Every day is a chance to re-create. Joy. It’s embedded in my memory. Of the sky that changes her pink crinoline into navy blue trousers. Of the little voices that greet me mornings. Of the joyful symphony of trumpets and ram’s horns that jar me awake. Of love. Of comfort. Of good will. ~Michelle Pearcy
As I walked the streets of enchanted Girona, Spain memories of the days of planning family vacations flooded in. Pure excitement grew as the date of the departure drew near. Instead of the classic, “are we there yet?” the question that ignited our tinderbox of enthusiasm was “how many more days?”
Sometimes I think anticipation lingered longer than the enjoyment found in each day of the holiday. Time seemed to whizz by. Then another countdown began: the days left in the trip before returning home.
What a way to regard time!
Recently, I’ve been on some pretty amazing fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventures mostly because of missed flight connections. So, after a hiccup-free journey from Miami to Atlanta to Barcelona, I knew I was on my way to a memorable journey. What a welcome relief! The flight was on time, the train from the airport to Barcelona Sants on time, the connection to Girona from ‘Barna Sant’ on time, and an effortless taxi ride to the front door of my Hotel Ciutat de Girona.
In return for this amazing travel grace, a promise was kept: To not count the days, but make the days count – the nights too!
It’s easy to focus your energy and your eyes on getting from one place to another when you’re in an unfamiliar setting. It’s also easy to miss the absolute beauty along the way.
Can’t life be a lot like this?
So, during the train ride to Girona from Barcelona, I watched scene after scene of a familiar, yet unfamiliar landscape approach, momentarily be framed, and pass from the glass in my window seat. It was a moving exhibition – art in motion.
Girona! Costa Brava!
What better place for a conference of travel bloggers? The sponsors, Costa Brava Pirineu de Girona and Expedia, made preparations for their guests and executed those plans tastefully. Over 350 attended the TBEX Europe meetup. The travel bloggers’ introduction to the region’s people, traditions, cultural artifacts, land and seascapes, food, and drink was nothing less than amazing!
The strongest impression I had about Girona happened the moment I stepped on the cobblestone paved street outside my hotel. I was in the hunt for lunch after checking in. Girona felt familiar, yet provocatively new. Girona was begging to be explored.
That newness was alluring. It was like being seated in a darkened room with the door to the room slowly creaking open allowing silvery light to stream in. By the afternoon of the first day of the conference, I was consumed by wanderlust and was lured right out of the Auditori – Palau de Congressos Girona and onto Girona’s streets.
My curiosity wasn’t the only thing satisfied, intown Girona granted me peace and tranquility when I sorely needed respite from scheduled activities and the din of the crowd. I found a perfect place along the riverbed, spread my sweater on the grass, and watched ducks effortlessly float on the river. There was no need to schmooze with them. By the second day, I was browsing and bartering with Saturday morning vendors along the river in the outdoor market in Parc de la Devesa.
As I walked onto the main patio of Castell de Sant Gregoiri, the location of the Opening Night Party, I noticed a conspiracy unfolding. The sky was in collusion with the beautifully lit 12th century castle and the castle was artfully juxtaposed with the waxing crescent moon. The moon was quarter past full and it looked like a quarter coin being placed into the slot of a vending machine.
The scene was like something from an indie film – an independent production. To the sky, it mattered little what was going on the ground. The moon and the stars were projected on a vast Mediterranean silver screen – the navy blue sky. The sky, a self-made ingénue made an awesome costume change from her silken rose-colored skirt into navy blue trousers.
That night I learned the Catalonian tradition of building human castles or castells (Catalan pronunciation: [kəsˈteʎ]) was not just a cultural tradition. I saw the castells as a metaphor for the elements a strong community needs to survive: raise its young to the top; stand on each others’ shoulders so others may rise up; and the community as a whole stand together as a base that supports the tower, keeping it safe and strong, and becoming a safety net if someone topples.
That may be a stretch of my imagination, but one thing for sure, castells are towers of strength.
As I walked Girona’s streets, I listened for the familiar – the soft songs of birds, the joyous call of children, and the quick paced steps of those moving toward their daily duties. One morning, walking to the conference center, I met a group of infantrymen dressed in period uniforms from the early-1800’s. As they waited opposite the street for the pedestrian light, I was fast on the draw – with my camera. Not only did I get a nice photo, their smiles warmed my heart. Unbeknownst to me, we would ‘meet up’ later that evening. TBEX participants were shuttled high atop Montjuic with its breathtaking vistas, where the sun was setting over the Pyrenees Mountains. We observed a re-enactment of Napoleon Bonaparte’s siege on the city and the peninsula. The actors I greeted on the street had starring roles in the re-enactment.
There seems to be a reverence for the past, yet the presence of spontaneity strongly points toward the future. The streets are alive at night in Girona and so are the days.
I will definitely plan to return to Girona – it’s a place that writers and poets and artists would naturally be attracted to. I was touched by my visit.
“There are roads out of the secret places within us along which we all must move as we go to touch others.”
~ Romare Bearden
Ain’t That A Trip? …when a promise kept makes every day count – nights too.