Thursday, June 06, 2013

foothills of the Pyrenees

It was the most straightforward, easy ocean crossing. Whereas last time, in March, on this very same Detroit - Paris flight I first went up, then spun around halfway into the trip and came back down in Canada, then went up again, and came down again with a tired crew in Brittany, then up one more time, landing finally twelve hours late in Paris, this time we went up ahead of schedule and came down only once, in Paris, also ahead of schedule. (The winds pushed us forward at terrific speed.) Nightmare crossing, heavenly crossing. Funny how you can quite never predict which fate will be yours.

From Paris (with a pause only for a nice strong coffee) onto Barcelona. And this is the only photo of Barcelona you'll get this month -- taken virtually leaning on the lap of a young man who had the window seat.

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In Barcelona, where we reserved a car for the incredibly wonderful price of $211 (for two and a half weeks, all included), I struggled to be an accepting and gracious traveler as yet again the rental company foisted on us their "smallest" car, which perhaps by American standards is small, but it has four doors (two too many for us) and it isn't the size of a postage stamp (which would have been our preference). Their little Fiats 500 were going for twice our price and so we stayed with our Spanish Ibiza four-door. Black no less. Sigh.

So where are we now? At the small, family run Can Garay in the Catalan village of Les Planes d'Hostoles. Two hours north of Barcelona, two hours south of Sorede. Right up toward the mountains that separate Spain from France. Biding time until our rental in Sorede kicks in on Saturday.

I love these pre-Sorede, "biding time" pauses in Spain! Step outside after the long flights and you see that the light is immensely different here: gentle, nearly always sun dappled and warm. We'll drive toward the mountains, other years toward the sea, catching our breath and it doesn't really matter where we are -- it's all beautiful and the food is always very very good.

It's 6:30 in the evening when we pull into the yard of this lovely old family home.

Dinner is at 8:30. You'll want to rest until then?
I look out at the view from our tiny balcony.

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No rest! I want to walk! The evening air is so perfect and mild -- let's  explore!
Ed looks at me with just a touch of resignation. A nap sounded good to him. But, he rarely turns down a walk and so we head out.

We stroll along an old rail bed -- it's now a path that'll take you from the sea (some fifty miles east of us) right to the heart of the Pyrenees -- and it could not be a more beautiful moment to be out and about.

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We encounter a family doing the same. Kids, grownups, a dog, a couple of bikes and fistfuls of wild flowers that grow to the side of the path.

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We walk further into the hills. So pastoral and quiet here! Birdsong, yes there's that. Sheep doing their evening meeeeh calls. Cow bells.

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I live in the country now and yet I am always enchanted by the scenery of another countryside. As if I cannot get enough of it. As if I need to expunge all those city years and return to what I truly love -- the distant meeeh cry of a farm animal, the chirp of a swooping bird -- swallow maybe, the faint rustle of leaves in the summer breeze.

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But, we're tired, thirsty, hungry too. Let's not get too ambitious. Time to go back to the village. Returning for the evening meal. Like this old man?  Maybe he's hoping for something simple? Something fresh and honest, a favorite Spanish pancake with potatoes maybe? Sausage? Iberian ham?

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Most everyone in the village will be thinking of supper now...

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At the Can Garay we pause for a few minutes in the garden. Our hosts bring us some fizzy water along with fizzy Catalan Cava. Ed finds an Isis lookalike.

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And now it is supper time and sure enough, the food (preset, there's no menu) is just as you would expect here in this remote Catalan village. Maybe a few houses down, our fellow walker is eating the same stuff.

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tortilla de patata, sausage, ham

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the ubiquitous bread with olive oil and tomato

Chicken follows and then a choice of desserts: flan, yogurts... I don't even hesitate on that one: a local frozen yogurt, flavored with "fruits of the forest."

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And only then, the much needed nap. I'd say a fitful night of sleep, but it's never that. Not on the first night. But there's no hurry. Those will come too. There is no rush anymore. Not here, not now. Time to exhale. In the foothills of the Pyrenees.