I told myself I wouldn't plan too much on my trip Spain. I told myself that this would be a time I'd relax and just go where the road takes me. That's fine in spirit, but I'm a creature who needs structure. I always have and I always probably will. That always creates complicated feelings while you're on vacation. Am I enjoying this enough? Am I seeing everything I need to see?
The adrenaline for the trip had still been pumping strong on day three. I hadn't slept much. I woke up a little after 8 a.m., much earlier than most of the hostel crowd. I almost marched to the famous el Rastro market in Madrid. The only thing that stopped from b-lining it there was stopping for some coffee and a pastry. I told myself that it was ok to stop for a coffee. I needed this. I can take a breath. I had all day.
But 10 hours later, after a full day of sightseeing on el Rastro and Toledo, I just wanted to watch some soccer. I was a little anxious because I said I'd watch it with another guy who was at my hostel, but my bus back from Toledo arrived so late that I missed out the scheduled meeting time and I didn't have any way to contact him.
The previous day while wandering around, I saw a row of Irish pubs that said they'd be showing the game. Both were packed when I hustled over to that area around Puerta Del Sol just as the game was starting. It didn't look promising, so I just wandered around till I saw another place that was showing the game.
That place was what could be considered a "fast casual" burger joint. Oh man, I thought. This isn't "the real Spain." I want tapas and sangria while watching football. Rick Steves didn't recommend this. But the game was starting and I didn't want to miss it.
I ordered a beer and looked around for a spot. The only free space was at a table with a couple. The man had salt and pepper hair, the woman had glasses, and they looked like your typical suburban 40-something couple. They were not who expected to be watching a football game with, but it was crunch time.
I asked quietly if I could sit at their table and they said yes. I sat on the side closest to the tv, so I didn't face them. I didn't say much and I took of my Barcelona hat because I didn't know who they were rooting for. Over the course of the first half, I noticed them giving slight applause and affirmations for Barcelona- a good sign in Real Madrid territory.
At the half (score tied 1-1) the woman asked where I was from. I told her the U.S. They were from Guatemala and huge Barcelona fans. They had been to the Champions League game the week before. We talked about soccer and basketball. (Their English was excellent.) Their names were Yolanda and Andi. Yolanda asked where I was from in the states and it turns out that she has a niece who lives in Minneapolis.
The second half was much more lively. Ivan Raktic of Barcelona scored and we high fived. The room was about 60/40 Madrid to Barcelona fans. It was exciting. Barcelona was winning the Classico. I was excited to have made some new friends and bond over the team that had inspired this trip. Andi even bought me a beer.
But then in approximately the 80th minute Real Madrid's James Rodriguez changed the narrative. He scored. It looked like it was going to be a draw. Oh well, I still had fun.
But, as I am learning, you should sometimes throw out your plans. Because Lionel Messi, or just life in general, can always throw surprises at you. In literally the last second of stoppage time Messi received a ball at the top of the box and got a clean goal in the left part of the net. Yolanda, Andi and I were yelling. Even if it wasn't "the authentic Spain experience" it turned out to be really frickin fun. Andi gave me his email address and told me to send him a note.
As much as I love guidebooks. Not everything you want or need is going to be in there. Sometimes you just got to wander around till you find it.