Life, The Day I Become A Re-Pat

by Becky on July 11, 2013 · 5 comments

in Travel

Faucets in Born_9012

I get up early, shower, polish off a strawberry yogurt, check email.  The apartment is quiet for a while.  After a bit, the Eleven O’Clock Dad gets up and goes into high gear.  He is remarkable during cruch time.

Today will be crazy.  We’re almost packed, which means nothing, really.  It’s that last ten percent that gets you every time.

* * *

Mid morning, friends show up to help us with last-minute cleaning and relieve us of fridge and cupboard items that need a home. Saying goodbye to friends here?–brutal. Truly. Alarm bells keep going off in my head, signaling the end of this Brilliant Moment in my life, and I keep punching “snooze” so I don’t have to think about it. If I do, it’s all over.

Last night, Miss Lavender and I stood for a few minutes and stared at the Barcelona Cathedral. When I felt myself tearing up, I told her we needed to go.

* * *

Early afternoon. We’re packed, though still shuffling a few things around so we don’t go over our weight limits. The flat looks startlingly bare. Strange, that a place that was never our permanent home will always feel so much like home.

Barcelona. BCN.  The Catalans say “Adeu,” their version of Adios. I’m not going to say it, though. “Hasta pronto” works better for me.

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View through the arch to the castle_1086

About an hour north of Barcelona, on the famed Costa Brava, sits Tossa de Mar, one of my favorite spots on earth. We happened upon it last fall, the day before my birthday, and we headed up again last week, for one more visit. It’s all there: the Roman ruins, the medieval fortress up on the hill, the little sapphire bay dotted with candy-colored buoys, and an effusion of beach glass all along the shore.

Church at the top of the hill_1008

Bay dotted with buoys_0933

Sand, with beachgoers in the background_0900

Up on the hill, tucked behind the archway of the old fortress, is my favorite cafe-with-a-view. As in, like, ever. The petals and I stumbled onto it last October, several potential birthday cakes flirting with me from a cart on the porch just inside the entrance.  We sat together on the terrace that fall day, shared a piece of cake, and gazed out across the general Mediterranean splendor of the town.

And here was the cake once again, actually calling out to me this time, saying, You know you want to be good to yourself for a minute.  (Wouldn’t you have been tempted, were a piece of cake using that kind of language with you?!)


Cafe with paper lanterns_1055

The cafe_1065

So we grabbed a moment that involved chocolate mousse cake and views.  Felt like my birthday all over again.  And of course we walked and hiked, Tossa being an ideal place for both, the streets of the old city an enticing place in which to lose yourself for a couple of hours.

Umbrellas on the path to the castle_0918

Becky shading her eyes_1297

The cannon_1033

View down the street toward the mar_1152

View back up the same street_1199

But I have to confess that perhaps my favorite thing about Tossa are the shards of beach glass that wash up along the shore. I could spend hours just sifting through the sand, searching for the perfect piece in that magically translucent shade of aqua. Not kidding: I could live on that beach and just fritter away my mornings hunting for glass; waste my afternoons in cake and gazing; and spoil my girls by bringing them up to do the same. (Yes, yes, of course I am kidding.)

Green beach glass_0906

(But you should see my collection of treasures tumbled smooth by the sea! Anyone want to teach me how to drill holes in them so the petals and I can make pulseras?–I mean, bracelets?  Wouldn’t they make fabulous gifts?! . . .)

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Textures of Baeza, Spain

by Becky on June 17, 2013 · 2 comments

in Travel


Wood.  Water.  Stucco.  Iron.  Moss.  Stone.

And:  faces.











Jaén, Spain

Jaén, Spain

Jaén, Spain

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Tessa and Millay dancing two_2391

Would you like to dance?

Why, that would be grand!

Shall we, then?

Tessa and Millay dancing three_2397


Tess and Millie on the beach_2432

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Standing together by arch_1099

Once upon a time I wrote a little note to Danny and Mara of A Blog About Love, thanking them for talking about love, its forms, its reach. I also wrote a blog entry about how one of their posts had affected Miss Lavender, prompting her to want to practice love the way you practice doing anything you want to get good at:  through repetition.

Teva Tessa agan with sun in arm_1072

One of Miss Lavender’s goals was to strengthen her relationship with her younger sister–Miss Zinnia, exactly three years her junior.

Teva Millay by arch looking away_1122

Different in so many ways, the petals occasionally reach an impasse, and then they have to find a way to move forward. But especially when they’re out together like they were here, in Teba, Spain, they often end up being each other’s best company.  So cool, that traveling together ended up being their mortar.

Teva girls in field_0959

Teva girls running through field_0958

Remember the old tradition of the Sunday drive?–where the family hops in the car and heads out to see what the afternoon looks like an hour down the road? Well, we’ve been doing that off and on for months–and not just on Sundays, obviously. I’ve got to say: sometimes the middle of nowhere turns into a Big Somewhere when transfigured by a pair of sisters at ease with each other and with themselves.

Teva Tessa kissing Millay_1137

Once again, thanks Danny and Mara. All these months later, the seeds of your Words Of Love are still yielding fruit.

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Pots on tables_7965

Wandering into the wildly colorful ceramics store-slash-workshop of renowned potter Tito Juan Pablo our first night in Úbeda, Spain, reminded me that when someone’s talent is as big as their imagination, the results feel almost dreamlike.  Formerly a winner of Spain’s Premio Nacional de Artesanía, or National Prize for Artisanal Achievement, this master craftsman is as prolific as he is visionary. In a snug corner of his shop, Tito sits and fashions the pots, bowls, vases, aceiteras, pitchers, candlesticks, and other wondrous things whose distinctive shapes bear his creative stamp.  Throwing pots since age seven, Tito claims he felt a potent sense of vocation and knew he had found his life’s work.  Take a peek at these pieces informed by his passion for the colors and patterns of southern Spain.

Tito in his work space_7997

Pots, with green one in front_7963

Wall outside the shop_7978

Close-up of yellow pot with lid_7959

Tito's workshop_8011

Tito's table by the atrium_8746

Tito's plates and dinnerware_8007

Tito's bowls_8009


Especially meaningful was walking the store with my two teenage daughters, both of whom nourish their own creative aspirations.  I loved watching their faces as they browsed the shelves and tables, the floors and the patios, amazed by what they saw.  Each girl chose a small signed piece:  Miss Lavender, a round, painted box and lid; and Miss Zinnia, a teacup and saucer.

Tito's oil lamp_7998

It’s quite something to collide with a Creator and his Work, especially in his own workshop.  Especially when he’ll give you a bit of his time as a reward for your sincere interest not only in what he makes, but why.

Alfarería Tito.  Plaza del Ayuntamiento, 12, Úbeda.

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On Don Quixote And Bucket Lists

by Becky on May 24, 2013 · 2 comments

in Travel

Four on the hill_7694

Picking up and moving abroad seemed nothing if not Quixotic when we considered the idea last summer. “You’re doing what!?” wondered everyone.

But sometimes Quixotic is the perfect term for the act of crossing a stubbornly top-tier item off your ‘bucket’ list.  In other words, you just do it:  you get on your horse (so to speak) and start riding, trusting that what you’re meant to find, you’ll find.

Four up close_7729

So our little trip to the scene of Don Quixote’s famous windmills felt a bit symbolic to me, a reminder that some life choices require a crazy kind of faith.

Windmill and castle_7805

Since Monday, we have been in Ubeda, Baeza, Jaen, Granada, Olvera, Cadiz, and now Sevilla. Had you asked me a year ago whether I would be swinging through the south of Spain on a road trip with my family, I might have laughed out loud. But then, a year ago, I didn’t know that Goose would fall in love with a small ceramic whistle in the shape of a bird–a ‘prenda’ that would be presented to him in Ubeda in the shop of a famous potter, by the famous potter himself.  And I didn’t know that the petals would spend the better part of an hour on the beach one night in Santa Maria, near Cadiz, insisting that the camera capture them doing their Martha Graham-esque dancing, backlighted by the setting sun.  Had I known these things–and others–I might have been quicker to sign on.

As we prepare to head for home this summer, I find myself thinking about the irrationality of what we’ve done.  But that’s what a bucket list is, isn’t it?–a collection of often irrational want-to-do’s constantly tempting you to just get out whatever pen or pencil is handiest and carefully, deliberately, draw a line through the item perched right there, at the very top . . . at which point you now have decided to flirt with an idea which, just a moment before, seemed laughably impossible.

Here’s to Quixotic quests.

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Cardboard roses_4333

What if a legendary fascination with roses grabbed an entire city? And, assuming such a thing were possible, what if every rose (both real and handmade) on the entire planet suddenly appeared on the streets of Barcelona? Flower sellers everywhere–on the street corners, at the metro stops, in the parks, on the ramblas. An effusion of roses!

Paper flowers_4470

Likewise, let’s imagine that every bookseller (and for that matter every organization even remotely connected to books) went and set up its own portable store on the streets of the city, so that just for a day, there were more books than people. Wouldn’t that be beyond grand?

Tables with books_4389

Imagine it!–books and more books, everywhere you turned! Books in Spanish and Catalan. Books for adults and children. Books for your library, your bedside, your coffee table.


So let’s give the idea a name–Dia de Sant Jordi–and ordain one day a year, April 23rd, during which a man may present the woman in his life with a rose, while the woman presents her gentleman with a book. (We’ll forget for a second that women receiving flowers while men receive books is at all problematic.) Isn’t the whole affair just delightful?

According to legend, on April 23rd, Sant Jordi slew the dragon who had been terrorizing Catalunya, and from the dragon’s blood sprang a rose, which Sant Jordi gave to La Princesa, who presented him with a book in return.

Mistress and San Jordi_4562

Dia de Sant Jordi: possibly the most charming event I’ve ever witnessed. Roses for the women.

Bunch of roses_4340

And books for the men. Naturally you could shake things up, if you wanted–give a flower to your guy while you treated yourself to a good read.

Giant white rose_4349

Wandering the ramblas felt like trying to thread your way along Colorado Boulevard the night before the Rose Parade. Seemed like everyone in the city was out!



Goose makes a fine Sant Jordi, doesn’t he?

Silas as San Jordi_4361

All ready to slay dragons for the rose-loving/bookish girl in his life. (Wait–I think that’s me!)

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No photo today.  In fact, that I know of, there may be only a small handful of photos of Miss Celandine and me together–ironic, considering how long and faithful and brilliant our friendship has been.  We met in graduate school, years ago.  We got on famously.  We still do.  I thought I’d talk about two big reasons Miss Celandine is a great favorite.

One.  She beat the rush, got on a plane, and came to Spain.  To see me.  She stayed for ten glorious days during which we hit up museums (MNAC! Picasso!), sampled gelato (Llet Merengada!), wandered the streets of Born, Gotic, and Eixample (Tous!), hiked every inch of Park Güell, braved the evening tapas crowds (yes, we survived Tapas 24 and have earned the right to tell the tale), and hopped a train to Tarragona to see the Roman ruins and claim a spot in the sand, where we soaked up the Mediterranean ocean and sun for an afternoon.  Incurably funny, she charmed the petals and teased Goose.  To us, she’s an Event.

Two.  She beat breast cancer last year.  Yes, she did this.  With the help of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and intense personal grit.  Here in Spain was only the second time I had seen her since her diagnosis.  This trip was both a vacation and a celebration for her.  I could say Miss Celandine is brave, that she’s a fighter, but these are platitudes.  What’s true is that she did the work, and it was unimaginably painful, and she is now well and as alive as I’ve ever seen her.

This morning I put her on a plane bound for JFK and then for home.  She’ll resume her life as a university professor and All Around Extraordinary Woman.  Fly safe, Miss Celandine.  And by the way:  the Eleven O’Clock Mom thinks you’re grand.

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Museu Blau

So I frequently write about my teenagers. In contrast, today is a ‘Caboose’ post. If you’ve recently joined me, a short primer on my Caboose, a.k.a. my youngest, who also answers to ‘Goose.’ The nickname Goose hearkens back to his days as an unsteady but fastmoving toddler who often ended up with goose eggs which a) quickly swelled to cartoonish proportions, b) always popped up in the same spot on his forehead, and c) were unfortunately never photographed consistently enough for us to prove to anyone that he pretty much sported a fabulous goose egg for the first several years of his life.

Living abroad has been a bit tough on Goose. Sure, he likes climbing around in old Roman ruins and scaling castles dating to the 1100’s (not that the dates impress him). And yeah, he likes pedaling around town on his bike.

But all the cool markets? (Did we not notice that they smell like fish!?) And the spectacular scenery rolling by when you’re in the car? (Unless you’re too carsick to care.) And the Highly Impressive historical sites? (Blah, blah.) And window shopping while you fantasize about handmade Spanish shoes? (Pain, torture, agony.)

But the museums? Ahh, now there’s something.  Nine-year-old boy + natural history = Intense Fun.

Museu Blau

Museu Blau

Museu Blau

Museu Blau

Museu Blau

Are we feeling it yet? Because Goose sure was.

Museu Blau

Museu Blau

Museu Blau

Museu Blau

Museu Blau

A day at the museum, and he’s so pumped up he’s ready to leap tall buildings.

Museu Blau

Or at least medium-sized ones.

(Hooray for inspired taxidermists.)

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