Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Airplane flights allow you to find a personal link between the world you leave behind and the one you’re returning to. I don’t hate them in the way most people seem to. For me, they offer time: essential time during which you can reconcile world one with world two. To figure out how you can take the best from one place and make it your own in the next.

Oh sure, there are, so often, miserable moments to flying. For instance, the ventilation wasn’t working for the first hour as we sat in the airplane in Paris (where we connected to Detroit and then eventually to Madison). The hot, still air felt more oppressive than the hottest hours in Ghana. The plane was full. Everyone sat in silence waiting for that magic moment when we could take in cool air again. The minutes dragged.

But most air travel is mundane, straightforward and therefore, a good time to close your eyes and think for a bit.

I did that. Flying up and over Barcelona.


Flying into Madison.


The next morning, I wake up at the farmhouse, look outside and see the beauty of a sunrise over an overgrown with grasses and weeds farmette.


Today, my arms ache from pulling and tossing. Returns to the condo were easy. To the farmhouse? Hard, yet beautiful.


The music in my head is Abba (so popular over European airwaves) but the memory of speeding on the twisted roads to La Franqui beach in France, listening to Dancing Queen is tempered by news then from home. I didn't mention it much in my posts, but it wasn't always good news. One thing I will always remember from this trip is being insanely happy one minute, then thinking I should be home for those who needed me to be home.


Google map – I don’t know how you do it! Who put all that information into your system? Did people send you maps from around the world and you masterfully memorized all the street names and their direction? I mean, I really cannot fathom how many things work – that’s an Ed strong suit – but neither of us can understand how it is that we can so easily route our traveling destinations.

The drive from the Costa Brava into the city of Barcelona is a breeze. Once we get past the traffic jam.

We pull up the little car to the door of our hotel for the night – the very very excellent Hotel Villa Emilia (don’t let names deceive you – this is no old fashioned sachet and chandelier place -- it’s a smart, modern little hotel and if you’re as lucky as we are on this day, you’ll get the corner room, with large windows out onto the busy world of Barcelona).


And now comes the task of unloading it all: the suitcase, the backpacks, the canoe. The drysacks, stuffed still with camping gear. The wine box, the beach bag, the loose odds and ends, packed so tightly into the back (where, really, there’s only room for one small suitcase) that if you open the hatch, you run the risk of setting off an avalanche of objects.

We’re efficient. Ed leaves me with the mountain of gear and drives off to return the car. The desk staff of the sharp hotel never bats an eye as I move the not so smart bags and sacks from outside to the elevator and then, in batches, up to our room.

The idea is to spend the day sorting through museums we hadn’t time for before. And to explore the less familiar neighborhoods. But we haven’t the energy for it just yet. We drift into sleep and only when it is very late in the afternoon do we nudge each other to get going.

We put aside ambitious plans. And in a way, that's too bad. The more straightforward alternative – a walk to the port of Barcelona puts us in the thick of such crowds, noise and traffic, that we are rather overwhelmed.

The walk itself ends up being long – very long. Four hours. Five maybe. We do pause for a coffee and a Catalan vichy...


...and then, too, in the Museum of Maritime History and that would be a great choice considering Ed’s love of boats and history, except that the main collection is under renovation and so we see an abbreviated version of what is inside.

Oh, here you can see me – the immigrant, smiling broadly. I’m sailing to America! Happy Fourth to you too!


And then we walk the boardwalk to what appears to be mall on the waterfront. With cafes that tempt me not at all...


...and too few quiet spaces like this.


Off the boardwalk, we’re in the beach area of Barcelona. A place of tight houses and tired faces, of few flowers and too few people picking up the litter that accumulates in the space of a day. Or week. (At least in this block, the Catalan banners add a bit of flair:)

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The beach itself is okay – in an urban sort of way.


Neither of us is tempted to step in the sand.

Slowly, we make our way back through the old town, past the wide boulevards too, packed, really packed with people, but that is to be expected. It is summer and the residential neighborhood where we are staying is emptying out as people leave for vacations, to be replaced by the likes of us, the tourists, wanting to taste the racy rich foods and pleasures of Barcelona.

We walk, too, through the ethnically diverse neighborhoods – Moroccan, Indian, Pakistani. And through blocks where stores are still open at 9 and cheap wine is sold straight from the barrel.


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Here, the bars are crowded and Ed comments – where are all the old people?

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Gone. Hiding. I don't know.

You might think that my love for Barcelona is dwindling. An intense rush of affection that trickles and morphs into bitterness and resentment. Not so. But just at this moment, I am more in love with the two blocks around our hotel. They offer nothing unusual, except a cool room in a cool hotel, a quiet neighborhood and a wonderful restaurant (La Clara), where our superstar desk clerks send us for a late night meal. We eat a superb dinner! Barcelona comes through after all. From mussel appetizers to Catalan creams, with the effervescent Cava throughout.



A short while later, in the wee hours of the morning, we are packed and dragging cases and totes and packs up six blocks to the square from which we catch a bus to the airport.