There is no better way to rest and rejuvenate than to bring yourself to the sea, so I did just that. I miraculously got my back pack on a Ryanair flight without being charged (and if you've ever flown Ryanair you know how much of an accomplishment that is; it largely had to do with a lot of strategic synching and another oversized-bag customer creating a diversion at the gate. Needless to say I was completely anxious for 24hrs thinking of their day-of baggage charge (60€) and I sucked it up and paid 20€ for my other two flights coming up on this trip). And then I headed to the coast of Spain.
I met my dear friend Carrie and her best friend Jill in a little plaza downtown and we spent a leisurely day walking the beach, eating veggie burritos and drinking mojitos [not very Spanish of us] and enjoying the general luxury that is lounging in a hotel room.
That evening we attended Carrie's classmate's birthday. The birthday girl, Laura (Barcelona native), had rented a performance space and asked her friends to prepare a skit or song of some kind. There were songs with guitars and accordions, there were skits, there was a game show in Catalonian that went on forever, there was a hilarious dance routine performed by Carrie and her lovely friend Crystal. I was so impressed and inspired with everyone's care and dedication to their friend, not only to show up but to prepare and perform as well. How often does that happen at a birthday party in Canada?
One of the birthday guests prepared a little something for us foreigners as well, a 20 minute power point on Castellers, which is the Catalonian tradition of people stacking, really, creating towers in various formations by standing on each other's shoulders. It was pretty comical how detailed his presentation was, but the whole thing is very fascinating, and, surprise, there was a Castell festival going on the next morning! We now had another must-see attraction to add to our itinerary.
It's a little terrifying to see dozens of people stand on each other's shoulders and then see them shimmy up to make tier upon tier, especially because the top tier is always a tiny child or two, but the energy of the square and enthusiasm of the participants was contagious, and it really was great.
No trip to Barcelona is complete without seeing the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's cathedral that is still under construction. The first time I was in Europe, this was my single most favorite cathedral I went to, and a top highlight of the whole trip. This time around was no exception. I've said before that a lot of cathedrals can give me the heeby-jeebies, but this one is vibrant and alive and full of very intentional and very inspiring imagery. Two things I noted this time: one was when the audio tour was talking about the light of the cathedral, and how Gaudi strategically calculated and mapped out how much light would come through the bright stained glass; he said, "it must not have too much light or too little, for both are blinding," and that the colors are chosen intentionally, to shine down the encouragement, "I am the water of life, I am the light of the world." The second was that Gaudi flanks the church with facades of Christ, his birth, life and the passion, and the imagery of the alter is all about the believer, dedicated to life's questions, who are we, what do we believe, why are we here, what awaits us when we die. How lovely that the place that we sit to reflect is built to cultivate the wondering of the heart.
After getting stuck in a serious thunder storm, we met Carrie's classmates to watch a play. It was a three person play, a woman, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's fear, personified. Obviously I don't speak a lick of Spanish but it was still great to watch the movements of the story.
Stuck again in the rain, we were determined to have a hearty and cozy dinner, and the Italian restaurant down the road was just the ticket. We shut the place down with huge pizzas and bruschetta and seafood pasta and chianti (there was also, unfortunately, a very disappointing crepe, but I won't hold it against them).
Visiting with such a good girlfriend was really great after the crazy experience of the camino. I'll see Carrie again when I pass through London on my way home, but for now she and Jill headed back to the UK.
Yesterday was a mellow day. My enthusiasm for exploration (and visions of getting a great massage) were squashed when I learned it was a bank holiday and most stores were closed, and I had a bath and a nap in the late morning after breakfast and a switch of hotels. Motivated by the great need for lunch, I headed out and noticed that my dear friend Tom Smith (circa Muskoka Woods days) was available to entertain me. We met for coffee, walked with churros con chocolate (topped with whipped cream, are you kidding?), stopped in at the cathedral Santa Maria Del Mar, met up with his Polish friend Anita, hiked to Park Guel for sunset, and had a night cap. Tom is absolutely hilarious and had me giggling non-stop, and he is also a very philosophical and theological man, and it was such a treat to spend the day with him. He was a great tour guide and historical anecdotist [not a word but is a word to me]. It was a lovely day.
Now I am on a charter bus, literally sitting on a seat hovering the stairs at the front right beside the driver (got the very last seat), heading for the airport, destination Munich to spend some time with my old roommate Lindsay and her very German husband, Roland. Can anyone say schnitzel?
Thank you for indulging my very rambled recount of my weekend. I am blissed out on inspiring company, a beautiful city, and incredible gratitude for my five weeks in Spain.