Saturday, June 08, 2013

rainy day talk

It's so rare to have rain here at this time of the year that you don't mind it when it does come down. Today, it really came down hard. Never mind, it's our travel day. And we're leisurely about it -- our Sorede apartment wont be ready until late in the day. May as well linger over breakfast at the Can Garay in Spanish Catalonia...

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...and a second cup of coffee...

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If you want to spark up your life a little, try engaging a European on the subject of American health care. I did that today, over breakfast. Our host at the inn (a Catalan man, proud and true to his heritage) had gone through a medical crisis recently and his wife, in telling us about it, recalled a health scare their friends had experienced while traveling in the States not too long ago.
Our friend choked on a piece of food and had to go to the emergency room. On exit, he was handed an $8000 bill! How could that be? They never want to go back to America again!
I tell her -- It's the way it is. Moreover, most Americans are afraid of changing health care delivery to your model. Conventional wisdom  has it that we hate the government. We think it should stay out of our affairs. (Except when we're in trouble, but I leave that part out.)
But, but, health care is a human right! Just like education!
I smile indulgently. So unamerican, these people are! They cannot comprehend that (insurance and provider) profit may and in fact does drive healthcare decision. That this unhinged, inefficient health care delivery system is costing us a bundle, even as we stick with it, thinking that it's sacred rather than the sinking ship that it is. These Europeans with their crazy notions of fairness and quality of life! Look where it got them! (When I remind her of the Euro zone crisis, she reminds me that Wall Street came first.)

If you really want to stoke the fire more, work the word "vacations" into the conversation. I did that as well. I wanted to bring it on, that torrent of withheld questions that Europeans have about the American way of life. Too polite to ask. Well, today, I invited the asking.
I heard that many Americans only have two weeks of vacation! Is that true?
I wanted to tell her that even as Spain was struggling, we are reeling in our good fortune (those of us with full-time jobs -- a dwindling but sizable majority after all), working hard to preserve it, so hard in fact, that there is (for most people) no time to rejoice in its gloriousness! You may know how to live well, but we sure know how to work long hard hours! - I wanted to boast, only I knew it sounded like we had the worse end of that stick. And who wants to admit that to a European!

Ah well, enough of the predictable patter. Rain notwithstanding, we pack up our too big Ibiza and get ready to hit the road. And the minute we say our goodbyes, and run for the shelter of the car, the rain stops. Completely. Clouds part, a tad of blue sky pokes through. The world is green and lush, with poppies sprinkled in for effect.

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In the distance, the white peaks of the Pyrenees are again visible.

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We had scrapped plans for a hike due to the wind and rain. The goal was to stop by instead at the cooperative where the local yogurt is made. And even though the weather is now rapidly improving, we stay with this plan. Yogurt cooperative it will be!

The place (La Fageda)  is the brainchild of a local Catalan who wanted to improve the lives of those with mental disabilities. It has grown: it now employs some 180 people, 120 of whom face mental health challenges.

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The drive to it is pretty -- through forests now reflecting beams of sunshine.

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At the cooperative, a busload of children has arrived for a half educational, half play-filled outing. We follow them as a Coop person shows off the cows that have just come in from the pasture.

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(Ed comments that the cows look like they may well have have some Wisconsin bovine genetic material in them.)

For the kids, the fun is in the cows, the play equipment, a picnic outside. For us, there is the additional benefit of seeing the Coop's  innovative strawberry "fields" (such an efficient water use! -- Ed marvels)...

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...and in examining the pruning habits here at this young (but older than ours!) orchard...

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All this and yogurt too.

We leave by 3. Time to set our sensibilities onto Sorede.

And one hour later we are over the border and in France. So familiar it all is! And here's magic for you: the clouds are to the side -- the afternoon is full of sunshine and warm puffs of wind. Yes, I know -- today and tomorrow, we'll get the rains back, the thunder, too. But as we get off the highway I feel this deep gratitude for a beautiful welcome. It is the moment that I deeply look forward to each year: the first long gaze at the vines, the poplars, the plane trees and of course, the mountains just behind.

As always, we stop first at the Carrefour. You know -- for the cheeses. And the well priced tomatoes and endive. And apple juice. And the rosé wine.

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(The view from just outside the store always reminds me that we are here. Finally, we are here! And yes, I get much more emotional about this than Ed who yawns loudly and leans back for a quick nap.)

The bakery we "discovered" last year is still here -- the modern one that lacks character maybe, but has the best damn bread anywhere. I say this with confidence -- anywhere! We wont buy any today. Freshly baked -- that's the best way to pick it, so that it's barely cooled down from the ovens in time for lunch.

We drive into town. Yes, La Ciboulette, the little grocer by the bridge -- still there. I pick up fresh beans, potatoes, the local olive oil.

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And the old bakery, our once favorite bakery -- it's remodeled! We go there now for the cookies. Nothing more now. A little at a time. Don't rush things. Get just what you need.

Finally, we cross the river and head uphill to our home for the next two weeks. Our hosts greet us warmly -- it's our third summer with them and really, if I had it my way, we would come back like this again and again until that ripe old age when you become so confused that you no longer know or care where you are or what you're doing there.

Right now though, we still know. And it delights me so to be back at this immaculate little unit that looks out onto their garden at the foot of the Alberes hills.

And speaking of garden, after I unpack and Ed settles in for another nap, the rains come down hard again. Pounding hail amidst the rumble of thunder.

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Thank you, storms, for holding off! Thank you!

I don't quite trust the skies for the remainder of the night and so we do not walk down to the village square -- we drive most of the way -- and we do not sit outside at the cafe/bar/pizzeria...

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... we huddle at a table inside, between the kitchen and the counter, watching a theater of activity -- pizza flying in and out of the oven. An archery game played by one group of men, then the next. A rugby match on the TV screen. A raucous shout out down at the bar. In other words -- the usual.

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And the pizza! Ah, the pizza! It has never tasted better! And the sangria is home made.

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I ask Ed if he's happy. Yes gorgeous, he says with that eye roll in his voice.

A Sorede June evening. With my usual questions and Ed's usual answers.


And the warm glow of the last bit of sun touching the little vineyard just by our place up the hill.

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