Yesterday over supper Jose said that we had walked a lot, yes - but tomorrow would be different.
Tomorrow, he said, would be more.
Cheri checked her watch: we had walked 11.4 kilometers.
Friends, let me tell you. Jose was a man of his word.
We woke at a reasonable hour, had a light breakfast outside. Jose and Judith described the day we were about to experience. This was no ordinary day. We had arrived on the Catalan equivalent of the 4th of July and the State Fair.
La Diada de Sant Jordi also known as El Dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose), or El Dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book), or the Day of Books and Roses. In Catalonia the main activity is the exchange of roses and books between sweethearts, loved ones and colleagues. From the 1920's, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion – "a rose for love and a book forever.”
St. Jordi slew a dragon, much like that George guy. There was a dragon harassing the kingdom, and the townsfolk sent a fair maiden to appease him. Jordi shows up, smokes the lizard, and from the blood of the beast grew a rose. As for the books, the streets of Barcelona would be lined with booksellers and authors, selling and signing. A day that celebrates literacy, or at least buying a book.
Jose presented the womenfolk with roses - wife, daughter, Natalie, Zoe the Exchange Student. How absolutely gallant. And he gave me a book in Spanish, a graphic novel - I made out a few words and said with enthusiasm “Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace! The Difference Engine computer and the first lady programmer!”
Did I mention that Jose is a college professor who teaches engineering? Believe me, I got some BIG CRED at that moment, and we got into Lovelace and the Jacquard Loom and all that.
Well, let’s go to town! We didn’t drive, because parking would be impossible. Best to go by train. Cheerful jog down to the station, chatting with Zoe, the only American I’d seen in two weeks, talking about her town of Scranton and her folks’ jobs at P&G. This is the world: walking down a Spanish street on a bright day talking to a preternaturally smart Pennsylvania high schooler about P&G branding.
The train arrives, and the nightmare of my life, the nightmare I have believed I would never face, manifests itself with surreal brute force. When the doors open, they reveal a mass of compacted humanity. You know those videos of trains in Japan, or India? Like that. Jose starts to fight his way into the car to make room for us all, but he is rebuked and repelled by a woman who pushes back and shouts NO. NO.
“Next train?” I ask.
“It will be worse,” he says. We all sprint two cars ahead as the closing bongs are bonging, and by sheer force of will we get aboard, all six of us. The doors shut. I am in a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare. Once upon a time I would’ve had a panic attack, but that was long ago. That’s not going to happen now.
Nooo, it’s not. Breathe slow, steady, and just know that we’ll be out soon.
Noooo, we won’t. Maybe twenty minutes in the hot sweaty compacted car, wondering what it’s going to be like to get out. When it was time to leave we pushed and elbowed and tumbled on to the platform with relief and gratitude, and joined the throngs moving up the stairs to the city above.
Oh. Oh my stars and bars.
So many people you didn't want to take your eyes off the street, lest you bump into someone or perhaps miss the crook who's doing a dip, but if you do look up, oh, such rewards.
The nobility and gravitas of these structures! Beauty and solidity.
First order of business: get to the Gaudi building decorated with roses. Everyone and his brother and six cousins is also trying to see it.
All I can say about the day is that we walked. Ten kilometers, we walked. We went to the medieval district, where the streets are narrow . . .
Passed the Pooping Statue Store.
Hey, a church
It looks scoured.
I think this fellow used to have a harp:
Lunch at a place Jose knew; he’d made a reservation, which angered all the people who had queued to get in, and there was much thronging and waving of arms at the day. Felt like I was running a gauntlet to get in. Stepped outside to snap the trip's sole selfie.