Earlier this year (2008) Luke and I decided that a city break was in order. Don't go getting any ideas that we are a pair of international jet setters! We planned to head out to Barcelona to camp out on a friends air mattress and spend the three days running around taking in as much of the city as we could. A bit of international sun in the middle of July was hardly an original plan however it was an exciting one.
Especially when we arrived in London to get our connecting flight and were told that we had been up graded to first class. Not because the staff saw clearly that this was a couple who were in desperate need of a holiday but because we had checked in on-line there had been a mix up and there were no seats left in cattle class. There was a large grey tea-towel separating us from where we would have been originally and it was as if we were in another world.
"Would madam like some champagne?"
"Madam would like that very much, thank you"
In an actual glass. Champagne in an actual glass. Real glass, not plastic. I stared at the glass, bouncing a ring off the side of it to hear the sound of it not being plastic. It was as if I had only ever had a cup with a lid (toddler style) and now I was getting to drink out of a grown up glass for the first time. I had to be careful not to pour the whole thing down the sides of my cheeks! Despite the champagne, my nerves about flying hadn't diminished any and by the time the plane had reached its altitude Luke was asking the attendant for a whiskey and ice. Whiskey for him and ice for his now slightly bruised hand!
Wonders would not cease for the course of the entire flight with afternoon tea more complimentary drinks and plenty of "Sirs" and "Madams" being splashed out to Luke and I. All served without sarcasm, disdain and with real crockery, real genuine knifes and forks. Unbelievable how a tea-towel can result in such a different flying experience. I would get off than plane a different woman, one who clearly was destined to be on the receiving end of First Class treatment.
We arrived and met Craig in the city centre and headed back to his apartment to drop our bags. With its views across Barcelona it suddenly became a very tempting thought to pack the job in and head for Spain... it still is a tempting thought!
We took the camera's, maps, guide books and sun tan lotion out to explore the Gothic quarter while Craig earned an honest crust.
We were standing in a square people watching and taking pictures of the two town halls - I think the Spanish and the Catalonia. Both halls sit opposite each other in a square and are almost identical, one is no more flashy or beautiful than the other. Both have guards whose uniforms are equally smart and equally different without competing with one another. I stood and admired while Luke was busy playing with the settings on his new camera taking shots of the two groups of 3 guards talking amongst each other.
We had only been standing for about 15 minutes talking about where to go next when there was the sound of bells ringing, not church bells but bicycle bells. And not just one cyclist ringing to get the attention of a pedestrian but at least 30 bells all ringing. Looking around I couldn't quite see where they were coming from when suddenly the square filled from one corner with a lot of bell ringing cyclists. Cycling round and round the square.
Men and women, young and old, all of different shapes and sizes. Some with the confidence to wear nothing but an Indian style headdress and a pair of trainers and others with a pair of pants and trainers. All on bikes, trike's and buggies.
They cycled and shouted in Spanish/Catalonia. Luke and I wouldn't know the difference between the two languages but they had obviously come to the town halls for a reason and we weren't sure which town hall we were standing out side- Spanish or Catalan. A petition was handed into a crowd of 15 strong guards who were also clearly as curious as we were as to what was going on.
Feeling very knowledgeable - having spotted something in the protesters Luke had missed!- I answered Luke's question about what they could be protesting about with a confident "It's Tibet- see the flag over there?" I was to be proved wrong later.
What the protesters didn't appreciate was that the timing of their entrance to the square coincided with a group of Hen's were making their way in the opposite direction. That was until the hens realised that there was a lot of naked people on bikes, where upon they did a u-turn and decided to "support" the protesters. The Indian Chief had the unfortunate experience of having his microphone taken off him by the Head Hen herself, who amongst a lot of screaming girly encouragement, belted out "Buttercup" by Barry White to an audience of naked people and confused looking tourists. I salute her confidence but pity the bars she and her posse were about to visit.
During the course of the song, some protesters clearly felt that the power of their message was being lost or that since the petition had been handed in it was time to delve into the rucksack and put some clothes on and head home. That for me had to be the most curious part- you have clearly cycled across a busy, metropolitan city to submit a petition, for Tibet me thinks, yet you can't cycle home the way you left it. Stark Naked?!
As we were getting ready that evening to head out for dinner Luke was quietly typing away on the internet trying to find out what all the fuss had been about, not convinced by my Tibet theory. When he burst out laughing, it turns out it was "World Cycle Naked Day" and events like the one in Barcelona had occurred across Europe.
I can bet my entire life savings that this event was not being supported in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh or London. Where we Brits are a little more reserved and a lot more cautious about put-holes, cobbles and builders.