We have enjoyed a fantastic start to the tour! Sunday morning opened with blue skies and cool temperatures and the group started with a wonderful breakfast at the hostel before meeting our local tour guide for the day. We were treated to multiple examples of Gaudi architecture as well as classic examples of both Roman and Gothic styles so prevalent throughout the city.
After a focus on the acrchitecture, our attention turned to seeing the more well known corners of the city. Our bus took us up to the top of Montjuïc where we learned some of the social history of the area with respect to the treatment of Jewish community and the Moors who had settled into the area.
From here it was down into the Gothic Quarter, the oldest section of the city and then the beach. Next, the boys were afforded some time to wander the narrow streets and grab some lunch. Most were adventurous enough to sample some Tapas and try out their Spanish skills . It is great to see so many embracing the culture.
After fueling up, we headed to the world famous Camp Nou, home of the Barcelona Football Club. An audio guided tour of the stadium and museum ensured those boys who love the beautiful game” learned all they could about one of the most successful sporting franchises in the world.
At the end of the Camp Nou experience we emerged to see a weary band of basketball players walking up the path. It was so great to have them finally with us and although understandably tired, they jumped right into the festivities as we headed straight to the fields for our first round of games.
The U17 fixture kicked off under the lights at Santboiana RFC at 8pm. After a shaky start, SMUS settled into what became a very competitive game. A slick Bryn Haydock scoring pass to captain Felix Butterfield put nerves at ease although a lazy kick-off reception immediately brought the home side back into the game. Despite strong play by Ted Ye and Bryce Forbes and good defensive work from centre Joe Johnson, some strong opposition runners were proving difficult to handle and, in particular, an exceptional full back was a load for our young back line. However, a Tyler Strandberg score shortly before the break, capped by a John Sudul conversion closed the margin to 17-14 at half-time.
Santboiana started strongly in the second half, dotting down early to widen the gap to 24-14. The SMUS forward pack then had to produce a huge defensive effort to keep the hosts out for the next 10 minutes. However, a Butterfield line break, coupled with some fine interplay in the forwards, brought us to the 5 meter line where strong body height allowed John Cook to crash over for our third try of the night. Sudul converted to bring us within three points. Unfortunately, that was as close as we could get, as Santboiana ran in three unanswered tallies to triumph 39-21. However, SMUS can take awaz many positives from a very solid early season effort!
The 1st XV match proved to be a long 70 minutes, as a big, fast and extremely well drilled home side, Spanish finalists in 2014 and favourites this year, scored at regular intervals to win 74-5. A nightmare SMUS start gifted Santboiana two tries in the first four minutes, and it was down hill from there. With big and experienced forwards Dante Morandin and Aidan McCleary still to comeback from injury, and with the basketball group also not available, the starting team lacked size and experience at this level. Nonetheless, every player fronted up bravely throughout, while the team, though starved of possession and hammered at the set pieces, ran the ball from everywhere in the hope of a breakthrough. In the end, this approach did produce an excellent tally, with a searing line break by Mitch Newman finished off smartly by Josh Kahn. Of the others, flanker Josh Graffi worked ferociously, with captain Carson Smith also prominent.
Clearly, a sleep in was in order for Tuesday morning! So, a later start at the simply spectacular La Sagrada Familia was a much needed respite for a tired tour party. Split into two groups, the boys were treated to an exhaustive educational experience of a basilica that defies explanation. The few pictures below surely not do it justice. Quite simply, if you ever have the chance, you MUST see it! Set to be completed in 2026, on the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death, the finished portions are mind blowingly intricate while the unfinished segments are massive in proportion.
A free afternoon gave the boys time to do their first souvenir shopping on bustling La Ramblas, sample some more tapas and explore other areas of the city on their own. Tomorrow morning sees the group off early to Valencia in order to reach the city with time to have a brief walk through prior to the second set of games at 6:00pm. Afterwards, the infamous Las Fallas festival promises to be a cultural experience the boys won’t soon forget. Hopefully paella will be on offer as its origins are from this region.