Spain – 16 July 2012
I love travel writing but often I find myself so consumed with the experience that I can’t stop and write and then at the end, like now on a plane back to Austin, I have to pull it all out at once and hope I don’t forget too many details. Although having said that, we don’t really remember days anyway. Mostly, we remember moments…
Like sitting in a café in San Sebastian kicking around what to do next and Roland declaring, “we should go to France RIGHT NOW!” And you do.
Or in a divine stroke of luck, ending up in Noel Chandler’s apartment AFTER everyone has left the party and he opens up a new bottle of red, pulls out fresh glasses, serves you like an old friend, and pops a Jerry Lee Lewis CD into an old jam box. By the way, Noel knows all the songs. I will never ever forget the image of that man smelling his vino tinto while shuffling his white tennis shoes and singing, “Chantilly Lace.”
Or renaming a historical landmark, “Cell phone Jesus.” Sorry, Mom.
Or sampling wine at a space-ship looking bodega at the foot of the Basque country only to sneak into a backroom to dump your glass because the wine was so bad, but thanking your lucky stars you stopped for that wine because you found a map on the counter for a castle 20 minutes away that ends up blowing your mind. And not only does this castle rock your imagination with it’s ancient cobblestone streets, jaw-dropping cliff backdrop and the invitation to ride rapids at a nearby river, but on your way out you see a sign for a “Pool Bar” and so you stop for a drink to discover not just some little hotel pool, but an Olympic-size swimming pool with lanes (we are still on top of a medieval village). I may live here someday.
Or arriving at Txoxco for morning kaiku and cognacs, wearing a totally garish polo shirt with PAMPLONA embroidered on the collar and news/camera crews zooming in on me like I was famous. They either thought I was Catherine Donnell or they just liked the shirt.
Or seeing how delighted Gordon was to drive my little rental car up through the mountains to another medieval castle in Ainsa…I almost didn’t’ take them the scenic route because the forecast was rain. Silly me and my wellies. We had gorgeous blue skies and I’ll never forget Gordon, Malia and myself laughing that “WTF” laugh as we passed the biggest flock of goats I’ve ever seen. Or the look on the old villager’s face when we took a wrong turn and upon replying to our request for directions, he smiled at us like we must be completely bonkers for driving where we were.
Or making bread bracelets. Who doesn’t like a spiffy bracelet made from the crust of a baguette slice? I mean, it is wearing food, but I’ve seen worse. I once saw a dried meat bracelet on a girl in Ecuador. Not kidding. Turns out she was from Austin. Of course.
Or blowing a 0.00 into a breathalyzer administered by the Spanish police as you’re leaving San Fermin. Sounds crazy, I know. It happened to me. In the middle of Fiesta. It was weirdly exciting…like I had just passed a big exam or accomplished something really important. Which, I guess I sort of did…like not drinking and driving. The funniest thing (besides the people in my car shouting, “HOLY F**KING SHIT, I can’t believe that just happened!) was the policia waving me through saying, “ok, lady.” I don’t know why that cracked me up.
Or hooking up a film crew (ok, just one guy who set up the camera and a girl who came back an hour later to turn it on) to shoot the encierro from one of the best balconies in San Fermin (check out this video).
Or having one of the best meals of my life with eight complete strangers at San Ignacio. Those three hours were culinary genius.
Or wanting to have one last beach picnic but realizing the only bottle of wine you have left is a rose that isn’t cold but you drink it anyway and it’s unbelievably delicious.
And there is something to be said for meeting new people. In the spirit of Radiohead, it really IS easy. Not only did we have the grand pleasure of reconnecting with some really special people from last year, we also met new people…all of them generous beyond measure.
It really is amazing how quickly we all become family with our fellow travelers…