I never thought I would have to mark myself safe on Facebook but now I have. It was hard to understand what was happening in my city and when a friend texted me to ask if I was ok, telling me a van had driven on to La Rambla and into people, I didn’t think much of it at first. We even continued chatting for a bit, until the next friend contacted me, and I realised that I should get in touch with my parents and read the news – in that order.
There wasn’t much information to begin with but during the afternoon I was following the live updates and got more and more information. At first it was believed that the attack could be related to the anti-tourist movement here in Barcelona – they have carried out aggressive attacks before – so it seemed to fit the bill. La Rambla is the most touristic place in Barcelona, after all. Little by little, the picture got clearer and it was clarified a terror attack by ISIS and nothing to do at all with the anti-tourist movement, you know the rest I suppose – it has been all over the news. It is also known that what happened at La Rambla, and later on the promenade in Cambrils, were just shadows of what was planned by the terror cell in Ripoll, if something had not gone wrong when they attempted to build bombs.
We had passed Ripoll on our camping holiday a week prior to the terror attack – it is a beautiful little town by the foot of the mountains. We were coming down from the Pyrenees, where we had met horrible rainstorms unexpectedly and had to splash out on a hotel. We were riding the lovely road N-260 towards Figueres and stopped in Ripoll for a stroll and a coffee. By then, the weather had changed and was now fantastic, blue sky and sunshine, and after the weather the previous day we truly enjoyed feeling the warmth from the sun. Life was beautiful and we were looking forward to some more sunshine and, in addition, culture – Figueres is Salvador Dalí’s home town and, while I’m not an art connoisseur by any means, he is my favourite artist. After enjoying the surroundings of Figueres, seeing Dalí’s house in Portlligat, and enjoying the night tour with complementary cava at the Dalí Theatre-Museum. Apart from the fact that I had smashed an egg in my top case, I’m inclined to say that it was a brilliant substitute plan and saved us freezing our bums off. After this detour, we returned to the mountains and what we had set out to do, namely check out the little Spanish enclave Livia and the tax haven Andorra. While I’ve passed the Pyrenees many times on my way to WIMA rallies further north, I have never really had time to criss-cross and take the small roads and go exploring. Now was the time for that and we fully enjoyed it.
Although Andorra is full of motorcycle gear shops, we resisted temptation and made a mental note to return next year when our helmets will need replacing – I had saved 200 euros buying my current helmet there a few years back. I did buy Christopher a packet of Haribo, though, which he was very excited about.
Our original plan was to stay up in the Pyrenees for a couple of weeks but, after finding out about the local annual festivity in our neighbourhood Gracía, we decided to cut our travels short and take advantage of this festival on our doorstep. We also had a long to-do-list since our illegal let has come to an end and we have, for some dubious reasons, been asked to move out at the end of this month. This put us in a bit of a tight spot but we thought we could find a solution for this as well as dealing with some more paperwork and getting the bike serviced all during the week of the festival. This is the background to why we happened to be in the city the afternoon of the terror attack – because of the Festa de Gracía and the boring to-do-list. The festival was amazing, we arrived back on the opening day and I struggled quite a lot to manoeuvre the bike towards our street – the streets were packed with people and dodging pedestrians in party mood, with the bike fully loaded and with Christopher on the pillion seat, was quite a challenge. But as soon as we had parked and unloaded the bike we were in party mood too – we had passed the Ghostbusters installment, complete with Mr Stay Puffed, the ghost busters, Zuul and her monsters so we knew we were up for something good. Never in my wildest imagination could I have imagined something grand like this, 22 streets were fully decorated according to themes like King Kong, the jungle, Alpine village, hell, the metamorphis of the butterfly, candy shop, etc. There were stages with live bands on a number of streets and squares and, in addition, outdoor clubs and bars in every corner. All the entertainment was free, everyone was happy. We got ourselves a couple of reusable festival cups and joined the party.
However, on Thursday afternoon the whole city went quiet, all we could hear was the police helicopter, that and the beeping of messages coming in asking if we were ok. Our flatmates, who had been studying in the living room, were also inundated with messages. They switched the TV on to discover what was happening. The festival noise that we had heard through our open window was gone, the streets were empty, the lights off, the bars closed. It felt surreal and the only way we could deal with that was to leave the house and go out. The purpose of terror is to make people afraid and to make them change their lives because of their fear. Therefore, we decided that we would do what we had planned, i.e. go out for drinks. A few other people had the same plan as us and there were a few bars open who catered for us – but the city was quiet and Barcelona is never ever quiet, not at any time day or night is it quiet. The following day we joined the masses for a minute of silence at Placa Catalunya, paying our respect to the dead and injured. Now the reality felt a bit more real, there were no speeches, no words were uttered, the only thing that finally broke the silence was the spontaneous clapping of the people and the chanting of “No tinc por” – which is Catalan for “I’m not afraid”. This is important I believe, to never give power to evil forces, regardless of what form they take, never let them make you afraid. So, we decided to not head back up into the mountains but rather take advantage of what we have in this beautiful city during our last week here. Although most of the things on my to-to-list are still undone due to the general state of things here, it seems like we have landed ourselves a winter contract for a flat in a seaside village. We’re finally getting out of the rut of illegal flatshares and have something for ourselves. I look forward to that. If that wasn’t good enough, for the first time ever my bike will have a garage.