Thursday

This morning I woke up (I was awakened?) at 7 am. As far as I am concerned, it is the perfect time to wake up on days like this, December tenths, because it coincides with the sun just coming up. It is neither the disorienting feeling of waking up when it is still dark (which means it could be, really, any time in the night) or the regretful feeling of waking up at 9 when you have already missed two hours of scarce winter sunlight.

I woke up mid-dream: I was in a boardroom, with Donald Trump, holding my newborn, debating which types of fruits were appropriate as decorations on children’s lunchboxes. (He thought cherries were too scandalous; I argued otherwise).

I have vivid dreams, suffice it to say. Reality says: I haven’t held a baby in ages, I am never in boardrooms, I avoid considering Trump too much, and I don’t design lunchboxes. Poor Freud would have a heyday with this.

When I woke up, I still felt like I was in the dream. I schlepped over to the coffee machine, trying to help get the day started for the sleepier 50% of the household residents, and I put on gym shorts. After walking or biking daily in Barthelona, I realized this week that I may have to find some more creative ways to get in a little daily movement since apartment complexes in the middle of what is  [for all intents and purposes] nowhere is almost impossible, especially when we don’t even have to climb stairs. Monday I solved this exercise dilemma by going for a walk with L. and her spirited dog (I think spirited is the new euphemism for very active?) Today, I would begin to solve my movement needs with 25 minutes of ellipticizing, the sort-of-workout popular with those of us who just can’t handle the commitment of the treadmill.

And so I laced up some hot purple tennies, half-size too big hand-me-downs. As part of my “make a minimal effort not to lose what I learned” initiative, I listened to Catalan radio as I stood and pedaled on the slightly-too-hard interval setting. The wide steps under my feet whoosh-whooshed on the two-bar level as “Mil i una nits” with Maria de la Pau Janer opened to her round-table participants. The wide steps slowed to a swimming-in-sap speed as the interval crept up to eight-bars as M., in her Mallorcan Catalan, continued to distract me with discussions of adolescents, coming-of-age, and “setsualitat,” as some Balearic islanders pronounce it, the x being substituted with a -ts sound. (The name Max with their tongue, for instance, becomes Mats, like floor mats or door mats).

Once the requisite 15 drops of sweat had been sweat, my already-slow pedaling crept to a stop, and I walked home through a cold-warm, humid December air, the sun now just a little higher in the sky. Since working at home means I’m stuck at the black, plastic and cardboard card table (which bows under more than 1 book of pressure) and means that I am subjected to my own bad taste in Pandora stations for hours on end, I decided to head out. Guiltily dumping the watery coffee that I myself had made and Sleepy Half had poured for me, the sink belched back its stinky stale air as receipt of my offering. I slipped into my clodhoppers (which, Google has just confirmed, is a real word) and stole off, in my golden Toyolla, to C-boro, to my favorite coffee shop, the one with sturdy–if narrow–tables and dense, foamy cortados. A few undergrads, who don’t make it this far west save for exam time, are here, along with the normal crowd of just-graying professors [in the making]. I wonder if they know I’m writing about them. I wonder if they’re writing about me too. (Unlikely).

Anyway.

Just needed a little break. Reading about cultural studies, which studies…culture and stuff, was doing my head in and I needed an exhale. The good news is that the next book on my list is by an author who is dependably excellent. PHEW.

 

 

What We Did in Barna: For Mom.

Dear Momason,

You wanted to write down all we did on our trip, so I decided to get started for you.

Saturday:
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I picked you guys up at the airport after waiting an hour and thinking you got lost riding around the baggage machine because of it’s thrilling high speeds. We took the bus into the city and zipped up to “Joan of Arc.” The newly arrived got their showers (and turned on the heat) and then we took the metro back down into the city (the “Jamie” stop, Jaume I.) Our first meal on the ground was a favorite of Tim and me: arepas with chicken and abogados…eerrr, avocados. After a loop admiring what I twere Roman ruins (at the Centre Cultural del Born), but turned out to be something a little more recent, we went into Guzzo. You got overwhelmed by all of the kissy greetings, but Tim held his own as we met M. and S., and then more old acquaintances of mine. We watched M’s jam session and learned that the singer definitely does not feel guilty anymore. We decided to walk back “just a few blocks” (a.k.a probs more like 40 minutes) and before mutiny on the Bounty (or blisters-from-the-boots), I directed us into Café Adonis, where T. began his classic trip philosophizing and you enjoyed your first slices of tortilla española.
We made it back to the apartment and plopped on the couch, or as T. says “Everybody to their phones!”
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Sunday:
We had good intentions on Sunday to explore Gràcia’s cute shopping street, but e’erthang was closed (natch.) We found a HUGE breakfast at La Nena (my favorite was the magdalena covered in chocolate sauce) and then kept wandering until we reached Fontana. If I would have read the metro signs, I would have known the Montjuïc metro was closed, but I didn’t figure that out until Paral.lel. We took a quick horizontal stroll through Las Ramblas and walked along the port, where T. admired the boat-shaped gazebo-y things (What are they called?) I insisted the beach was “just around the corner” (a 20-minute corner…) and we made it to the Mediterranean and muscle beach. We took a seat and T. continued his existential contemplations while trying to take some hunk-a-man photos. Next stop was the metro, which delivered us directly back to Joan of Arc. I think we skipped lunch this day and headed straight to “Amy” at my 3€ cinema. Dinner was very “Gut”-or at least the chocolate brownie dessert (you weren’t too interested in the seitan mil-feuilles).
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Monday:
Monday we had a breakfast of ham + cheez sandwiches in Plaça Virreina and walked through Gràcia again. This time we were more successful. We stopped at my yogi shop, where I found a christmas present for Le Squish that I would later loose (like my beloved teal scarf!). Next door, you and I entertained ourselves admiring some blockprint fabrics and we both found the perfect fabric for a new bedspread. Yours is blue-ish and mine is gray and D. says “it’s nice.” We decided to walk and not metro to pilates and we arrived in the nickel of time. Not to be shown up by the two models in the class, we did our best spinal roll-ups and T. decided he should keep getting his body moving after this little inspiration. You decided you liked some of her new cues. We stopped for lunch at the 9€ menú place behind the Institut Ramon Llull and got salads and chicken pounded paper thin. T. and I tried to trick you and say that we’d eaten all the chocolate cake, but you knew we hadn’t. We stopped into the Institut so you could check out the tile and the spirally staircase and then we went back to the apartment. Dinner was pizza on Verdi.
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Tuesday:
Tuesday morning we decided to head for breakfast at the neighborhood pastry shop. We walked a few blocks before deciding to catch a cab to Aragó and Pau Claris, where we’d catch a train for Girona. Most members of the party took a cat nap on this train, but the views for those who stayed awake were quite nice. Upon arrival, we found our way to the old hospital (where the princess found her crown) and then we made it to the city center. We checked out the bridges (e.g. the one designed by Eiffel) and the cathedral. After freezing our arses on a loop through the cloister, we found our most average meal of the trip. Sowwy. Energy after lunch was low, but I dragged us to the city walls and you faked phone calls as you walked around in the late afternoon light, with the Pyrenees in the background. We did finally find the wall, and someone to take our only non-selfie group shot of the trip. The ride home is better forgotten. We had paninis for dinner at Chatelet and T. directed lost restaurant-goers to the door around the corner.
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Wednesday:
This morning everyone slept in. We decided to do breakfast at home, which for T. meant leftover -za and for us, meant muffins + take-away coffee. We walked down to the giant drip castle and you and T. were both alternatively under- and overwhelmed by Gaudí’s modernism. I liked the colors! We metro’d back to Jamie and made it for round 2 of arepas and then walked through El Born where T. did a little Christmas shopping, you looked at boots, and I accompanied. We walked into the cathedral through the back door…the cloister (this one isn’t as cold as Girona’s, but, like, 20 ducks stinkier.) We had plans to grab a cake at Caelum, but it was a little too claustrophobic, so we got ice cream and tickets to the Bultaco museum instead. We were pretty pooped and lounged around the house for a bit, but to avoid going ca-ray-zay, you inspired us to get out of the house. For dinner, we walked up the street to Soco, where it seemed like they were trying to close from about 30 minutes after we got there. But the wine was good and the burgers, good enough.
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Thursday:
We did a second breakfast at home, except for this time, I didn’t spill the OJ in the entryway. You showed me what Houzz was. We passed through the market in Gràcia for T. to find some saffron and on the way around the block, we found a cute reversible snap skirt for me and a caga-tió for T2. Walking towards Passeig de Gràcia, we decided to hop on the metro down to Plaça Catalunya and duck in Corte Inglés for a peculiar bathroom stop (at least in the men’s stalls we hear…). Since breakfast was lighter, lunch was earlier, so we passed through Sant Pere until we found the right stop-an Italian place called Via Augusta with a very nice Brazilian hipster waiter. As the sun went down, the wind picked up and we began to question our plan to sit outside…bad hot coffee sort of helped. We had to waste some time before the big haircuts at Basic, so we walked by Santa Caterina market and through the courtyard around the National Library (all just “a few blocks away”…or not…) We popped into a bookstore and a boot store and then, finally went to the salon and sat down. T. was first. The hair expert made no bones about what needed to be done with T’s back-buzz: let that grow! He then cut his hair and T. emerged with more curls than a poodle. You were next, and though M. cut off a lot of hair, he made the style oh-so-sheek (that’s a combination of your name and chic.) We celebrated our last night in Catalunya and our American Thanksgiving with tacos and enchiladas at a yummy Mexican restaurant.
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Friday: Like zomboids, we made it through the metro at 6:40 am, I dropped you off at the bus stop…and from their I assume check-in at the airport was easy, because you made it home without a hitch!

Mini-update from Lishboa

Hello, dear abandoned readers. I think I’m going to take advantage of this perfectly beautiful morning to go for a little stroll around the city, but I thought I’d say “hello” first.

Yesterday, I zombie walked at 4:30 am from my house to Plaça Catalunya. It took 21 minutes. I hopped on the VERY packed Aerobus, checked in with no line at the airport (I wanted to get there early since they said I couldn’t do my check in online, which to me, smelled like over-booking), and then grabbed a coffee. Then, it sunk in: I’m going to Portugal, for a conference, NBD. I’ve booked my hostel. I’ve written down how to get there. I know how to do this. It’s funny to think that I am suddenly…sort of…an adult. It seems like not that long ago that my parents were calling to make appointments for me at the pediatrician’s office or signing my homework. Pinch me! (or bring me chocolate? Either one would bring me back to reality.)

(Brief aside: they’re playing Maria Gadú right now in the breakfast/bar room right now. Holy cow. She’s my favorite)

In other news, conferences can be more or less social. I’ve been to one that felt big and impersonal, one that felt small and impersonal, and you know, this one is like the conference equivalent of the bowl of porridge Goldilocks finally decides on: just right. The people have been very nice…mostly a mix of Spanish and Portuguese speakers (still haven’t met another native English-speaker). When one of the guys was speaking Portuguese yesterday, I thought, “I understand almost all of it!” And then I realized he was a Spaniard…most likely speaking portunhol…which is why I could understand him. I met a young woman from the Canary Islands and we ducked out of the first session (all Portuguese) together and walked around, chatting up and down the hilly streets of Lisbon, and even ended up having lunch together at what Rick Steves’ would call a “work-a-day,” authentic local lunch spot (90% of the tables were full of locals).

Later in the evening, I went back to the conference locale, (a convenient 5 minute walk from my hostel…didn’t even do that on purpose!), I got a-chattin’ with another group of Spaniards (from Murcia) and it was like we had known each other for more than the 5 minutes we actually had. We got free entrance to the important, but disturbing, Museo Aljube and got to read up on the Portuguese dictatorship + political prisons. (Let’s put it lightly: This was not a high point in history.) As we were walking around, one of the girls told me, “You speak really well. You have no accent”….at which point her friend coughed a bit and said “Hombre!” (as if to say, “Okay, be nice, but don’t exaggerate.” Ha. So, jury’s still out on my Spanish among the Spaniards.

In the evening, I opted for the home cooked dinner at the hostel. Over Portuguese [boxed] wine and feijoada, we all got to cycle through the typical hostel conversations (where are you from/why are you here/what other countries are you visiting?) and some less typical ones (surrounding the “Thug Kitchen” cookbook, laser beams, etc.) Though I won’t do this dinner every night (because you have to pay cash and I’d rather swipe in Europe where cash costs me extra), it was a really nice way to dine in company. Plus, the walk home was just two flights of stairs.

A few snaps from day one:

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Feel the Atlantic breeze through your BVDs.

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I’m a sucker for blue tiles!

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Sharing a plate of Portuguese cozido and a pastel de bacalhau with K., my new conference amiga, for lunch. Sum total, per person: 6.35€.

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The gorgeous evening view from the Fundaçao Saramago. (Make me want to read his novel “Essay on blindess” again!)

I’m giving my talk today and feeling far less mediocre about it than this point in time a week ago (thanks to a handy second pair of eyes on it! Gracias, A.!)

Besinhos!

People Watching

Sometime last summer, my friend N. and I went to the beach for the day, saw way too much PDA, and came back to the city feeling just a little too full of love. The roses, the sappy words, the vaguely saccharine smell of the air. It was all too much for two women suffering the pains of RRR [recent romantic rejection].

So, like any responsible twenty-somethings, we decided to go w[h]ine about it together over a glass at a bar with an appropriately dim level of light. Much to our surprise (and maybe even delight after a day such as that), what was going on two tables away from ours was the other side of love: a real-live, better than reality TV break-up. It was clear that He had come here to do his Euro-thang and open his perspective of the world and marvel at the good public transit. Then, a month or two in, She had come to visit (probably in matching bra-and-underwear), thrilled to see him, shocked that He wasn’t exactly reciprocating her warm feelings. As a consequence, the Break-up Conversation began to happen. Usually hidden behind closed doors, thanks to the safety of the presumed language barrier, this couple took their English-speaking eeeeend oooof the roooooad-(cue: Boyz-ii-men)-talk to the bar.

YIKES.

It was painful for them, yes, we recognized that, especially as two women who had been through that not-so-happy day ourselves. At the same time there was something so delightfully honest and refreshing about it.

AHH. Yes, everything comes up daisies, for a time, but PDA at the beach is never the whole story.

Okay. Long aside over. Anyhoo. N. and I, walking around the same part of town just over a year later (a.k.a. yesterday) decided we’d go back to that same bar and repeat our glass-of-red-trick and see what kind of people watching was to be done on this perfect October night.

Nope, no more breakups. BUUUUUT, two first dates. Few things are more entertaining than glancing over a few tables to see couple one (one Brit, one American) and at the bar, couple two (one American, one Scandinavian) and imagining exactly what was going on.

Couple two looked like a Tinder couple. Two swipes right (or is it left?) and bam! they were on a date. Desperate to prove her “open-minded American” credentials (we all have to show we’re not like the barking box news anchors at some point in time over here), she went on about how she’d lived in Denver, and how expensive it was to buy a house, and healthcare something-or-other (don’t lie, expats, you know you’ve had this conversation), and he…listened. Holy cow. The man was patient. He couldn’t get in a word edgewise, because she, in her plaid shirt and slightly grown out hair-coloring, was on a rollll.

Meanwhile, couple one was your more classic Anglo-Saxon first date profile–you know these types, too–too reserved to talk until they were two drinks in, He, trying to look casual (or just unintentionally oblivious to dating dress code) by wearing a zip-hoodie and light colored jeans, She, froofing her hair and putting on chap-stick when he was on bathroom break number one. They were sitting at a four-top, but on a diagonal, as if to say, “I’m on this date, but I’m still skeptical of being in comfortable kissing distance of you.” Their show was one of body language only, not because they weren’t talking, but because anything they said was drowned out by the non-stop Plaid Thang at the bar.

In all fairness, N. and I decided they had probably sized us up, too, saying in a light, pitying mental voice: “Oh, would you just look at the two sad girls out together since they couldn’t get any shared swipes this weekend, choking their sorrows with a cheese plate and tinto. If that one could just get some mascara and the other stop checking her phone for 11th-hour suitors, maybe they’d have a chance.”

Conclusion: I’m sure the looks of things don’t always tell the whole story. But, then who would have anything to talk about? I’ll just do the Freudian thing and blame it on my mom. She’s who I learned this skill from (and the real reason I can have a great time people watching).

In other news: here are a few recent and not-so-recent photos

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Chilling in C-boro with D. and the Momason.

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Spent a day or two working at the super-sleek Liberry while D. did his lab thing.

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Enjoy a yummy first lunch with C. at Brunch and Cake.

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Girls’ Night in Gràcia.

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Walking around Sant Pere.

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N. got a tattoo. I waiting in the lobby for moral support as I read about how to be a good teacher.

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Wandering in el Barri Gòtic with N., en route to our people watching spots.

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Barna in the fall!

Little Stories and the Occasional Confession

1. I have high expectations during my commutes around the city. I’ll give a stink eye to the cars who block the bike lanes in half-hearted attempts to cross on an almost-red light, but occasionally the stink eye will be directed at me for riding  up the sidewalk to get to the nearest bicing station. Woops.

2. Sometimes, my “thank you” means “I love you.” When I was little, I had a mental block for years against saying “I love you” back to my family members. For an otherwise warm and affectionate kid, I just couldn’t do it. So I took to saying “thank you” instead of “I love you.” Now at the end of the odd phone call, I’ll say “thank you” and this has been confusing for some…”Thank me for what?” But, it just means what it did when I was five.

3. I have a leetle tingle in the back of my throat and I am rearry hoping that it goes away or turns into a more agreeable light cold before I go home. Somebody call the waaaambulance.

4. I went to buy my [drinking] glasses this week at Plats i olles. After talking with the owner a bit, he told me that the business had been in the family since 1929. First it was his grandfather’s, then his uncle’s, and then his dad’s. And that huge crack in the wall? [Pauses to light his cigarette.] That was from the bombs dropped on Barcelona during the civil war, and no, it doesn’t pose structural risks so they’ve never fixed it (or repainted?) It is the funniest little shop-I imagine the merchandise hasn’t changed in the last 30 years because 95% of it is stuff you would find in a Catalan grandma’s house. The extra 5 % is books, because, he also sells books (probably just to feed his own passion for American thrillers).

The crack in the wall isn’t the only thing that needs fixing. There were two glass panels missing in the door that connected the shop to his living room, so he was a little distracted by the smell of his wife making dinner…

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5. The glasses have received mixed reception at home. They’re, as the box says, 7.75 oz, even though they look small. Here, they’re usually used for wine, but I’ve also seen them used to serve gazpacho and natillas (pudding) with a galleta maría on top (basically, a round graham cracker). I think they’d also be handy for ice cream. No, there’s nothing really special about them, but I do think the shape is kind of cool. So, at our next dinner pah-ty, expect your wine to be served in one 🙂 Or, your ice cream.

See the small glass with a lime inside? That’s the one! To make a set, I am hoping to get the mid-sized glasses too. (The largest is .5l…a PINT!)

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6. My bags are packed to go home! It feels like Christmas to me. I don’t have BIG plans, but I am looking forward to a little change of scenery and getting time with my peeps. I want to be ready to come back, too, so the withdrawal doesn’t hit me like after Mexico, but all in due time, grasshopper.

Okay. Off to other things! Thank you 😉

Great Expectations

Ahhh, yes.

You know you’ve seen the images in the movies…

The woman in France who hops on her gorgeously retro bike, tosses her baguette, wrapped in a red-and-white checked cloth napkin, into her wire bike basket and rides down cobble-stone streets.

As she rides down the streets, still puddled from last night’s rain, but drying from the cloudless early morning sky, she splashes the young handsome tourist, just arrived with no place to go. She catches his eye…

Or, image two:

The villa in Tuscany where the sun is always just-setting or just-rising.

Or, image three:

The park bench in the foreground, the centuries-old buildings in the slightly blurred background, the young lover waiting, reading a book, for her someone to arrive…and when he arrives late, it is only because he’d been helping a crippled cat down from a tree, and to make up for it, he brings a shabby-chic bouquet of flowers.

This is Europe to this American.

I have written about this before and I will probably have to continue writing about it until I somehow burn it in my brain that this is not real life! (Unless you live in that really cute town that we saw last weekend. But even then, as the children’s book title says, Everybody Poops. Everyone has their deal.)

Real life is reliably unexpected, occasionally embarrassing, often rewarding, with some frequency, inane…But for some reason, I am really good at expecting that it will be fully comprehensible, endlessly meaningful, and almost always happy.

These, dear reader, are nice aspirations, but unrealistically great expectations. And, I realized this week that they are are burden to me, so I’m here to reclaim the ordinary, defend the senseless, approve of the dull, hole-y, and tattered moments that get an unduly bad rap. I’m deciding that they are okay too, that they are our bread and butter and the truly exciting things are just sprinkles on your toast (yes, I’ve read that some kids eat toast with sprinkles…If I could just get away from my PB & Js maybe I’d try it.)

So, I’m going to make a list of some ordinary things I’m grateful for.

1. Getting 2 coffees this morning, because the first one was decaf so it didn’t count. Both of them were pretty average coffee, but they did the trick.

2. Finding the drinking glasses I’ve been dreaming of made of a really sturdy glass, lovingly demonstrated by by an old Catalan shop owner (who’s probably owned his store since the dark ages) smacking them against a metal hinge.

3. The coffee bar guy giving me back the extra change I accidentally gave him rather than keep it himself.

4. The bakery lady asking me for 5 extra cents so she could give me back the more highly desirable 50-cent coin rather than the minimum three coins she would’ve have to give me back to sum 45 cents.

5. My mom sending me an email with a link to a skirt she thought would be cute. More than the skirt, I liked that I could see her eye for classic pieces that would stand the test of time. I also like e-window shopping.

6. Rediscovering a list of new podcasts to listen to, which remain my almost-favorite way to take a walk.

7. The couple that scolded the woman who stopped in the crosswalk as a woman with an (empty) stroller crossed it. I was reading today that society takes over community in big cities…but sometimes community strikes back.

8. The fact that I am mere days away from being done my first reading list. Ho.Ly. S. Ch. MoKeS.

9. The very very patient ears of those who I talk to and write to when I’m here and feeling overwhelmed by my great expectations (both domestic and international) and the good observations they’ve had.

10. Opportunities to exercise this week. Yay pilates!

11. Making good progress in my Catalan textbook and having a teacher who lets me talk about whatever’s on our minds for at least half of every class.

12. The luxury of time to sleep, eat, read, with little anxiety about having to do something by XX: am or pm.

13. The delicious September weather (and the happy fact that I will miss the coldest months sans-heat at home in Barna).

So here’s my goal for the rest of the trip (or goalz, plural):

Accept the ordinary. Don’t be scared of less-than-terrific moments because they’re perfectly normal and certainly not horseman of the apocalypse. Recognize that each day is a both a gift and an accomplishment, regardless of what happens in it. Look perfection in the face and tell it to go back to the sunset villa it came from because I don’t need it here.

Cheers to sprinkle-toast and ordinary things.

Climbing up big rocks and small rocks

I have just a tinge of a coffee jitter right now and I’m liking it. So, I’ll take advantage and tell you two stories at once again. I’m justifying the delay of the first story by saying….okay, no excuses, must’ve just been lazy last week…and the delay of story two by saying I woke up from a 14-hour bus ride around 7 am on Monday (exhausted, natch) and Tuesday was my day to feel human again, so…WEDNESDAY it is. Today, I woke up before my alarm, so I assume that means I’m fresh again.

The first weekend in September I took completely off. It’s tricky to know when to work and when not to work when I set my own schedule, but for some reason, I decided I wanted/needed two days off last weekend, like normal people. On one of those days, the roomies (minus two, plus one extra person) and I decided to take a hike up to Tibidabo (which makes me think of my Medieval lit classes and the frase “Intellectum Tibidabo”–something about giving wisdom? It’s Latin, not really my thang.)

The hike began in the city…and then you just keep walking. I don’t think I had a firm grasp on how long a two hour (plus?) hike would feel, but let’s just say it was a workout (and while I’m no Serena Williams, I consider myself of at least average-good fitness level, post-breakfast and caffeine). We even had to squirrel our way up what I am convinced is a path only meant for the urban goat. But! Alas! We made it and were rewarded by spectacular views, our packed lunches, a trip to the church’s crypt (crypy! [not really. just liked that they shared some letters]) and an hour or so of relaxing at the café up top. On the way back down, I got to see a few new streets in the city, too.

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Starting in Gràcia

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See the church at the top of the hill? That’s where we’re heading.

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Into the wild…dry, Mediterranean forest.

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We made it. Church and amusement park! Guess which is which.

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A perfect view of the city.

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A less perfect view of us.

(How’s that for a quick summary?) Like my other out-of-Barna adventures, it is always refreshing to do something that breaks a sweat and feels like an exploration. Check plus!

This past weekend, I took the bus up to Paris…and discovered a new podcast, Criminal. The plan wasn’t to stay in Paris, but to magically meet up with five other people who’d be arriving at different places and different times and go off to Fontainebleau, a HUGE forest about 45 minutes outside of the city (I think it was Napoleon’s forest, but don’t use me as your phone-a-friend on that one). Magically, we all found each other (and the world’s most expensive cafè-au-lait) and we did it!

So, here’s where you may be a little incredulous: we camped! As much as I’d like to think I’m not a total princess, I also don’t love camping. I went one night this spring and the tent was humid at night, hot in the morning; the ground was hard; the wind, noisy. GAH. All too much for me. But, these were new friends so I had to be on my best behavior and be a good sport, and I think I was. And right when I thought I was at my limit (like on day one when we were bouldering in the forest until the sun was completely set…and then faced a 7 km walk back home), miracles happened (like on day one, when we popped out of the forest…and into a DELICIOUS and cheap pizza place and toasted to our achievements, swapped funny stories [one of them involved one guy’s dad involved in mishaps with a landlord, others involved unusual uses for ping pong balls]). To avoid another parenthetical aside, miracle two happened on day two when I was pretty pooped from hiking/climbing all morning and we walked out of the forest at 4 or 4:30…and then walked back to the campsite for naps! EEEEE. I lurv naps.

Other small happy things: we were on a beautiful, grassy campsite next to a river (and surprisingly, no bugs!); we had access to terlets and showers; on night two, an AWESOME band played spot-on covers of old American country songs; the town where we were closest to (Samoreau) was like where they filmed the animated Beauty and the Beastjust that cute; and it didn’t rain on us too much (in fact, the wettest I got was walking to the bus stop in Barcelona!)

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Walking through a HUGE park on our way to pick up crash pads.

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Just one of the adorable towns surrounding the forest.

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First day climbing. A., the one on the rock, is the one who invited me and she is rearry good.

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I don’t think I made it up this route. I was also pretty noy-vous at this point since it was my first time climbing on rock in…forever.

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I spy…a river.

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The other side of the camp site (these people were smart…tents right next to the bathrooms!)

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Walking along the river path (still various km away from the climbing forest). Just the slightest hint of fall on the trees.

IMG_8176Group shot on la Roche Eponge (the sponge rock!) on day two.

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Pretty tired, but loving the view on day two.

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Taking shelter from the rain and having our Aldi-Couscous lunch under a rock.

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Watching the other climbers…and taking a nice lil’ break.

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And my turn! This was the route I liked the most (okay, so I only tried like 4 or 5 total. But…it counts!)

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Scenes from my walk to the boulangerie, an ADORABLE, French-only bakery that seemed to serve just the 10 people that lived in town. To my great enjoyment, there was even a little combo tobacco-grocer-newspaper-coffee shop next door, where me and the men of the town stopped for a quick coffee at the bar in the morning (a place with decor that hasn’t changed in at least my lifetime…)

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A side view of the village church and a monument to the villagers lost in WWI. This town won an award for its flowers and it’s easy to see why!

In sum, berry berry beauty-full, worth a visit for more days (and in a queen-size bed with percale sheets?) and a really nice crew. I even got to speak Catalan with the girls! It seems totally weird to me, but I have spoken more Catalan on this trip than Castilian/Spanish.

I’m trying to keep this one short so I can go do my work this morning, so peace out, girl scouts.