Tag Archives: Andorra

melting pot

We made to Andorra tonight. We came up through La Seu d’Urgell, winding our way through the little mountain villages that came upon us at every corner. I love the way that the names changed. The signs were still in Catalan, but becoming seemingly more French with every kilometre we drove north. Even the architecture changed subtly. As we approached the border we noticed that the roofs were no longer flat terraces, instead they were shingled, rounding out into the quaint style of French chalets. The arid blank walls of the Spanish homes looked out of place, too hot somehow, for these snowy peaks. Although we were still in Spain, the Pyrenees Mountains are a mix of both countries, with place names separated from their mother tongue by less than a hundred kilometres.

It is like a tiny reminder, that little change, a little nudge from the earth telling us that borders are not all that matter. The landscape doesn’t change, and the people are the same, from one kilometre to the next. Languages mingle and become new dialects, and shared communities are formed. I like the way it reminds us that wherever we put a border, we can’t change the earth. We can’t change the soil, or the sea. We have to bend to it, to adapt. And that’s what we will do, again and again, changing our roofs and our language, adapting.

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spanish sun special

After a week of ‘Spanish Sun Special’ up the eastern coast of Spain, we are almost ready to sleep in a bed again. We have been travelling from Malaga to Barcelona in a Wicked van, and have seemed to time it spectacularly badly. The Mediterranean was whipped into a frenzy this week. The usually placid, lapping waves roared, crashing onto the calm sand of the shores as though hungry for it. We drove for days with the rain, watching blue Autovía signs shimmer through the wet windscreen, the rain flecking incessantly at the dirty glass while we tried to navigate, frantically avoiding the toll roads. We fell asleep listening to the soft patter of the first drops onto the thin metal roof, feeling vulnerable and exposed underneath that tiny sheet of aluminium, under the vast expanse of thunderous sky.

We stopped in widely different places. The second night was a shaded corner at the back of a gas station, where we started in our sleep and I woke up each time a shadow fell across the curtain, certain that someone was trying to peer inside at our sleeping bodies. Another was in a glade of trees beside a beautiful river, moving lazily along, steadily towing gallons of water, fish and insects with it under that still slow surface.

I wrote in some beautiful places. On Saturday I sat on an abandoned balcony looking out at an empty beach shore, the entire stretch closed for the winter now that the sun and the tourists have gone. We washed our dishes at another beach on Friday, using sand to scrub the oil off the frying pans, and leaping like kittens each time the white water lapped too close. The palm trees were sideways and our feet were freezing as we ran back to the tiny shelter of the van, shivering and laughing at it all.

The first day we parked beside a city beach, beside a small roundabout and some stone steps down to the sand. It rained all night, the noise punctuating through to my dreams. When we woke it was still raining, and we opened the curtains to the day, the light an overcast sepia, water streaming down the windows.

It was a minute before we realized that the roundabout was full of water, and that the torrent was inching up the tyres of the car across from us. We started the van and drove, suddenly urgent in our delayed realization. The roads up to the Autovía were like rivers, white rapids bubbling and tripping over themselves as the water rushed down to the sea. We sent up wide arch’s of water with our tyres, hoping that we would make it to the top. We did, and some twenty minutes later we heard the sirens go off, slow and rising, signaling that there was a flood. We checked the map quickly and drove, without looking back.

These last few days we have begun to head inland, away from the coast with its commercial beaches and huge apartment blocks. The mountains are approaching, and with the travelling curiousity that mountains always seem to inspire in us, we have decided to make a slight detour to Andorra, before heading back through the orange groves to Barcelona. The rain has stopped now, I think we might have finally outrun it. The sun is back too, but watery, reminding us that winter is coming. I am still inspired and smiling, the changing landscapes constantly sparking new ideas.

All in all it was a good first week of NaNoWriMo.