I’ll start with the juicy stuff and end with more mundane things, just to reward you (or not) for making it to the bottom of the post.
This week, I added a new notch on my Katalunya belt with a day trip to a beach town in the Costa Brava…for research purposes. The great thing about academic work is that I get to visit some very cool places–insert this beautiful town with a well-designed coastal bike path, Greek and Roman ruins, crystalline sea water, and a Gothic church. The downside is that I went by myself.
I thought I was making a smart decision by taking the bus that leaves from Barcelona, direct for L’Escala, with about fifteen or twenty stops in little towns in between. It’ll be cute to see these towns, I thought.
Lies. The majority of the towns had sort of tacky development, which made for little in the way of cute sightseeing. The constant stop and go and swirls around the roundabouts were enough to turn even a seasoned sailor’s stomach. An aging Andalusian woman sitting in the front row said it best: “Me siento aquí en frente porque si no, voy a echar la última papilla que mi madre me dio.” (I’m going to sit here in the front because if not, I’m going to chuck up the last purée [baby food] my mom gave me.”) Colorful, but probably accurate.
I finally arrived at the town at 12.06, six minutes after my interview with the grandniece of my “author lady” was scheduled to start. The good news is that the bus dumps you right next to the tourist center. I barged it, got my map and directions, and ran down the main avenue towards the sea (in the rain). I got the gate of the Clos and it was closed. This was like a scene from a movie. Late. And locked out. I took a few steps away thinking “Ahh! I knew this would happen!” and then I circled back. I didn’t know what would happen next.
“Vaig, vaig.” “Coming, coming.” B. trotted to the gate, greeted me with a smile, and welcomed me into the museum-house I’d seen in so many pictures. And, no surprise, it was just like the pictures. I got to see dozens of old book covers, many of her drawings, and the grandniece very patiently sat with me for at least an hour and let me ask a few questions, and even guessed at my more burning inquiries.
Being [on the road to becoming] a literary critic, our job is to come up with explanations, more or less valid, for literature. What historical, cultural, social impulses were in action at the time of so-and-so’s writing? How would she have been influenced by her surroundings?
This is not a fail-proof question-asking process. And, depending on which profe‘s you’re working with, it can be a quick [and REALLY FUN] road into great conspiracy theories. One of mine was that there would be some hidden identity revealed to me in this house/museum, an identity purportedly revealed by a certain book [that shall remain unnamed] that I read. Or, another theory was that my author was a real recluse, never leaving the house. Another had to do with her love life, and who she might have found herself involved with at various points in her life.
What I realized after talking with a flesh-and-blood person was that life is just a little more mundane than that. There, are, of course very valid intuitions that I had, but some of them, admittedly, were off base. For example, imagine your family suddenly inherited some building of cultural importance. Would you drop your life right now to go staff that building so that tourists could come in at their [travel and] leisure? Probably not. You’d probably let interested people contact you and offer a tour every now and then out of the kindness of your heart. That’s exactly the case for this house. I could say more, but I’ll move on.
Post-interview, I was in a flurry. WOW. Holy COW. Can’t believe I just did that. And, Oh, NEAT. Not raining anymore. Need a bathroom. Hmm.
I decided the best option was to not take the first bus out of there and instead stick around for a while and explore, which turned out to be a fabulous decision. The Greek and Roman ruins turned out to be really cool and I realized somewhere along the way that these ruins were the same ones we talked about in my class last semester! I almost teared up from the geeky wonderfulness of it all when I realized I had seen Coatlicue and Emporium in one summer, just a few weeks apart. Plus, the audio-guide was hilarious. The perspective was spot on for me-history with humor: Okay. I know it looks like a jumble of rocks, but cool stuff happened here. See those two holes? That’s where a gate was that opened into the town. Check out the sea view…yeah, you wouldn’t have had that because the houses didn’t have windows.
I brought my lunch and ate my PB & J here.
Then, I walked along this sunny coast. (Met a Canadian!)
I have only seen water this clean in Menorca. Toot toot for being outside of Barthelona!
I found a volunteer photog at the perfect time!
A temple area, I think (?)
Entering the “newer” Roman city, home to many-a-mosaic.
After visiting Empúries, I walked down to the last place on the map, this church, and just to say I did, on my way back, I put on my bathing suit and ducked into the sea. It was a perfect walking day, but WOW I could really tell it wasn’t July anymore. September seems like the reward for having made it through the dog-days, la canícula, of Barcelona.
And in more mundane news, I kept up my reading this week and read a few turn of the century novels by women–and one was a particular show, Neus. It was this woman trying to be independent and move into the big city…and she turned into a nervous wreck waiting on her suitor…just a big ball of tears and bogeria (craziness). Made me appreciate reading my rural short stories where the female protagonist deals with her sh*t herself, pushes the big bale of hay, and tells her hubalicious to stop messing with her. But, women readers and writers, we had to start somewhere.
View from the library. I usually sit somewhere on the right.
Enough for now. Tata!
(Roman area. The Pavilion is partially reconstructed so you can get the idea of what it used to be like.)