11. May 23rd. Sunday
Sunday afternoon in Spain, driving back to Barcelona along the Mediterranean coast. The landscape is breathtaking and Amos keeps pulling off to the side of the road for us to photograph the beauty. Today is our last day in Spain and we are savoring every last sight. This morning, we awoke again on the coast. I walked the rocky beach for awhile, as Amos was still asleep in the car. We drove into the nearest town and found a bakery, at which we purchased some last minute gifts and espressos. On the road back to Barcelona, we passed a Spanish rummage sale and without hesitation, turned back immediately. This is the thing we love most, finding those hidden treasures amongst the junk. Amos found an old painting of ships on canvas and I a vintage fisherman’s basket. We were quite content with our purchases as they were the perfect way to end our trip.
The past few days have included the most aesthetic scenes I have ever experienced. I am feeling quite lucky to have been able to spend this time in Spain with Amos, being inspired by sharing new experiences. Although we only made it to two cities, we have both decided that we would like to return and explore more of this beautiful country.
En route to Oklahoma City in the morning.
The last two days have whizzed by, as should be expected as we speed by so much scenery and the speed at which you see a landscape from the window of a moving car. As Laura mentions, we’ve stopped many times, pulling over to the side of the road to shoot pictures, or to take in the views and the feel of the air.
We’ve been struck since arriving in Spain with how dry and arid of a climate it seems to have, especially as we drive further south along the Mediterranean. Its rather surreal even in this dry land, which feels like southern California or Mexico, to see mile after mile of orange and lemon fields and the many other things that grow here. Every field we drive by is also littered with the old ruins of buildings, mostly white stucco looking buildings that are likely hundreds and hundreds of years old.
Deciding to rent a car and drive south may have been one of the best ideas we’ve had for this trip. Its given us a great opportunity to explore at our own speed, a bit of a contrast from the rest of this trip. Not at all that traveling by foot and rail have been a bad or dissatisfying experience. We are obviously Americans in that once we got into the comfortable private space of our own car, there was an obvious feeling of comfortability and familiarity that were previously slightly lacking.
The first things we did when getting out on the road last Thursday was to stop for some food at a supermarket, and then making sandwiches on the beach between Barcelona and Valencia. We’ve made many similar stops since then, becoming more familiar with the Spanish supermarkets (which never contain peanut butter) and simplicity of the smaller towns we drive through. They all contain some sort of café/bar at the very least, and some of which we’ve stopped at for an morning or afternoon coffee, but have felt much less comfortable spending time in them than those in the city.
Our original goal in renting a car and driving was to make it as far as Gibraltar or Ronda. Because of the volcano delay and our extra time spent in Paris, in the end we only made it about half way to the southern tip of the country. We knew when we started, however, that if we wanted to explore the countryside, stop for photos when something looked interesting, or get any sleep at all, we should just drive south without a set plan of what most southern point we would reach.
After Valencia and the hostel we’d booked in advance there, arriving in towns and finding a place to stay didn’t seem at all predictable, and I had somewhat of a hunch it would go that way, but we were lucky enough to have rented a car with seats that lay back far enough to fall asleep on. I suppose I speak for myself, because those three nights I felt fine, while Laura wasn’t nearly as satisfied. The first night in the car seemed almost magical because as we drove late into the night, I knew we were still near the coast, and the exit I chose took us to a quaint little beach lined with a style of beach houses we’d never seen before. What was even better was that we easily found an RV parking lot quite near the ocean and the area felt much safer to simply pull over for the night than many places we’d driven through. The next morning, it was only a hop and a skip (which is roughly equal to a quarter mile drive) down to the row of beach houses and cafés for a morning café con leche and a coca cola. That early morning walk on the beach was one of our favorite and most surreal moments.
Another great place we stumbled upon was by way of a road through the mountains. It was interesting how many mountains we could always see in the distance in Spain. It was like range after range, and at one point we were crossing a hilly rise towards the ocean from a highway further in from the coast. As I mentioned, we saw old buildings’ ruins almost everywhere and as we came around an elevated bend in the highway, we saw a small group of horses down in the valley among some ruined buildings. I was rather dissatisfied with the pictures I got from the road but it wasn’t hard at all to find the little trail of a road that led back to the fence bordering the horses’ pen. The Spanish horses had some form of majesty to them, standing tall among the dry hills and old buildings.
On another similar experience we were driving through a very small villa whose back roads we explored simply out of curiosity. The road we were on for a moment was an old creek bed and as we pulled around a corner I stopped the car because ahead of us were three small dogs sitting simply in the road in a very quaint and orderly perpendicular fashion. I remember it as seeming so odd and surreal, thinking, “Where in the world are we?”. The dogs, however curious they were as I approached them with a camera, didn’t stick around for long.
We packed as much final action into our last day on the road as we could. We knew at some point we would have to condense the whole of our sprawled existence into the few bags we had in order to return home. We complicated the situation by spying what I assume is the how the Spanish hold their garage sales: a lot in town filled with small tents and tables presumably owned by the members of the neighborhood and other traveling merchants looking to pawn their “goods”. Laura and I are good rummagers, and such places are the most likely times for us to find the sorts of items while traveling that we will truly enjoy (as opposed to the silly touristy souvenirs of famous cities or the expensive shopping in Paris). The garage sale of sorts paralleled in our minds the street fair sale we attended with the Burnetts on our last day in Paris.
I haggled a bit with two interesting Dutch gentlemen for an old painting of a naval battle, and then found two great sheets of drape material in their stash as well for only a euro each. Laura made as best of communication as she could with another merchant who couldn’t seem to understand why she was looking for great pieces like the fishing basket she bought from him instead of his silly pieces of jewelry. There were so many additional items we surely would have brought home if we could have schemed a way to get them across an ocean and a continent. Laura’s fishing box is really something, reminding me of my grandfather with its large wicker basket for caught fish, two compartments for lures, and a padded top for sitting on. I found the drapes I bought to be perfect for padding in the extra roller bag I’d purchased in Barcelona expecting to need something extra in order to bring all our treasures home. Interestingly enough, we’ve been able to make it work, stuffing everything into some pocket of the suitcases we’ll take home. That also includes all the items we found in Roma and Paris, a paella pan, a red kerosene lantern, seashells from the beach, delicious chocolate to share with friends and family at home, and a blanket from one of the overnight trains we rode.
The last stretches of road we’ve driven north on were also quite exciting. After making sure everything was properly packed, we had that weight off our minds and enjoyed the hilly, windy road back north through the region near Altea that had been dark as we passed through it driving south. It was one of my funnest driving experiences ever as we drove up and down through curve after curve, seeing the many terraced orchards and white stucco buildings all while enjoying Devotchka on the stereo. In one town we slowed down, turned down the music, and rolled down the windows as we heard the church bells ringing through the narrow streets as we passed.
We made time for one last jaunt into the Mediterranean somewhere close to the southern part of Barcelona, one last swim in the aqua water before arriving in Barcelona for our last night before flying back to the States.