As I’ve alluded to countless times throughout my reflections on my life so far (Well, maybe 2 or 3 times) isn’t life ultimately about having fun and doing what ever makes you feel alive, as long as you don’t hurt anybody?
Well, when I go on holiday, more than at any other time, I trust in the great roller-coaster that controls all life to take a hold of my holiday time and throw me a fun filled curve ball (American) or Googly (English) just to make sure everything that happens on holiday is authentic.
One of these googlies- curve-balls, sort of happened about 5 years ago when the cruise ship we were on moored up at Barcelona. We, me and Angie, the wife, had met a fun couple on board the ship and instantly hit it off. Her name was Karen (Bobby) and she was Welsh. His name was Deano and he was an authentic, quintessential Aussie (all he needed was a straw hat with corks swinging around) and we laughed and laughed. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to talk and laugh with them, we were so alike as couples that the inevitability of us becoming good friends seemed preordained.
We drank gallons of beer, wine and cocktails together, ate all of our meals together and smoked together, completely relaxed in each other’s company.
So, you get the picture, now to Barcelona.
The ship moored up at about 8am and after a hearty, cholesterol infested British breakfast, all four of us descended four decks and walked across the gangway, flashed our passports to the customs officers and strolled to the outskirts of Barcelona like four amigos, without any itinerary in place, just a carefree attitude as our trusty guide.
We decided amongst ourselves to catch a hop on-hop off bus, which would give us the opportunity to see the sights from the alfresco top deck, allowing us to choose where we wanted to get off. Anyway, we saw a red bus in the distance so had to run to catch it. In the process of running I tripped up and nearly head butted the very clean Spanish pavement, which made everyone laugh, Bobby and Deano called me a “Fuck wit”. I believed at the time it was a term of endearment, and strangely, ‘Fuck wit’ is indeed an insulting compliment!
On-board the bus we were given complementary red earphones for translation purposes. I still have those earphones. From our elevated position we travelled up into the hills, overlooking the city, eventually driving very close to the Olympic Stadium, which looked absolutely incredible. However, when Barcelona’s world famous Nou Camp came into view we hopped off the bus so myself and Crocodile Dundee could buy stadium tour tickets to take a look around this footballing behemoth.
The sheer scale of it was magnificent and whilst we took the tour the 2 women enjoyed some therapeutic shopping (They found a bar) After the tour, all four of us met up outside the stadium and found a nice little bar that served authentic Spanish food (We had a chicken kebab, I think) After a couple of ice cold San Miguel’s each, we took another wander and came across the Basilica, and by golly, it was/is an impressive structure. Incredibly, they started to build the Basilica in 1882, and yet it’s not due to be finished until 2026. I wonder if the local council have the contract?) Anyway, it is a truly beautiful structure. Maybe, if time and destiny are on my side, I will go back to gaze on the finished article.
The real drama, no, the only drama we had was when we looked at the time. We had under 1 hour to get back to the ship and judging by the rush hour traffic in Barcelona, the traffic moved very, very, very slowly! We caught the first red bus we could find, sat down, and waited to move closer to the port. And waited. And waited. Still waiting! Time ticked by alarmingly and we had literally 15 minutes to board ship or we would have been stranded in Barcelona, if it’s possible to be “Stranded” in such a beautiful city. It was at the 15 minute mark that I had one of my executive decision moments. I suggested we get off the bus and flag a taxi down, which conveniently for us, was dropping someone off very near to the bus. We dived off the bus and got into the taxi. The taxi driver, after learning of our predicament, swerved in and out of the traffic with Euro signs undoubtedly flying before his eyes!
We arrived at the entrance to the port at 6pm. We were late and everybody had been advised not to be late because of the port fines incurred by the ships who were late departing the port. Both of the women immediately started to run towards the ship, a couple of carrier bags flapping behind them. I started to trot after watching them panic running for 20 seconds, but my friend Croc Dundee said “Fuck it John, lets have a fag” in the most authentic Australian drawl you could every wish to hear. He produced 2 cigarettes, we stopped to light up and then strolled towards the ship happily puffing away as several hundred passengers were leaning on the handrails watching myself and croc ambling towards the ship.
One of the officers watched us walk over the gangplank after finishing our smokes and looked non to happy, but fuck it, we required a cigarette!
All four of us went straight up to the top deck to get beers, find a seat, light a cigarette and watch the ship leave Barcelona. It’s a beautiful, cosmopolitan city, but by Christ, it’s busy during rush hour!