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Barcelona, Madrid and Manchester




Selly Selina AvatarFrom my friend Selly Selina in Singapore. I first met Selly in Seattle; she was en-route from Vancouver, BC to to a sky-diving date in Southern California. Her curiosity and love of life were contagious from the start. I have since watched her learn and master new hobbies all over Asia, and the world. She inspires me.


If you ask my  friends to describe me in two words, in a flash they would say “marathon” and “football” (with “food” being a close third). And it is precisely these two passions that brought me to Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester. My love for all things español, the language I picked up in 2003, was also a major factor in choosing the destination for my memorable Spring vacay.


Rock ‘n’ Roll Madrid Marathon 2013

This race has been on my mind since it became the first non-US race under the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series starting last year. The fact that I had never set foot in the Spanish capital was also a strong pull, since I believe there’s no better way to see and explore a city than by conquering its streets in running shoes. The urban full marathon course took us on a journey past many of Madrid’s best sites including Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and Estadio Vicente Calderon, homes to a pair of world-famous football teams: Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. As pretty and charming as it was, Madrid is a very hilly city and the elevations throughout this, my seventh, 42.2K run (my fourth international marathon after NYC, Vancouver and Melbourne) felt nothing short of crazy. You can read a full review of the marathon on my personal blog, Purrs and Hisses.

Football Matches & Stadium Tours in Madrid, Barcelona & Manchester

As fate would have it, I was in for the greatest football adventure of my life: I got to watch four top-flight matches involving the Spanish La Liga, English Premier League and UEFA Champions League in the span of just nine days. The first match took place on the eve of my marathon; a dreamy Madrid derby which saw Atletico Madrid take on bitter rivals Real Madrid at the Estadio Vicente Calderon. Next up were two Champions League semi-final clashes: Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, and FC Barcelona vs Bayern Munich at the former’s home ground, the Camp Nou. (In Barcelona, I also managed to catch a live futsal match between FCB Alusport and Rios Renovables at the Palau Blaugrana indoor stadium right next to Camp Nou.) Finally, this Red Devil seized the moment and made a quick getaway to  Manchester, where I watched Manchester United take on Chelsea at Old Trafford aka The Theatre Of Dreams. This was especially exciting because it was the first home game since Manchester United secured their title as 2013 EPL champions. Of course, I also explored the different stadiums in great detail by doing the stadium tours.

Yoga Snapshots in Barcelona

Another current obsession of mine is yoga. Being the picturesque city that it is, Barcelona has several spots perfect for capturing your best poses for the album. I highly recommend Parc Güell, Parc De La Ciutadella, the roof terrace of La Pedrera (yup, seriously!) and the long stretch of beaches between Barceloneta and Bogatell.

Spanish Guitar at Palau De La Musica Catalana, Barcelona

I was treated to an interesting showcase by four awesome Spanish guitarists called “Maestros De La Guitarra Espanyola.” The performance was titled “Versus” and had the performers playing beautiful classics with a dash of comical twist.

Flamenco at Las Carboneras, Madrid

It’s a little tricky to get to this place, but really it’s just a 5-minute walk from Sol metro station. Head towards Mercado de San Miguel and ask around for directions to Plaza Conde de Miranda where you will find Las Carboneras. While the flamenco was superb, I’d miss the dinner and fill my tummy at the above mentioned Mercado de San Miguel instead, where you can get an array of local delicacies.

Stand-Up Comedy at The Comedy Store and The Frog and Bucket, Manchester

The last time I was in Manchester back in 1994, I remember it as a boring, grey place with only Old Trafford as an attraction. This time, however, I was greeted by an awesome arty vibe all around, and was particularly impressed by the city’s cool graffiti. Other than football, I totally enjoyed the stand-up comedy at The Frog and Bucket, and the “King Gong” show at The Comedy Store. The latter featured amateur comics trying their utmost to impress with their own brand of comedy; only the funniest ones survive while the not-so-funny ones get booted off stage by the sound of the gong.

Seafood Paella

Paella has always been my #1 favourite Spanish dish. So, naturally, I went absolutely paella-crazy—I had it 8 times during my last 6 days in Spain! My vote for the best seafood paella goes to Tapa Tapa on Passeig de Gracia (aka the shopping haven of Barcelona), as well as El Chiringuito Las Sardinitas at the scenic Nova Icaria beach.

Chocolate Con Churros

The Spanish certainly know how to make hot chocolate. Their version is thick, so thick that it is more akin to slurping chocolate soup! As if that’s not delicious enough, they throw in some churros, a donut-like dessert, on the side. Dip it in the hot chocolate and what you get is a piece of heaven in your mouth. You can enjoy this yummylicious pairing all over Madrid and Barcelona.






(Photos Top to Bottom: 1. Yoga pose at Park Güell 2. Chocolate Con Churros 3. Paella at El Chiringuito Las Sardinitas  4. Football game at Camp Nou. All photos by Selly Selina)

Posted on July 10, 2013