Here’s the most important thing I’ve learned during our ten weeks of travel through Europe: travelling for extended periods of time requires a lot of attention. I’m not just talking about making sure that I have my wallet and passport with me wherever I go, though that, of course, is very important. It’s much more about paying attention to feelings as they arise, and then making sure that they get felt rather than pushing them away until I’ve finished exploring whatever amazing place I happen to be visiting that day. So-called ‘negative’ feelings, especially fear, arise, sometimes because they’ve been triggered by a thought or by something someone has said or done, but often for no apparent reason. Usually the first indication I get that something is up emotionally is physical discomfort somewhere in my body. In the past I would assume that there was something wrong physically. What I have learned to put into practice is to assume that the physical symptoms are more likely than not the result of unfelt feelings. I have also learned that I then need to feel those feelings as deeply as I can until they dissipate: the only way to be free of the feelings is to feel them.
When the feelings don’t get felt they get lodged in my body and cause physical distress of one sort or another – vague stomach upset, headache, chest pain – you name it I’ve had it. There’s also an equally, or even more important component – the emotional malaise that arises when feelings have not been felt or expressed – a general irritability with the world for no good reason. The mind just begins to make up stories of dissatisfaction to go along with or explain the grumpiness. Then life stops being joyful and fun. It also becomes more difficult to make decisions when the mind is filled with fear thoughts and negative emotions. So the clearest message that has come to me on this trip is this: feel the feelings as soon as they arise because when I don’t they soon begin to bite me in the ass!
Travelling for extended periods of time also requires the letting go of specific plans. What I’m talking of here is about not being attached to a schedule of activities. For example, during our stay in Positano on the Amalfi Coast we had planned to go to Pompeii one particular day, but the bus service to the town of Meta, where we would have caught the train to Pompeii, had been cancelled due to a rock slide partially blocking the road, so we let go of that plan and went hiking up to Montepertuso instead. We had a great hike up there, got wonderful views of Positano from up high, looked through the enormous hole in the rock, hiked back down at a slower pace to reduce wear and tear on my knees, ate gelatos at the beach, and bought what turned out to be excellent salads for our supper. We may never get to see Pompeii, but so what, no point in feeling upset about it: we had a good day anyway.
From Alison: Barcelona
We caught an overnight train to Barcelona, which was luxurious, with a lovely dinner in the dining car. Our tiny room had two seats that converted into beds, that were surprisingly a quite reasonable size. The bathroom was tiny too of course, but had all we needed. And the place to keep our cases overnight was in the shower!
Liz, a long-time family friend, met us at the station in Barcelona. I’ve known her since I was about 12 years old, but it had been many years since we’d seen each other. She put us up for nearly a week and was a wonderful host and tour guide for our time there. Thanks Liz!
The top of our “must see” list was, of course, the buildings designed by the architect Antoni Gaudi. He was a genius. A visionary. Way ahead of his time. Or perhaps it’s that he’s completely unique, and timeless. His greatest vision was the Basilica of La Sagrada Familia. But I’ll get to Gaudi later.
Sometimes with Liz as our tour guide, and sometimes on our own, and over several days, we roamed all over Barcelona. We went to the National Museum of the art of Cataluña. We had an authentic Basque lunch, that in true Spanish style lasted a few hours, followed by a long walk around the Gothic Quarter where the streets are named for the original trades that were practiced there. We watched a fabulous magical water/light/music performance. We went to the Picasso museum. We had the most heart-stopping delicious breakfast of fresh squeezed orange juice followed by churros, a deep-fried sugar coated pastry, with hot liquid chocolate for dipping and/or drinking. And of course, we visited the Gaudi buildings.
In the Museum of the art of Cataluña (MNAC) all three of us were entranced by the Romanesque art from the churches of Cataluña, and I stayed on a bit longer to have a look at the Gothic section, which I also loved. It’s a lot to take in. I think we only saw a small portion of the collection, but it was enough. It is all beautifully displayed so you can get a really good feel of how it would have been in its original setting.
From the Romanesque churches of the Pyrenees, 11th-13th centuries.
A few of my favorites – some because they are amusing, and all for the sheer elegance of design.
From the Gothic period – end of 13th – 15th centuries.
In front on the museum is a huge fountain and we stayed on into the evening for the magic light/water/music performance that lasted about a half hour. Magical indeed. On our own we wouldn’t have even known about it!
The Gothic Quarter is one of the sweetest parts of the city.
Liz’s local market – an abundance of chocolate,
Some random images of Barcelona
We hadn’t really planned anything after Barcelona except we knew we wanted to go to wherever the best weather was in Europe until our return to Canada from Paris on December 6th. We had a Eurail Pass and there are direct trains from Barcelona to Madrid and Madrid to Malaga so travel would be easy. Neither place was high on our list, but, well, we’re in Spain and Madrid’s only a train ride away so we might as well go and see Madrid, and Malaga, on the Costa del Sol, will at least be warm. But we didn’t feel wildly enthused about going to either place. Liz to the rescue! She suggested Nerja, a little town a bit up the coast from Malaga. And then offered us the use of her car for a couple of weeks to drive down there! What a gift. Nerja is delightful, with 300 days a year of sun, and we got to see some of the coast as we drove down. But that’s another story, for another post.
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.