I randomly decided to look at your blog today, and there we were!!! We love the picture you took of us behind the curtain - please could you email it to us?
Lots of love
"What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies." - Jack Kerouac, On the Road
These guys got this diddy together in just a few days - needless to say, watch out for an up-and-coming killer French band in these next few years. I’ll be sure to inform you when they get famous.
I’m back in France. This time the weather is much less frosty than it was when I first arrived a few weeks back; and because of the shift toward the next season, it’s feeling like a new familiar place. Camp doesn’t start until tomorrow, so Caleb and I took advantage of the warm and sunny day and headed to Venosc. He convinced me to ride the windy mountain roads on the back of his motorcycle even though I knew the over-confidence he held in driving his car along the switchbacks, so I warned him that I’d poop my pantalones if he drove the the bike that way today. He did good, for the most part, then these little buddies hopped over the barrier wall and surprised us as we were taking a turn. Luckily we were slowing down and enjoying the view from the top when it happened! They were friendly and curious about us, as we were about them, so we spent some time enjoying the view alongside the goats. Definitely the highlight of the day.
La Fuixarda climbing tunnel at Montjuïc
Jessica impresses all of the dudes
Antonio Gaudi’s Parc Guell
Yes, sometimes we’re all still middle schoolers
There have been two points on this trip that I’ve observed Jessica in an extreme and contagious form of elation. First was when I arrived to Barcelona and we caught up and chowed down at a Basque restaurant covered in photos of jolly old men. Then there was today, perma-smile on her face, upon our finding of this urban climbing gem in Parc de Montjuïc. At some point in time, the road of La Fuixarda was over-taken by climbers and they closed it down - turning the driving tunnel into a perfect place for climbers to play; rain or shine, day or night. There were so many people taking advantage of the free playground, but hardly any women. With a killer toe hook and an entirely graceful finish of the route, Jess knocked the socks off a group of experienced looking fellas. How proud I was of JZ!
It was our last day in Barcelona together so we packed it in. Floating around to the remaining corners of the city that we wanted to see, finishing out with a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Arts, a climb to the top of the uniquely beautiful Parc Guell, and an evening coffee with Federico. In a few hours the three of us would be dispersing to our separate parts of the world - Jess to the States, Federico to India, and me to France. In a way, my heart felt divided in 3. I wanted more time with Jess, things were just getting good. And we were just beginning to feel at home in this city with a friend like Fede. If Barcelona had a Trevi Fountain, I would have thrown the last of my coins into it. Either way, one day I will return.
Arc de Triomf
Found a piece of home in Barcelona - aw yayeh, New Belgium
So many awesome old men in this park
Fede saves the day
A bit stressed & no sleep was had last night.
For one, I had a tough decision to make, and quickly. Mentally prepared for Barcelona with my best friend being the last stop in Europe before returning to the States, I was thrown off by a request to come back and help at the camp in the Alps, then leave from Paris, a destination I had not yet been to. That would be ten more days I did not budget for and other provisions were running low, but I was still feeling extremely torn for various reasons that some of you are aware of.
For another, last night after the art shows and on our way back to our hostel with Federico, Jess & I got in an unstoppable mood to stock up on our new favorite Fruitissima Haribo snacks - popping into basically every bodega to find them. I must have set my newly purchased photo of Fede’s down in one of the shops, and by the time we got to the metro (with 5 minutes to spare us before the last train of the evening), I realized my hands were missing the print I had been carefully carrying around all night. Where is my brain? Fede proved himself as the most patient and kind person in Spain when he looked me in the eyes and confidently told me do not worry, then volunteered to miss the train while he biked around to see if he could find it. Jess and I watched Fede’s stack of art in the metro stairwell and waited for him; he didn’t find the photo and we all missed the train so we made our long trek home together. Fede’s spirits were up (as usual), Jess was probably annoyed with me, and I felt terribly, not only for losing my most prized souvenir from this adventure, but for how disrespectful it felt to misplace a friends piece of art - essentially over those junky Haribo gummy snacks. Bust.
We woke early this morning to face the impossible. We searched the maze of streets to find the lost print in one of hundreds of bodegas that looked exactly alike, and in our exceptional spanish explained our situation to every clerk encountered.
Half our day was gone and no success.
We gave up.
I decided to go back to France.
To cheer ourselves up and to maximize what we had left of our day, Jess took me to the Arc du Triomph, we climbed orange trees, watched dogs play in the park and wild parrots bathe in mud puddles. At one point there were sirens going off just as we we called Fede to tell him we couldn’t find the photo, and I could hear sirens on his end of the phone as well. Barcelona is huge so it seemed unlikely that Fede would be in the same area as us, but next thing we know he walked passed us with me on the other end of the phone, yelling, I found it! I found the print! I could hardly believe it, such a twist of fate.
Needles to say, the remainder of the day was perfect. Fede lounged with us in the park while Jess and I painted. We were approached by a crazy male gypsy and Jess told him off. Then the three of us joined forces with Fabrizio and Manfredi after eating ASIAN food (delicious, much missed asian food) and spent our night out at a lively local bar containing a diversity you would never see in an American bar: young Spanish hipsters, old mellow people, old feisty people, Italians, Argentinians, Americans…etc. My favorites were the old Catalans though, as they were extremely proud of their culture within their region of Spain, and made sure to educate you, if you weren’t aware, of why they are the best. In every region of Spain I experienced had a rich distinction, but I will say that the Catalans have the most picturesque old men.
Let’s talk about just how magical this little place Barcelona is.
On the clearest, bluest morning, Jess and I connected on the ocean front with the charming Manuela, a friend of a friend back in Portland. After we sipped the last drops of caffeine from our cups, we walked along the beach collecting sea glass, small shells, and wondered at the gold glitter swirling about in the tide pools. For the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona shipped in new sand to tidy up their beaches - from where I’m not sure - grains from the golden roads in heaven is a likely source though. Later when we went to put our shoes back on, we noticed our feet looked like they were painted gold! Just when I thought our marvel of the day was fulfilled, we found ourselves at the face of the Sagrada Familia and our minds continued to be blown.
Antoni Gaudí had an interesting childhood, isolated from interaction with other children and a delayed start to school due to poor health / bouts of rheumatism. His mother entertained him by taking him on walks through the countryside; its obvious all that time spent in observation of nature has influenced his take on architecture. He studied the crystallization of minerals in polyhedral systems especially, the growth of trees, and common patterns in nature, and you see the prominence of these things in the Sagrada Familia. Look for yourself in the photos below! There is no cathedral like it.
Also, tonight Jess and I ended up going to the jam sesh in the squat that Federico told us of, and we had a great time. Our English detecting ears lead us to some Americans which hardly detracted from the local experience. Fede found us and hugged us like old friends. Jess and I made new ones and smiled till our faces hurt. I suppose I’m quick to fall in love with locations, but Barcelona is successfully wooing me. Did I say I’m so happy to be here?
The beautiful Manuela Lyle
The Mediterranean and me
The lovely Jessica Alphabet
Barcelona’s little tide pools were filled with gold flakes from who knows where
and our feet were left metallically stained
Honestly, I’ve never liked Picasso, but today Jess and I dropped into the Picasso Museum, and it was stinkin fantastic. Had it not been fantastic, I knew that Jessica’s appreciation for cubism/abstract/Picasso’s art would open my eyes to something to like about it, but the museum was fantastic. Laid out as a timeline of Pablo’s life and creations, I saw what a truly talented artist he was. At the beginning of the museum were beautiful drawings and paintings - a fruition of his diligence and studies under his father, in school and of masters Goya & El Greco. By the end you see that he wanted so badly to discard all of the rules of art and get back to the basics, revert to the purest form of thinking - that being like a child. The art I witnessed in chronological form is summed up in these words by Pablo himself: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." I do have a newfound appreciation for the man - full of wonder, ardent to discard boxed in ideas, fearless to begin, and hungry to create.
Outside the museum Jess and I met Federico Frangi, a vagrant Argentinean photographer selling his art off the back of his bicycle. Both of us in awe of his work on rice paper he retrieved from Nepal, we stood there shuffling through every last print. Eventually we began talking with him and somehow ended up getting invited to a local jam session that was happening down the street from our hostel. I’m so happy to be here in Barcelona with my best friend for many reasons, but especially to see where our shared gregariousness takes us in this city.
There’s something indistinctly wrong about saying goodbye to a city at night…which I’ve ruefully had to do too many times, taking midnight busses out of pretty much every city I’ve visited. But I was pleased to be able to say au rivoir to La Rivoire this time at the crack of dawn. We-the-trio packed our things and rode out of the mountains as the golden sun rode to it’s vertical point in the sky. Caleb had his first (American) football game of the season in Marseille and I was taking the train out from there to Barcelona the next morning. While the team warmed up, Steve and walked into the city and stumbled upon the humble, hardly announced place of painter Paul Cezanne’s birth. Gladly I was with Steve who speaks French and he translated the small black type above the unassuming door. I would have just walked passed that had I been alone. Europe is so cool, I should just assume every stone cobbled street has been one on which a history-maker has trodden, has loved, has been inspired by.
When the time came, Grenoble killed the Agronauts while Steve and I watched from a distance - drinking beer and eating hot dogs outside of the chain-linked fence & feeling like out-casted teenagers. I can’t remember the last time I was at a football game, and I could have never guessed my next game would be in in this country where American football is practically unheard of. It was a fun day and a great way to say goodbye to France and friends.
Goodbye little room
Au rivor mountains
Baguette in the back seat of a US military vehicle
Sarah, my lovely host for the night