The misty rain that descends upon us as we cross the Pyrenees evaporates into crystalline blue sky and a wave of heat. We bask in the hot sun entering the car as we move southwards into Spain, straining at the windows for a glimpse of the Mediterranean. We are in Spain, the energy here slows to a hum and it feels happy, joyful.
I have a niggle before we reach our campsite, about being broken into. It seems paranoid to me, unreal like I’m making it up, but I have learned to trust my instincts in the past and we agree that we will see if we can upgrade our unsecured tent to a trailer with a locking door. This is no problem, though our hosts lay a bit of a guilt trip about us not staying in their wonderful tents, and pass us over to the campsite reception where we get our key. In hindsight, this foresight was fortuitous as we ended up needing this secure space several days later.
Spain doesn’t seem to cut it for Z. It is the first place she really struggles, where we see her challenged to the point where her newly learned self regulation skills have no effect. Nothing seems to be working out for her, much like my experience in France. We have to wear bracelets in this campsite, and she spends her waking hours tugging and pulling and complaining of the feel of it on her wrist. We eat at the camp restaurant and somehow her orders end up wrong several times due to the language barrier or my mistake in ordering and she doesn’t eat. The final straw, her camera breaks, her safe window into the world she has been hiding behind all trip is gone, and she sobs for hours at it’s loss. We fill the next few days with the ocean and other interesting things to distract her from her broken camera, but all she can do when we are somewhere beautiful is lament her loss and the tantrums start again.
The only place I researched before entering Spain was the Cap De Creus park near the French border. It is where Salvador Dali painted and we decide that it is where we will head on our first full day in Spain. We drive across landscape reminiscent of New Mexico, Nevada and Southern California on our journey north to the park. Short squat trees, flowering cacti; a gorgeous aroma fills the car and we roll down the windows and take deep draughts of the scent. The winding road takes us further in to the park and shapes emerge from the rocks, I see where Salvador Dali got his inspiration. The rocks seem to melt, and I think instantly of his painting with the melted clock. I had read that we could hike and find our own private cove to spend the day in, and we do. We hike several km and climb down a waterfall in to a beautiful, almost deserted cove. The only other inhabitants are on the far side of the beach, naked, and we ignore each other. the kids and I venture into the clear crystal blue waters of the cove and Z takes joy in creating a seashell garden in a tiny cove of sand some ways out from shore. We see some poisonous jellies in the water and make sure to avoid their painful sting. T, Z and I spend quite awhile sitting on a rock and watching a large purple jelly undulate through the water. We watch how it moves and marvel at the beauty of it. When it is time to leave, we are the only ones on the beach, and we strip the kids naked to rinse off in the water. T, suddenly feeling free, runs manically laughing up the beach to roll in the sand after I have rinsed her causing the whole rinsing process to start again. We do this 5 times before we manage to wrangle T into a towel and some clothes for the hike back to the car.
The place we are camping is in a party town, this is unknown to me when we book, having just found the cheapest accommodations and gone with them, figuring they are only a base and we don’t need to stay in the site. It is offseason though, and the campground is fairly quiet, like everywhere we have been. This is the first campsite to offer Animations (children’s programming) and this occurs beside the pool, and restaurant/bar so that we can have a drink while the kids participate. We are ecstatic! The kids do mini disco which is kinda like Zumba for kids and I end up with the songs stuck in my head for weeks afterwards. We feel like we are at a resort, life is easy, food and drink are cheap, and the weather is amazing.
The town of Lloret de Mar is where we are staying, but slightly north, there is a quieter town by the name of Tossa del Mar. We head there the following day as we have heard it has a castle on the water. We enter the town and Derek ends up driving down streets so narrow, we are unsure whether we have accidentally driven into a pedestrian only area. A police officer stops us at one point and helps us navigate out of the warren of streets. I always feel like an intruder on these narrow European streets, like I’m trespassing on private property. The streets being so narrow that our mirrors almost brush the buildings beside us and we realize why the side mirrors have a button to automatically retract them. The castle we are seeking comes into view as we reach the beach. It towers above the beach, a walled city, the first we have seen. We are hungry and have not tried Tapa’s yet, so we stop at a beachside cafe and have lunch. The food is alright, but I think we need to find somewhere less touristy in order to get the good stuff. The castle is interesting, but not fabulous. It’s best feature is the views of the Mediterranean from it’s heights. That evening, back in Lloret, we walk to the beach and the kids and I (having forgot our suits) strip to our underwear and jump into the water. T lays on her back and lets the waves rock her peacefully as the sun sets.
The following day could have left us in despair, it could of made us turn our feelings against Spain, but instead we saw un underside, we saw a kindness and helpfulness that made us love Spain more than we already did. We had entered into a love affair that was becoming deeper and deeper the longer we stayed; and I wished that we could reroute our trip out of France and through Spain, but having already booked, this wasn’t possible. During the drive up to Cap De Creus, we had taken the winding coast highway and I had spotted a hike down a gorge to a beach. This hike had been on my mind, and I ignored a niggling in my gut as we left that morning to head there. We park, and Derek notices broken window glass on the ground. He comments, and we both ignore the niggling in our gut that is getting stronger as a local drives up in her car and gets out to walk her dog. I comment that if a local feels fine parking here, we should be fine. It is midday, on a well travelled road. We head down through the sweet smelling canopy to a rocky beach and the kids and I have a swim while Derek reads on the rocks. We have lunch and walk back up the trail. The niggling hasn’t left me, but I keep shoving it down, telling myself I’m paranoid. Nope. I’m not paranoid. I should have listened to my gut. (Or maybe not, as it got us 3 more days in Spain). We arrive at the car and I start to say that it looks fine… then I see the rear hatch. Half of the handle lock mechanism is broken off and laying on the ground. That’s ok, I think not too much damage… Then T says “Um mom”. We walk around to her side and glass litters the ground, her carseat, the floor. The inside of the car looks like it has been hit by a mini tornado as the glove box has been opened a rifled through. We take stock, nothing is missing, not even a Euro in change left in the center console. We feel some relief, sigh, clean the glass off T’s seat and drive to the police station in Tossa Del Mar. We enter the sleepy station and have to wait 15 mins for an officer who can speak enough english to communicate with us. It is shift change and the officers move in and out with a friendly “Hola!” to us as they pass. The officer who eventually helps us is funny, has enough english that we can communicate somewhat (though some pantomiming is needed), and is great with the kids. After about 45 mins, when T is really restless and starting to act up, the officer crooks a finger at her and leads her to the cells wagging his fingers at T. T settles down. The officer lets the kids stamp the 5 copies of the report, and staple them together. He produces candy and the kids practice their Spanish manners. We leave with our police report and call Renault. We are directed to a nearby dealer and after spending an hour waiting, find out a window isn’t available until Monday… It is Thursday. We manage to work out extending our stay, and feel relieved about upgrading to a trailer, as our car is now completely unsecured. It was a positive crappy experience, everyone was wonderfully helpful and we look at the bright side, staying 3 extra days in Spain!
The following day, no one felt like doing anything, so we didn’t. We had a lazy Spanish day. The next day; However, we were raring to do something. Screw having a broken window! We had removed absolutely everything from the car, so figured we might as well enjoy ourselves. We browsed through some local pamphlets on cultural and historical sites and decided to visit the prehistoric caves inland near Banyoles. The caves themselves weren’t much, but the animations afterwards were awesome. One of the interpreters showed the kids how to make powder from rocks then mix it with water to create paint. They had a fake cave set up where the kids could then make cave paintings on the walls with brushes made from feathers or animal hide. We all got in on the painting. She then asked if we wanted to try archery. Z thought it was the best thing ever, and has asked about repeating the archery experience almost daily since. We left the cave park and drove into Banyoles looking for food. It was siesta time and the streets were eerily silent, it was like the world had ended and we were the only ones left. Eventually, we found an open cafe and sat down to some wonderful local treats. I have a flat bread with tuna, sundried tomatoes and veggies that tastes divine. The kids and Derek have something sugary. On our return journey we stop at Sant Julia. It is a site of Roman and Iberian ruins (dating 1st – 5th centuries BC). We have the entire place to ourselves and wander in silence through the old stones.
Girona, wonderful warren of narrow maze like streets. We wander through the Jewish Quarter and through the Jewish museum. Everything is free as it is Sunday. We wander into a cathedral who’s plain exterior hides the glory within. We are not allowed to take pictures, and I am angry to see others doing so, disregarding the signs. Gothic interior, stained glass, muted dark, cool. A picture made of flowers, corn, salt and dirt is on the floor. We leave the cathedral and find similar pictures being created in the square. Around a corner, outside the basilica and there are many pictures in different stages of creation. A man sprays them down with a hose, and I catch the spray, cooling off from the 32 degree heat. We find a moslem bath around another corner and climb out of it to the sounds of a choir practicing in a courtyard below. We wander further and find the city walls and a Roman ruin to explore. We walk around the old city on top of the walls, savouring the view below. It is magical. The city hums with a music just below the surface. The church bells ring in unison and the sound washes over us in waves. It is a magical city. Spain is a magical place. History whispers to us from the walls and we descend back into the maze of the Jewish Quarter. We find a small shop selling empanadas in the window and we buy six and eat them as we meander through the narrow streets. As we drive from the city later through narrow streets and lanes, it again occurs to me that I always feel like an imposter driving through them… Like I am intruding on something private.
The day we leave, we check out and are handed a bottle of wine. We have exchanged e-mails with a lovely young man, Ruben, who worked at the restaurant, who we have befriended. We ask him to come stay with us if he ever comes to Canada. The campsite was wonderful, and we would defiantly return on the offseason if we return to Spain again. Everyone in Spain, that we have encountered is friendly, helpful. We head to the dealer and the window is quickly repaired. They decided not to do the trunk until we return the car, so Derek has jerry rigged a way to open it.
Driving out of Spain over the Pyrenees to France. The rain cascaded from the sky, drops bigger than I have ever seen flooded the streets. Rivulets turned into rivers as we drove and I am reminded of Mom and Dad’s story of almost dying in a rainstorm in the Pyrenees. i don’t think I fully appreciated at the time, what rain really looks like through these mountains. It is as if Spain is crying at our leaving.