I TURNED 28 a few weeks ago. It’s a strange birthday, a very ‘nothing happens’ birthday.

My 21st is nothing but a distant memory while my 30th now looms large on the horizon, threatening me more belligerently with each passing day that it’s time I grew up and got a real job.

My girlfriend, Madeleine, took the time and put in the effort to ensure that, while I was grappling with my own mortality, my 28th was a memorable birthday and surprised me with a trip to Barcelona - by some distance, the best present I have ever been given.

I had attempted to sweep her off her feet earlier in the year with a surprise trip to Venice, however I had managed to book it for the height of their rainy season and I had to quietly cancel the trip as the historic Italian city was so flooded that a state of emergency was declared.

This trip was instantly looking like it would be infinitely better, a large part of that is down to the fact Madeleine is far more adept at planning and organising things than I am.

You should me trying to plan out something as simple as my working week, it’s absolute chaos. I dread the day where I am asked to be a best man and have to organise a stag do.

I can state quite confidently that me and the boys would end up just going into the toon, or even just having to have cans in the house, after several failed attempts from me at trying to book flights to somewhere.

Madeleine and I breezed through packing the cases, Glasgow Airport and the flight and we were feeling assured that navigating Barcelona would be a doddle.

“Right,” I said upon leaving Barcelona’s airport. “We need to get the train from here to a place called… Clot?”

Madeleine seemed happy and relaxed enough to allow me to take the lead here. I was exuding confidence on the outside, but inside I knew that the chances of me getting us to Clot were slim. She had yet to see the full extent of my lack of directional awareness.

We found the train station and a self-service ticket machine which had an option to translate into English. “Excellent,” I thought, mashing my sweaty fingers against the screen, “Just type in single to Clot and away we go.”

Clot was not listed as an option. I didn’t realise until after a mild breakdown I simply had to type in the place’s actual name which was ‘El Clot’.

As we stepped off the train half an hour later and started to walk to the hotel, I was sweating bullets. It was around twenty degrees but the Spaniards, making the most of their ‘winter’ were all in scarves and big jackets. I wanted to take off my jacket but didn’t want to look like the daft tourist I actually was so I just kept sweating.

“Could go a coffee,” Madeleine said to me.

“Aye, me tae,” I said, now panicking that I was going to have to Google how to ask for a coffee in Spanish. And also wondering how I would ask for almond milk for my vegan girlfriend. We located a Starbucks and I spent half an hour outside the place, repeating “café con leche de almendras, por favor.” Over and over, putting different emphasis on each syllable.

“Just ask if they speak English,” my girlfriend laughed.

“Naw, I’ll manage,” I said, not wanting to look even more like a daft tourist. I strode confidently into the café like the newly bilingual hero I was.

“Ola,” I said with a smile. Instantly, the man behind the counter went, “Ahhh, English!”

I have never felt my pride drain away quicker. “Aye, two black coffees please, mate. Almond milk in wan ae them.” I couldn’t even look at the guy. Mortifying. I couldn’t even say ‘hello,’ without being pegged for what I was. It was to time accept that I was nothing but a daft tourist.

We basked in the glory of the Sagrada Familia, wandered through the back streets of the Gothic quarter, visited the Picasso museum and delighted at the animals in the zoo. It was class.

One night, in a wee pub off Las Ramblas, a Barcelona local heard our accents and went, “Ah! Scottish!” It was nice to not be called English this time. “Independence!” he shouted, shaking his fist. “Braveheart!”

He spoke to us about the fight for Catalonian independence and we told him about the Yes movement here and how, in the aftermath of the general election, it was maybe looking like independence could happen sooner rather than later.

It made us realise how lucky we are: that we’ll maybe get the chance to vote on our country’s future again and whatever the result of any impending referendum, the people’s choice will be honoured. For the people of Catalonia though, their fight for independence might never end.

Full of tapas and pints, we left Barcelona having fallen absolutely in love with the place. Next time we go away though, I’m going to put a bit more work into learning the lingo.