The knot in the pit of my stomach grows as each day passes and our yearlong European adventure comes closer to its natural and predetermined end. I have started to sleep less and worry more, eat less and smoke more and be in the moment less and plan more. Right now, in addition to being grateful for the chance to wile away a year Eurostylin’, I am thankful for the supply of Ativan and Gravol we brought with us from home and a wife who reminds me to stay in the “now” and stop thinking about what colour I want to paint our living room when we get back to Toronto.
We are 68 days away from Lester B Pearson International Airport and the company of friends and family. But there are still a lot of things on our to do list and many plans to be made in order to make our remaining time here as pleasurable as possible. First order of business? Honouring our 10th wedding anniversary.
In October of 1999 we piled ourselves into a rental car and drove to Las Vegas to get hitched at the Viva Las Vegas Chapel by, as it turned out, gay Elvis, who lived with the chapel’s photographer. We spent 16 days on the road with a few stops (Chicago, Phoenix, Ann Arbor, Las Vegas) and came back a married couple, not legally married but, as millions of people can attest to, the law was the least of our concern when we, before Elvis, declared our love and promised to not step on one another’s blue suede shoes and always be the other’s teddy bear.
Tomorrow we will raise a glass of cava and toast ourselves in Palma, the capital city of Mallorca, one of the Baleric Islands off the coast of Barcelona. For three days we will walk the beach, sleep in, visit the Monocle shop that opened this summer and further acquaint ourselves with good Spanish wine. When we get “home” to Barcelona we will only have eight days left in our apartment before moving to a friend’s for our last week in the city. The past two months have flown by at lightening speed and our final days will be filled with the tourist tasks we put off till the last minute — Casa Batallo (another Antoni Gaudi building), the textile museum where they have a Balenciaga permanent collection, public art by Miro near the Sants train station and the collection of Catalonian art at the Museum of National Art Catalunya.
And after exhausting Barcelona, for now, the next thing to plan is our stay in Arles sur Tech, a small town near Perpignan in the south of France in the Pyrenees with a population of only 3,000. We are fortunate enough to know someone whose family has a vacation apartment there and they have graciously offered it to us for close to nothing, a bigger help than they could know at this stage in the journey. Although the town is small and boredom has a tendency to make us turn on one another (it ain’t pretty) we are committed to visiting the biggest travel bookstore in Europe right here in Barcelona to load up on guidebooks and maps and things to keep us occupied for the time we are there. We’re hoping that enough bus rides and train trips to neighbouring towns and a visit from some of our friends in Berlin and perhaps one from Toronto will make the time just what it needs to be. What it is.
Up until about a month ago we held fast to our Toronto way of living. In a city where “I’m really busy” is often the first thing people say when you ask how they are, making social plans a month or two in advance is the only thing that can guarantee a dinner date with friends and a table at your restaurant of choice. It was nothing for us to go a month without seeing our best friends and up until two months ago we planned our travels well in advance.
Part of the goal in coming on this year of lounging and learning was figuring out how to slow down, forget what day of the week it was and sleep until noon. Sleeping until noon still makes me feel like I am wasting my day (unless I am hungover in which case it is then an absolute necessity) the relaxing part has started to come easier. Which is why how long we will stay in Arles sur Tech, where we will go after or how we will get to Paris where we will leave from and where I will spend my birthday (Dec 20 in case you were wondering) is still an unknown.
Our general plan is to gradually make our way north from the Pyrenees and arrive in Paris with a few days to kick around and visit our favourite spots, maybe see some friends and family and then drag our lazy asses back to Hogtown in time for the holidays. And despite my wife’s insistence, Jan 4, 2010 does creep into my consciousness. It’s my first day back in the office. My first day back on the job. My first day on a schedule. And my first day with a BlackBerry.
Thankfully, I think I have enough Ativan to last at least until February.