Despite the OTT tweet activity yesterday, I can assure you I am not on the payroll of the Barcelona Tourist Board (though I would happily be so if it meant more time spent there).
Actually, though I say OTT, if anything my tweets extolling the beauty of the airport, the stylishness of the city, the wonderful scenery, the lovely beach, the perfect weather, the superb hotel where I was speaking at a conference hosted by US computer giant Intel were understated.
Let’s start with the airport. Architect Ricardo Bofill Levi should be a very proud man – had I been so brilliant as to design this glistening, bright, airy, efficient, spacious, largely queue-less, largely advertising-free temple to leisurely travel, I would find it hard to resist wandering around going ‘wow’ at the wondrousness of my work.
Then there was the drive into town, light traffic, blue sky, lovely hills in the middle distance, fabulous old buildings as we reached the city centre, alongside humming modern piazzas, and a real buzz as we headed to the ultra modern W hotel, with views on both sides out over the sea.
Local fish and tapas for lunch with my Intel and Burson Marsteller hosts, then my speech and a lively q and a with some very bright people, a book signing, a brief meeting with Catalan Socialists who had seen my tweets and come to the hotel for a chat about campaigns, a run along the sandy beach (fairly busy but only a handful braving the sea), plenty of what John Prescott calls ‘beautiful people’ on display, then back for a shower, cursing the idiocy of turning down the chance of a couple of days here when first I was invited. Shower done, out to the airport via a quick peak at the Nou Camp stadium.
There is a little part of most men that wants to be a top footballer, because it is so cool. They don’t come much cooler than Barcelona players. Of course the city helps the club’s image, and the club helps the city’s. But fair to say the city of Barcelona adds more to the glamour of FC Barca than the city of Manchester itself adds to the global glamour of United. Barcelona is a megacool city with or without the football club, but even cooler with it.
Actually I think the last time I was there was for the amazing Manchester United win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final. And the time before that I think I was a busker, too busy making money and drinking the proceeds to appreciate the beauty of the place.
So smitten was I yesterday that when I got to the airport and found the plane home was delayed, I shrugged, said to myself I will spend half the delay time sitting doing my emails in the sun, and the rest looking round the shops.
But you HATE shops, anyone who knows me shouts. Indeed, but I wanted to try to find out why these shops looked so enticing when most airports’ shops might as well have ‘hellhole’ above the signage. The answer is in the design of course. I was so mellow – and if Fiona is reading this she will now be close to fainting – I took a look at handbags. What a shock she would get if I turned up with a new Prada bag for her, I thought. Then it was my turn to faint – how can anyone pay that much for a bloody handbag? Chill, chill …
Even the lounge looked and felt different to the usual homogenous job, comfier, again better designed, and only one telly, with the volume low.
Once on the plane, we learned that due to earlier planes being late, and later planes not arriving, there might not be enough meals on board to feed everyone. I was sitting in the front row and a lovely British Airways stewardess called Kishori asked if I had been hoping to eat. If it helps you for me to say no, I said, I will.
This was chill chill behaviour beyond anything I am normally capable of when flying, and particularly as it meant the meal might go to some freebie-Mail-reading, stressed out ‘where’s my dinner?’ whinger further back. It is extraordinary to think a city can do all this, but Barcelona did. In the end, Kishori (half Nepalese, half Scots – great mix) did manage to get me a decent meal so even that worked out, and she and her colleagues did a brilliant job keeping everyone fed, watered and reasonably happy, not least by serving the crew meals to passengers.
I didn’t get Fiona a bag. But I am going to take her to Barcelona some time soon. I would even miss a Burnley game to do a long weekend. Not a big match, obviously, but you get the point. No wonder Messi, Xavi and Iniesta don’t much fancy leaving the place.