Las Ramblas, Barcelona. Approximately 1.2 kilometres long with Port Vell at the Southern most end and Plaça Catalunya at the northern most end.
The end of another crazy night out in Barcelona and we decide to walk back to the hostel through the centre as it isn’t too far. We are staying at the Sant Jordi Arago Hostel, one of the best hostels in Spain and the world.
Four semi-drunken guys walking up Las Ramblas and there are a few people around. People walking after their night out as they look for their home destination, prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers. Standard Friday night in Barcelona. You have to be aware at night when walking, especially when you are drunk. Not forgetting the sneaky pickpockets that move unseen with the shadows.
We are laughing and joking, observing the women offering their services, and keeping our distance. A young North African man approaches us, and speaks with a French accent.
‘Do you like football my friend?’
I’ve lived here and know not to start conversations, he is either selling something or preparing to steal. I ignore him and walk by. Both Loud Noises and Counting Sheep follow suit, but Smooth Operator holds back and politely replies. We all shout back at him to keep moving and he is soon walking with us again. At this moment the young man he was talking to breaks into a spring like a Tiger that has spotted it’s prey. As he heads towards one of the many side streets we all look at each other confused, and Smooth Operator instinctively touches his pockets, realising his phone has been taken!
Within seconds Loud Noises and Smooth Operator are running after the thief into the side streets towards Born. Counting Sheep and I are soon following, and though we run past Smooth Operator, Loud Noises and the thief are well ahead of us like a Gazelle and a Lion.
We stop at the road off Las Ramblas between KFC and Mcdonalds, and I tell the police what is happening. Thankfully my Spanish makes up for my lack of running skills. Within seconds the police officer has jumped on his bike, and he disappears into the maze of narrow side streets chasing down the Gazelle and the Lion. No chance of a lift then?
The streets in Barcelona are split into parallel quadrants, and amazing to look at from an aerial view. We realised that Loud Noises and the thief were a few streets away so we tried to run parallel to where they were. If you’ve seen the episode of Only Fools and Horses where Rodney is chasing a thief from the market whilst Del Boy slowly runs parallel trying to catch up then this is exactly how we look right now.
We hear some shouting and followed it up a side street to find Loud Noises and a police officer standing over a grinning thief. Smooth Operator caught up with us and shouted to the thief:
‘You like football my friend!!’
Loud Noises filled us in on what we had missed. The thief had hidden behind a bin and thinking Loud Noises had given up had confidently strolled away from his hiding place to be rugby tackled into the wall by Loud Noises.
The police were now dealing with it and asked Smooth Operator is he would like to hit the thief. Sensibly, he declined.
The next day we are reliving the experience, talking about it with Hooters and Seven whilst we relaxe in Plaza Catalunya. We have realised that the thieves are of a Northern African origin and mainly spoke French. Suddenly we are able to spot them in the crowd of tourists – watch them watching the tourists. Over the next hour we spot a woman’s handbag stolen without her knowing, and we are there to grab it back. Watching the thieves angers Smooth Operator and Loud Noises particularly and the thieves have now been collectively labelled as ‘rats’. They decide to make a rat trap.
That night we stumble out of he club around 3am deciding to share a taxi back to the Hostel with Hooters, Seven, and M. Loud Noises and Smooth Operator however, decide to walk back, and set up their rat trap…
Counting Sheep, the girls and I wait on the balcony of the hostel for over an hour for the boys to return. They finally do so, laughing, triumphant, with a story to share. Loud Noises and Smooth Operator had split up and walked alone, a small distance apart in Plaza Catalunya. Prey. Waiting for the ‘rats’ to pounce. Within minutes the ‘rats’ approached Smooth Operator.
‘You like football my friend?’
BAM. One punch from Smooth Operator and he went down. The others running in every other direction. Was it right? Probably not, but for once the tourists beat the thieves of Barcelona.