Walking, Bus, Barcelona

Failure to check the bus schedule back to Barcelona left us with three hours in Olot, the bigger city near Santa Pau, whose unassuming outskirts hide a medieval center. The trail boss negotiated baggage storage with the bus depot’s café owner, and we walked along tree-lined streets or under the shade of stores’ arcades to the Museu dels Vocans to see the natural history exhibits.

The museum had displays of plants and birds labeled with their more recognizable Latin names, and a startling volcano video – with lifelike room-shaking earthquake. Back at the café, we ate impossibly good baguettes containing tortilla de patatas – and more crisps.

On the bus ride through torrential rain, we viewed the countryside from dry and cushioned seats. Near Barcelona, I asked a young woman carrying a portfolio and reading an English phrase book for directions. A student of ancient languages and fine art, and eager to practice her English, she guided us – through another cloudburst – to the Placa de Catalunya. English is a third language for this part of Spain – lucky for us – we could often talk to people because of their understanding of our language.

Our last day – on the top of Montjuïc, a cupcake of a mountain at the edge of Barcelona – sitting at a café on the steps of the Museum of Catalan Art, eating a mango ice in sunshine and listening to a musician strum his Spanish guitar, we watched tourists posing against a backdrop of Tiepolo clouds with Barcelona spread out below. I savored the moment and mused on our trip.

Early morning sounds of birds and cows and roosters in villages and the clatter of footsteps on cobblestones echoing in the Barri Gòtik in Barcelona – walking those streets and sitting atop hillsides, you travel in the footsteps of two millennia of people. Traces left – Roman walls and aqueducts, little Romanesque churches with views to awe and such a pilgrimage to reach, you can imagine lives lived – both invaders and the singular people of Catalonya.

Such a privilege to be reduced to the elemental parts of life – grateful for amiable companions, meditative walking, food for the journey, and places to stop with the sun or shade, view or shelter. And to be greeted each night with comfort.

My mind is full of color and sights – painted tiles and the staring eyes of Catalan frescoes – and thoughts of Santa Pau beans cooked in the Northwest and our local bread spread with their delicious tomato preserve!

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