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A day in Barcelona and a lovely BA crew – better than any chill pill

Posted on 1 April 2011 | 7:04am

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.

  • Jose

    Great city but the traffic is not too appreciative of “lost” foreign drivers particularly when you’re going down what is in effect a 6 lane highway that merges into 4. Manchester doesn’t have the Med location and the oh so blue sea and it also doesn’t have the sheer ‘class’ in its construction. Now Liverpool is another altogether……

  • Richard

    !00% with you. The finest City in Europe.

  • Hilary Swain

    Sounds like you benefited from ‘change as good as a rest’, though as you were also in South Africa this week, maybe you need to check the carbon footprint.

  • Paul

    Good for you for sticking up for the crew … they are under a lot of pressure at the moment, and as a former steward, I would not trust either the management or the unions to sort things out for them. I did long haul for seven years and it is not an easy job. It is very nice when someone such as yourself acknowledges the work the cabin crew does for the customers, many of who can be very demanding, difficult and often quite rude

  • Chrissie King

    It helps that there are fewer people there. Heathrow would probably not look too bad if it was not swarming with people

  • Scooke7

    Herr Goebbels,
    So, why not migrate to Barcelona? It sounds like it could improve your health (less medication and all that). And BEST of all, no more Daily Mail !
    Let’s put a project in place to get the Campbell family in Barcelona by autumn !

  • Robert

    Is Barcelona still the mugging capital of Europe?

    Five of our group of Rotarians were mugged separately at the 2002 Barcelona Rotary International Convention – out of 25 of us – 20% hit rate.

    Saw Gorby promoting his foundation to Rotary.

    The great art makes up for it all, though.

  • Duncan Phipp-MacIntyre

    Delighted you enjoyed that lovely place. Such a fillip to the heart to be refreshed thus. Excellent.

  • Gilliebc


    I have another idea for a project. Let’s get you and your vacuous comments off AC’s blog site.

    “Herr Goebbels” besides the obvious inaccuracy, has become so repetative and boring. Also, if you were slightly more educated on mental health issues and took the time to read what AC has written on this subject then you would know your second sentence is completely superfluous.

    So given what I’ve said about your post, I can only come to the conclusion that your post is a total waste of space.

  • Anonymous

    Alastair is no doubt hoping for an upgrade next time he travels with BA…

  • Mabozza Ritchie

    It’s a special city, no doubt about it. Have the good fortune of my brother-in-law living there, which comes in handy. Had our honeymoon in Barca and I’ve also seen Celtic draw at the Nou Camp – scared to admit which was the more exciting!

  • Richard Brittain

    Ha, an excellent read.

  • RR

    We were on the flight with you and have to agree, they were a fabulous crew, even to those of us “further back”!

  • Scooke7

    Oh dear ! Looks like I’ve touched a raw nerve. Maybe you need to move to Barcelona as well !!
    If you want my vacuous comments off Goebbels’….sorry..AC’s site, then go ahead and ban me. And do it openly.
    I’ve checked the spelling of “Herr Goebbels” and it is correct. So, the inaccuracy is oblivious to me. Hope you remember that the phrase was coined by G. Galloway & I’m just repeating it. You, on the other hand, might want to check how “repetitive” is spelt…there’s YOUR obvious inaccuracy.
    The person who mentions medication first is Goebbels…sorry AC himself. It’s in the title, “chill pill”. So, if he went to Barcelona for just 1 day and felt no need for medication, I’m merely suggesting a longer, maybe permanent move may result in him taking less medication or none at all, which he himself admits he takes, when things get a bit rough .e.g. when his home Internet connection broke some time ago.
    I would also like to point out a tautologous section in your post. My sentence is either superfluous or it is not, “completely superfluous” suggests that there it is possible to be incompletely superfluous…which makes no sense.
    You are quite welcome to you conclusion. But given that it is based on an inability to understand my post, you really should post an apology to me.

  • Richard

    “Herr Goebbels” is an unnecessary insult: AC is guilty of many things but has nothing in common with Goebbels. As political opponents we should be able to debate without stooping that low. Your articulate dissection, below, shows the quality of your thought: You do not need to resort to this.

  • Gilliebc

    @ Scooke 7
    I wasn’t questioning your spelling of “Herr Goebbels” but your use of that title and name when you are clearly refering to AC. It’s a cheap insult.
    As for a project to get you off this site, that was merely a light-hearted retort to your comment about getting the Campbell family to Barcelona!
    I think you are correct about the tautology and the obvious spelling mistake though 🙂

  • It is a special city, no doubt about it. Have the happiness of my brother-in-law who live there, which is convenient. We had our honeymoon at Barca and I have seen Celtic draw at the Nou Camp – afraid to admit that was more exciting!