Spain, I love you. Always.
Barcelona. The last stop on my trip. I’m in the airport in Nice and I’m nervous. Barcelona. Finally.
Whatever sort of pilgrimage I was doing, it felt important. Strange to be writing about it this way, the end before the beginning, but it feels right. Three weeks in Barcelona was not enough. Maybe no time would have been. Maybe my heart would have broken leaving after three years, three decades. Maybe I could have lived there forever.
Barcelona has been in the news this past week because it has been the target of three terrorist attacks in 72 hours. I cannot fathom what sort of hate lives in someone’s heart to do something like what has been done. But Barcelona was ready, though it should not have had to be. Walking down Las Ramblas with J on my first day, he pointed out the militarily armed police that dotted the beaches, their enormous firearms ugly in the summer sun, surrounded by topless women and locals selling tapestries, watermelon, beer, mojitos! Do you want mojito? I have daiquiri too.
Barcelona is what love feels like. I’ve lived in Paris and their claim to such is unfounded. No, no, no, Barcelona, Barcelona is love. Hot and sticky, it’s as though the city invented summer with that haze that hangs over it’s terra cotta roof tops, blurring your vision.
My hotel, Hostal Radio, was not a hostel, and was hardly a hotel. It reminded me of the hot sheets my friends and I used to rent for two hours of privacy back in high-school in Belize. The first room I was given felt like it should have come equipped with porn groove on the stereo (just kidding, there was no stereo). What there was was an enormous mirror directly in front of the bed. Quite charming, but they moved us to another room.
That room I remember as paradise. The small veranda, too small to ever say you stood on the veranda, no you stood inside and leaned out the veranda, the internet that would come and go, the sea-foam green bathroom with the door that didn't lock, the bed that took up 80% of the room, the plastic bag on the smoke alarm, the long mornings spent in that haze, waiting for him to return home from work at the studio, oh Hostal Radio, you were a dream.
There is a place, though I could not tell you the name, a few blocks from Hostal Radio, the hotel that was not a hostel, where an Asian family ran a bar with the best bocadillos in town. Their little bar boasted a selection of five beers and the giant dried leg of a very expensive pig from which the matriarch of the family carved us slices for the aforementioned sandwich. After all the paella and pan con tomate, all I can think about is that sandwich. Manchego cheese and serrano ham lovingly embracing one another betwixt two halves of a baguette. Divine. And lemon beer. Can I have a moment to reflect on how refreshing a can of Estrella Damm Lemon is on a Spanish summer day? Nothing is better. Oh my, a sandwich and canned beer my two take aways from Spain. The Lonely Planet would be so disappointed.
Hogueras de San Juan, a city wide party from your wildest pyromaniac dreams, oh the city was lit up with so much fire power it must have been visible from space. If you, like us, had not purchased your explosives ahead of time, simply join the queue snaking its way out the door of the innumerable buildings emblazoned with petardos. The flyers littering the ground outside promise great deals for children.
As is tradition for San Juan, I found myself totally naked near midnight, running into the chilled ocean. If night swims aren’t your bag, you can jump over a fire to cleanse your soul for the coming year. Though the night way fuzzy, I recall groups of children prancing back and forth over firecrackers that splashed light and heat in all directions. I still wonder what sins they were seeking to cleanse from their little souls.
Then L'Ametlla de Mar, roughly 45 minutes by train away from Barcelona, but so much more quiet, so much smaller, so much older. The town itself overgrown with pink flowers, it boasted sweeping cliffs and private rocky beaches, all the better for getting sun while avoiding tan lines.
L’Ametlla bores into my mind even now, in all it’s seaside perfection. After my departure from the Spanish coast as I was mourning the death of summer, paradise lost, J and I gave each other new names, names we would have never chosen for ourselves. That was half the point. These people we were creating needed to be so far removed from who we were, totally separate. He named me Trina and I named him Wallace. I think about Wally and Trina often, mostly because they’re still there in L'Ametlla de Mar. They’ll always be. Endlessly in love, they make jam to sell to the tourists. Their life is simple. Wally spends his days near the shore fishing for dinner. Trina tends to their small garden. And they’re happy.
Spain, te amo. Siempre.