Thursday, July 01, 2010

and in the end...

It is the evening of our last day in Europe and we’re eating tapas at Catalana, a very beloved restaurant in Barcelona. We have a tough time choosing dishes. There are some translations provided for just some of the plates, but even in translation, the foods are shrouded in mystery. Andalusian this, Catalan that. I walk up to the front counter where at least some of the dishes are out in the open and I ask the name of one and another. I write down the answers (phonetically), but I really haven't a clue as to what we're about to eat.

Still, we do well, more or less. Out of the seven dishes, we probably would order at least four again were we to come back.

Were we to come back. Well, that’s not such an incredible idea, given that Barcelona remains one of the less expensive ways to enter Europe.

But that’s thinking ahead to another vacation in another year. I’m not there yet. I am still in the thick of this one, even as the hours are trickling away so that only a handful are left.

Then, as we are about to polish off the final plate of food, Ed says something. Four words, a response to some wistful thought I had about vacations, and it is not something that he hasn’t said before, but somehow it comes to his mind at this moment and in that second the vacation ends and the reality of life sets in again. It’s funny how quickly that can happen.

Of course, summer is a gentler reality. For one thing, I like warm days and breakfasts on the balcony. And I’m teaching “only” two classes and they are consecutive and the second one isn’t even in Madison.

Still, there is a mindset of being away from work and being in the thick of work and now I have returned to the latter. (Ed, retired, forever is suspended in the former and so we are different in this way.)

And now as I think about this day, this last day in Spain, in Europe, I think differently about its beginning – on the farm somewhere not too far from the shore in Catalonia, where sunflowers and wheat fields present an exquisite landscape, extending to the Pyrenees in the distance...



...and where old villages look very very old, so old that a road does not just run through them, but meanders in some illogical fashion so that even within a few blocks it is easy to lose your way...


And I think differently about it’s middle, where we mechanically go through the motions of returning everything to its place. We drive the car back to the airport, take the shuttle to the terminal, take the next shuttle to the airport hotel – all this requires a lot of waiting, and this is normal, for travel always means you are going to be waiting for something to move forward or to arrive.


And I think still differently about the early evening in Barcelona.

Ah... Barcelona. Remember her? She is one curvy beauty! She is a handful!


Barcelona is crowded. Ed comments that he hasn’t seen so many people out on the streets even at times of political rallies. An interesting analogy, considering how these streets not too long ago were not without unrest and blood and protest. It's a far far more peaceful scene now.




Barcelona is cosmopolitan and hip. And so damn fashionable! The women -- they stand out, I'm going to say it -- even ahead of their French urban counterparts. No no, don't judge by the photos. The very best flew by me in seconds and thus were beyond the camera's reach.



And, in places, Barcelona is very old.


Very very old. Roman wall and medieval churches old.



But no matter. The young look super cool against the background of the old towers and dark walls.


Ah... Barcelona: too sharp and edgy perhaps for the everyday (tor maybe not?), but sure as hell beautiful for short spurts.

And the food! Oh the food!

can you guess the contents? so delicious!

So that's early evening. And then there is late evening. We're done with the tapas and the Cava. (I miss the tastes of the Mediterranean already!). We take the train back to the industrial area where we’ve returned to the hotel of our previous Barcelonian sojourn. Cheap and convenient for a 6 a.m. departure.

But why wait until then to "leave?" Why not let your heart switch beats and rhythms earlier, so that you can already say to yourself, riding that train back after such a good meal – vacation? No more of that. Now’s the time to get serious. Day is really done. June is over. July began some time at the dinner table.