Saturday, February 25, 2012

#55 - Attend a Sporting Event in Another Country

Here I am, pre-game, in my new FB Barcelona scarf at Camp Nou.
We are back from Spain. Two wonderful weeks exploring Madrid, Cordoba, Granada and Barcelona. I'll have more blog posts coming about our time there, but one of the things I am excited about is that I was able to check off another item from my life list; attend a sporting event in another country.

We figured out that FC Barcelona would be playing Valencia during our trip, so we scheduled our time in Barcelona to match the game day. We started looking for tickets before we left California, but would only find single seats, none next to each other. We left for Spain with the hope that more would be released while we were on our trip. If it happened we could pick up a pair of tickets seated next to each other, we would attend the game. If not, no big deal. We knew there would be plenty of other awesome things to see and do in Barcelona.

I am happy to report that a few days before the game we were finally able to get tickets. Hooray. We were sitting really high up above one of the goals in Camp Nou, which is the largest stadium in Europe. It seats nearly 100,000 people!
Inside Camp Nou. The Club's slogan is "more than a club."

Bob also got a scarf. Probably the only matching things we own.
The game was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed watching the players as much as the spectators. The game attendees took the play very seriously. I was amazed how quiet everyone was during the game play. I am used to baseball games where it seems the audience is more chatting with each other than watching the game. Any time there was a good play, the crowd would clap very politely. However, once there was a goal, the stadium went off! That happened quite a few times, as the final score was 5 to 1, with Barcelona winning.

Exuberant flag waving across the stadium.

Team group hug after a goal. Messi (#10) scored four of the five goals that night.

Final score, with Barcelona winning.
Overall, a fun evening and great way to get a taste of the local culture. I highly recommend checking out a sporting event when you travel. If you go to Camp Nou in the winter, be sure to dress warm and bring a little blanket. Sunflower seeds are the nibble snack of choice and can be bought from one of the many vendors on the walk to the stadium.  During the half time, everyone whips out their pre-made sandwiches and has an impromptu picnic. We grabbed a few potato sandwiches from a bar on the walk from the metro to the stadium and ate right along with everyone else at half time.

Finally, we listened to the team's fight song a few times on YouTube before we went so we could sing along. We only managed to get the "Barca, Barca, Baaaarrrrca" part down. Here is a little video clip from the stadium when the team came in. It gives a sense of the crowds and the enthusiasm ... and you can hear me chant "Barca" at the end.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

One Backpack + One Purse = Two Weeks in Spain

In my last post I mentioned how I enjoy the planning and packing part of travel, almost as much as the actual trip.  Working at Le Travel Store for a few years in grad school taught me the importance of good travel gear and also packing lightly. Here is what I am taking to Spain.

Aside from my wool pea coat and what I am wearing on the plane, everything I need for two weeks is in these bags. This set up is designed to be completely carry-on, so there is no worry about my bag getting lost, and no wait for luggage when I arrive. It also makes it easy to navigate public transit, stairs and more.

The backpack that I am using is an Eagle Creek Continental Journey. The current version looks to be the Rincon. The backpack straps can tuck away in a zipper compartment and it can be carried from a side handle, so it looks a little more polished than a typical hiking pack. I have had this bag for over 10 years. It has served me well and logged many miles. I use a system of packing cubes and a packing folder to keep things organized and compact inside the bag.

Some people find it hard to believe that we can travel with just a carry-on backpack and day bag each. We travel under the assumption that we will do a little laundry while we travel. Also, go for layering pieces and colors that will work together. When in doubt, leave it out.
On the plane I wear pants, tee, light knit cardigan, light jacket, casual scarf, walking shoes and an inexpensive watch. Here is everything else in the bags.

  • 2 pair pants (one nicer, one more casual)
  • 3 layering tank tops
  • 1 layering tee
  • 2 long sleeve tees
  • 1 button up shirt
  • wool blend sweater
  • 5 sets socks/underwear
  • Sleep pants/shirt
  • Warm scarf
  • Warm hat + gloves
  • Walking shoes
  • Packable slippers (great for plane/train and around the hotel room)
  • Wool pea coat (carried separate)
  • Toiletry kit (Bob and I share most things so he takes half of the stuff and take the other half. All liquids are three ounces or less so we can do carryon)
  • Vitamins and EmergenC packets
  • Sunscreen + sunglasses
  • First aid supplies in small ziplock (band aids, antiseptic wipe, hand sanitizer, Benadryl and pain reliever)
  • Noise canceling headphones
  • Inflatable neck pillow
  • Collapsible water bottle

Other Items
  • Journal + pen
  • TrekDek (which doubles as playing cards) and six dice
  • Bandana
  • Two packable nylon shopping bag
  • Petzel head lamp
  • Compact umbrella
  • Empty ziplock bags (2 small, 2 large)
  • iPad + charger + adapter plug
  • Camera + charger + extra memory stick
  • Guide book + map
  • Passport, credit cards, travel docs
  • Money belt


 If I was traveling in summer, I would :
  • Swap out the warm hat for sun hat
  • Take sandals instead of extra walking shoes
  • Add in swimsuit and sarong
 If it was spring or fall travel, I would add in a long black skirt as well.

So, that's everything. This combination has served me well traveling for one week or for two months. Let me know if you have any questions on my packing approach.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Travel Buzz

We leave in a few days for Spain. I have that excited feeling that can only be described as the travel buzz. I am ready for the excitement of airports, navigating public transit, exploring cities, trying new foods, spending time with Bob, meeting new people, enjoying different landscapes and visiting museums. 

Planning the trip is always part of the fun for me, and I like planning my gear and packing too. I know ... kind of strange. But, I like to get as much taken care of up front, so I can be ready for the unexpected opportunities once we land. I am packing light, just my Eagle Creek travel back pack and a small day bag. When in doubt, leave it out.

Our itinerary includes Madrid, Cordoba, Granada and Barcelona in 16 days. We probably could have added more, but we find we like to pick a spot and stay for at least three nights to get a better flavor of the place. We will have one overnight train ride too, from Granada to Barcelona, which I am excited about. We will have our own little sleeping cubby. The only other overnight train ride I took was in India... I am sure just about anything will be calmer than that experience.

We will be in Spain for Valentine's Day and also our 100-month anniversary. Oh, and this trip is also a lead up to my 40th birthday. So much to be thankful for and so excited to finally be traveling again. I'll have sangria and tapas for your all!

Photo Credit: Ludovico Cera