Sunday, June 13, 2010
Many years ago when Anita still lived in Germany, she was planning a trip with another couple and advertised in the local paper for a traveling companion. Dorith, recently divorced and wanting to travel was putting an ad in the same paper but missed the deadline. Later, when Dorith was reading through a copy, she found her own ad, only it had been placed by someone else. The two of them have been traveling companions and good friends ever since.
The Shadow of the Wind, so she was very pleased to be able to visit two locations mentioned in the book: the lovely Plaça Reial where the ethereal (and blind) Clara Barceló lived in a beautiful 19th century apartment, and the Plaça de Sant Felip Neri where the character, whose name I have forgotten, the woman who worked for Julian’s publisher used to live. The Plaça de Sant Felip Neri is a romantic, tiny square, and one of my favorite spots in the city. It sits over what was once a medieval cemetery, but more notable are the walls of the Església Sant Neri, marred by countless chips from where the bullets of firing squads struck when Franco troops executed people during the Spanish Civil War.
I had booked a table at one of my favorite Barcelona restaurants, Agut on Carrer Gignas. The German visitors were pleased. Not only did it have a good review in their guidebook, but the name that means “Oh good!” in German was an auspicious sign. Anita had the menu del dia but the rest of us ordered a la carte. I had grilled baby squid with blood sausage sauce that may sound a bit over the top, but was wonderful, the sauce being tasty but mild and not overpowering the squid.
Sue’s mom is in her 70s and is in the process of taking a cruise with each one of her three daughters. The first was a river cruise down the Elbe River from Berlin to Prague; later she will sail through the Panama Canal. Her cruise with Sue started from Barcelona, going down the Spanish coast to Gibraltar and then up the other side to Rouen, stopping at Valencia, Cadiz, Lisbon, Oporto, La Coruña, Bilbao, Bordeaux, Guernsey. They came a few days early to see Barcelona and especially some of Gaudí’s buildings.
I didn’t know what to do first: help Sue up, get down to the level below to see to her mother, or call an ambulance. A couple of French tourists came to help us and in the end, both the women were all right. Unbelievable. These two women may have difficulty staying on their feet, but they’re tough. After resting for a while, they decided they were not up for the walk back to the hotel, so they climbed into a taxi and set off to collect their luggage and then head for the port and their cruise ship. Sue told me later that her mom took another fall at Gibraltar. She wasn’t seriously hurt there either but she bled a lot and was attended to by the very cute ship’s doctor.
The week after Sue’s visit, Shelley came. I first knew Shelley in Los Angeles when she was probably about 12 and I was 18 and her counselor in a Jewish youth organization. Now, some 45 years later, she is a lovely woman with grown children. She was here with her husband and daughter and another couple with their daughter. The two daughters had been studying in Spain.
We met on Passeig de Gracia and since it wasn’t yet time for lunch but people were hungry, we walked down to the Boqueria where they bought somewhat expensive prepared, cut up fruit and I got a strawberry and coconut juice smoothie. There are many stands now in the Boqueria that cater to tourists and sell this kind of thing, where just a few years ago, when I first moved here, there wasn’t even one. But once you work your way in past the entrance, it is still the same old wonderful market with an impressive variety of fruit, vegetables, fish and seafood, meat, and all manner of edibles all beautifully laid out.
The Barri Gotic is a wonderful part of the city that gives me the feeling when I walk the streets that I have gone back in time. The streets are very narrow – like alleyways many of them – and some of the stone buildings have settled so that they lean – precariously, you could say -- lending an air of claustrophobia to those walking below. I enjoy being in a place where history is not only in books, but in the streets. People have been living stacked up in these apartment buildings for many hundreds of years. The building where we used to live was about three hundred years old. The entry and stairway looked worn and shabby, but the apartments, with their tall ceilings and French door windows, the beamed ceilings, and the wonderful tiled floors of those apartments that had not been modernized were beautiful. Our apartment had been modernized and we no longer had the pretty old checkerboard floor (that you could see in one tiny space that had been closeted over, and the windows were now aluminum), but the twelve-foot high beamed ceiling remained.
Bill, Anita Carstensen
The Boqueria, Bill Johnson
Cowboys, Sue Rosoff
4 Gats, me
Roman Columns, Sue Rosoff
Shelley and me in the mikvah, Lauren Halperin
Ou Com Balla, me