A Hazy Shade of Summer

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, denizens of this fine planet.

Another blog post follows that is anything but organized and is basically a collection of thoughts jotted down at different recent times that are all somewhat apropos to the last two weeks. The trip is finally coming to a close…

Written on Thursday, August 3:

Okay, so in my state, I maybe should not be writing. But I’ve been saying that at just about every juncture for the past couple weeks and the result is I do not have anything written to speak of to document the last, incredible two weeks and change. I left off when we had first arrived in Barcelona. We spent a swirling blur of a seven days in Barcelona, moved down to Valencia for a weekend, flew to Paris and spent a week there, and finally took a train to Brugge, where we’ve spent the last three nights. Let me take you back. I will endeavor to remember, to put myself back in the moments I was either too tired, too drunk, or just too spent from all the excitement and stimuli to document. The Flemish countryside is streaming by the window like so many pastoral landscape paintings blending together into a cinematic experience of horses, greenery, and fluffy grey clouds, but allow me to conjure up my memories of that first, sun-baked Barcelona day…

July 15

We amble bright-eyed through the massive Barcelona train station. We have come from Nimes and the new environs are a bit jarring. The linguistic shift is exciting. Hearing Catalan, Spanish, French, English, Chinese, and probably a handful more languages during the course of a five minute walk across the massive main floor is exhilarating. We consider a taxi, but want to give the metro a shot. It’s a hot, sweaty affair, especially jammed into the car with our big travel packs on. We ride a few stops before exiting and emerging like moles from their tunnel in the heart of town, in an area we later learn is called Gracia. A man plays us an accordion tune before asking us for money and then telling us he’s off to take a nap or go to the beach—I wonder what he ended up going with—as we sit on a bench in the sun on an island in the middle of a road just kind of resting and thinking about what to do next. We don’t much feel like getting on a bus. We find a cafe and summon a taxi to pick us up there. The change of heart was pretty quick.

We arrive at our apartment up in the hills north of the heart of the city and our genial host greets us in Japanese. She had written a few words in messages to us in Japanese, but her fluency takes us by surprise. It is quite a privilege to get to speak Japanese again and makes us feel at home right away. We take in the view of the whole city from the window. We see the Sagrada Familia, we see the ocean, we see all the Mediterranean rooftops. It’s like we are in a castle on a hill. We take some of the jamon and Moritz beer our host has prepared for us, grateful to be in our home for the week. I settle in and think of the pleasures to come. We relax in the air-conditioned room for a while, before heading out to walk in Parc Guell and then down into the core of town.

IMG_8190

IMG_8197

We see the city from the top of Parc Guell and then we see what seems like a lot of the city on our walk all the way down to the Gothic Quarter. We get a feel for why people love this city seeing all the magnificently preserved old buildings down there. We get a certain magic feeling from the Cathedral de Barcelona. I go up close to it and inspect the intricacies of the ornate facade.

We head home by subway, getting in quite a good sweat on our way up the steps from our nearest metro stop, Alfons X. Our castle on the hill will be a beautiful base from which to explore Barcelona, but also a test of our physical endurance.

Written Wednesday, August 9:

It’s already here: it’s our last day in the Netherlands, which means also our last day in Europe for this time. Since that first day back in Barcelona, so much has happened, and I’ve barely stopped to chronicle it all, which, I know, is a mistake. Yes, I do feel as though so much has been filling up our lives in Barcelona, Valencia, Paris, Brugge, and now here in Weesp, just outside of Amsterdam. I regret not filling these pages with more of what was happening as it was unfolding, but I don’t regret living each of those days until I was 100% ready to just hit the mattress hard and sleep until daylight when I would get up and do it again, each day excited to greet the new sights and smell the new smells.

In Barcelona, the smells were of the sea, of thick-layered sun screen, of sweet, heavy, summer air at night, and a bit of sweat. In Paris, urine, freshly bloomed flowers, the weight of time and its effect on all the artists who haunt her streets. In Valencia, it was just grass and trees and saltwater. Brugge had the horse dung and the canal water and the swans, which do I think have a smell. Time to go outside here in Weesp and make note of how everything smells, looks, tastes, etc. I really don’t want to forget. That’s my worst fear about leaving Europe after staying since the end of June. I’m scared to forget the feeling of walking down the street, the smell of the waffles, the feel of the morning air on my skin, or anything like that. Of course, I get to go back to Japan and experience the senses engaged there, but I want to retain each town we have passed through and where we have stayed a night in Europe. From the sleepy seaside town of Fiumicino, Italy, where we went upon first arriving on the continent, to Saint-Raphael, where we built memories that we never thought we would, to the heart of France in Provence, to Nimes, where we saw the 14th of July celebrations, to gleaming and magnificent Barcelona, to the new wave-y Valencia with its city of arts and sciences, to Paris in all its mystique and glory, to Brugge with its otherworldly charm that slowed us down a bit, to the Netherlands, with its undeniable warmth in spite of its cold and gray exterior. So in that interest, let’s go see what Weesp inspires in the senses… I’ll be back in a little while (7:57).

(8:43)
Well, the answer will be rather verbose, I’m afraid.

On my walk around Wesp this morning, all of my senses were engaged, as they have been all the previous mornings I have gotten up and had a walk around the town. Today, I encountered a lovely cat, a collarless ruffian, whose name I did not learn, who sat at the top of a small set of stairs that lead down to a small promenade that runs along the canal and has about twelve nicely spaced benches for Weesp citizens to sit down and take in the beauty of their town. The cat was standing watch over this area, as if to keep it sacred and safe for the residents. He immediately approved my entry, sensing my affinity for his species and goodwill towards Weesp. We then struck up a friendship. He allowed me to pet him and he arched his back and moved into my hand just as though he were my own pet. From the window of the house behind the steps, another cat, black and white just as my friend, looked on, judging.

IMG_8536

The sun was just starting to break through and the canal air was cool and pungent and conferred a sense of peace and well-being on me. I stroked my feline friend’s ample body and he responded with visible glee. I walked on to go stroll along the canal and the cat just looked on from his post. I summoned him to come join me at the canal for a stroll, and at first it looked like he would take me up on the offer. He walked down his steps to the promenade but then instead of turning to walk towards me, he just sauntered down the river bank, which was paved with ancient bricks out of which grew random weeds and grasses. When the cat found some grass that was to his liking, he perched there on the sloped ground beside the water and began to feast. He greedily chewed away at the mouthfuls of grass and looked up at me for my approval. I bowed my head to him slightly and he continued to eat, like a fiend. Just as suddenly, he got tired of eating and traveled back up the bank and up the stairs to his post, his chest puffed out and his eyes gleaming in the muted sunlight. I made up my mind to go back and stroke him again, if he was still there when I came back from my walk.

I walked farther down the canal along the little benches and then turned around and started to walk back. I sat down on one of the benches and just watched the ripples in the canal that formed when the wind came over the water. The people on the boats sitting on the canal were starting to wake up and I could see them moving around in their galleys and sipping on coffee on their decks. I wondered about the cat and whether he was still stationed at his post or whether he had had to go sort out an altercation with the other judging cat that had been looking on from the window. Either way, I hoped he would be there when I got back.

When I finished sitting there on my bench, I started ambling back down along the promenade, back toward the bridge that opens that I have to cross to get to the apartment we’re renting. (It’s easy to find because it’s right next to this big clocktower in Weesp, which is a nice feature.) The sun is doing slow work on the mass of white, thick, cotton candy clouds barring its proper entry into the morning. The cat is on my mind. I keep ambling on back and I approach the staircase. I don’t see the cat and my heart sinks. Suddenly from behind a ledge, I see the white of the cat’s snout poke out and then his whole glorious body emerges and he comes right up to me and rubs his ribcage against my legs. I’m overjoyed. He asks me to share the morning with him and so I spend a nice little portion of it with him, sitting there idly stroking him while we both look out on the canal. I noticed that the other black and white (judging) cat, is gone.

IMG_8541

I move on, content. The cat remains at his post. I look back and he looks up at me with gratitude. I, too, am grateful for the small moment we shared here on this, our last day in Weesp, and our last day in Europe. I hope I will see the cat again, but even if I don’t, I will always remember him, which is what counts, maybe.

After leaving the cat, I kept just ambling around Weesp, taking it all in, feeling the cool air, touching the smooth benches, seeing the charming boats in the canals, breathing the cool air, sitting on the smooth benches, looking around at the people and the ducks, and watching the ripples form on the water some more. I looked at all the quaint little houses, and the mills a little ways away. I thought to myself, I am happy to be in Weesp.

I’ve been doing some journaling lately. I want to transpose a bit of it here:

August 4 13:09

The clouds were wisps of white cotton candy
Floating over the infinite tracks
The train whistles were the subtle tweets
Of birds in the rafters
The breeze was the conductor’s caress–
The day was beginning.

I wrote that on the train after waiting at Weesp station for a while before boarding a train to go into Amsterdam. It was a really pretty morning. It was probably more like around noon actually, but it was our morning. Here’s one from last night:

August 8 22:00?
Back in Weesp. I’m not sure if it is 22:00, but the bells just rang next door for a while, so we are going with that. We just ate some bomb-ass sandwiches we made at home. We each had two! 
Turkey, swiss, roast beef, swiss, lettuce, mayonnaise. Dank. 
We[‘re] about to go out into the Weesp night for a minute, you feel me?
We’ve yet to really enjoy the town night vibe. Not too late.
[Shino] is hesitating. She’s getting tired. Better roll out. 

The bells just rang a nice little song for me as I was transposing that last part. That’s a great part about living in Weesp. You get to have songs of the bells showered down on you all the time.

Looking back on this trip is emotional. I have a hard time accepting that it is coming to a close and it is tying up my insides a little bit. I already feel what I know I will feel when I miss this trip in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. I’m not sure when or if I’ll get to come on another trip of the kind we’ve just been on. Though I suppose there isn’t any special reason why not. We had the time of our lives! Why wouldn’t we try to improve on that?

IMG_7723

Leaving the Vatican, June 

IMG_8472

Standing on a bridge in Amsterdam, August

Well, I guess every good thing must come to an end, but I really wish this good thing didn’t have to. I have loved every minute of this trip, even the challenging minutes. It has all been life at its fullest. But Japan awaits. For that matter, the rest of the time here in the Netherlands awaits. Shino is still sleeping away. The 10:00 am bells are about to ring next door. Maybe they’ll wake her.
IMG_8542

While this is the last day of this trip and the last time I will likely write on this blog during this trip, I look forward to editing and piecing together more content from the photos, videos, and journals of this trip that I have. I plan to compose plenty more posts inspired by the magic that this trip has showed Shino and me. I also plan to approach my life back home with at least a small portion of the wonder with which I have approached every day waking up here in Europe, from Fiumicino to Weesp. My heart aches a bit, but my spirit is flying high up in the sky.

We still have over twenty four hours; it’s time to go out and make merry in the Netherlands.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s