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Day 51. A week decision.

Dear gentle reader,

I decided to go for a walk around my town tonight.  I felt the need to be outside and moving and didn’t want the solitude and mischievous deepness of the sprites.  So I parked at the pub and walked up and down the streets to the river until the river wrapped around my city and marked my western boundary as well.

Then I headed back down familiar roads to my waiting snakebite (English, not Irish).  Like a tourist, I took pictures and counted the number of churches and said hello to the people (though I admit to being contrary and saying Buenos tardes to a few of them.)

I hummed aloud and think I may have even skipped down one full block (okay, I know I did.).

That’s when I came to Garden Station, its murals and recycled plastic drum flower planters.  A yellow one sat woefully gaping.  It looked like someone must have knocked it over, dumped half the flowers and dirt out and then stood it back on the curb.

I tsk-tsked it before walking by.  What the heck!  I turned and began scooping up the dirt to refill it.  It wasn’t long before I noticed there were plants buried in the dirt in the road, so I shifted to sifting through the warm dirt with my fingers to pull them gently out and place them in the container.  Then I resumed picking up handfuls of dirt.  Pretty soon the plants I’d repotted were crowded around the edge because of my poor plant placement.   I tsk-tsked myself and set about fixing it.

I lost myself in the task letting my mind wander freely…and not concern itself with the number of people who were slowing to stare at me standing on the side of the road replanting the mess.

What kind of dork am I that I’m worried about the perfect placement of plants in a plastic tub on the side of a road?  The flowers in all the other pots were flowing freely about (I went and inspected them to see how best to fix my mess).

Disappointed in myself, I finally walked away, leaving the flowers tucked in their humdrum placement.  Not disappointed because they weren’t perfect, but because I thought there was such a thing.

I wondered how many other things I try to force fit to perfection.

And this blog came to mind.

I’d promised myself I’d write here every night of my summer.  And I’ve done a good job (though sometimes I’ve posted twice in one night while others I’ve posted nothing at all).

But to what end?  My 10,000 hours?  My love of writing?  Sometimes nothing more than self-discipline? Those don’t make for very good blogs it seems.  Or so you’ve told me according to my stats.

Therefore, I’ve made a decision to go back to writing here on a weekly basis, as I did before.

Unless something ammewsing happens that I think would interest you.

Or when I next travel…which will be soon.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving up writing.  I’m just shifting my focus back a topic to which I can contribute much compassion and passion.  And to which I am destined to contribute.

I will actually miss writing to you every night as I stretch out in bed under my blanket of darkness, the screen on my baby-hp acting as the flashlight to the secrets of the written word.  And I will miss looking at my daily life as an adventure…nevermind, I think that’s a habit that will stay.

Until my next ammewsment,

Auf wiedersehen, darlings…

(Ha!  I ammews myself!)

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Day 49. That girl.

“The question isn’t who are you.  The question is who do you intend to be.”

I searched her face for signs that she understood and recognized the difference.  The difference is important.  The pained look slowly began to ease as the tears began to flow.  She understood.  So on to the million dollar question…

“Who do you intend to be?”

I knew the answer.  And so did she.  But would she be able to move past the veils of societal demands, past decisions, present crossroads, family pressures, and all the things that disguise the simple truth?

She did.  And I believed in her more for it.

So it caught me off guard when, near the end of the conversation, she handed the question right back to me.  “Who do you intend to be? …”

While her answer has a name, mine does not.  I hesitated trying to determine how to explain it.

“…that girl who people read about?” she asked.

Wow.  I immediately had a pretty strong reaction that sounded something like “NO!  Absolutely not!”

My heart screamed inside of me “I write for me only.  Because I’m a writer.”  Hmmmm…

Still, it stopped me cold as my mind and heart began to battle it out.

I tried to explain my intention, but somehow now it seemed forced.  It seemed awkward.  It seemed fake.

“No,” I tried more composed, “I don’t want to be that girl people read about because my writing isn’t about exposing myself or showing off or getting attention.  My writing is about thinking and feeling and THINKING.  It’s stories that hopefully lead to understanding and greater capacity for compassion…”

She looked at me with the same expression I felt my brain giving my heart.  Perhaps I needed to think this through a bit more.

“Then write a different story–leaving yourself out of it–and see how that goes.”

I think it was a challenge meant to help me move through my veils.  I welcomed it and thanked her, then headed home on Day Forty-Nine anxious to start.

I wrote several different stories later that night, but none of them came with the same grace and flow as the others.  They, too, felt forced, awkward and fake.  So I turned to the data.  My stats tell me what my readers deem to be my best writing.  I was a little surprised.  Perhaps it was message, or medium, or packaging or…ahhhhhh….I started to see something…

I needed to chew on this, because I felt like I was missing something.  Perhaps something obvious?

But there was no more time to think.  I had an obligation to loved ones.  A long drive through the country.  Manual labor I willingly embrace.  A breeze so hot it is almost worse than the heat of the sun.  And then it was showtime.

I assumed the role I’m meant to fulfill here; one I willingly accept and cherish.

There.  There is my answer.

Several hundred puzzle pieces fall into place.  And the picture they show me is so simple and clear.

Sfumato.  I know that girl.  She is me.

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Day 48. Time to move on.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you felt like you were in a movie?  Not because of anything dramatic or weird or anything, but because you found yourself in the middle of a moment in which everything quietly came together and surrounded you with a bubble of complete calm and peace that seemed surreal.

I even had a musical soundtrack for my moment.

Or maybe it was the music that made it feel like a movie.

It didn’t matter.

With a song stuck in my head, a message I’ve long perplexed about, I drove past my house and through the city I so dearly love.  Lately I’ve taken to driving through it with disgust, finding all it’s warts and scabs and fixating on them.  But not tonight.  I saw people walking home from work, sitting on stoops relaxing in the relative coolness of the dark, glistening buildings lit like jewels, and streetlights draped with potted flowers and American flags.

This was my town.

I parked and got out.  The sound of my heels, which I often think sounds formal and business-like, sounded soft and feminine on the sidewalk.  The air, which felt so oppressive to me in the big city down the road, felt sweet on my skin.

It felt so good to walk around here.  I belonged to it.  And it belonged to me.

I stopped by each monument and looked, really looked.  Why was it here?  What did it represent?  How did it fit?  I sat on the side of the fountains and trailed my fingers in the cool water.  I swung on the swing overlooking the river for a long time.

Then walking next to the inky river I’ve known since childhood, I headed to the new pavilion where a full moon was projected for effect.

Flowers flowed freely over the newly landscaped area and pulled me farther into my town.

Past the baseball stadium.  Past the library.  Past the square and old courthouse.  Past the coffee shop and theatre.

I walked freely and unafraid.  Past families.  Past late-working employees.  Past old women fanning themselves at a bus stop.  Past men talking about their day over bottled water.  Past homeless already snuggled into crooks and crags.

This is my town.

But I’m leaving it again in search of what I’m missing.  It isn’t what you think.  But I finally know what it is.  Absolutely, without a doubt know.  And I know where it is.  The plans are already made.  It isn’t here.  And I must find it.

So it must be time to move on now without the fear of how it might end.

But I’ll be back again.  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be ready to love this place again.

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Natural forces.

Since the beginning of time, the sea and the wind and the sun spend their days as artists, slowly smoothing and sculpting the face of the landscape, the cliffs, the beaches, the mountains, the stone fortresses and cathedrals on the hills so they are the same, but changed too.  I have been exposed to these same seas, wind and sun, and therefore also changed.  True, I’ve had less time with these artists—just 10 days–but then I am softer material than stone.

Yes, I’m more tan, more fit (thanks to almost 10 days straight of getting hopelessly lost in city after city and wandering my way out after hours of exploration), and perhaps with wilder hair (my hair belongs at sea—that much was evident the minute they were introduced on this voyage).

But most of my changes are internal.  Perhaps greater confidence in my ability to move about in the world.  Perhaps less naïve about things I’ve read or been told.  Perhaps stronger affiliation with those whom I love for seeing how dear they are to me when I’m so far away.  Perhaps more humble to find I must be an empty cup and with more clues on how to empty my cup on a regular basis.  Perhaps more fragile for seeing how exhausted and frightened I can be with singularity in a world of duality and plurality.  Perhaps more free for having stripped clean the things I say I want but knowing what I truly need.  And perhaps more alive for finding purpose.

Finally, for all of the support, care, and concern of those who watched over me on my voyage; the new friends, new ideas, and new perspectives I gained; the love and wishes for a quick and safe return from those at home—I am more grateful.

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Food, glorious food.

I don’t know how I’m going to live without lemon gelato.  It was the strongest new relationship of my journey, and as one might expect, I had to leave it behind never knowing if and when I might meet it again.

I sounds kooky, I’m sure, but how can any travel be defined without a discussion of the culinary culture?

And so I give you my personal favorites from this trip:

  • Iberic ham on Italian bread—in Barcelona.  This ham is legendary across Europe and after a taste my first day on the Iberian peninsula, I know why.  Top it off with warm, crusty Italian bread…mmmmmm.
  • Fennel biscuits in Capri.  I don’t like fennel, but I wasn’t about to eat potato chips while I waited for my glass of white wine to arrive.  I popped one of these nuggets into my mouth and had to do a double take.  Fennel and I are now on a first name basis.  I will be adding this treat to my culinary milleu.
  • Caprese salad in Capri—its birthplace.  When they say fresh mozerella, they mean FRESH!  And why is it that basil doesn’t taste like THAT from my garden?  Drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, I admit, I wanted to lick the plate.  Fortunately, Italian bread came with that salad—the perfect sopping tool.
  • Lemoncello in a piazza in Capri—also its birthplace. Lemon trees grow all over the island of Capri, in neat structured lines up the hillside and frivolously on the walkable streets and alleyways.  It’s only natural that you’d pick these, add some sugar and turn them into a sweet nectar of the gods called Lemoncello.
  • Foccacia in Sicily.   I expected it to be like pizza or toast, but this soft and warm dough with an exposed pocket of cheese, basil, parsley, fennel and tomato blew me away.  I’m determined to figure out how to recreate this gem.
  • Date cookies in Tunis.  Semolina crust wrapped around a dried date, cooked to a crispy exterior and drizzled with honey.
  • Gazpacho in Mallorca.  This cold soup is the best when eaten after an entire afternoon of exploring, but when you add some extra veggies and a kiss of spice, the elements are a match made in heaven.
  • Paella in Barcelona.  My favorite dish of all time, paella is the perfect culmination of my voyage.  Residents from the sea mixed with the spices from Tunisia, the tomatoes from Italy and a roux worthy of the best French chef.

What I didn’t eat is also worth mentioning:

  • No fast food.
  • Nothing fried.
  • Nothing processed.

So, if you hear me crying in the weeks that follow my return, just know that I’m still mourning the loss of authentic lemon gelato…and so many other marvelous foods.  And you’ll be able to find me at the local culinary institute learning to recreate the items I won’t be able to find here.

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What I learned on this trip…

1.  Don’t order a double-shot decaf expresso over ice with soy milk when in Rome…or anywhere in Italy, Monaco, or France.

There are three main types of cultures in the world: Familial—where family bond and age rank high on the list of priorities, Socialistic—where everyone gets and expects the same, and Individualistic—where it’s every man for himself.  I knew Americans were Individualistic, but what that meant didn’t really hit home until I watched an American try to order her own individualistic type of coffee abroad.

If the experience of translating words like “decaf” and “soy” weren’t painful enough, translating the idea of expresso over ice was more so.  And that’s not counting the looks of disdain, disgust, and disapproval such an elaborate and self-centered order commanded.

So I suggest, ordering from the menu.  Or the local specialty.  Dare to immerse yourself into another culture and cuisine.

2.  Not all Americans are ugly.  But some Italians and French sure are.

It happened several times during the trip that something went awry.  And when it did, everyone affected wanted it resolved, or at least the reassurance that it would be resolved immediately.  But at the front of those demanding, scared and angry lines weren’t the pushy, ugly Americans.  It was the loud and self-righteous Italians.

And when the food or wine or song wasn’t up to snuff, it wasn’t the nasty Americans who looked down their noses or complained about it rudely, it was the French.

And at night, when the parties were at their peak with too much wine having been consumed and too many inhibitions on display, true, there were Americans in that mix, but so were all the other nationalities.

Finally, at the end of the voyage, as I was visiting with the crew as I waited for my turn to disembark, I thanked them for their assistance throughout the trip; they seemed exhausted (who wouldn’t when you have to work 6AM-1AM seven days a week for a five-month contract).  They welcomed me back anytime.  “Just don’t bring any Italians with you!” was their parting parry, followed by lots of laughter.  “What do you mean?” I asked curiously.  Still laughing, “we need more fun Americans and less…uh…demanding Italians.”

It’s true.  Nothing in my travels led me to believe that Americans were any worse behaved, or rude, or ignorant, or demanding, or ugly, than any other nationality.  And for that, I’m thankful.

3.  Stereotypes are very powerful.

I understand stereotypes.  I know they exist for a reason, and I respect that reason.  But I hadn’t understood the power of the stereotype until I found myself victim to it—not on the receiving end, but on the giving end.

How stupid I feel when I am startled by an Australian’s assertion that not everything down under is out back.  Duh!  Or when I meet a Brit who doesn’t much care for futbol.  Or when Muslim men have no problem touching my arm, my hand or my face.  Or when old Italian woman turns out to be the con artist.

I feel like a ninny.

After many surprises of the sort, I resign myself to redefining stereotypes as pirate code.  “They’re more like guidelines afterall.”

4.  Languages must be practical in order to catch hold.

When cousin Aheb was teaching French in Louisiana during his Fulbright scholarship, a student asked him the inevitable question any teenager asks.  “Teacher, why must I learn this?”  Aheb smiled and said “so you can converse with others who don’t speak the same language as you.”  “But teacher, nearly two thirds of the world DOES speak my language.”

It’s difficult to argue with that kind of logic, Aheb tells me a bit despondently.  “In order for learning languages to be meaningful and actually work, it must be practical,” he admits, almost defeated. “It’s like physics, it’s fine to teach, but how much will you retain unless it has meaning to you?  Unless you use it?”

Still, I think of all the stories I missed because I didn’t understand Spanish, French, Italian, German or Dutch; all the connections and charm I missed, all the wonders I was unaware of.  Then I think of my Spanish teacher and my lessons.  She started with menus and food, and I’m forever grateful she did, for food is universal, and being able to order in a foreign language was the most common cause for my needing to use language on this journey.

So I must find a way to make the languages that I—and my daughters—learn practical. Or I will continue to miss so much.

5.  Body language is also powerful.

“When language cannot be overcome, there’s always pantomime,” my brother had told me before I left.  And he was so very right!

Everytime my tiny language skills were stretched to their max, as were those of the other person with whom I was conversing, inevitably one or the other of us would begin acting out our intent.  It turns out our pantomime was often the same.  For instance:

  • The thumb and the index finger in parallel spread about an inch apart = “a little”
  • Fingers and thumb pinched together and pointed to the mouth = “eat”
  • Fingers and thumb in a “C” shape about chest high, swung up toward the mouth = “drink”
  • A hand mimicking writing in the air = “bring me my bill”
  • Hands folded together on the side of the head, head titled = “sleep”
  • Fingers rubbed against a thumb = “money, or cash”
  • Index and middle fingers side by side, raised to the lips = “smoking, or cigarette”
  • Pelvic thrusts = “sex”

It’s amazing how a handful of phrases about food and greetings, plus these common pantomimes, can facilitate conversations with people of any and all languages.

And if that doesn’t work, just put on the coupe de monde and bring on the beer.

6.  Music is universal.

During my 10-day travel, nothing surprised me more than music.  Everywhere I went, people seemed to have no problem breaking into song in public.  Without reserve, without apology, without demure excuses about not being able to sing, they opened their vocal chords and sang freely what was on their mind or in their heart.

And everywhere I went I heard familiar music George Michael, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, Air Supply, Celine Dion, The Beatles, Madonna…

However, two musical moments stand out more than any other on this trip, and both of them happened in Sicily.

Strolling back to the Marina I stopped to stare at the Quattro Canti when to my left, belting from the stereo in a minicar, was Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance.

“Rah rah ah ah ah. Roma roma ma.  Gaga oh la la.”

In my surprise, my sandal caught on one of the stones of the sidewalk and I tripped.  Fortunately I managed to grab onto a doorway and righted myself before I completely toppled over.  But it was as I recovered and scanned the crowd to see who might have witnessed my ungraceful moment that I witnessed the true universality of music.

A little old lady, about half my height, dressed in black with black stockings, black orthopedic shoes and a large cross hanging around her neck was getting down to the music.  I clung to the doorway for several moments more watching the old lady dance on the sidewalk feeling as if the world was spinning on its axis right under my feet and smiling until the strains of the music died away with the change in traffic and the little old lady resumed her slow gait.

Earlier, my gait was quick as I moved with fake confidence through a side alley upon arriving in Sicily.  I had only been on the island for 10 minutes and was already hopelessly lost (a state I supremely enjoy on adventures), but more than a little uncomfortable at the moment as a man stood arms crossed at the back of a church staring at my progress through the little alley.  I was just about to berate myself for taking this path when the slow strains of a violin began to reverberate off the stone façade all around me.  Then a cello, then a piano and another violin and a clarinet.

The strains of the classical piece seemed to be coming from my left so I slowed and began to look around me.  Directly above my head was a sign indicating music lessons.  And above it, flowerpots in full bloom.  And above it, linens freshly washed and hanging out to dry.  And above them, a floor-to-ceiling window thrown open where the beautiful music eminated.

I lost myself completely in the song staring up to that window until the strains fell away.  Even then, I knew those seven minutes would be the crowning jewel in my travel experience.

7.  Experiences lose some of their luster when they are kept to oneself.

“Keep a journal of your trip; you will cherish it more than the photos,” said my mentor a couple of evenings before I left.  I intended to.

But somewhere along the way, I realized the journal wasn’t for me.  I found myself writing as I walked up alleyways, across beaches, over cobblestones and through gardens of all kinds.  So many things I wanted my daughters to know about the world.  So many things I wanted to tell my parents about things they won’t ever see.

And then there was one person to whom I confided things that didn’t even make the journal.  Not because he was in any special confidence, but because somewhere on the journey I realized the most important downfall to travelling alone—when there’s no one to share experiences with—is that somehow they seem less experiential.

Perhaps, the experience one has when travelling alone IS an inner journey of discovery as well, and—as a writer—I needed to sort mine out and put it in order through words.

To my confidante during this travel, thank you. Bessos.

8.  The most beautiful moments are the simplest.

There will be those who disagree with me, but my pocket full of treasures include:

  • Alone on the top deck watching the stars above my head and the sea at my feet.
  • A cold glass of white wine with fish fresh from the sea on a steamy afternoon.
  • The joy of people twice my age ballroom dancing.
  • The smell of the souk.
  • The vibrance of flowers spilling over windows, fences, rock faces, abandoned churches.
  • The simplicity of freshly washed linens hanging from balconies everywhere.
  • The sound of the sea rhythmic and smooth mixed with church bells pealing the time.
  • My first taste of real limone gelato.  And every taste of limone gelato afterwards.
  • The gentle rocking of the boat at night as Winkin’ Blinkin’ and Nod took me to dreamland.

9.  A bra is an excellent travel companion.

I had read and been told too many scary stories before I left that trepidation was my natural companion while out and about.  Especially on my own.

I had bought the money belt, the over-the-shoulder purse, pants with lots of pockets (including some hidden ones) and other precautionary tools.  But in the end, it was my bra that served the best travelling tool.  In addition to its primary purpose, I managed to keep my credit and debit and ATM cards, my money, my stateroom key, my maps and even my passport.  At one point I even had my lipgloss and extra camera battery in it too.

Turns out, It was all I needed to move freely about…without trepidation.

10.  A camera cannot capture the beauty and wonder.

I brought my camera intending to capture a few pictures of marvelous architectural works and/or natural splendor.  But no matter how hard I tried, I could only capture shadows of the magnificence I saw.

At night, eating alone, I would review the images I’d captured and find stirrings in my memory for how beautiful, how full of wonder were the things I’d seen.  And I’d realize that no one who saw these pictures would have any idea how captivating they really had been, unless they too had once been there.

Don’t get me wrong, I treasure these images immensely—and will probably the remainder of my life.  But they do not even come close to bespeaking the imprint their original has left on my heart.

11.  When appearances are all that matter, appearances may be all you get.

When fairy lands were offered up as options, I had to go.  These places were supposed to be magical, rich, spectacular, the place where dreams come true.  The hilltop home of the wealthy at Capri and Princess Grace Kelly’s Monaco were beautiful.  Scrubbed, clean, sanitized, magical—and full of tourist trappings.  Every shop, every corner selling postcards, cheap maps or plastic crowns and swords, bags printed with the location’s name, t-shirts, and other self-serving items.

In neither spot (and I explored extensively) could I become hopelessly lost, nor find anything of depth and personality other than what had been assigned to it by the tourist trade.  But that’s it purpose—and so I hold no grudge.  I just know next time to seek something less obvious.

12.  Never travel with expectations.

Not realizing it, I had built this trip up as the chance to grow up, to get my feet under me more firmly, to take on the world and find my place in it, and to perhaps discover like-minded individuals with whom I could finally affiliate.

But that’s not what happened.  Don’t get me wrong.  I learned many, many things about myself, the world, people and cultures and my place in all of it.  But things were not what I thought.  My plans were not the plans of the Universe.  And only in moments where I realized I had no control—and was strong enough to not pretend like it—did I find what I sought.  Glimpses.  Whiffs.  Hints.  Moments.

The Muses visited me twice in my dreams giving me the same message both times.  And I know, I must never travel with expectations again.  My destiny is not so self-centered.

So I concede control to the Universe, and will continue to seek the treasure I’ve been assigned.  At home.  Or abroad.  Forever more.

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According to Greek myth the goddess of discord, Eris, retaliated a snub by throwing a golden apple inscribed “For the Most Beautiful One” into the midst of Hera, Athena and Aphrodite.  What resulted was a Greek beauty contest that launched the Trojan war.

In Spanish, the word for apple is manzana. And my destination for the day was to see a different and more modern competition for beauty on the aptly named Manzana de la Discordia along Passieg de Garcia.

During the 1800s as wealthy families moved into Barcelona and began to expand the city, they hired architects to create works of art to live in.  A one-up-manship contest was born among the famous architects of the day giving birth to Modernista architecture and some of the most beautiful, the most unique, and the most outlandish mansions I’ve ever seen.

I had scoured the guide book and the maps and the internet and had created my own walking tour that would include all the Modernista buildings, plus a few side stops and end up in the “Greenwich Village of Spain,” Garcia, then farther up the hill to Parc Guell.  By my calculations it would take most of the day, but should cover all the important sites I wanted to see.

And so, early squirrelly, I set out with my camera, my map, the hotel’s map, a bottle of water and a reference book…just in case.

I immediately got lost.

Where I’m from the streets run straight North-to-South and East-to-West, with the exception of Middletown, but I’m always lost there too.  I never have any problems.

In Barcelona, however, there are several streets that run diagonal–like the Avinguda Diagonal.  And so overestimating my North-Southness and underestimating my East-Westness, I found myself wandering aimlessly around the Parc de la Ciudadela and a beautiful fountain dedicated to the birth of Aphrodite (who won the manzana de la discordia from Paris in the most famous of the Greek beauty contests).

It turned out to be a fortuitous misdirection, for it was the first of many Antoni Gaudi designs I would see, the first of many references to Greek mythology and not on my map.

I knew the Muses were with me then.  It was going to be a GREAT day!

From there, I circled my way in and around the Passieg de Garcia so I could hunt down each of the Modernista buildings in the registry…some of them by number as they were so disguised as banks, apartments, or even normalcy.

The tree-lined avenue made for the perfect venture with lots of shade and plenty of cool breezes blowing about.  I opted to skip the long lines and expensive tours inside the buildings (though I hear inside many of them is just as wild as out side of them), and kept up the road.

It was a slanting walk, not really a visible incline until you reached the Casa Batllo–said to be a pictorial representation of St. George slaying the Dragon.   The the hill starts to become a HILL.  Slowly the grade increased and the road narrowed.  And slowly my weariness increased and my focus narrowed.  I needed water–and from the sounds of my stomach–food.

I looked at my watch–I’d been walking nearly six hours already and it had reached the pinnacle of heat for the day.  It was time for a break in the shade.  But all the trendy cafes I had seen earlier, farther back down the road were gone.  In it’s place were small book stores, and shoe shops and pasterlerias.

Pastelerias!  I caught a whiff of something  divine.  My stomach rumbled loudly.  I hadn’t eaten breakfast before I set out, and hadn’t stopped for lunch yet as I relished in the freedom of wandering about Spain.  So I popped in the one calling my nose and looked over their display.  On the top shelf a pasterelle de angel stared me hard in the stomach.  I shelled out the Euros for it and waited to unwrap it back on the street.

It was soft and warm and shaped like a half circle with green and golden apples inside and crystalized sugar sprinkled all over the exterior.  Forget chocolate!  This was the food of the gods.

But I needed to find some water…and real food.  I kept climbing.  As I slowed, I realized that most days I had been happiest just to walk until I was exhausted.  I might not be the most fit, nor the speediest, but I had stamina and dedication.  And my life ran that way too.  Work, friends, relationships, they were all built on enduring endearments and a dedication to the people and things I believed in.  I felt settled and surprised by that revelation.

I reached the top of Passieg de Garcia and nearly cried.  The rest of the way to Parc Guell were literally steps–about seven city-street-blocks worth.  And steep.

Maybe if I ate first.

A delightful cafe sat nestled in the middle of the avenue with a table for one already set.  So I sat.  And promptly ordered the one and only food I had come seeking–paella.  It was truly the best meal I’d had the entire trip.

The events of the trip and of today began to replay in my mind, so I let them pass through without dwelling on any.  Just watching.

So much kismet had taken place throughout the entire trip.

It was there–looking over the events of the day, the events of my vacation, at the top of the hill also looking over the Manzana de la Discordia–I realized suddenly that Eris’s counterpart in mythology is the goddess Concordia.  Which is where I started my journey–the name of the ship on which I had started this journey and sailed the Mediterranean.

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