Getting sporty at historic, cultural sites
Wiggins’ World recently expanded its horizons, going on a southwestern Europe sojourn that included stops in Bordeaux in France, Madrid and Barcelona in Spain and Lisbon in Portugal.
WW’s main objective was t o observe historical sites firsthand and sample the cultures of those regions.
But in each place, WW found a way to mix in some sports as well.
For example, at WW’s first stop, it learned that Bordeaux’s team in the top division of French football is known as the Girondins de Bordeaux.
Later, while visiting the Aquitaine (Bordeaux region) Museum of History, WW found out how the local club got its name.
During the French Revolution, the Girondins were a moderate group of revolutionaries — many hailing from Bordeaux — who made the mistake of disagreeing with the radicals in Paris led by Robespierre.
Branded traitors, many Girondins were forced to flee to Bordeaux but were hunted down and guillotined. Today they are considered martyrs, victims of Robespierre’s infamous “reign of terror”.
In a way, then, the Girondins are the French football equivalent of the NBA’s 76ers of Philadelphia, the city where US independence from England was declared in 1776.
Upon learning this, WW just HAD to purchase a stylish purple and white Girondins team sports shirt as a keepsake. (At each trip location, WW tried to pick up a sporty momento.) Next stop: Madrid.
And Las Ventas — the Yankee Stadium of bullfighting.
Wiggins’ World can see why the Spanish themselves are split regarding t he morality of bullfighting (it has been banned in Barcelona and other places in Spain).
It was at once spectacular and gruesome. But it is not WW’s place or mission to pass judgement on any country’s culture.
Arriving early at the stadium before the gates were opened, WW noticed a crowd forming around an entrance at the rear of stadium.
The assembled were there to see the matadors enter, WW was told.
Eager to snap a close-up photo of the bullfighters in full regalia, Wiggins World awaited their arrival.
A local told WW he knew one of the matadors and could arrange a photo op.
Result: a shot of resplendent matador Guillermo Garcia with his arm around the author of WW like they were old pals.
Alas, come fight time, WW’s new BFF would earn a few whistles (Euro boos) for failing to kill his bull by sword at the “moment of truth”.
The bull had to be finished off by knife. Followed by respectful audience applause for the deceased bull — accompanied by an en masse white hanky-waving goodbye — as its carcass was dragged out of the ring by a team of horses.
On to Lisbon.
If you’ve ever been, you’re familiar with the delightfully rickety trolleys that transport folks up and down and all around the historic parts of the Portuguese capital.
But do so rather slowly.
While visiting the team shop of SL Benfica, Lisbon’s top team in the Portugal’s premier football league, WW saw a clever remembrance it had to have.
It was a T-shirt that featured a drawing of a Lisbon trolley, the team logo and the following message: “We may move slowly but we always get there.” Amen.
Alas, the XL size was more like a medium. And WW had to later settle for a slick Portugal national team jersey — with the name Ronaldo on the back.
These days, Ronaldo may not be too popular with the “Me Too” movement in the US but Wiggins’ World still believes in due process.
So, it had no problem plunking down €15 for a nifty knock-off Ronaldo number.
Final stop: Barcelona.
On a high Mediterranean seaside hill, rising above the city, lies Montjuic Castle. From its lofty perch, this fortress has played a key role in Barcelona’s history from the legendary time of Hercules right on through the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.
Nearby the castle is the site of the 1992 Olympics.
WW remembers seeing a marvellous photo of a platform diver soaring high above t he impressive Barcelona skyline. It left a permanent impression.
When WW saw first hand the spectacular view of Barcelona from the diving and other former competition venues on Montjuic hill, it was truly a breath-taking “WOW!” moment.
Could there ever be a more remarkable Olympic setting? WW thinks not.
Among venues still standing on the gorgeous hillside site: the Track and Field Stadium that saw Linford Christie became just the third Brit to win gold in the 100 metre run, the indoor arena where the first US Dream Team routed the rest of the world in basketball and the baseball stadium that hosted the initial Olympic baseball competition — a ball diamond that is still in use.
On the day that WW visited the ballfield, the finals of an international tournament had been held.
Too late for the competition, Wiggins’ World talked Espana baseball with lingering members of the Spanish team who were drowning their sorrows with cervezas, having lost the tourney title game to an Italian ball club.
During its travels, Wiggins’ World also tried to find some type of snazzy Real Madrid and FC Barcelona gear that wasn’t available at every SuperSport location in Thailand.
After much fruitless searching in those teams’ respective cities, WW finally landed a spiffy Barca cap in, of all places, the Madrid airport.
And then eventually discovered a sharp Real sports shirt in — ready? — a shop off Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s main tourist avenue.
But, then, that was emblematic of Wiggins’ World’s ability to find the sporty among the historic and cultural during its whole trip.
Like The Good Book says: Seek and ye shall find.
A man prepares to jump at the Montjuic swimming pool as part of the presentation of the new FC Barcelona jersey for the 2018-19 season.
Girondins de Bordeaux players celebrate a goal.
A bullfighting match at Las Ventas in Madrid.