The kids have been really, really, really patient this week.
Since Señor Aventura arrived, each summer day has been filled with a stream of "To Do" lists... crazy fun stuff like, "Walk two miles to view an apartment that we will decide in 30 seconds we don't like," and "Take a 40 minute metro ride to visit a car dealership and sit for an hour while your dad talks with a stranger about used cars in a language you don't yet understand."
Basically every child's best dream come true! (Hey... we're building character here, kiddos!)
Since they're used to traveling with us, they've been pretty great about it though - a few minor scuffles here and there with each other - but mainly they've done a lot of patient waiting and reading.
Still, an eleven year old can withstand only so much boredom before inevitable tween-age feelings come to the fore.
"I miss my friends. This is boring," The Scientist confessed. Both statements completely understandable, and true.
(We did point out to our eldest son that looking at used cars and searching for a new home isn't necessarily any more fun back in California...)
Still, Señor Aventura and I could see group morale for the adventure wilting slightly, and so we countered with the best antidote we could imagine.
"So... I was thinking we could stop by the FC Barcelona Botiga (store) today," I mused to Soccer Dude and The Scientist on Wednesday morning.
Soccer Dude's face visibly brightened. "Really? Can we buy something there?"
"Maybe!" I smiled. "We'll see!"
The Scientist frowned slightly. "Mom, when can we see a Barcelona game? Didn't you say there was one this week? Can we go to that?"
"Yeah mom, PLEASE?" added Soccer Dude. "PLEASE can we see a game? When are they playing?"
Normally I might have strung the surprise along for a while to keep them on their toes, but understanding the long week they'd had, it felt like the kindest thing to do to share our happy news.
"Ahhh! You guys are too smart! You got me! We were going to surprise you! We're going to the FCB store to buy tickets! Your dad and I are taking you to see Barça play tonight!"
"WE'RE GOING TONIGHT???? WE GET TO SEE MESSI TONIGHT????" Soccer Dude began to yodel and run around the front room of our small apartment. "YAHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE'RE GOING TO A BARÇA GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
He stopped short, and turned to me very seriously. "Mom, where is the computer? I have GOT to email Mini-Muller to tell him about this RIGHT NOW! We're going to see BARÇA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" He began to dance and jump around again.
In the end, Soccer Dude and The Scientist went with their dad all the way to Camp Nou to buy tickets, not just to avoid the 10 euro service charge but also because our boys will take any opportunity to visit Camp Nou.
They got 'nosebleed' seats, way at the top of the stadium. The tickets were 39 euro each... as even "cheap" seats are still a pretty big splurge for a family of five! We didn't know much about the opposing team, UC Sampdoria, but The Scientist looked them up and informed us that they were a professional Italian team that beat Barça in this same pre-season matchup back in 2012.
"Mommy gets to watch (handsome) FC Barcelona players on the field for two hours... going against a squad of (handsome) Italian soccer players?" I laughed and kissed Señor Aventura. "Sounds like a super fun night for everyone!"
Getting to and from the game was a little tricker than we'd imagined. We left our apartment for the 8:30pm kickoff at 6:30pm, thinking that we'd grab a quick bite to eat along the way. We'd completely forgotten though that most restaurants in Barcelona don't open for dinner until 8pm at earliest... because the Spanish work day schedule doesn't usually end until then.
(Businesses here are open typically from 9am to 2pm and then from 4:30 or 5pm to 8pm... with a long break in the middle of the day for siesta, comida, etc.)
Long story short - nothing fast/reasonably priced was open. We saw a few touristy restaurants with sit-down menus that were still open on the Rambla Catalunya... but that looked like it would take a long time.
After walking for nearly an hour with hungry, anxious kids, we found an open burger restaurant called Figaro and ordered food to go.
"It's almost eight..." said Señor Aventura when our food arrived. "We'd better go or the boys will miss kickoff. Maybe you should take the boys in a taxi and Little Angel and I will take the bus and meet you there."
Taxis in Barcelona only have enough seatbelts for four passengers and they will absolutely not give you a ride if your group is larger than four. You can call a Taxi Van, but they are harder to come by and it can take a while. There were none nearby at that moment.
Seeing the stressed faces of our boys, I agreed with my husband. We tried to hail a taxi. One pulled up alongside us, and I asked him in my best broken Spanish, "Sir, can you take three of us to Camp Nou for the game?"
The driver was a younger man, with kind brown eyes. "No," he shook his head. "Better to take the metro or bus. I cannot get my cab anywhere near Camp Nou right now."
Listening to his advice, we jumped immediately on the H8 Bus to Camp Nou and waited through what felt like an infinite number of stops. Soccer Dude had sad eyes fixed intensely on the list of bus stops. "I think there are nineteen million stops until Camp Nou," he said. "We're going to miss the game."
"No, it's okay," said Señor Aventura. "We won't miss it. We're nearly there."
Happily, my husband was right. The bus let us off on the front stops of Camp Nou at exactly 8:30... and the Aventura children raced up the steps to the turnstile.
I couldn't help but notice how different it is to enter a soccer match here than at home. The game had just started and there was no line. No security team. Nobody searched our bags or patted us down. A single young woman, surely Spanish though Asian in heritage, smiled at the kids and took our tickets. She let us through the gate and with that we were in one of the most famous soccer stadiums in the world.
(It may also be one of the older ones? I was really surprised by how run-down Camp Nou appeared from the inside. There were also massive gaps in the railing - at all levels - where a toddler could easily and quickly fall down multiple floors. I don't think it would pass safety inspections in the USA. To be honest, it reminded me more of the ancient Colosseum in Rome than it did of our stadiums in California. Such a glorious view though!)
We headed to section 417, where there was one last little complication. Our seats were full. Five men of international descent (hard to say where they were from... perhaps Middle-Eastern... were enjoying the game in a very relaxed fashion, from our seats. Of course, this could happen anywhere.
Señor Aventura is a very relaxed guy himself, so he wasn't excited about any possible conflict with a bunch of dudes at a soccer game. First, he tried to flag down a stadium attendant to help us. However, it turns out that the stadium attendants at Camp Nou are basically a bunch of young dudes themselves - maybe teens, maybe college students - who really didn't seem to care at all where anyone sat. To be honest, they seemed pretty annoyed by all foreign tourists - even the ones who spoke good Spanish.
"Those guys don't know what's going on," said Señor Aventura grimly.
"Honestly, I think they just don't care," I replied.
"Mommy, where are our seats?" asked Little Angel.
"We need to sit down right away!" exclaimed Soccer Dude, his eyes already riveted to the field.
Luckily a kind man sitting nearby addressed us in English, "Can I help you?" Señor Aventura explained our dilemma. The man immediately addressed the crowd and two full rows of men sitting next to where we were standing pulled out their tickets to find out where the mistake had been made. As it turned out, almost everyone around us was in the wrong place. The men in our row sitting in our seats were actually supposed to sit just one row above us... but the men sitting in their row needed to go about 8 rows higher.
It was a little bit of what my friends at home and I might casually call a "cluster". However, all the men were basically decent about it and everything ended well.
We sat down just in time for Soccer Dude and The Scientist to witness a blond Lionel Messi perform an acrobatic move of pure awesomeness on the soccer field - impressive enough that their eyes bugged out. For the rest of the night, joy prevailed.
Final Score: FC Barcelona 3, UC Sampdoria 2. Bravo, Barça!
The real winners of the evening? La Familia Aventura! An amazing, exciting game. Morale restored!!!!!