The thing I love most about travel is that suddenly magic is everywhere. Or maybe it’s always there, but I just don’t notice it in when I’m wrapped up in the ennui of my everyday routine. A few of my favorite Barcelona moments…
On the funicular at Montserrat, we sat at the front, eager to see the views as we ascended the mountain. Moments before our ascent, a group of chatty, elderly Spaniards boarded. They crowded in. Tob and I exchanged glances, feeling guilty in our seats, and offered our seats to two older ladies. “No, no, no” they repeated, as they took the seats and commented our on good manners. They wanted to know where we were from; they were from Valencia. They commented on how handsome Tob was; one woman pointed to her husband and suggested we swap men for the day, and they all cackled hysterically. The women then broke out in song, a traditional song from Valencia, and pantomimed dance moves in the crowded car. At that moment I saw my role model for aging. As we exited, we exchanged air kisses and wished each other happy trails.
The path was narrow and alternated between warm sunny patches and shady bits. The climb was gradual until the end, where hundreds of stairs met us. After catching my breath at the top, I looked around. And was speechless. There, below us, laid the countryside, stretching in one direction to the sea, the other to the Pyrenees Mountains. Moments later, two Spanish men arrived, with their dog, Mike. They showed us their town, at the base of the mountain. They were currently in between jobs, and came to Montserrat almost every day to run to this peak. They told us about a restaurant that had been at the top of the mountain, but was swept away during a flood 20 years ago (no one was hurt) as we shared our lunches. Laughing with each other, the fruit was sweeter, the Serrano ham saltier, the cheese creamier. As they prepared to run back down the mountain, we exchanged pleasantries and kisses on cheeks. I was overwhelmed by being in a country that loves life.
Miro and Me
I ran into the museum, eager to escape the oncoming storm. I was so excited about visiting this museum. Joan Miro is one of my favorite artists – the colors, the simplicity, the lines, the vibrancy – each piece astounds me. As I started walking through the galleries, listening to my audio guide explain the history of each painting, I realized I was the only visitor. Thinking maybe I had made a mistake and had less time than I thought, I asked one of the few guards what time the museum closed. No, I still had another couple of hours. I wandered from gallery to gallery, peering close at the red, the yellow, the blues, then slowly backing away, watching each masterpiece transform. In each gallery, I was the only person, even the guards were nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t believe my fortune. Miro and me, all alone.
“May I take care of you?”
Oh, magic. Here was a charming Spanish waiter, asking if he could choose my food for me. See, I love eating. I just don’t like making choices. There’s the anxiety of choosing something on the menu, and it not living up to my expectations, and what if I should have chosen the other item… To have someone just bring me food – oh, heaven.
I told him I’m allergic to bell peppers and he whisked away, returning with a lovely chilled bottle of crisp white wine and a small plate of delicious, melt in your mouth mussels, in a just slightly salty broth. He laughed as I mm’ed and ah’ed as I ate each one. All that remained in front of me was a pile of shells when he told me I was not finished. Not sure I understood him (I think I’m much more fluent in Spanish than I actually am), he continued. “Senora, use your teeth to get the rest” and he showed me how to scrape the shells to get every last remnant. Delicious food and I can use my fingers?
What followed next were generous portions of lightly fried seafood – shrimp, calamari, sardines, small fish — which I shared with the Portuguese man sitting next to me, also dining alone. He offered me his platter of fried artichokes. We continued to chit chat as more platters arrived. The last was even more delicious than the prior platters. It had warm cheese on top and the solid mass on my fork melted in my mouth, no distinguishable flavor except pure happiness.