Spring Break in Barcelona, part IV

Steve Reed, Cottey's director of public information, traveled in Barcelona, Spain, with Cottey students, faculty and staff over spring break. He reported back with a series of articles written as letters home to his mother. This is the fourth of five letters.

Buenos Dias, Mama!

I cannot believe it is already Friday. It will be a busy day today. Mari Anne and I are tagging along with Priscilla and Tammy on their module: The Camp Nou (pronounced new) Experience. Camp Nou is the stadium of the world-famous soccer team FCB, which stands for Futbol Club Barcelona. Imagine the success and popularity of the New York Yankees in baseball or the New England Patriots in American football. Now add them together and double it and you have an idea of how popular this team is around the world. Going to Camp Nou is like going to the Mecca of European soccer. It is also the second-largest soccer stadium in the world with seats for 99,000 fans. It's hard to imagine that many people in one building, even harder to imagine moving them in and out of the stadium.
Our Cottey group at FCB's Camp Nou

 FCB also has, with little argument, the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, who has five Golden Ball awards. This Golden Ball is presented to the best player in the FIFA World Cup finals, and Messi has won this award a record five times and has also won the Golden Shoe, presented to the top goal scorer, five times. One of our Education First (EF) tour guides, Anne, said, "Here, Messi is God."

FCB has a slogan, “Més que un club,” which means “More than a club.” That slogan is incredibly accurate as the team represents the entire Catalan region in their jersey design and crest. Catalan, like Quebec in Canada, is a separatist region. They would like to be an independent nation, and protest signs and banners hang from apartment balconies around the city. The current Barcelona jersey has 11 alternating navy and maroon stripes representing the 11 neighborhoods of Barcelona. The top two quarters on the team crest feature the St. George Cross, one of the symbols of Catalan, and the flag of Catalan. Every FCB jersey is a statement of Catalan pride, so it's easy to see why “More than a club” is the perfect slogan for this team. 

A view from the press box at Camp Nou.
The tour began in the museum where we saw all of the trophies the team has won in its 120-year history along with other memorabilia. We also got to tour part of the stadium including the visitor's locker room, some of the seating on one side, and even the press box. Like any good tour, this one ended in the gift shop. No, Mama, I did not buy a team jersey. At 105€, it was more than I was willing to pay. I did treat myself to a pair of running shorts for 35€.

Today is also International Women's Day, and the Spaniards were marking it with a general strike by women. We were warned the trains may be running slower today, but none of us realized the impact that would have on travel. There were the same numbers of people wanting to travel, but not nearly enough trains to carry them. Not only were the trains packed—so were the platforms. The stations were hot and overcrowded and tempers among some of the commuters were very short. Mari Anne and Tammy gave up on the idea of train travel and took a taxi. Priscilla and I made two of our connections before giving up and walking the last mile-and-a-half back to the hotel.

We got ready for my last module of the week, An Introduction to Flamenco, which involved going to a flamenco club to watch a show. In addition to the strike and slow trains, demonstrations were scheduled for downtown and many streets were blocked off. We originally told students to meet in the hotel lobby and we'd take the trains at 6:30-6:45. By the afternoon we were telling them to leave at 6 and take the bus or share cabs.

Four of us got in a cab and told the driver we wanted to go to the Plaça Reial (the Royal Plaza). He shook his head no. He informed us he couldn't get there with the blocked off streets. After negotiating, he agreed to take us to St. James Plaza, which fortunately is a short walk to the flamenco club, Los Tarantos.

Along with our students, we were joined by our guides Anne and Ana who both love flamenco. We found out earlier in the week that Anne is a flamenco dancer! She shared some of the details of flamenco dancing with our students earlier, and it was cool to have someone who knew the art share her expertise with us.
The male flamenco dancers at Los Tarantos

At the beginning of the performance, the announcer let us know that the female dancer was on strike for International Women's Day. However, two male dancers would perform in her stead. We might have been a bit disappointed at first, but not after the show began. These guys were fantastic! Anne and Ana kept time with their clapping and they occasionally shouted out “Ole!”

After the performance, we were back in the plaza, and we got a breakdown and explanation of what we had seen from Anne. There she was, off to one side of the plaza, dancing and teaching the students how to keep time properly with the musicians and dancers. It was like having a master class in flamenco. What a great bonus learning experience for the students.

By this time it was almost 9 p.m. and we hadn't yet eaten. But then again, most locals eat late dinners, too. A few of us went out for paella and by the time we had eaten and gotten back to the hotel, it was 11:30.

Today has been another full day of Spanish culture, Mama. Although this is my second trip to Barcelona, I feel as though I am learning as much as the students. What an incredible experience for all of us!

Hasta mañana!

Your loving son,



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