Olot

Friday, June 1, 2018

I hate to say it, but the stress of our missing luggage still hangs over our heads this morning. In the big picture, Linda and I are already covered for the wedding formalwear, and we’ve got some passable albeit extremely stinky clothes to cover for the other times, so the situation could be much worse. Still, we can’t help but think about all the items gone, all our toiletries, our medicines, our shoes and hats, jackets, raincoats, small items we’ve purchased, etc.  If we aren’t reunited prior to leaving Barcelona today, we might not see them for days, perhaps not until we reach Arizona next week. If at all.

I lament to Linda, it is our mistake. We trusted the airlines. 🙂

After a few nibbles in the room, Linda and I take off on a shopping trip, mostly on a mission to score underwear. We hike to Intimisimi, a little Italian shop on Carrer Gran de Gràcia, and both purchase a clean set. Nearby, I find a fragrance shop that has my Armani – imminently useful for dousing my ripe shirts. Despite the joys of Barcelona streets, and quite uncharacteristically, Linda and I pick on each other as we go. But we quickly realize this luggage thing is just getting the best of us. Stupid f*cking airlines!

We return, wanly hoping our luggage has arrived.    Nope.   Not 3 minutes after reaching our room, the phone rings. The clerk downstairs: “I have a surprise for you.”

Three bags are waiting for us by the entrance. We learn that the courier had actually come by last night to deliver, but had not bothered to press our room buzzer (when we were right there waiting for him). When asked why by the clerk, the courier stated that he didn’t have the time.  But apparently he had time the next day to make another separate trip. Oh well, you cannot second guess airlines operations. Seems they do whatever they want with impunity.

Unbelievable – the bags have arrived!!
Sorting it all out

Yay – and in the nick of time! A load is lifted, and Linda and I do a rapid shuffling of contents. All bags plus Linda and Janet then go by taxi to Janel’s place on Progrés, while John and I walk due to the lack of space. Another walk with Janel to the Avis office on Còrsega. We’re almost thrown for a loop when they ask for my passport, which I’ve left in luggage. But Linda has hers, becomes the official renter, and then adds me as an additional driver. Fortunately, all they need is my license.

We take off in our tiny Spanish-made Seat Leon, directly onto dense Barcelona streets. Janel is my expert navigator. After a near-month of UK driving on the wrong side, I’m immediately challenged now back on the ‘right’ side, weaving a little bit side to side trying to remember where all the metal is.

Back at her apartment, we soon realize the vehicle is going to be mighty small with 5 passengers, all our wedding luggage, plus lots of items prepared for the wedding. We stuff the trunk, rear window, footwells, and passenger laps for the 2 hour trip. By us dallying longer than planned, Janel is forced to call to cancel our lunch reservation in Olot.

Janel is truly an expert navigator, providing me detailed advance driving cues that better any software available. I have one close call with a scurrying pedestrian (my fault) but otherwise we enjoy a smooth exit out of central Barcelona.

Barcelona to Olot

The land opens up north of Barcelona and the hills turn into green mountains. We roll past Granollers, homestead of Isam. We stop briefly at a gas station for bag snacks to stave off the hangries. Rains come and go as we reach our destination: Olot, in the heart of Catalonia and fairly close to Spain’s border with France.

After a couple of spins to find the parking garage, we’re soon inside a restaurant for lunch, just missing a deluge of rain. Turns out this is the very place Janel had to cancel reservations, and here we are at at a table anyway! Great when a plan works out. An assortment of olives and seafood and white wine are shared by all.

Our car “Near Everything”
Lunch in Olot

Next stop Espai Barberi. This will be the venue for the ceremony tomorrow, and Janel wants to check progress. When we arrive, a wedding production company is in full gear setting up A/V equipment, chairs, etc. We are floored – the place looks stunning and Janel is delighted.  A few sneak peek photos – but we shall wait until tomorrow.

At Espai Barberi
Sneak peek – Espai Barberi
Sneak peek – Espai Barberi

Second stop Les Cols Pavellons. This will be the venue for dinner and party. The wedding items are delivered, the tab is paid, and we then take a tour of the party site and kitchen. These guys are true pros accustomed to wedding parties – the big commercial kitchens mean business. We can immediately tell it’s going to be great. The party grounds themselves are cleverly walled and ceiling-ed with long draping pipes that support thick transparent sheeting. Trees grow throughout with their leafy canopies spreading above the sheeting. The effect is enclosure from the elements while still being outdoors. Rains are continuing today so we know the place will be perfect rain or shine.

Arriving at Les Cols
Les Cols
Les Cols
Tour of Les Cols kitchens
A son’s respect
Inside Les Cols
Les Cols party floor
Les Cols party floor
All those poles are actually tree trunks
Which one for dinner?
The tally

Final stop Mas Les Comelles. It is a 20 minute drive way out in the country near Joanetes, a drive that finishes in narrow farm lanes. We are grinning as we approach – it is a beautiful expansive structure perched on the side of a mountain. How Linda finds such fabulous places is a true mystery.

A gentle man speaking only Catalan greets and leads us on a brief tour and eventually to our fantastic rooms. It is hard to describe this place – it’s no ordinary room and board. Each space is part of a centuries old farmhouse with wondrous windowed balconies to the valley and surrounding mountains. The bathroom partition in our room is simply a wall of glass. No TV, telephone, or wifi – that’s not the idea at all here. It’s all about rest, great food, and great views.

Touring the grounds of Les Comelles
Our room at Les Comelles
Les Comelles
Janel’s tub at Les Comelles
View from John’s room
View from our room
Zoning out upstairs
Les Comelles kitchen
Touring the grounds

We refresh for tonight’s major event – a family dinner with relatives of Isam. On a beautiful outdoor terrace we meet Maria and Alex, Isam’s aunt and uncle up from Alicante. Then Isam’s mother Asun and her sister Mary Paz, both from Granollers. Isam’s father César soon joins us as well, also from Alicante. The company is delightful. Mary Paz speaks the most English and is soon exercising it in glee, since she has been studying. We do our best fully exercising our Spanish, and it is a fun exchange. Asun throws Catalan into the mix. Janel and Isam stay busy as translators.

Waiting to meet our new in-laws
Outside terrace
J-Selfie
Group selfie
Outside terrace
Isam and Asun
From left: César, Isam, Asun, Maria, Alex, John, Janet, Janel, Rich
From left: Mary Paz, Isam, Maria, Alex, Rich

Dinner is served. Les Commelles specializes in using only the best local produce that includes exquisite potatoes and beans. I know those both sound ordinary – until you taste them! Each course is brought out as portioned plates that are shared among all. The conversation is light-hearted and lively and Isam works hard as a frequent translator. A few toasts are made to the extraordinary significance of this meeting, but we also learn that is more of an American custom, not a typical Spanish practice.

It is noteworthy to mention Angela (her real name is something close to this, but this one seems to fit better), an owner of Les Comelles. As she serves each plate, her expressions of love are simply amazing. She places the plate just so, micro-adjusts its setting, carefully re-arranges a glass, etc. If she is over your shoulder and you say ‘gracias’ or ‘merci,’ you get a warm loving hand on your shoulder and quiet comforting words in Catalan.

Janel shares an intimate story of her and my 2012 trip to Slovenia. At a farmhouse in Maribor, we gloriously dined outside in the middle of a rolling vineyard, ending the meal under the stars. Janel remembered that I suggested that it would take a very special man to be her mate. That man is Isam.

Family dinner – César, Asun, Isam, John
Sharing stories at the family dinner – César, Asun, Isam, Janel, John

The evening adjourns to an adjacent parlor with a crackling fireplace. The medieval setting evokes Asun to describe the Catalan mythology of water women, who symbolize fertility and the life-giving virtues of water. We wonder if this might mean grandchildren are in our future.

It’s been an incredibly full day, reuniting with luggage, driving Catalunya, exploring new and fantastic spaces, meeting very special people, reaching the limits of our Spanish, eating amazing cultural cuisine.

For Linda and me, it’s been a long and winding road through Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland and Spain, all leading up to tomorrow.

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