Camp Nou, Castell de Montjuic, Fundació de Joan Miró

We went seeking the Camp Nou Experience. Plus. First we had to get to Camp Nou, by way of Collblanc, Metro L5. Tourists flocking through streets where there were a conspicuous number of old people, to the stadium Barca’s home. Which, as it happens, is right next door to a cemetery.

We followed the crowds, many Spanish, young couples, middle-aged couples, groups of girls and groups of boys, families: every demographic seemed drawn by the magic of ‘one of the best teams in Europe.’ Through the gates, with the pilgrims, the queue for tickets came as no surprise, given the numbers we’d already seen converging on Camp Nou. Of course at the last, some official had to open a short-cut so that those behind could cut in ahead. I say of course, because the same thing happened at Sainte Chapelle.

Drawing close, we read that the final Camp Nou tour is at 13:30 and that the Megabotiga will close at 14:30. We ask at the ticket-booth, the woman gleefully tells us that we will get in in time but that those following us might not. Bank holiday. Her next statement is that will be 53.50, please.

The Experience doesn’t stop there. Another queue, to get in the doors. This one did the curious trick of beginning outside, passing through the building, turning a half-circle to come back in the same doors, before managed by the familiar zig-zag formation of seat-belt cordons. I’d sent J. and Q. on a recce into the Megamucha-merch store in case the Experience consumed so much time that the compensatory buy-up could not take place. Recall that we’d not gone to Saturday night’s game. Fools!

They were still absent when I came to the final turnstile – or ticket-check. I had to back track and wait at the pass, one of the zigs in the zag.

All present, we ascended onto an overbridge, below us bronzes of footballers in action, largely figurative, on an open square, to arrive at the Barcelona museum. It’s more than a club. It’s a silver mine.

A dark room. Light-tables with exhibits, a glass wall extending down one side displaying cups, on the far side interactive walls playing back video and giving vital statistics of BCN players. On the walls posters, two I’ve snapped: the Miro and the Tapies, displayed side by side.

Every room echoes with one name, the most requested name in the interactive displays with a face that is the most represented in the video material: Lionel Messi’s, Lionel Messi, Messi, Messi. Messi howling. Messi’s sweaty hair. Messi kicking a ball. Messi as peace embassador. Messi with his superhero pals. And later we’d see the homage descending into the bathos of posing for photos with invisible Messi against a greenscreen. Above the posers, screens showed inserted Messi. And it was Messi with few exceptions who was requested. The photographers had a singular grasp on the composition of the shot, and directed the arms and legs, the weight distribution of the fans around the absence in order to reproduce his presence in a convincing likeness.

From the museum we went out onto the grandstand. Looked out, wishing we’d been there Saturday, realising the view wouldn’t have been so dire from the topmost tier. Went down, through the press room, where another set of photographs could be taken holding the Euro cup. In facsimile one presumes. The dressingrooms, spartan. With spa. No curtains, said J. If they were Spartans they would also play nude, I suppose.

Out of the dressingrooms, down a corridor, rubber-tiled, steps, piped in the roar of the crowd: we were being ushered out onto the pitch by the route the players take. Down stairs. The roar intense now. To the right a chapel with the Montserrat Madonna again for a quick prayer, to the left a sort of post-op question room, like those in which they corner players who have left the pitch after the game.

Up stairs now, up to the level of the pitch. Which was being sprinkled and lay behind barriers. The walk in was the most effective part of the tour. Made the nerves tingle. Imagine if it was you the crowd was clamouring for. And after our experience with the arenas at Rome, Nimes, Arles and Stes Maries de la Mer, given a context in the history of spectacles.

It is a brilliant stadium. I couldn’t help but think it was fascism with a friendly face. But still, a place meant to evoke mixed feelings: not the certainty of victory, but its glory against the possibility of defeat; a sense of it being a contested ground, even if it is Barcelona’s and no other team’s. Perhaps there is something in that too. The more it is Barca’s the more profoundly felt a beating would be there. The number of games played there on viewing the stadium became confused with other numbers: for each game 99,354 spectators when full to capacity. The largest stadium in Europe. As if one would say to oneself, Imagine, how many games have been played here! Only to index the emotional investment of an audience of 99,354.

We were given a lift to take to the third floor, in which a doting Dad paraded his baby on his shoulder, entertaining those in front so effectively that we could not get out but descended again. To rise again, the lift opening to the attendant’s surprise still packed full.

We saw the press gallery. Another number, like 500 press at every game, and 80,000 minutes of footage per match.

We ate at Pans and Company, Spanish McD’s. Tasty. If nothing like the pictures. Hot sandwiches in the shape of baguettes. Salads. Chips of the tapa classic, potatoes bravas.

A strange sort of temple, Camp Nou. But it’s more than a club. It’s a lifestyle that thrust into it you’re expected to understand somehow. There are no signs saying, This is place of worship, we ask that non-believers show respect. Simply the assumption that all are believers. Or are able to be. Perhaps a sign of what is missing from the Christian church. Except in America, I would presume to say, where non-belief is not a tenable position or serious state. Like the old joke about gays.

We walked up through the university to where we’d been yesterday, on Diagonal, again. Caught the Metro to connect with the Montjuic funicular, which is a short cable car ride. Connecting to the Teleferic de Montjuic, gondolas. By this means we arrived at the Castell. A prison, with nothing to recommend it apart from views out over the port, the Port of Europe, the container port, the Auckland-like side of Barcelona. Nothing to recommend it. Except as a place of execution – until 1940 – and incarceration, of political prisoners under Franco.

We went down again, onto Avenue Miramar to the Joan Miro Foundation, who, we found out, went throught a kind of aggressive period before escaping into a self-generated whimsy-land of biomorphs, ladies, animals, symbol-like things. There was first an I wish I’d popped an E before I came exhibition called something like Electronic Sentiments by somebody whose name I didn’t bother recording, then Alexander Calder’s Font de mercure.

I’ve never seen anything like that. A fountain playing mercury not water. Outrageous.

It was designed for the Spanish Republican Government’s pavilion at the 1937 Paris World Fair. In the same room, where it was not cordonned off, were exhibited Picasso’s Guernica, Miro’s The Reaper (Catalan Peasant in Revolt) – which subsequently went missing – and Julio Gonzalez’s Montserrat.

That was mesmerisingly good. And then a massive Where The Wild Things Are hanging, woven from wool, huge thing, by Miro and another. Lots of Miros here. In this purpose-built building, opened 1975. Nice place.

Somehow the narrative of Miro’s engagement and lack thereof with his country’s tragedy, Civil War and then World War II, is not fully… engaged with. It is again an engagement and lack thereof. Miro is aggressive and escapes into an art for art’s sake… and, if the wall panels are to be believed stays in this Neverland.

Then odd anomalies like the burnt canvases of the 1970s. Literally, burnt. Surprising. If the spirit were so blithe as we were given to assume. Toile brulee, 1973, said the wall notes, expressed protest against the exchange value of art.

We went downstairs to the basement, works donated to the Foundation after Miro’s death. Here there was Balthus’s Tete de jeune garcon, 1947 and Tapies’s Pintura amb penja-robes, 1985 (a canvas featuring a stuck-on coat hook), along with a Richard Serra, Henry Moore, Dorothea Tanning. I like these small collections that circulate around the personality of the one-in-question. Like Peggy’s place in Venice.

A note called attention to the poetry of Miro’s titles, so it’s worth giving a sample here, not least because they belong to works that made us laugh: The diamond smiles at twilight; The lark’s wing encircled with golden blue rejoins the heart of the poppy sleeping on the diamond-studded meadow; and (my favourite), Hair pursued by two planets.

Not enough of the punters were laughing here. You think, If he’s not going to engage with contemporary atrocities, at least let us laugh. And I believe this is true of Miro. He does. Which is all the more comical when you consider the look of the man, his properness and seriousness. Who was it said to him, As you get older your work keeps on getting younger? And I love that Tapies considered him the master.

Downstairs to another gallery, where Marcus Coates’s Dawn Chorus was in full song. An installation comprising a dozen or so high-def screens showing disparate individuals embedded in natural environments alone, old man, beside fake fireplace, reading newspaper, for example; or dentist in surgery. The loops were staggered so that at any one point the minimal action, turning pages of newspaper, fidgetting, would speed up for some and remain at real-time playback for the others. The point being that in the sped-up footage the person would whistle. The whistling was timed to coincide with a soundtrack of birdsong, each individual in his or her cage matched to a particular bird. Now this was funny.

What was there left to do but ramble… NO! A bank holiday. We couldn’t commit to a mile-long walk with no shops. So Metro to Drassanes again and by the beautiful Barcelona walking spaces around the marina in Port Vell to home. On the way, a skateboard meet. All the little dudes dressed up. One in yellow and black horizontal stripes. One with Joker make-up. Another with fake bleeding gash in head. Thrashing it on the waterfront to Ozzy Osbourne. Don’t forget the really little dude, backwards cap and red T, about as tall as his board was long.

Attempt made at post-prandial promenading. Went sour. I didn’t want to walk on the sand. I didn’t want to be reminded of the beach. Not yet. Although Barceloneta is a place you’d want to be if you could only stay here.