C'est la vida loca :: parte dos
Clinically sleep deprived, we got rolling for the day of moving items from the Paris apartments to the family's house in Dormans- a small town on the Champagne trail an hour or so East of Paris.
Myself, Colleen, Maureen, and Walt packed into the rental car. There was an adorable vying for being the direction-giver from the backseat. Maureen was familiar with the drive, but Colleen had the directions on her phone, and printed, and on the Garmin. Finally it was settled. I was giving directions. Annnnd I promptly took us off the wrong exit. I imagined a giant cartoon vein popping out Walt's forehead. 1 man, 3 backseat drivers. But he stayed cool and steered the car through massive, orderless lanes.
A fortunate couple of hours later, we had found some sun through the oppressive Paris cloud cover and were at last on the smaller local roads off the highway. A little flea market sparkled in some kind of school district type baseball practice field parking lot. A must stop. Maureen found a book of old music, Cowboy copas to Sinatra. Walt got me a cross stitched picture of orange poppies. We all enjoyed a cold Kronenbourg and headed back for the last 20 minute stretch to the house in Dormans.
The place had clearly been unoccupied for at least a year. It had a damp chill and abundance of dust as we walked in. Walt's uncle had been in the processing of renovating before he unexpectedly passed a couple of years ago. Maureen and Colleen quickly got to work tidying, heating up water in the water heater, checking electrics and such. Despite some state of disrepair, the charm was evident.
When we returned from our 3rd grocery run (having forgotten first milk, then water). Maureen and Colleen had set up a sweet little table where we enjoyed out re-made dinner of chicken curry, noodles, and of course, Brie.
Maureen played a few tunes on her travel Ukulele, including an original, before suggesting we go for a walk down to the Marne. Colleen stayed behind to work on the kitchen. I grabbed my tripod and tugged on some loaner boots.
Down behind the house there is path that takes you down below the railroad track and to the river. It had just rained the tall grass soaked the bottoms of our pants. We walked along and talked about the house, the history, the mysterious circumstance involving an inheritance of vines and dubious Moroccan bride.
Eventually, Maureen turned back to join her sister and figure out the washing machine cycle situation, but Walt and I found some rocks near the Marne. Unrelenting, with little swirling eddies, pockets of rising fog and clouds of bugs. Electric and soft. We sat for longer than I think we meant. Making a quick run for the cerveza stash, Walt returned us some lukewarm beers and we watched as sticks came to life and began to swim and squirm. Leeches maybe. We talked only about the kinds of things that seem important in front of a river.
In the late evening we sat around the candlelit little table next to the garden and drank Grand Marnier of unknown age and homemade liqueur de casis. The candles were a nice touch, but really more necessity than ambiance because the washer and dryer churning simultaneously kept blowing fuses.
Morning slowly came about to a breakfast run and peeling wallpaper for longer than expected. As a note from Gwen, I had been planning for us to visit the Cathedral in Chartres on the way to our hotel in the countryside somewhere in Champagne-et-Fontaine.
Colleen and Maureen elected to join, they had always wanted to see Chartres, but had never made it down. So, back in the car we all packed. Colleen, Maureen, Lara, and Walt. And I bid the quiet little house goodbye.
The navigation kinks seemed mostly figured out as I steered us around the city with the help of Colleen's phone. No one died. There was/is a Dominos pizza.
The town is surrounded by a classic moat and we crossed over likely unfathomably old bridge and through stacked terrace gardens to reach the entrance. The visage was grand and as impressive as was expected when we saw the massive cathedral rise into view from the highway.
Maureen told us of the giant labyrinth under the floor that is only open to the public certain times of the year. This was not one of those times. The central piece of the church is a marble statue of the Assumption of Mary. At some point, I had wandered to a platform to get a full view of the piece with the stained glass behind it (picture 4). I started to hear hissing and someone was pointing and me and to the velvet no trespassing signs I had failed to see. I hightailed it out and Maureen put her arm around my shoulder chuckling 'You looked like you were having so much fun, I didn't want to stop you.'
Maureen is the kind of friend you end up in jail with.
Finally getting some sweet Cathedral wifi I was able to check the driving directions to our B&B for the night. The terrible realization that we had about 3 more hours on the road than I thought we did turned into hasty goodbyes and a blaze of dust out of town. We ended up being glad for the lunch Colleen packed us.
Opting instead for the two lane version of the map's suggested route and with an emptier car, settled in to tunes and took in the beautiful passing scenery. The sounds of experimental baritone saxophone filled a quick nightfall.
Somehow the road became increasingly winding- it didn't look like we were driving through hills on the map, but we were. It was black all but for what the headlights shone on, and an occasional strikes of lightening in the distance.
'Did I tell you about all the French horror movies I've been watching?' Walt asked.
A turn, and another in 400 m, and a left at the round about. We were more disoriented than 5 years high on sugar spinning their heads on a baseball bat. At long last, we pulled into the small driveway of the private B&B. A little black cat ran up to us, and a man slowly came out of a lit doorway and showed us to the room.
The room was lovely, and the pool was sparkling under the awning lights. It was a shame we didn't have longer here. Someone really should have planned that better.
The lights out, in silence, with a moth frantic in the corner now confused, 'You know in the French horror films..'
We didn't die in the night.
But we did have to get up early for a fresh continental breakfast of cheese, croissants, marmalade and french press coffee. We had to return the rental car and catch our train in Bordeaux to get across the French/Spanish border.
Let's just leave it at we made the train...on time. With some to spare. Despite the Enterprise lady being on a break when we needed to turn in the car. Despite the delays at the station. Despite my Dustin Hoffman circa Rain Man-esque repetitions of 'we're gonna miss the train'. At last we were across the border into España.
DONOSTIA - SAN SEBASTIAN
San Sebastian is very near to the top of my list of favorite locations thus far. The people are nice, the food is que magnifíc, the prices are reasonable, and the beaches are sparkling. Despite only having an afternoon, I am smitten.
We (I) loaded up on some pinxtos and cervezas and sat a bit off the main path enjoying the ocean breeze and sun. Sweet sun at last. Walking old town, round two was had at a little bar on the courtyard of a magnificent cathedral.
I wanted to make it back to Pueblo de Arganzon- a return trip for me - by sunset, so we took a quick walk on the beach, admiring the sculpture like ice cubes floating in a cocktail ocean.
was as great as I remembered it. I was significantly excited to be finally sharing this gem with someone else.
Just pictures. And as much cheap red wine as we could drink until we helped put up the plastic chairs at closing.
After getting back to Barcelona, it was blurrish of finding fun concerts, drinking outside, and wandering through the city. A week of work for me and a week of a casio recording for Walt later, we were meeting back up with Colleen for a weekend in L'Empordá checking out all things Dalí and up to Cadaqués.
Colleen was putting up at a nice hotel a few blocks from my flat, so we swung by earlish Saturday morning and headed up to the Dalí museum in Figueres. The museum was incredible, covered in strange gold turtles, it a winding cathedral of Dalí's dreams and works. Definitely worth the stop if you happen to Spain. Also, would recommend you grab some tickets in advance to skip the lengthy line.
The road to Cadaqués takes a long winding high way over some small coastal mountains. I don't think Colleen enjoyed. And I made Walt about equally sick with the Michael Bolton. But who can deny these Steel Bars?
Pretty much, Cadaqués is paradise. Colleen found us a great little apartment hotel room at the Carpe Diem resort while I was driving the great road in. It didn't take long before we found ourselves at a beachfront bar.
At the end of the night, had an incredibly slow dinner and made the cobbled way back up to our room on the hill. Naturally the flood lights from the neighboring field were shining like daylight into our room as local boys played soccer late into the night.
In true fashion, I wanted to venture out into the clear windy night for some night photos. We set out making some photo stops, but it turned out to be much more a drink finding venture. Suddenly, it was 3 am and we were in a strange tropical bar, watching the inebriated play the pairing games as the bar prepared to close. I dunno.
The final day of the tour de'Dalí included a stop at his home in neighboring Portlligat, and swinging through Gala's castle in Pubol.
It was an exceptionally beautiful, bright and clear morning. As they are in Spain. The views from Dali's home were stunning, and left you wanted to just kind of... stay.
Stay we couldn't. The next day Walt and Colleen had a return flight to Paris. But the weekend was good and I was loaded with good photos.
Their departure also marks a turning point of my time in Spain. 6 weeks to go in Espana.