Thursday, 1 June 2006

Correfoc - Masquefa Barcelona


masquefa barcelona may 2006

There is no way on earth that this festival could be performed in England, its a pity for it is such a great spectacle, it unifys the village and all around, just as long as you don't mind loud noise, and being chased throughthe streets by devils brandishing pitchforks carrying fireworks.

Brief description taken from internet:
The 'Correfoc' (running fire) comes from a medieval dance called 'ball de diables' (demons dance) that represented the victory of an angel over a group of demons and was represented on festivities. Later pyrotechnics were added, and now it lacks any religious background except thefact that they're disguides as demons, so its just an entertainment thing that's done on various festivities, mostly on summer. In addition every group of demons has a monster that spits fireworks and all of them have a group of drummers that keep playing while the correfoc lasts. People are free to get inside the correfoc and stay under the fireworks, althoughyou should be properly dressed with old cotton clothes and a hat so you don't get burned.

That said, you have to experience it, a sensory assault that resembles a riot, with adults and children alike in caps and scarves covering as much of the face as possible. The preceedings start from the square with a vitriolic attack on all organisations, from the church to the state, drummers pound out continuously in between statements of abuse.

The march meanders through the village stopping off outside the town hall to give a special bit of abuse, similar treatment is given to the church. A rather large dragon is festooned with fireworks and all are set ablaze to whoops and cheers from the ensembled followers. All the way through the village the 'demons' continuously move back and forth from the cart carrying the fireworks, load their pitchfork, have it ignited by those carrying flares, and run with fireworks blazing towards all those participating in the fun.

If you wanted to sleep tonight you would have no chance, as the festivities continued to the late hours of midnight, The whole village gets involved, from those dressed up as the 'demons', the many who run the gauntlet of fire and residents who hang out of windows to watch it all happen from the safety of their homes.

Of course this could never happen in England, for many reasons, spoilsports.

If you get the chance to see and experience the correfoc, then do so, but you may need earplugs as well.

Spanish Grand Prix

spanish grand prix

may 2006

Finally I have made it, after spending many many weekends glued to the television, watching those ridiculously tuned cars, teararsing around complicated circuits, I am here. This year I have managed to make it to Barcelona to both visit my friends there and also to break my duck, experiencing my first Grand Prix in the flesh. This has got to be the best €95 I have spent. Some say its a boring sport watching cars go round and round, but until you truely understand it for what it is you will be forever devoid of the pleasure. Like football fans all around the world, this has to be seen in the flesh, you have to hear it, smell it, comsume it, its a group experience like no other. It doesn't matter who you have come to support, there is no segregation, all fans alike mingle together sharing what is about to become a most memorable experience.

This is a 4 day event, with open days, free practice sessions, qualifying and of course the race. As Michelle is working over some of the events, myself and Gabi venture forth to visit the circuit on open day, to wander around the pits and stand on the track. Fortunately the circuit is not a great distance from Masquefa, but a good 45mins drive. Its a nice sunny day, and a relatively early start must be made. On arrival at the circuit I wander around the large overbearing fence to approach a viable entrance point. At the turnstile i encounter a slight problem, to enter what is entitled a 'free' entry day I am expected to produce my ticket, the ticket I remember leaving back at Michelle's. This is a problem. Is there a potential solution to this problem, is there a temporary entrance fee I can pay to allow me to gain entrance to this temple of motorsport delight. Unfortunately there is not, and upon asking at the ticket window I am not alone, as many people have arrived without tickets, as in previous years this has not been a problem, and free entry was given to all who required it. Bugger.

So all that could be done, is to leave unfullfilled, and venture home. Fortunately we decide to visit the beach in Barcelona, and upon reaching the roundabout there be a familiar sight, a Red Bull Formula 1 car is parked by the side of the roundabout. Quickly pulling over, I grab my camera and move post haste to see this most fantastic of beasts. Just as I arrive at the scene the car in question is being packed away, so a quick word with the guy in charge, and a quick photo opportunity has arrived. The guy turns out to be a Brit, so a quick conversation ensues, pleasantries are exchanged and off I go on my way.

Friday is free practice, as this only lasts for a couple of hours and there is no guarantee who will be on track, I have decided to venture back into Barcelona, and have a good wander around on my own. Whilst visiting the Sagrada Familia I pass something I had been pondering to purchase. That being a Renault t-shirt, and a haggle must commence. Whilst perusing the shirts in question, I am asked what I am after, of course I reply 'one of these' and ask how much, this prompts the reply €29, a short intake of breath must then follow from me, and am then asked to make an offer, I with some cheek reply 20, the response of course is negative. Eventually after a quick haggle we arrive at a mutual price of 23. Cheers mate.

Saturday is qualifying, but as Michelle has plans for the morning, we do not go. It must be watched on the TV, but as Spanish is not my native language, plus I know very little anyway, Michelle provides an interpretation. Alonso being the magnificent driver he is, puts it on pole, so we are very happy again, tomorrow is race day, and an early start must be had.

So now it begins, early to rise, and the drive to the circuit must come first. Stocking up on food and appropriate provisions, seats and sun cream, water and headwear. All must be packed, for all of this will be consumed during the day for the early start is a very early start, we set out at 6. On arrival the traffic is starting to build, and parking must be achieved. Tickets are ripped and foodstuffs carried inside, I am finally here. As Gabi had broken his ankle the previous year, it was still giving him some grief, so a suitable vantage point must be located. A great little shaded spot provides us with all we need, seats are erected, food stashed, Gabi seated, and me and Michelle go for a wander to see what delights can be found. Not far from where we left Gabi are all the displays, in which are this years cars on display. As I am becoming something of a fanatic these days, many photo's are taken of all the cars, pausing to drool over the current Maclaren, for its a beaut.

Now we must take our seats, for the racing is about to begin. First of all the screens display a superbikes race, this is not my thing, but it still provides a suitable respite while awaiting the main event. Secondly a GP2 race is scheduled, this is more like it, GP2 is similar to F1, but with less money, power and kudos. Over this season, I have been following the progress of this championship and am quite aware of an English driver by the name of Hamilton. This race provides a few spills and mishaps, but still it is not what we are here for, and Hamiltion only finishes 3rd. Of course everyone here cheers in all the right places, and encourages all that need encouragement. The final race before the final race is the Porsche. Again it provides all the right ingredients, with a few more spills and cheers and is soon overwith. Time for food.

Juan Carlos being a motor sport fan is given a lap of the circuit driven by Fernando Alonso, both of whom are given a most raptuously appreciative nod as they hurtled around the circuit. The next big cheer was for the drivers parade as they also travelled around the circuit but this time on a flat back lorry, waving eagerly to the anticipated crowd. All around the circuit flags are being waved, seats are being filled, all around is a sea of blue and yellow, those being the colours of Alonso, interspaced are representaives of other teams, but of all the 130,000 fans there, the majority must go to Renault, and Alonso. Blasting across the sky came the Spanish equivalent of the Red Arrows, displaying feats of aerial excellence, trailing coloured smoke in both the colours of Spain and Catalunya. Now the fun begins as the drivers do a final lap from the pit lane to the grid, last to emerge is Alonso and Fiscichella, all around the track his presence is preceeded by a roar, not from the cars but generated by all the fans. The cars form up on the grid, in readyness for the formation lap, again the cars move in formation around the track, and again the roar of the crowd almost obliterates to roar of the engines, almost. All eyes move to the large screens strategically around the track, the race is about the start.

The red lights go out on we are off, if thought any of the previous races, and formation laps were loud, that was nothing compared to what awaited us. In no time at all, the Formula 1 snake of cars was upon us, assaulting all our senses, flags are waved, horns blasted, voices scream and cheer to near breaking point. All of this pales to insignificance as the cars rip around the corner at which we are located, everything vibrates, even my eyelashes vibrate in sympathy to the V8's tuned to 18,000rpm. Of course Alonso is in the lead, followed by Fissi, and the Schumacher and Massa, this continues to the first set of pit stops. Renault blink first, but all goes smoothly, as the leading 4 cars are so far ahead of the rest of the pack, Alonso is able to slip back into the main pack in 4th place, Fissi comes in next, thus leaving the Ferarri's in 1st and second place. Shumacher puts the hammer down using what fuel he has left to try and eat into Alonso's lead, which was at 13 seconds after only a third of the race. Fortunately both the Ferarri's come in for tyres and fuel after only 5 laps, thus allowing Alonso to slip back into 1st place. The next third of the race proceeded without incident, apart from Montoya beaching his car, and putting him out of the race. Kimi tried to catch up to the leading pack, but his pace was lacking. At the second set of pit stops the Renault's came in 1st again, but as Alonso had rebuilt his lead, he had no problems, the same could not be said for Fissi, for he made a slight detour off the track which allowed Schumacher to slip past him into 2nd place after all the pit stops had finished. Kimi still could not catch up with the leaders, so 5th place would be his best for the day. The final 3rd of the race went without incident as Alonso maintained his lead over Schumacher.

All through the race I kept one eye on the race infront of me and the other via my binocculars on the screens to check on time splits, pit windows and other information i would normally have listened to from the commentary off the TV. But being there as Alonso started his final lap was like nothing I had experienced all day. From the start of his final lap, the horns came out again, not that they ever went away, but somehow someone had turned up the volume on everything, thunderous cheers swelled the crowd to its feet, pushing Alonso on to his first Spanish victory, and another 10 points. I had never expected to feel so connected to so many people, a mass collective experience unlike any other. A rush of emotion came over the crowd as Alonso flashed past the chequered flag to cement his victory over Schumacher, and started his celebrationary lap, all the marshalls came upto the trackside to flagwave Alonso round for one final time, his car had never moved to slow all day, but it was his moment, the little Spaniard had done it, he had won his home Grand Prix.

All that was left was for the presentation of his trophy, of course there could be only one person who could bestow that honour, King Juan Carlos, we could see from the giant screens that this was a special presentation for the king, and Alonso lapped it all up like the World Champion he is. Champagne is sprayed upon all who got too close, then it was off to the press conference. Again that was all in Spanish, i would have to wait until we got back home to Michelle's to watch all the race again, and have Michelle translate all the important bits. As it was a nice day, and we were in no hurry to get back, I went for another wander around the circuit, climbed up a few grandstands to see where i could get tickets for next year, and ate some more food while the bulk of the crowd made their way from the circuit. Eventually it was time to leave, and watch the race again, but this time on TV, but it pales in comparison to actually being there. Next year we shall return, get grandstand seats, and maybe even another race somewhere during the season.