Monday, June 28, 2010

Travel Stories:: An Introduction and The Cat Lady of Barcelona

There are certain moments in time-- a day, an hour, an event-- that are filed away in my brain, and  each one can be brought to the forefront of my mind with perfect clarity.  While other memories are hazy or fuzzy, these are the ones where I can remember not only what happened at that particular moment, but what the sun felt like as it warmed my back, or the way the wind whistled around a street corner, or the tinkling of music floating out of a nearby window. Each one of my five senses can recall specific memories. And if I close my eyes, I can almost feel like I am there again. It's as if these particular moments are forever cemented in my mind.

Most often, these memories usually involve a place I have traveled to.  I absolutely love to travel.  I love to take in the sights, sounds and smells of a new place.  Have you seen the movie Dan in Real Life?  It is one of my recent  favorites.  In the movie, Juliette Binoche's character is asked to describe her perfect day.  Among other things, she mentions that her perfect day would begin in another country, a country where she doesn't speak the language.  I love being in foreign countries.  So in honor of that, I am going to do my best to describe a few of my favorite moments from my travels overseas.  Each night this week I will try to retrieve those crystal clear memories and put a few of them into words.  Enjoy.

After a busy day of sightseeing, shopping, and exploring, our feet were absolutely aching, screaming out for a respite.  The winter sun was slowly moving westward, and we could feel the January chill start to seep into our clothes.  Feeling exhausted, my friends and I stopped to discuss our next move.  We were tired and travel weary, and I think we could all feel that cranky, irritated tone slipping into the conversation.  Should we press on to our hotel and just call it a day? We are in Barcelona for crying out loud!  The sun is just now  setting, and there is still so much to do and see! I'm starving!  Where can we get some good paella? 

It was then that we noticed the park across the street.  I do not recall the name of the park, but I can see the ornate, iron fence defining it's perimeter.  I can see the trees waving the in cool breeze.  Without really saying anything, the three of us wandered over to the entrance and stepped inside.  Colors were getting less distinct as the sun kept creeping down further and further.  There was a purple haze to the sky and the trees took on shades of hunter green and black.  We found a bench and quietly sat.  It was the kind of park where you might expect fairies to flit around sprinkling their pixie dust.  It was enchanting.  The sounds of the bustling city seemed distant and muted.  I think we knew that we needed to rest and recharge.  There is something so comforting about sitting in silence with good friends.  So we sat.  And we filled our lungs with the crisp evening air. 
After half an hour or so, we saw her.  A dark, hobbling image slowly loping into the park.  She had come prepared for the cold, dressed in layers and wrapped in a shawl.  She reached a hand into the large purse she was carrying and retrieved a bag of something-- we couldn't quite make out what it was in the gathering darkness.  Then we heard her soft voice call out a few words and her tongue made a few quick clicking sounds.  From out of the bushes and from behind the tall trees, a parade of cats made their way to her as she scooped her hands into the bag and scattered what looked like small pebbles onto the ground.  It was then that we figured out what was in the bag:  cat food!  She was coming to feed the cats!  We watched her gently pet each feline that came up and rubbed against her legs.  Even though we couldn't understand her words, we knew her tone was loving and gentle.  What was her name? Where was her family?  Where did she live? How long had she made this her nightly ritual?  These were questions that we were all thinking, but didn't mention at the time.  We just watched, and kept our thoughts to ourselves.

Although most of this moment is quite clear in my mind, I don't recall exactly how long we stayed on our quiet park bench that night.  I do know that when we left it was dark.  I know that our feet were not hurting anymore; the irritated, cranky tone from our earlier conversation was gone.  And three formerly travel-weary friends left the park feeling refreshed, our spirits calm, and our souls warm to the very core.


Maria Rose said...


affectioknit said...

What a sweet sweet story!

Jacquelyn said...

Love that part of the movie and LOVED reading this story!! Great descriptive narrative. ;)

Emily said...

Thank you! I took a two week independent study in Spain back in 1998 with a group from OBU. It was a great trip! :)