It was finally time to take the Iberia flight from Miami to Madrid and continue the journey with a €24 fast train (Ouigo) to Barcelona. I had never heard about this train company, but for that price which included an XL seat, free wi-fi, and a view out the window, it was a no brainer.
I was very excited because 5 years had already gone by since I had last been in Barcelona. I lived there for 7 years of my childhood.
The pandemic took away what would have certainly been the best summer of my life back in 2020. I was going to first spend time with family friends in Cork, Ireland who were our neighbors when we lived in London. I would then go and see my grandfather in the small town of Wittlich, Germany for 10 days and potentially after that a few days in Barcelona before returning to Miami. I was then going to fly to Cali, Colombia for a week or so and finally head to New York City for a summer internship with the NFL at their headquarters. The hiring manager told me during the interview process that the person chosen for the role would fly around the country with him to some of the NFL clubs. I had flight tickets already booked and a place to stay at NYU, but needless to say all those plans got canceled and I was definitely sad and shocked.
The last time I was in Barcelona was shortly after graduating from high school and now I was returning with a college degree and a full-time job. It is always interesting to see how my friends and I have changed or not since we were 9 years old or younger. Even from those early days I was always different from the rest of my friends. I was never into following the crowd just for the sake of it. Each time I would come back I would discover something else that I would not do, but that does not stop us from having a good time.
One thing for sure I missed was the food. I love food, but Spanish food is on another level. Even the simple things like pan con tomate with anything from cheese or lomo on top tastes so good over there. Matter of fact, first thing I did when I arrived at the train station in Atocha (Madrid) was buy a bocadillo de jamon iberico, a bocadillo de tortilla de patata, and a Cola Cao. Delicious.
Towards the end of 2021 I saw an offer to buy primetime Formula 1 seats at the Spanish GP for a price that seemed inexpensive compared to the crazy numbers I had heard were being charged at other venues. I did not know if I would be able to go or if my boss would grant my vacation request since I had just started with the company in September 2021 and the race would take place in May 2022. Thankfully my company has a Flexible Time Off (FTO) policy so it was completely at my manager’s discretion to approve or disapprove time off.
I just wanted to be excited again about something and Formula 1 is a sport I had been following since I was little and Lewis Hamilton was just getting started with McLaren. I decided to take the risk and I bought two tickets in the main stands right in front of the Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari garages.
I was a little bit nervous for the next several months and eventually came the time to request FTO and see if my wishful thinking would become a reality. I asked for one week and my boss at the time who is a VP shocked me with her response. She told me to take 2 weeks off… I was so happy because that meant more time in Barcelona and I was certain that this time the pandemic would not stop me from going.
I was so excited that I even started looking at Barcelona’s home game schedule since it had been 10 years since the last time I saw them play at the Camp Nou. Barca-Villareal seemed to be the only viable option and also the last game of the season, but I would wait on buying a ticket since they weren’t fighting for anything anymore and I was hoping to get a discount and maybe one of my friends would go too.
I had also arranged to stay with some family friends in Sitges which is a beach town my family and I used to go to almost every weekend during the summer and we always had a great time.
Everything was lined up nicely for a successful trip. In the next blog I will delve into the details of it, but before I end this one, I want to say that sometimes things do not always go as planned due to factors outside of our control like the pandemic, but working towards our goals and remaining hopeful will eventually be rewarding.