented. One is so used in life to people saying ‘you should have been here years ago’ or ‘if you think this is good you should have been here when ... ‘. Well Barca have never won the treble before; to be in the city on its finest day was indeed a privilege.

On related points:

* Sarah now knows the first two and last two lines of the Barca hymn. And she has transferred her designated Dream Man from George Clooney to Barca manager Pep Guardiola.

* Print may be dying but the Barcelona papers have pulled out all the stops for the events of the past few days with El Periodico de Catalunya providing wonderful examples of the power of newspapers to delight on special occasions.

It provided special wraparounds on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, styling itself as El Periodico de Roma, with the first two covers being in a class of their own. Wednesday’s paper recreated Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam with Guardiola as Adam while Thursday showed him aloft in the air, pointing to the sky, elevated by the hands of his adoring players. Pure genius.

The Glory Game

The great fallacy is that the game is first and foremost about winning. It's nothing of the kind. The game is about glory. It's about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.

Danny Blanchflower as quoted by Paul Hayward in The Observer in his piece 'Barcelona's sense of style restores glory to Blanchflower's game'

More to follow on the final but that more or less sums up Barca

Monday, May 25, 2009

Eric has it right

From Eric Cantona in El Pais English edition

Watching Barça is a real pleasure for any soccer supporter,” said Cantona. “As you can imagine, this game is a dream for me. It’s the final everyone dreamed of, the perfect game. Barça is the only team that reminds me a little of Cruyff’s Ajax. Total football.”

Asked to venture a prediction on the outcome though, Cantona’s red roots shine through: “Manchester United.”

Friday, March 06, 2009

JDF Jones

I have just heard the terribly sad news that journalist and author JDF Jones has passed away.

I couldn't describe him any better than the bulletin from the Financial Times does:

[He] was a towering figure in the creation of today's FT ... JDF became foreign editor of the paper in the 1960s when the FT had little coverage of international affairs. He laid the foundations of the worldwide network of correspondents that has allowed us to become such a global paper today. As managing editor in the 1970s he played a huge role in building up the FT talent pool and in the creation of the first international edition of the paper . He was also the founder editor of Weekend FT in the 1980s and Literary and Arts editor.

He was also hugely kind and generous to me, both personally and professionally, when I arrived in Johannesburg in 1982 as a young correspondent for Reuters, fearing the place somewhat and knowing nobody at all there.

Dinners at his magnificent house (which he shared with his then partner Mary and her daughter Polly) were long and liquid affairs which vastly boosted the profits of various Cape vineyards.

Journalism for JDF was meant to be as enjoyable as it was important and his running of the FT Southern African bureau was designed to further such aims.

He employed two extremely able journalists in the bureau to do all the heavy lifting stories on company results, the economy, gold prices etc while JDF concentrated on the bigger picture stories - whither apartheid, whither Swaziland, whither the region as a whole.

Most of these stories seemed to necessitate extensive travel, with beautiful Cape Town a particular favourite during the summer (shurely 'when parliament was sitting'? Ed)
We shared a memorable journey to the heart of the Botswana desert in a Land Rover with two other journalists.

In one unforgettable moment we had just sat down by some rocks to enjoy the magnificent desert sunset when heard on the BBC World Service the of death of the vile and soon to be unlamented South African ex PM BJ Vorster.

We toasted his demise with several cans of very cold Lion lager.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Words fail me ...

Messi. Again.

Eating out in Barcelona

Chef Aidan Brooks has a very comprehensive, funny and knowledgeable guide to all that is good about eating here. Well worth reading.

Friday, January 30, 2009

It sooooooo quiet ….

Barcelona appears to be subsiding into a crisis-induced slumber.

We have driven down the main thoroughfare of Avenida Diagonal at 8pm on the last two consecutive evenings. This is rush hour time in Barcelona and normally one of fearful traffic jams– people work late here; yet on both nights, we have sailed down a clear road in minutes.

The economic activity of the city and the region is slowing down rapidly. The car industry is coming to a halt; tourism is down and with it takings in bars and restaurants; construction is finished.

Another major leg of the economy – fairs, conventions and congresses – are also in big trouble. Bread & Butter, the fashion tradeshow is returning to Berlin while the Barcelona car salon has been axed – it’s very much a second tier event, the type that get the chop in a climate like this.

It’s not all gloom. We celebrated Rebecca’s 16th last night in the bar of the Omm Hotel and at El Japones restaurant. Both were humming.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The wind in Barcelona

Some of the damage in the park opposite our flat caused by the hurricane winds that whipped through the city on Saturday morning ...

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Ben's latest talent ...

... is a hugely impressive impersonation of the Camp Nou announcer, who (and he's done it for the last 50 years) discloses the team lineups before the game in a deep and rich Catalan accent.

Worth asking Ben for a riff next time you see him. sadly, I don't think we can count on this as a career prospect. While the incumbent may indeed retire at some point, the job is an unpaid one.

Idiot wind

The Barcelona Council website runs a very useful RSS news service which updates you on what is going on in the city.

One feature is a Friday update on the weekend weather. Last Friday's called for some cloudy and mixed weather.

what we got on Saturday were hurricane force winds nearing 140kph which did huge damage to the city and region as a whole. Ben and I left the flat at 10am, saw a tree careering down the road and turned back. Huge pine trees were felled in our local park and on the main roads. Many of the suburbs in the hills still have no electricity.

Most tragically, four young baseball players, aged 9-12, were killed when the sports hall they were sheltering in collapsed and buried them. The photos of the boys, so smart in their outfits and caps, are too awful to look at in the papers.

But what on earth were they doing even going out to play on that morning? The winds had been wll signalled, having battered the Basque country on Friday and tracked down from there.

Why didn't the Generalitat cancel all sports as the Basque government had done?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas updates

I know since my first post three years ago about the Caganer Christmas tradition in Catalonia that you are on the edge of your seat every year to know who we have chosen. I can put you out of your misery.

We have broken with the tradition of Barca players to go with the US President elect - and there he is the picture, dumping with Eto'o, Puyol and, er, Messi.

The other tradition here of an annual pre-Christmas lunch with my friends Orland, Pepon, Ramon et al was also purused this year with a very fine boavante y arroz fest at Ca La Nuri which is right on the Barceloneta beach.

Que bueno, as they say here, as we drank our post-prandial gin & tonics on the terrace as a chilly winter sun set over the port.

Finally why is it so cold in Madrid right now? because they are -12 ....

Monday, December 15, 2008

High times

‘I’m still on a high’ said Ben as we walked back from the party last night.

That was some high, almost 24 hours after the end of el clasico, the thrilling encounter between Barca and Real Madrid, that we were privileged to attend.

I can’t remember a football game I have seen with so much atmosphere, tension and excitement and the wonderful denouement of course of the Barca victory with two late goals. .

Virtually full, the Camp Nou was packed with some 96,000 cules wanting revenge against their fiercest enemy – revenge for the humiliation of last April when Barca applauded Real on to their own pitch after they had won La Liga and then swooned to lose 1-4 in a spineless pathetic display.

Now, Barca, playing some of the finest football of any club team in Europe, were 9 points ahead of Madrid, who had lost 3 games out of 4, had a dreadful injury list and had just sacked their manager. Even the saner papers here were predicting margins of 5-0 and 6-1, all of which were utter nonsense.

The fierce rain only added to the charged atmosphere. We got soaked as we got off the bus, soaked as we ate our sandwiches outside the Rala 2 bar and soaked as we walked down to the ground. Unlike the 70,000 or so fans exposed in the open seats, we were at least under cover for the duration of the match.

What followed was 93 minutes of hyper charged football as Barca totally dominated possession but came up against a Real so obdurate, so determined and at times so dirty that it looked like they would steal a point. No pasaran, the rallying cry of the Republican La Pasionara in the Civil War, had been adopted as the unifying force of Madrid defence. Time again Cannavaro blocked shots with every part of his body, while Casillas made extraordinary saves from Messi and Eto’o, not least from the 75th minute penalty.

Next to us, a Catalan descended into the depths of despair, fearing that not only would Barca fail to score, but that Real would break away and steal an improbable victory, which they threatened to do more than once.

Finally, scrappily, Eto’o forced the ball over the line from a corner with seven minutes left and the whole stadium went berserk. Ben hugged the Catalan and high fived the Austrian sitting on my right. Madrid, falling 12 points behind, saw their season ebbing away.

Eight minutes later Barca broke away again and, as Messi lobbed Casillas, Cannavaro ended up injuring himself on the post as he desperately tried, but failed, to keep the ball out. The symbolism of one of the world’s great defenders lying on the ground in agony in the pouring rain as 96,000 fans went beyond ecstasy was almost tragic.

Beyond the stadium, Sarah had switched on belatedly at home to watch the extraordinary finale. Bex had watched in a packed bar in Sitges. Around the city, and all of Catalonia, people poured out of bars and homes to celebrate and let off firecrackers.

We walked home amid a cacophony of beeping motorbikes and got soaked yet again. High? We didn’t even notice the rain …

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hello to economic reality and go home please

Spain is even more in the economic toilet than Britain, which is saying something. Property companies and estate agents are going tits up by the day while unemployment is rising at a rapid rate.

Hence on the front page of a local free paper the other day was a story about how Spanish people are now accepting all the crap jobs they previously left to the Columbians, Peruvians and so on, such as cleaning, nannying, portering, washing up and so on.

And inside? An advert from the Spanish government explaining the new voluntary repatriation scheme for unemployed legal residents from outside the EU. You get your dole money paid (40% on leaving and the rest when you get back) and the right to come back three years hence.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We have a winter

After two very mild ones, it's damn chilly and there's been lots of snow in the Pyrenees where the ski stations have opened two weeks early.

The chestnut and sweet potato sellers, who did no businesses last winter, are having a great time of it. And the Christmas lights, always an understated delight, have been switched on.

Nobody's got any money but .... it sure looks nice

UPDATE: hue hail storm

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Goodnight Vienna

All I know about Vienna and I heave learned from The Third Man, very definitely one of the greatest films ever. 

And for my first two days there I learned little more, spending much of it inside the very splendid Grand Hotel (and everything you think a hotel called the Grand in Vienna might be, it is, all brocade, grand rooms, gold taps, kaffee and kuchen etc).  

But the taxis I took through the wet and the grey showed a city straight out of Third Man country, all wrought iron balconies,  smart shuttered shops, large dark front doors and spired sloping roofs. And the two hours I got to march round the centre were delightful, through the parks, the magnificent Burghof, past shops selling Loden and a million coffee shops, including the wonderful Demel where the obligatory sachertorte was purchased. 

It must be time to see The Third Man again. The clip above is the scene where Orson Welles is finally seen for the first time,  on a dark street corner as a pool of light falls on him briefly, and is possibly the greatest scene in cinema. Ever. 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Samuel Eto'o and Nina Simone

Previously on this blog we have recorded the similarities between the mercurial Barca striker Samuel Eto'o and legendary artiste Nina Simone.

Both are/were stunning performers when they are in the groove yet extraordinarily moody and subject to hissy fits of sneering sullenness when not. Both lit up my weekend.

On Friday we went to see 'Nina Simone: the sorceress', a lovingly made, if slightly confused homage to the great diva, featuring her live performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1976. And you got the whole nine yards - the grimacing, the cackling, the staring - all conspiring to scare the audience out of its wits. And of course the virtuoso performance ....

... which leads to 24 hours later at the Camp Nou where Mr E played a key role in opening up yet another lame opposing defence with a stunning display of attacking football. Samuel scored a hat trick within the first 25 minutes, all classic 'No 9' poachers' goals.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The good, the bad ...

On a whim last night we went down to the Borne and dropped in at two of our favourite bars, Xampanet - one of the city's oldest and most famous - and Paco, a great cocktail/DJ bar in the same street where we have our flat.

It was a gorgeous evening, both bars were crowded, and the streets were buzzing, although tourists were thin on the ground. It really is a great part of town. It felt very good to be there.

Today has been less good. what i thought was a minor filling job on a tooth turned out to be one that needs an expensive treatment; I then came home and steeled myself to deliver some bad news to a business associate.

Having done that, i heard that a friend needed more major surgery for the second time this year. That's quite enough bad news for one day ...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

10 days that shook the world

It's been 10 days since the last post on this blog, a gap that has encompassed the biggest week's stock market meltdown in history.

It's pretty dire and yes there could be worse to come if the powers that be cant think of a way to fix the system this weekend.

Time to hang on to your friends and have fun. and eat well.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

They don't make football derbies like that anymore ...

  • 19 local players in the squads
  • 2 local managers
  • a dodgy sending off
  • home team takes the lead after opposing goalie is fouled
  • away team equalises after lucky rebound from defender 
  • away fans lob fireworks on home supporters
  • away team attacks non stop but repelled by woodwork and stout defending
  • pompous ref stops game for 10 minutes
  • away team wins game with last kick of the match in the 104th minute - a highly dubious penalty
  • police, football authorities, home team, away team all blame each other for allowing violence to happen
  • away team captain says they're not real fans ... deplorable ... shocking, having gone to celebrate with them when winning goal goes in
Oh yes they do. Espanyol vs Barca, 27 sep 2008.  see it here

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

the blog is back

It´s been almost three months since the last post. A pretty standard Spanish summer break, especially up here where no sooner are people back on 1 Sep than you have time off for the national day (the 11th) and the wonderful Merce festival (ongoing until tomorrow).

As per usual it has rained during the Merce, which is good for the Catalan mushroom industry. And between the showers we managed to take in the fireworks, the fantastic light show on the front of the Ajuntamente building, a brilliant concert by Barcelona based latin salsa group La Sucursal SA and the annual Catalan wine and cava show at the port.

And Barca are back; after a few nervy displays they looked wonderful as they demolished Gijon 6-1 on Sunday. Make no move until you have seen the fourth goal from the genius Iniesta or read Sid Lowe´s jolly tale of how the Gijon crowd are so happy to be back in Primera they sang ever louder as more Barca goals went in.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Catalonia is not Spain (Well, maybe a little right now …)

It’s been great fun watching Spain’s serene progress to the final of Euro 2008 in all senses of the word.

Great fun because they have played some exquisite football; last night’s demolition of Russia was sublime to watch. But great fun also because it has highlighted the bitter-sweet relationship between the Catalans and the nation as a whole.

You don’t need a Spanis civil war history lesson here to know that for a chunky minority of Catalans, Catalonia is not Spain (as the posters given away outside European games at the Camp Nou proclaim).

On top of the 10% or so who would like complete independence, many more here feel Catalonia should get considerably more autonomy, and keep a higher percentage of its economic revenues, from the central government. Culturally, many Catalans feel as close to Madrid as they do to Lisbon or Paris.

So when the tournament opened, just 45% of Catalans watched the opening game on TV versus around 55% nationally and 65% in the Madrid region. While thousands sang and danced in front of the big screen in Madrid’s Plaza Colon, Barcelona’s big squares were empty.

Even the dramatic quarter final penalty shootout over Italy, which I watched in a bar deep in the Catalan countryside, seemed to evoke only a smatter of amused indifference among the locals.

As one Catalan friend put it ‘What really pisses us off is all the ra-ra Spanish stuff that goes with it all.’ He means the Spanish fans dressed as matadors in Vienna or staging mock bull fights in Austrian squares – the whole sangria and senorita image of the country that should have died about 40 years ago. The TV coverage is becoming more nattily nationalistic by the day.

But there is a slight thawing going on. There was a widespread tooting of horns after the games last night; it was hardly akin to when Barca win a title, but it made a decent noise. And I suspect there will be more if they win on Sunday.

And, heck, why not? Spain are, by any measure, playing beautiful football, the like of which few international teams have aspired to in recent years. And it’s being inspired by a Barca/Catalan engine room of Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas. Last night’s victory was made in Catalonia.

And, really, would you go the whole hog and back Germany on Sunday just to spite the national cause? We’re not talking plucky little Denmark here or pledging our troth to the beautiful game as played by Portugal. We’re talking big, bad unlovable Germany who win far too often and do so without the passion and beauty that the Spanish bring to the game.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

How cheap are a pair of trousers?

Under 20 euros at Zara for a pair of linen/cotton trousers. 19.90 to be exact. As far as I remember these were around 29 euros last year.

The trousers are made in Turkey and the reduction seems to have everything to do with the strength of the euro. While it's hurting the amount of money I get (I get paid in pounds) it is making goods imported into the EU from outside that much cheaper. 

These trousers were made in Turkey and Zara's Turkish lira costs have decreased around 30% over the last six months.  So I am winning on one side of the equation and losing on the other ...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

When chefs fall out

The dispute between Santi Santamaria and Ferran Adria et al over the alleged ‘poisoning of diners’ is both hilarious and pathetic. 

Nobody has summed it up better than Aidan Brooks, trainee chef at Commerc 24. 

No need to summarise his piece. just read it here.

The fourth wet weekend in succession

My friend who runs the biggest cinema chain in Spain  is thrilled. The rest of us are less than enchanted. The reservoirs, 20% full at the end of March, are now over half full. The drought is officially over. 

Enough already. Bring on flaming June … 

Three things I did this weekend which I didn’t expect to do and enjoyed

  1. Dance on the stage at ommsession at 3am. Life in the old dog etc
  2. Go to see (male) beach volleyball. Weirdly in a city with so much beach, it was half way up the Montjuic mountain
  3. Watch ‘21’ the brilliant film based on the true story about six mathematicians who take on the Vegas casinos and almost win.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Rangers fans in Manchester; no surprise

The appalling behaviour of Rangers fans in my home town of Manchester came as no surprise. They came to Barcelona last autumn, in much smaller numbers, and proceeded to drink, piss and vomit in every corner of the city.  

Here they are in action in Manchester:

Nice eh? As a result of this, United's homecoming parade with the Premiership title, and possibly the Champions' League title, has been cancelled. Meanwhile Rangers, possibly the dullest team in the world, go home to win a few more Mickey Mouse Scottish titles.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Is this the best menu del dia in the world?

The local Time Out’s latest issue (the cover price is back to €1 which sounds like it is not doing too well) has a cover story on the city’s best menu del dias – the three course fixed lunch menus that you can find all over the city for €10-20.

 The  menu del dia was an invention of the Franco era, designed to keep the workers near the factory at lunchtime rather than go home to eat and siesta with the wife. No longer compulsory, they are still an attractive way for a restaurant to bring  in lunch time custom and use up last’s leftovers.

 They missed the best one. On Friday, Sarah and I went to Alkimia, the one-Michelin starred restaurant near the Sagrada Familia, and one of the vanguard of new Catalan cooking, where they have just introduced a €32 menu del dia. By the time they’d added on the cover charge, wine and VAT, it was a grand total of €85, or £34 a head. I imagine there are plenty of similar restaurants around the world where you can’t get a main course for £34. If it was designed to face up to the recession now gripping Spain, it seems to be working. The restaurant was near full by 2.30pm.

Nor was it yesterday’s leftovers. The starters were a shot glass of tomato consommé with croutons (a nice play on pan con tomate) and a beautifully textured jellied foie, granola and apple. 

There were three main courses, each with a choice; artichoke salad or marinated salmon, a poached egg in broth or chicken ravioli, then braised lamb or cod. All exquisitely prepared, presented and served, as were the desserts and petit fours, particularly the skewered ball of vanilla ice cream covered in white chocolate.

 It would take a brave person to tackle either the €54 menu (three starters/five mains/two desserts) or even the €68 12-course special, but hopefully I will get a chance to try.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

An extraordinary day

By any standards, yesterday was a wonderful day to be in Barcelona. The sun shone all day as the city (and Catalunya) celebrated Sant Jordi when every man has to give a red rose to his beloved and in return receive a book. 

The streets were packed with rose sellers, some from florists, others who'd just bought a dozen or so and set up a table at a street corner. And book stalls were everywhere with readings, signings across the city. If it was not quite the city of love, it was at least a city of blissful happiness. 

Having no beloved here (she is in London) I did the next best thing and bought roses for some proxies who I happen to like and who I would see that day. Rebecca of course, Elvira, our cleaner, and Vicky and (another) Rebecca, the mother and daughter team who run the polloeria in Galvany market where I buy my chickens.

Best of all, they opened up the magnificent town hall for the one day only and I got to look round the mayor's office (and saw the mayor) the council chamber and most of all, the vast and  wonderful salo de cent, the 14th century great hall where the council of 100 deputies sat as one of the earlier examples of representative local government. 

Oh yes there was a football match on as well; the one I hoped would never happen between Manchester United and Barca. As a spectacle - a packed camp nou full  of cules in their best voice - it was extraordinary, and to be there with Ben was something I will always remember.  

My two favourite football teams, my son, the best stadium anywhere, a fine havana cigar and a bocadillo pernil amb tomate. I'm easily satisfied ... 

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Still a great place for food

It seems we hadnt been out to eat in a while but then came a mighty rush this week, all proving that, despite the trailer trash levels that the pound now stands at against the euro, you can eat amazingly well here for very little money. 

Here goes:

  • Thursday night: Cuines de Santa Caterina. An old favourite but still packing them into the huge canteen style tables for great market-style fusion cooking ranging from Gorgonzola risotto to tuna and avocado tartare via thai chicken curry. Ten of us ate here for under £200
  • Friday night: El Japones de Tragaluz. Same owners as the above; a very stylish Japanese. We'd been told to avoid the sushi but the hot dishes and desserts were all more than up to par. Japanese pizza and mandarin sorbet are not to be missed.  Four of us for £55.
  • Today. Went with a huge group to the Castell de Rocamora in Montferri, about an hour south of Barcelona for a calcotada - a feast of eating calcots, the wierd and wonderful leek/onion crosses that are just ending their season. 
You basically thrown a whole mass of these things on the fire to cook, let them cool a little and then serve them at the open air table. You get your bib on, strip the outer leaves, dip them in romesco sauce (almonds, tomato, oil, vinegar) and shovel them down your throat.  They're delicious, very moreish and pretty windy.

After getting through several dozen of these (see aftermath above) you then go inside for the rest of the lunch - sausages, black pudding, lamb chips, chips, salad, profiteroles, red and white wine and cava. The cost?  £30 a head ...

Possibly the best football ground in the world

A strong candidate would be the Campo de Futbol de Carmelo where I watched Ben play on Saturday morning. Sadly I didn't have my camera with me, but if you imagine a football pitch carved high into the rocks of a mountain you have it. 

The mountain is actually Barcelona's Park Guell, home to several Gaudiesque follies, high above the city. The ground has a neat little grandstand on one side, so you can watch the game and get this stunning view of the city and the sea beneath you. It was a glorious sunny morning on Saturday which made sitting there even more blissful. 

There was, as with all these clubs, a splendid cafe which served a bacon baguette of some brilliance. That, a decent cup of tea, and a variety of podcasts on my iPod Touch; what more could a man ask for?

Oh yes, the football. Ben's team went three down, fought back to 4-4 and lost 6-9. Which was a whole lot better than the previous week's 15-0 defeat ... 

Monday, March 24, 2008

Suoerlative Sunday

United, Barca win
Arsenal, Real Madrid lose

and CP Sarria win their tournament, defeating 15 other teams in the age group. 

Priceless ...