The festival starts on Thursday, which is a city holiday. Since I have the day off, I’m tempted to go out and stir up trouble on Wednesday night, but decide instead to prepare for the next 4 days by laying low. On our way to La Boqueria, Amanda and I stop into to a café for a snack while we make our shopping list. Thirty minutes and a-near-argument-over-how-to-make-a-proper-arrabiata-sauce later, we emerge from the café, ready to hit the market. To our delight, we discover La Ramblas is packed with people -- the parade marking the start of the festival has just begun. Dumb luck, I decide on the spot, is surely one of life’s sweetest pleasures. We happen into pole positions despite the huge crowd. In fact, a local news crew is stationed right beside us. Giant kings and queens and dragons and what appears to be a large, malevolent beetle pass by as the crowd cheers. Men of all ages dressed as devils walk by with large fire-lit torches, whetting our appetites for the mysterious and dangerous “firerun”, which we plan to attend on Saturday night. A band playing bagpipes -- the poignant hallmark of every great parade – marches by. In my excitement, I stupidly refer to them as “Irish bagpipes” and spend the next 2 hours poking fun at myself to spare Amanda the trouble.