Friday, July 31, 2009

The Scene In Which I Go To Barcelona, Madrid, and Paris

I am going to apologize in advance because I'm totally not going to do any of these cities justice.

I got back from my trip nearly a month ago and I still haven't written these posts. Hellooooo, I work from home now. If I can't get them done by now, let's face it, it's never going to happen.

And they were going to be really funny and insightful, too- full of witty anecdotes and accolades for the lovely B&B we stayed at in Barcelona (Ally's Guest House- STAY THERE!), lush descriptive passages about strolling around Barcelona's Montjuic hills where the Olympics were held and down the bustling Las Ramblas, viewing lovely art at the Joan Miro museum, and my take on Sagrada Familia (From an artistic standpoint, incredibly important. From a personal standpoint, I totally hated it.)

Then I would have told you about Madrid and the lovely time we had strolling around the Reina Sofia, the Prado, and through the Plaza del Sol. I would have described in vivid detail how we encountered the Madrid Pride parade almost by accident, and how Traveling Companion and I had a fantastic time mingling with people from all over in a huge crowd of thousands and thousands dancing in the streets until the wee hours of the morning, and how hilarious it was when we weren't sure who was getting hit on because of the language barriers.

And our overnight trip to Paris on the train, when we arrived at the station nearly two hours early because I, well, have a small problem telling military time. For more, read The Scene In Which I Am Not A Fizz-icist.

Paris, as you can imagine, would have been full of the descriptive prose you might find in a Victor Hugo novel, inspired by the trip we took through his house/museum. A lavish review of the Eiffel Tower views at sunset. A hilarious reporting of our trip to Versailles with our two spontaneous Canadian friends, Ashley and Kristin, who spent four hours of our trip with us and at least three of those hours being shocked that we a) had only brought one backpack each on the trip with us, b) had been wearing the same clothes multiple times, and c) had not, and were not, planning to do any shopping on our trip beyond the two sundresses I bought in Madrid.


I had even planned a funny (as in, laugh AT me) post describing our flight home from Paris, during which we encountered the type of turbulence that makes the pilots yell for the flight attendants to sit, the aforementioned attendants to squinch their eyes closed, and for half the passengers to actually scream as we nose-dive several hundred feet in about, oh, two seconds.

But that story was too anti-climactic, because after the seat-belt sign was turned off again, I cajoled one of the flight attendants to sell me a small bottle of wine, which I downed my second Xanax with and spent the rest of the flight in a drooly haze.

So instead, I'll leave you with a story that happened in Madrid, which I will carry with me the rest of my life, as I will all the memories from this fantastic trip - those which I have been able to write about, and those which I haven't. It's better live, so if you know me, ask me to tell you this story sometime.

It was Sunday in Madrid, and Younger Brother had merrily made his way to campus to check-in with his summer program while Traveling Companion and I made our way to the Prado museum. After several lovely hours there, we left and went in search of a quick bit to eat before taking the metro up to visit Younger Brother's new dorm for the month.

As fate, coincidence, karma or whatever you'd call it would have it, the bar we chose was closing for the day- but we stayed and had a glass of wine before walking up the street. With each step taking us closer to the metro station, we were growing hungrier and slightly tipsier (ok, that was just me.)

And then, like a beacon of shiny light, the answer.

Doner Kabab.

Two tables, four stools, three husky waiters, and some yummy-smelling, unidentifiable meat spinning slowly on a spit spewing out 400 degrees of heat at the customers just inside the door.

We sat on two of the stools next to the only customer in the place- a girl, probably about my age, TINY, sporting a blue flannel shirt, a humongous shoulder bag, and a head full of red hair that she kept shaking wildly the entire time we were there.

She recommended the falafel enthusiastically (around a mouthful of it) and then proceeded to quiz us on our lives at the same time she filled us in on hers.

She was there for an artists retreat- had taken a class elsewhere in Spain for a week and then come to Madrid for vacation. She didn't know anyone and didn't speak Spanish well.

She was from Philly but had gone to school in Pittsburgh and wanted to be back there, although she wasn't sure if she should make the move, since she taught art and didn't have a job lined up and thought that was maybe too risky and what did we think??

Because this was karma, or fate, or whatever you want to call it, both Traveling Companion and I had actually just recently quit our own, steady, responsible jobs- him to move cross-country for grad school, me to start my own business. So we told her this.

She was as enthusiastic about this as she had been about the falafel, perhaps more so, and by the end of the lunch she had decided to go for it. To make the move.

Like so many people we met abroad, we never learned her name. We didn't exchange info or promise to keep her posted. Instead, we shared a 20-minute conversation over falafel gyros and the sense that there are people in this world who you are destined to meet, for whatever reason.

And then, in a whirl of blue flannel and red hair, she was up off her barstool, tossing her bag over her shoulder, and out the door, leaving us only with a "Okay guys- I don't know- good luck with your lives!"

Good luck with your lives, indeed.

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