Sunday, September 16, 2012

More street fun and a great rugby game

Saturday morning began with a walk from the hotel past the imposing Arc de Triomphe and through the tree-lined streets of a neighbourhood that was filled with Chinese shops selling clothing and then textiles. I went in one store and it was like a huge warehouse of clothes inside. These stores turned into similar stores this time selling Italian clothes. I wonder if it's the sewn-in labels that are Italian? Finally, we were in the Passeig de Gracia well north of Placa Cataluyna. This is an area of high-end fashion shops. One store we went in had a doorman. Inside were the most beautiful handbags of every colour and colour combination. The smell was wonderful. But wait, there were no prices on any of them. As well there were exquisite lengths of vibrant silks on sale. On looking around we were the only non Chinese people in the shop, and they were buying. Sadly, we weren't but it was a lovely visit. The doorman was quite gracious when we walked out bag less.

After a quick return to the hotel to check out, we wandered around one of the main pedestrian streets in El Born passing the church,surrounded by wedding guests,dressed in their finery. Further on down the street we stopped for a marching drum band. There is always a festival and gaiety of some sort in Barcelona. After a quick lunch of huge shrimp and patates bravas and a seafood paella for Seamus it was off to the Metro.

We were en route to the Olympic Stadium to see a rugby match, Perpignan versus Toulouse. The second stage of the journey is on a two car funicular, which travels up Montjiuc. There were lots of very happy people waiting for the cars, most dressed in the red and yellow Catalan colours of USAP, the Perpignan team. Supporters were wearing hats, shirts, Catalan flags and even dresses. Some were sporting the black and red of Toulouse. The cars kept filling up with more and more people. Finally, the funicular started up the mountain with us all crushed in like French sardines.

Once out of the funicular it is a pleasant fifteen minute walk to the Olympic Stadium along a tree-lined street. Of course our seats were on the far side of the stadium so we continued along in the very hot sun. Outside the stadium there was yet another drum band adding to the general loud atmosphere. Already, we could hear it had some competition from the requisite drums at all French rugby games.  

At last we were seated in the stadium, which was a sea of red and yellow. There were far more Perpignan supporters than those from Toulouse. I sat next to a very excited lady, who sang all the songs and constantly waved her Catalan flag. There was lots for the Perpignan fans to be excited about. Last year was not a good year for them as the replacement for their former coach Jacques Brunel, didn't work out and he was fired after just eleven games. Now with a former player Marc Delpoux coaching and some clever player acquisitions, Perpignan is a much stronger team, at least on paper. This was proved to be true in a very exciting first half with Perpignan ahead 20-6. The second half was  even more exciting with Toulouse narrowing the gap but not enough. Perpignan has beaten the 2012 winners of the top 14 French rugby league, Toulouse by a score of 34-20. The stadium erupted as the winners did a slow victory lap around the stadium to thank their fans.

We joined the legions of supporters outside the stadium. The road was lined with buses as far as the eye could see. This time we walked down part of the mountain and boarded an escalator, which took us out behind the huge Art Museum of Cataluyna. After a quick stop for a gelato, we walked down the many stairs to the fountain area, where there was a huge Mexican festival going on. Finally, we ended up at Placa Espanya. There is a huge, beautiful brick building there that we had often speculated about. Now we know that it was Las Arenas, a former bull fighting ring. This time we decided to visit. Inside was a huge shopping area on three terraces. There was also a terrace devoted to twelve movie theatres. On top of the building we looked out from the viewing platform over the stunning view of Placa Espanya and the art gallery. As we walked around the circle we watched some people splashing about in an infinity pool on top of one of the buildings. It looked so lovely, even more so since it was so hot and muggy. We were very jealous.

It was back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and a short trip to the Passeig de Gracia train station. We had arrived a little too early. Now we had to wait in the stultifying heat of the platform, where not one cafe or place to buy water was open. As the trains rolled through we were joined by more and more passengers all waiting for our train that managed to be a few minutes late. Finally, we were seated on the very busy but at least air conditioned train. I was impressed, when we were speeding along at 159 kilometres an hour.

After a couple of hours we were in the car and on our way home. Out of the car in the driveway, there were loads of stars in the sky. It was lovely and cool with no wind. We were happy to be home.

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