It was impossible for me to sleep on our flight from Los Angeles to Barcelona, despite the fact that the travel gods were with us. We scored an empty seat between us, in each three-seat section. This meant that both Gabriel and Stella were able to lay prone with their feet or head in Dan’s or my lap, and snooze. The flight was almost eleven hours, during which I tried to forget a dream that I had last summer. In that long ago slumber, my deceased grandmother visited me and prophesied that my life would end on my next flight; but, as made apparent by these words, I survived. Perhaps, the true interpretation of that dream is as my sister believed, that the only thing that would die would be my old life.
Here begins more than a new chapter – I’ve entered a new book – yet, our landing in Barcelona felt like nothing other than dejavu. All four of us were struck by the similarities to our August 2015 trip to Rome, our entry place to an epic year of travel. Dan and I tried to recall our own individual visits to Barcelona over twenty years ago…reminiscing on young lives long-aged. Even though we knew that this time would be different, odd coincidences proved that some things don’t change.
Our first day found us reunited with a dear Canadian friend, Carolynn, and her sister, Joey, the very same people we saw on our first day in Rome. Both of our trips to Europe were planned without knowledge of the other’s, yet our timing spoke of a similar clock. Back in ’96, I ran into an ex-boyfriend, an old coworker, and saw myself on television, dubbed in Spanish (my only claim to fame was a guest role, playing a nun on Dick Van Dyke’s t.v. show, Diagnosis Murder). None of those events were expected and they made my stay in Barcelona seem magical. It is strange how the city still conjurs random reunions. Besides our Canuck friends, we also unknowingly planned our visit the same time as a fellow Airtreks family (David, Nai, Chance, and Roxie), and had more friends to experience being “strangers in a new city” with!
My attraction to Barcelona is still lusty. The streets flirt with me, and I wink back. Each narrow lane calls me hither, vast plazas encourage a sway in my hip, and outdoor tables and chairs beg me to make myself comfortable, sip a cool sangria and allow the warm air to embrace my tingling, bare skin. I’m flushed pink, eyes twinkling, ears buzzing, completely seduced again. Rome is a classy older woman in heels, while Barcelona is her braless twenty-something daughter, pert, hot, and on the prowl. I feel like a voyeur, watching the brazen and beautiful youth.
I think that Stella and Gabriel can see the beauty of our surrounds, but they make irritating comparisons to India. Hot trash and eau de sewer challenge their appreciation, and I am on defense, “This city is over a thousand years old! Hold your breath, lift your eyes. Can you not see how incredible this place is?” Dan and I are second guessing our choice to live in Granada, spellbound by Barcelona’s allure, but remind ourselves of the increased living expenses and additional language to master. We love the soul of a big city and the surprise around each corner. Amazing architecture survives time, as generations of men flourish and decline around what should also be impermanent. Buildings remain static while masses of Catalonians and tourists whoosh by. The entire city feels like a museum without being the least stuffy. Gaudi’s whimsical facades remind us to be playful. His curving balconies, colorful mosaics, sand-castle spires, and sunbathing lizards teach us that fairytales are real.
Park Guell and Gaudi House:
Random Gaudi architecture:
Barri Gotic Cathedral:
A Day exploring Montjuic:
Feed me. We take nibbles and bites throughout the day, eating surprisingly well for surprisingly little. I love the simplicity of a baguette with thinly sliced jamon, a refreshing cold soup of melons, and a raw, white fish tartar with avocado and olive oil. The markets are vibrant with ruby tomatoes, mariscos, wheels of cheese, shiny olives, and hanging pork haunches… all are culinary jewels.
After visiting Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia, and the Joan Miro and Picasso museum, all reality becomes abstract. The artists of Catalonia make sense of the avant garde. I imagine Pablo in his striped, boatneck shirt, passing me a beveled blue glass of acid-laced punch. I take a sip and Barcelona begins to shimmer.