Barcelona opened my world and my heart.
They speak Catalán, a regional language that’s a mixture of French and Spanish influences. It’s a truly bilingual city, with Spanish the secondary language. Proud may be a way to describe Barcelona. I can’t help but admire how actively the city defends its identity, while still embracing the world and its possibilities.
Gaudí astonished me. We entered the cathedral of Sagrada Familia, and came upon the forest. From then on Barcelona ceased to be a city and emerged into a fantastic world…one where trees reach to God, where the rock rises out of its slumber, and somehow it’s possible to know what the tiniest cell might feel like. He’s one of my favorites…an architect of dreams and myth.
Barcelona made me consider living in Europe for the first time…but what would it be like to live here? I have no qualms about learning Spanish, about becoming a part of the city…but all this splendor, who paid for it? All this beauty exists so far, and yet so close to the struggles of Mexico. Spain and Mexico…Mexico and Spain…it’s s strange to come to a colonizing nation to realize that the places you visited a world away echo with the visions of history, of Catholic conquistadors.
I am not a historian…and so we left Gaudi’s forest, the beach, the metropolitan city, with heavy hearts. We traveled on to the true Atlantis, Venice.
Is this really the very same Italy we’ve come to know?
We traded trains and subway cars for boats. Everyone walks or bikes or takes the vaporetto (or water taxi). Tourists teem around St. Mark’s. City leaders meet to carve out the city’s future, in response to whispers about Atlantis sinking.
We got lost in Venice…several times…through wind and rain.
We traveled to the island of Murano, desolate and cold, to mine for some beautiful glass to take home to our families. And throughout our stay, nations of the world vied for our attention with politically charged artistic displays.
With wave motion still lingering in our bodies, we took flight to Paris. A new country, new language, and new faces of old friends.
An extra large brunch Sunday morning was the best welcome we could have had.
Croque monseuir, riz au lait, salade, croissant, caffe americain….like good italians we learn all the food words first!
Au revoir, bonsoir, si vous plait, frommage…
Thankfully our journeys through the city extend farther than my French. We heard the bells ring in Notre Dame.
Inside I imagined I walked into Victor Hugo’s world. I didn’t spot Quasimodo. But I am thankful for the beauty of cathedrals unlike any we had seen in Italy.
We visited the the Louvre, paid our respects to Mona.
We saw art that’s a little more controversial…
King Louis has a great place, a truly beautiful one, designed to display the glory and wealth of France. It’s a practice in vast and precise beauty though each groomed hedge and arranged color, statue and watered avenue. Its an almost terrifying wealth that built this place.
By seeing Versailles I have a renewed appreciation for fresh air and space, for fall colors and natural beauty. But Versailles…is maintained. Isn’t it strange that something harnessed by people, with an agenda behind it, can make you desire something completely different?
I don’t really know what I’m getting at…maybe some sort of ethics of beauty, or just the scattered thoughts of a woman lost in so many sights, sounds, and complexity…
One of my favorite parts of Paris was walking through the streets and buying my daily baguette. Even still, the pace of the city and our travels make me so thankful to be back in Tuscany, the land of pasta and slow meals, afternoon walks and greeting someone with “Ciao”. After two and a half months of being a stranger in strange lands, I am so happy to have this small sense of home in Italia, just from leaving and coming back again.