On the Beginning of the End / A Pilgrimage to see Leo

Strasbourg is a curious place, due to its position in a region which was formerly German, it feels unlike many French cities and there is a strong sense that this is a place of dual identities. I heard plenty of German spoken alongside plenty of French. Strasbourg is also, perhaps because of the Franco-German nature of the place, also home to the EU Parliament. It is one those buildings with no real identity apart from the flags around it. This complex is set aside from the main town though, and connects via a very easy to use and efficient tram network. The Cathedral is the highlight of the city, as they are in many places, and despite missing one tower, this one still cuts a stunning figure.

I took a day trip from Strasbourg to Luxembourg via Metz (another town that has also changed hands with the Germans) to tick another country off my list. Luxembourg City is not especially large and the old town can be walked around quite quickly. It looks quite a bit like many small French towns, except it isn’t French. There isn’t much to say about the place.

Next I was in Paris for just one night. I’ve been before; I’ve seen the sights. I was there for an easy trip to Barcelona the next day. I met up with my old work mate Pierre, who has now returned to France after a spell in London. We ate around his neighbourhood of Chateau-Rouge, not too far from Montmartre but without all the people, it felt like real modern day Paris.

The next morning I took the TGV to Barcelona where I was for just one night. I’ve been before; I’ve seen the sights. I was there because for one it is an easy connection from France to Spain. In addition, I had learned that Barcelona were playing at home that Tuesday night and I had got a ticket. I had been to a Barcelona game before, the idea was to make the pilgrimage to see Leo Messi play. He was ill that day and didn’t play. This time, he played and scored four goals.

The next day I headed to Madrid. I had also managed to get a ticket for Real Madrid’s Wednesday night fixture against Real Betis. After seeing Messi play the previous day, I got to see his rival in ‘best footballer’ stakes Cristiano Ronaldo. He did not score, and in fact, neither did Real Madrid. Betis sprang a sudden late surprise and won 0-1.

The walking tour took in several of the key sights of Madrid, including Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace and the Cathedral, the latter featuring some vibrant patterns on the ceiling. Madrid is a pleasant city and the Retiro Park is a particular treasure with gardens, a lake, and the ‘Palacio Cristal’.

As I rapidly near my end I booked a long bus journey to Lisbon. Where I’ll pick up next time…

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