Voy a España
December 2001
 
The Euro is coming! The Euro is coming! Get rid of the German Deutschmark coins, QUICK!! I spent the end of December preparing for my first-ever trip to Spain and doing all my laundry; the washing machines take Deutschmark coins at least until Dec. 31, and after that, I have no idea when the Haus Meister will get around to changing the machines. All of the train station machines were switched by the start of December. I think Euro Day is going to be another Y2K story -- much ado about nothing.

In other news, I have a new theory: I think there is a conspiracy between the University of Kentucky and Duke to kill people of heart attacks every time they play each other. What a heart breaker. Wish I could have seen it. My German neighbors are probably really glad I didn't though. Right, Michael?

I watched Oh Brother Where Art Thou? for the second, third and fourth times this month. Barb let me borry it. I was never much of a George Clooney fan, but this movie has turned me. He nails it. Right down to the Southern accent (obviously the KY roots showing). He's bonafide. Ofcourse, Charles Durning just about walks off with every scene he's in.

So, I finally went to Spain. I knew Barcelona would be beautiful, but I never expected it to be sooooooo beautiful. I walked around like a big dumb Kentuckian -- which I am -- mouth hanging wide open and wanting to say, every five minutes, "Dang! Look at that!" The architecture alone is worth a visit. But the real treasure of the capital of Catalunya is the food. I'm talking food to die for, to leave your spouse for, to launch wars over, to denounce your faith for.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

My holiday officially began on Dec. 21, after I finally tore myself away from the office, dropped the dogs off at the Hunde Hotel (always a traumatic experience for me and for Wiley; Buster thinks it's Club Med), and went to Alexandra's to spend the night in Bonn. I heard rain as I drifted in and out of sleep at her apartment, then realized from the heavy sound that it was snow as well. The snow was all gone from Bonn by the morning as we walked through the dark and mostly empty streets with our bags to the train station, but it was still on the countryside as we rode to Dusseldorf.

As usual, I couldn't get excited about the trip until we were on the train. A trip is not real to me until I am really, actually going somewhere; I keep waiting for something to happen and to find out I don't get to go after all. Between the train and the two planes, it took us almost nine hours to do what would have taken two and a half hours on a direct flight; bad weather and way more people than the airlines expected delayed all flights. We got stuck in Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris for a while, and I have to say -- what a YUCKY airport! What stupid ass architect designed that ugly and hard-to-navigate monstrosity with poor signage, remote bathrooms and not enough seats for even a quarter of the passengers waiting for flights?! I mean, it's PARIS. Shouldn't the airport reflect such?!

The Barcelona airport is much smaller and, compared to a German airport, kinda messy. It was here that I learned the Spanish total disregard "no smoking" signs; when Spainards want to smoke, they do, even right under or next to a "no smoking" sign. According to Alex, the Spanish pretty much do whatever they like, until told to stop by someone in authority. Then they bitch like crazy, but they do stop whatever it is/was they are/were doing. It took some getting used to, having been in Germany for the last 10 months, where everyone feels it is their obligation to make sure you stand in line/walk your dogs/clean your apartment correctly. While the Barcelona airport was not spic and span, it was logical, with great signage, and wonderful shops. I wanted to try to read everything -- the advertisements, airport signs. It was the first time I've ever been in a Spanish-speaking country, other than a Mexican border town. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to learn Spanish anywhere and everywhere.

We had landed in Barcelona well before sun down, so I got to see the landscape into town as we road in from the airport on the train. It wasn't pretty -- lots of run down factories and ugly warehouse apartments -- but it was quite interesting. One thing I liked was seeing all sorts of little gardens along the tracks, tended to by people living in the project-like high rises nearby. The little gardens weren't picturesque or manicured like those in Germany, but they were just as bountiful, and maybe even more important to those tending them. I love when people do whatever they can to grow even a bit of their own food themselves, no matter how urban their surroundings. Soon we were in a tunnel, far underground, and then frantically getting off the train and moving through the labirynth to the subway. There were often musicians on the subways, of varying degrees of quality. The first one we saw was playing this wonderful stringed instruments -- he hit the strings with these little mallets. It was lovely. Two others played a violin and mandolin, and were just as wonderful.

Firefighters in Catalonia are bombers We went up to street level, and even amid the chaos of trying to figure out where we were and which direction to walk, I had fallen in love with Barcelona the moment we were first walked through its streets. It was just beautiful, simple as that. And we weren't anywhere near the tourist/postcard sections and I was feeling this way. We walked past a huge, ornate fire station, marked "BOMBERS." That's Catalan for "Firemen." In Spanish, it would be "Bomberos" (and I looked all over the dang place for a fire truck for Stefan with "Bombers" or even "Bomberos" on it, but there were NONE to be found. All toy fire trucks had English words). In front of the fire station station was a really touching stature of a fireman holding a little girl. I got a picture of it for Stefan.

I should explain, in case you don't know (I certainly didn't until I moved to Europe): the North Eastern part of Spain, and the South Eastern part of France, is "Calalunya." It has its own language and own culture -- food, music, customs, dress -- quite unique among the region. The people are Catalans first and Spanish or French second. There are some people who want an autonomous state for Catalans, but I think the majority of Spanish Catalans want to stay in Spain (not sure about the French Catalans). They are a very proud people, almost arrogant. They have a major chip on their shoulder, which I thought was quite obvious, even without Lonely Planet Spain pointing it out. I made sure to tell Alex's friends and families that I thought that Catalunya was beautiful, not just Spain .

Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya. I could have happily spent a week there and still not seen everything. There were lovely, ornate building facades with carved stone and iron lining the tiny balconies; narrow, cobblestone streets winding here and there, leading to hidden plazas and marketplaces; colorful flowers, vegetables, fruits, clothes, publications and various other things being sold in shops or on the street; street musicians and performers, most of them quite good; perfectly dressed people... I'm not doing it justice in this description. My pictures don't do it justice. No pictures do it justice.

I was in pain from my two big tumbles on my bicycle the previous week, but I ignored it as best I could as I lugged my bags around -- I didn't want to let anything hold me back from enjoying my first trip to Spain. We dragged our bags a few blocks to the apartment of Alex's cousin -- the family was already in their weekend house out in the Catalun countryside, so we had the apartment to ourselves. An ancient and very sweet lady, a neighbor, came down to let us in and, when Alex told her I didn't speak Catalun, she began to speak to me in Spanish. I actually understood that she was asking me if I was cold. I can understand Catalans when they speak Spanish -- just a little, ofcourse, but better than talking to people from Madrid, who fly so quickly through the language that I feel lost as soon as I hear the first syllable. Somehow, we all managed to fit into the tiny elevator with our luggage. The apartment was great. We slept in the boy's room. I got the top bunk.

We freshened up, I switched my money to a little purse that hung inside my jacket (after being warned again and again about pick pockets), and we went out to explore the city before joining friends for dinner. We went to two CD stores, two book stores and a pharmacy, in search of various items. I bought two children's books in Spanish, one for little kids, and one for pre-teens. I hope I can read them both well and relatively easily by the end of next year. We were unsuccessful in finding a CD with "El Toro y La Luna" on it, a song that Alex and Manuel sang one night as we stood drinking camporiñas (sp?) in Bonn after a Paco De Lucia concert. I had fallen in love with it that night, and have wanted to find it ever since.

The streets were packed with well-dressed shoppers looking to buy Christmas gifts and get rid of their secret stashes of pesetas they had been hiding from the tax man (they will be worthless in a few weeks, after the Euro takes over completely). We walked down Barcelona's famous La Rambla, and I was in awe of the buildings we passed. I just don't know how to put into words how beautiful it all was. I think Alex was really happy that I genuinely fell in love with this city so quickly. The weather was cold, but clear, and no wind -- on this night and for the entire trip. Also, I noticed that Barcelona has so many hostels! I wish the U.S. had more hostels. What a wonderful concept. I saw a few back packers while we were in Barcelona, though not many. It wasn't the season for it.

At one point, we came across street performers with puppets: one life-sized of the upper torso of Louis Armstrong, complete with trumpet, and six little ones representing the back up chorus. They mimed to "Go Down Moses." It was WONDERFUL. A huge crowd gathered to watch and loved it. There was a moment when I thought, is this a de-grading caricature of black people? I decided no, no more than the Beatles puppets further down the street (they were on a break -- we didn't get to see them actually perform). But "Beatles" features and, I'm sure, their movements, were every bit as exaggerated as Louis and company. Alex then told me this wonderful story of when her mother was a young girl, scraping a living in Barcelona, she saw Louis Armstrong come walking down La Rambla after a concert, playing his trumpet for "the people." I shuddered at the thought of such an amazing sight.

Just before nine, we met up some of Alex's friends for dinner. We walked to a restaurant called "The Zoo," which I didn't have high hopes for based on the name, but which proved to actually be quite good inside. My soup, appetizer and drink were great -- my main course was tasteless and I couldn't finish it. More friends joined before dinner -- there were 10 of us in all. I got really tense, ashamed yet again that I speak only English. I was also tense because the women in the group were beautiful . I'm talking drop dead exotic gorgeous. Thin, perfect hair and makeup, ultra fashionable clothes and jewelry -- and there was me, with zits all over my blotchy face, dark circles under my eyes, frizzy hair, jeans and a hiking shirt... I felt so out of place. One guy had been to Kentucky before, working to excavate an Indian mound, and I totally lit up at that -- I would have loved to have talked to him at length about that, but there were so many people between us at the table, there was no way to have a conversation.

Statues at La Sagrada Familia The next day, we rose late (it's the Spanish way) and went looking for breakfast. It was so interesting seeing La Rambla in the day time; it was every bit as beautiful as in the night. After getting a little sandwich in a bar open for coffee in the morning, we headed for La Sagrada Familia. I'm sure that there is a ton of info on the Web about this famous church, so I won't go into the history or a detailed description here. But I will say that the tourist books are right -- if you see only one thing in Barcelona, this is what you need to see. You enter the grounds on the side of the Passion facade, with art work by Josep Subirachs rather than Gaudí. It is a stark but appropriate contrast to Gaudí's soft, round faces on the Nativity facade (which I also liked very much). Subirach's images are square, mournful, solid. I got emotional over the incredible images of the Passion scenes, to the point of tears. Subirachs' powerful work deserves much more celebration than it receives. We headed inside the unfinished church (which, officially, is not a cathedral) and I was stunned by the lack of straight, 90 degree lines anywhere. Not even the walls are perfectly straight -- Gaudí felt there were no such straight lines in nature, so why should there be in buildings? The butraces for inside resemble massive trees. There's no roof yet, so the sun shines directly into the sanctuary. I could have stood there for an hour. I would love to take a guided tour of the place.

Jayne at La Sagrada Familia Yes, I climbed one of the towers. Got a couple of great pictures from the top as well, amid the angels. So much detail up there, that few people ever see. Alex says that a famous writer admitted that his first sexual experience came atop one of these towers, and I could not stop joking about it the entire time. La Sagrada Familia should be done sometime after 2020. Even unfinished, this is my favorite church (sorry, Freiburg). It is a crown jewel for Barcelona. For the world. I feel silly trying to describe it -- I can't.

We took the underground to a new plaza, and I took a picture of the bull ring, which, according to Alex, was built for the people who have moved here from Madrid (Cataluns don't really dig the whole bull fight thingy). Then we moved on to Poble Espanyol, which Lonely Planet Spain described as a "tacky tourist trap." I strongly disagree. It's a tasteful tourist trap. Each building or block represents a different part of Spain. It's nice and worth a visit, although the shops and food are overpriced. Alex ordered a sampler plate that would let me get an overview of Catalan cuisine. My god. Mi madre. It was heaven. Heaven in food. I had botifarra amb mongetes (pork sausage with friend white beans), esquixada (shredded salad cod with tomato, red pepper, onion, white beans, olives, olive oil and vinegar), fresh bread which we rubbed with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil... and I don't know what else. But I thought I had died and gone to paradise. The service was fabulous -- they were there to please. Almost as good as what you get in the South of the U.S. Poble Espanyol was largely deserted. In fact, we never encountered a crowed the whole time we were in Spain, except at the mall and Barri Gótic.

Night fell, and it was time we did more shopping. We kept looking for that damn CD with the song about the bull and the moon on it -- no luck. We took a tour through Barri Gótic, an ancient part of Barcelona around its cathedral. It was fascinating, and, again, I could have spent a couple of hours there, but we were women on a mission -- I still had things to buy before we left Barcelona. We walked toward the mall and came across traditional Spanish singers, men who stand outside your balcony to woo you. And I consider myself now wooed. They were wonderful. Eye yie yie yie. Actually, I must say -- Spanish men are beautiful. Woof. To end our night out, we went to a huge department store, which was almost as yucky as an American mall, except they have a lot more people there to wait on you, and they are majorly into SERVICE. I bought Stefan a Lego fireman -- I gave up on the "Bombers" or "Bomberos" idea. I bought some other stuff as well, just for me -- I must admit that I didn't buy my friends stuff this trip. There was no time. Next time, I promise.

Alex and I were both beat, so we headed back to the apartment, where we learned from the TV of both Mr. Shoe Bomber and an illness in the Spanish Royal Family. Alex is majorly into the Royal Family; she has opinions about each member. She would never call herself a royalist, but she totally is one. We had cereal for dinner, and watched a special in Spanish about Buddhist monks. As I watched, I realized that if I could watch TV in Spanish every night for 30 minutes, I could learn this language. It's so frustrating not to have any exposure to it outside of class twice a week. Anyway... I read Alex's Tarot cards, and then we crashed.

Christmas Eve, we rose early and were ready to head out the door by 10 a.m. We went to a plaza that we had seen the first night we were in Barcelona, and, at last, Alexandra found a place that served chorros. I don't know how to describe them, other than to say that, if you like fresh glazed donuts right out of the oven, you would love chorros, though they aren't the same thing. They went well with coffee. Yes, I drank coffee. I do that if there is nothing else available, and there usually wasn't in Spain. Plus, it's so much more European to drink coffee. But I didn't smoke (grin). Anyway, we sat in an outdoor café and were serenaded by a guy with a guitar, who said "thank you" in about six languages when he was done. It was sweet. One of the things I love most about traveling is sitting in beautiful places to eat and drink and watch life go by, whether its a nice café or on a blanket in the middle of nowhere.

We went down to see the Meditteranean, which Alex insisted I should see before I left Barcelona. She was so right: it brought home the fact that the city is on the sea, and that so much of its wealth comes from there. We saw an antique wooden submarine, lovely sail boats and yachts, a nice scene of two guys sitting on the water front feeding pigeons, a statue of Columbus pointing to the new world, and various other public works of art (which I so love). It was a nice last view of the city. We did some last minute shopping along La Rambla, then headed back to the apartment to collect our things. We took a cab to the bus stop and got on for the hour long ride to Moiá, a small town near Manresa, far outside of Barcelona.

As you go inland, away from the Barcelona city center, the city gets majorly ugly for a short while, as the scenery is filled with atrocious 70s-style apartments "warehouses" and other just plain ugly buildings. Then, at last, farms began to appear. We began to go up in altitude, and both the landscapes and the buildings began to get more beautiful. The snow was still thick on the open landscapes, but the roads were perfectly clear. We passed a few big roadside restaurants with dirt parking lots, dives that looked liked fantastic places to stop and meet the locals. The little cities we passed through were adorable, off the obvious tourists' tracks. All the open fields covered in snow and stone farm houses, whether small and simple or huge and grande, were lovely. I have no idea what's grown in the fields when they aren't covered in snow. There were patches of orchard here and there, but they were far fewer and smaller than what I expected.

Unfortunately, I began to get car sick. I was shocked. Yes, the roads were very winding, but the bus had lots of windows, and I had eaten a good breakfast. I wrote it off to being too hot, and was really glad when cold air kept coming through the front doors. The bus driver was in an awful mood, sighing loudly every time we went up hill and just being generally grumpy, and I told Alex that it probably wasn't his bus and he was mad about it. Sure enough, he told another passenger that was, indeed, the cause of his frustration. Can a job profiling for the FBI be too far in my future?

We arrived in Moiá and Alex saw her cousin Isabel before we were even off the bus. We all went to a small café to get refreshed, then headed to Isabel's house. Alex translated between Isabel and myself, and I loved hearing them speaking Catalan. It is a lovely language. To me, it has the rythem of Italian, and its pronunciation is quite different from both French and Spanish, its nearest neighbors. We dropped Isabel off at her lovely home on the edge of town (which Isabel joked was a developing country because it was on a dirt road), overlooking vast snow-covered fields, and took the car to Artés.

Alex's uncle, Juane, and two aunts, Carmen and Emilia, with whom we would be staying, own a garage and two flats in Artés, high on a hill with a wonderful view of the sillouete of Montserrat in the distance. These three relatives are all in their 80s, and you have never met a nicer group of people. Emilia reminded me soooooo much of Grandma, my father's father's mother. We instantly bonded. She would take me by the hand and lead me around the apartment, talking on and on about her birds, her kitchen, how she cooked, and I would just nod and smile. Her uncle would come in and eye my hot chocolate, and I would throw myself over it and say, "Oh no you don't!" and he would laugh. None of them spoke a lick of English. They completely embraced me. Alex's mom, Sol, was already there, and it was so wonderful to see her again. She's a Queen, and treats me like one.

The three of them had won a HUGE gift basket at their local grocery store and put it in their hallway. It was packed with more food and drink than a family could consume in a month, I swear. I took a picture of them with it. They were soooo proud.

It was Christmas Eve, so I decided to dress up for the evening -- I wanted to look really nice. I had been in jeans and REI long sleeve shirts up to that point, and had felt like a bum. I wanted to prove that I could look half way decent. I was glad I did change, because Alex decided to wear her Sari that she had bought in India, and everyone else dressed up as well. There were 15 of us for dinner. It was a zoo. It was crowded. It was wonderful. I could not believe how nice everyone was, how attentive, how inclusive, how warm and welcoming. No one spoke English except Alex, and it just did not matter at all. And the food. Good god. We started out with a VAT of fresh steamed seafood. I mean it -- a VAT. Shrimp, scallops, clams, even squid -- and I have never liked squid in my life, and I could not get enough of this stuff. It was soooo fresh and HEAVENLY. This was followed by some of the most moist, tender turkey I have ever had in my life, smothered in this INCREDIBLE gravy, with apples and prunes cooked right with it. I sat there shoveling food in my mouth and thinking, I'm dreaming, I'm dreaming... it was a food orgasm.

The conversation was hilarious. Two of Alex's cousins are married to guys named "Josep." One of them knows about as much English as I know Spanish. So we kept saying stock phrases to each other from our classes: He asked me, "When does the bus from Los Angeles arrive" and I asked him "Donde esta el banco?" We somehow managed to eek out a conversation about motorcycles, and he told me he wanted to come to the U.S. and travel on Route 66. I had to tell him that "Route 66 no exista ahora," but that highways 50 and 60 were great alternatives. Not sure if he understood me. I also played with Paola, a one-year-old who really could not have cared less what language I spoke, so long as I would let her chase me all night.

After dinner, it was time for the traditional Catalan Christmas Eve celebration. The kids go into another room to recite the Lord's prayer while, in the main room, the adults put one gift for each child under a "magic" log. It has a goofy face painted on it and it wears a red hat, usually. A blanket covers the log and the presents, the kids come in, they beat the log with a stick and sing a traditional Catalan Christmas Eve log-beating song, the blanket is removed and the presents revealed. And after everyone opens their presents, they go into the other room and the process begins again. Yes, kinda strange, and yet, it was a lot of fun to watch. Alex's relatives skipped the log part and just used a big wooden box and a blanket. Yes, I have pictures of all this.

I went to bed in an incredibly good mood. The trip could have ended right then and there and I would have been incredibly satisfied.

For Christmas Day, Alex, her mother, Sol, and I went to the tiny town of Collsuspina, Sol's hometown, for Mass. Unfortunately, Mass in the town was cancelled; my guess is that the roads had been so bad that they just decided to call it off, in case it snowed again. The town doesn't have its own priest, and the town consists mainly of just one street lined with stone buildings. The rest is all open fields. Alex said it would be the perfect scene for a wild west showdown at High Noon, and she's right. We walked around for a bit and Sol showed us some stone buildings that were important to her childhood memories, like her first school. Then we headed to Moiá, to catch the end of Mass at the church there. It was a lovely, ancient-looking stone church with vaulted ceilings, and Alex told me later that it used to be the site of a mosque, before the Spanish drove out all the Muslims and Jews. The vaulted ceilings and stone pillars stretched far above us, there was no heating, the pews were hard wood, as were the kneeling blocks -- no comfort allowed. But it was all a work of art. Alex insisted it wouldn't be a problem if I went up and looked at the Christ representation being held by the Priest -- which I later called a "doll" and she got mad at me. I think the priest was perturbed when I just had a look and walked on, without giving the "baby Jesus" a kiss. Growing up Baptist, all these icons and icon-worship is really weird to me. Nothing wrong with it, ofcourse -- it's just not something I'm used to. Plus, as I'm neither Catholic nor Christian, it would have been quite inappropriate to kiss the DOLL.

Afterwards, we went looking around Moiá. What a lovely town! So many curvy, narrow, cobblestone streets and stone buildings... I loved it. Unfortunately, the light wasn't right for any pictures. We stopped at a gorgeous restaurant I would love to have eaten at, but it was booked solid. Then we stopped at the town's annual Nativity Scene competition, where I got introduced to yet another Catalan tradition: I noticed this figure in the background of one of the dioramas, out behind the stable, and it looked like he was crouching to take a shit. I pointed it out to Alex and she said, "Oh, yeah, that's the 'Shitter'. Don't you have him in American nativity scenes?" I found him in five other nativity scenes, usually placed quite out-of-the-way, although one of the children's entries had the Shitter right in front of the manger. It was too funny. Sol struck up a conversation with one of the artists, and he turned out to be a former suitor. And even 50 years later, I think he still had a thing for Sol, as did the two other 60 and 70 year olds that joined their conversation. It was really sweet. We went to another restaurant and had yet another fantastic meal. I just cannot get over the food. And the SERVICE was FABULOUS. They really fuss over you in Catalunya!

We headed over to another cousin's home in Moiá, and passed a big community garbage can that I wish I had taken a picture of: it was covered in cats. They were *everywhere*, having some Christmas dinner, I guess. There was also a monument to September 11, which up until this year had been best known as a Catalan National Holiday, in honor of one of their great warrior martyrs. We were only at that cousin's briefly -- they were all leaving to go to another cousins, and we joined them. This house was Jayne's dream house. It was a new house, but built in an old style, with a fireplace in the HUGE kitchen, a balcony that could host a party of about 30 people, a massive living and dining room, lovely white walls and tiles... I was in heaven. It was a large group of yet more Alex relatives, two of which spoke English. It was great to get to have a conversation! Although, honestly, not speaking English didn't keep me from communicating with most folks and having a fantastic time this trip.

That night, we went to Isabel and Josep's for supper. I didn't think I could eat any more -- and yet, there I was, stuffing myself. The food was too good -- I couldn't say no, despite almost being in pain from all the eating. I was so tired from all the food and running around all day, but I somehow stayed awake. Isabel and Josep have GREAT taste in music, the best I've heard in Europe so far. We listened to Bob Dylan, to Dixieland jazz, and to American gospel music. I was in heaven, and I made sure they knew it. Josep and I also had a very frank conversation, through Alex, about Sept. 11 and American attitudes. We both told Alex the same thing, that we were so frustrated we didn't speak the other's language. I've got to learn Spanish. I'm missing out on so much. Josep and Isabel are the kind of people I would love to hang out with -- if they spoke English, they would fit right in Austin. Perfectly.

Needless to say, I again collapsed into my bed that night.

The next day, Alex and I slept way too late, then took one of her four aunts who had joined us for Christmas to her own home far outside of Artés, in an even smaller town (but just as cute). Then the two of us went to Montserrat, stopping at one point so I could get a picture of a typical rich person's ranch house. We went through Manresa, which is the largest town in the area, and, well, I was not impressed. It was none too picturesque, unlike the tiny towns around it. Almost ugly. Really lifeless. I kept the window cracked so I wouldn't get car sick yet again as we headed up the winding roads to the monestary atop Montserrat, a sharp mountain range that looks straight out of the American Southwest. I kept getting so hot -- I wrote it off to my normally warm nature. The roads were clear, and frightening as we went up and up and I looked down, down out of the passenger side window. We got to the top and it was not crowded at all. We parked and looked over to the edge, to watch just a few pilgrims here and there walking up the looooong way. We went to the gift shop, looked around, and I bought some chocolate and postcards. I now deeply regret not buying a "Shitter", figures of which were available right next to the Baby Jesuses. Then we decided to head straight for the church and the Black Virgin. We walked passed the youth hostel and the little hotel, and walked through an open plaza and through the church front doors. The church was lovely, opulent in its gorgeous icons, ornate hanging lanterns, and intricate chapels. Alex went into one of the more modern ones off to the side for a moment of quiet reflection, and I sat in the almost empty sanctuary, admiring the architecture and art work.

And I want to throw something in here: people who talk loudly despite signs asking people to please be silent and respectful, or people who take pictures despite all the signs asking you to please not to, SUCK. First off, there shouldn't even have to be signs asking you not to talk loudly or to take pictures in a friggin' church. Secondly, for you to just blatently act like you are at Disneyland rather than a house of worship just completely pisses me off. Thank god they weren't Americans...

Anyway, there was no line whatsoever to see the Virgin, so we waltzed right in, up the steps, into the little chapel and right up to Ms. Madonna and child. It's a lovely piece of art work. I've never been that up close and personal with an important, historical piece of religious idolatry. I was quite respectful, thank you very MUCH, and did not whip out my camera nor try to scrape off a piece with my Swiss army knife.

We stopped in Moiá, first to visit another of Alex's cousins, and then another. "The Goonies", translated into Catalan, played on the TVs of anywhere we stopped. Must have been the big holiday movie. Even in Catalan, it's still awful. At one cousin's, there was a dog, and I was so, so happy to get to pet a dog. He was darn happy to see me as well. Then we headed back to Artés, and took it easy the rest of the night. I packed up my things, took a shower, read and wrote in my journal. It was nice to have some time to just sit and relax and reflect on this wonderful trip. I have so many ideas for a return trip to Spain. I really think I can make it on my own here for a short trip. Hope that can happen in March or April.

The next day I rose and tried to convey as best I could just how special Carmen, Emilia and Juane had been to me. Alex's cousin took her, Sol and me into Barcelona, with me in the back letting air from the cracked window hit me in the face as much as possible. We went to the airport, had a little breakfast, and I tried to mail my postcards (and I failed, as I put the wrong postage on them, so half of you have postcards on the way to you, and the others will have to wait another week for me to mail them -- sorry). We shopped at the airport stores, which are really great, and at last, I finally found the CD with "El Toro Y La Luna" on it. We got on the plane, no problem, got to Paris and ugly ugly Charles de Gaulle airport, and as we sat waiting for our connecting flight, I suddenly got a rush of absolute exhaustion, and I suddenly got cold, for the first time on the trip. Too cold. And I realized I had had a fever for the last six days, and it had just broken. I was miserable on the flight back to Germany, and the train ride from Dusseldorf to Bonn -- I could not have made it without Alex. She asked the taxi driver to please carry my luggage to the front door for me when he took me home (they usually don't do that), and he turned out to be a great guy. Brad. He's Persian (Iranian). Used to live in Los Angeles. Works Thursdays and weekends. Geesh, but I'm nosy, even when I'm sick.

And then I collapsed in an empty bed, missing my dogs terribly. I was supposed to go to work the next day, but was way too ill. I went and got the dogs and came right back home. Stefan showed up later and brought me a rose and chocolate. I gave him his Lego fireman I bought in Spain. And gushed about my trip.

See pictures from my trip.

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  • why traveling is not only wonderful, but important to your life
  • women travelers: general info & advice (especially for women novice travelers)
  • women travelers: health & safety considerations
  • women travelers: packing suggestions
  • transportation options, and advice on preventing motion sickness
  • accommodations choices
  • the importance of complaining & complimenting
  • women travelers: advice for traveling in developing countries
  • helpful hints for camping with your dogs in the USA
  • Saving Money with Park Passes in the USA
  • Getting Started as a Motorcycle Rider: My Journey (Tips for Women Who Want To Ride)
  • advice for Women Motorcycle Travelers: packing
  • Saving Money for Travel (or to pay off your debt)
  • transire benefaciendo: "to travel along while doing good." advice for those wanting to make their travel more than sight-seeing and shopping.
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  • My Travel Maps
  • Suggestions for Women Aid Workers in Afghanistan; many of these tips are valid for travel anywhere where the culture is more conservative/restrictive regarding women
  • my adventures in Germany
  • my adventures in Europe, Africa, as well as road trips in the USA
  • Advice for Hotels, Hostels & Campgrounds in Transitional & Developing Countries: the Qualities of Great, Cheap Accommodations
  • my consulting services
  • follow me on Twitter
  • become my fan on Facebook
  • Read updates to my Facebook page via RSS
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    The material on this site was created and is copyrighted 2001-2014
    by Jayne Cravens, all rights reserved
    (unless noted otherwise, or the art comes from a link to another web site).

    This is a personal non-business-related page
    The personal opinions expressed on this page are solely those of Ms. Cravens, unless otherwise noted.