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We began the three-day drive from Nerja back to Barcelona on November 30. We stayed in the same towns and same hotels as we did on the drive down, Aguilas and Gandia. Both very lovely. This time in Aguilas we climbed up to the castle on the hill, and found this on the way up:

Our arrival back in Barcelona almost didn’t happen. We nearly drove to France instead! Well not really, but we had driven quite a way north of our required exit before we realized we’d missed it. I was looking at the map very carefully. I saw the highway exit A2 and said to Don, “no don’t take that, we want AP2”, so on we drove, further and further north. The difference between A2 and AP2 is that AP2 is a new toll road and the map showed it having a direct connection to the road we wanted for re-entering the Barcelona suburbs. According to the map A2 still exists parallel to AP2. Aaaarrrghhh. Not so, we discovered. The hard way. A2 becomes AP2. Eventually, (we’re in rush hour traffic during all this) I spot a sign indicating a U-turn opportunity on the freeway, so we turn around and phone Liz who puts us onto her son who guides us in. Don said it felt like he was one of those WWII bomber pilots being guided in for landing. And what do you know. When you’re approaching Barcelona from the other direction there’s signs all over the place indicating the exit to AP2. We got in late afternoon, dropped our bags and, with Liz, headed into the city to see the Christmas lights – simply stunning. They know Christmas lights in Barcelona! – and to find a nice place for dinner. Divine crepes! Barcelona Christmas lights! And yes I did stand in the middle of the street to get some of these shots.

Through the bus window

The next day was a crazy whirlwind. We had only one day, and a list! We wanted to ride the Teleferico, a kind of cable car with glass-sided cabins, that takes you for a ride from Montjuic out over the harbor, and we wanted to go to Parc Guell, where there’s more of Gaudi’s creative extravagance, and, if time, we wanted to go to the Miro Museum. Well we did all that and rode the funicular up Montjuic, rode the aerial gondola around Montjuic, walked down to the Miro for a tea break and a quick stroll through the museum. Then we rode the Teleferico down to Barcelona’s harbour and port, walked around the old quarter there where the fishermen lived, walked along by the port and beach quite a way, went back to the old quarter for a fabulous lunch, then got the bus to Parc Guell, then home for the evening to collapse, and pack for leaving the next day. Phew! A fabulous day!

View from the gondola

On Montjuic

Views from the Teleferico

Port old quarter

Along the waterfront

Parc Guell

The next day we travelled by train to Paris arriving late in a downpour. We’d thought of walking to our hotel, but the weather made that decision for us and we got a cab. Thank God, because even having studied the map we never would have found it. We had just the one day in Paris, and the rain had stopped, but we weren’t inspired to do any sightseeing since we’d spent three weeks there fairly recently. So first we oriented ourselves re our hotel and the nearest Metro, and then we walked. Don wanted to find Shakespeare & Co, the oldest English language bookstore in Paris, so we walked there  and found much to see along the way.

That evening we went out for dinner with some long time family friends. We hadn’t seen each other for several years so it was great to catch up.

The next day we flew back to Vancouver.

We didn’t want to leave Nerja, it was so perfect. But not only that, I stopped sleeping the last two nights in Barcelona and the two nights in Paris. I finally figured out what it was about. I knew the return to Vancouver would be busy, and with no place to settle: one night in the guest suite in Magnolia Gate where we used to live, then eight nights house-sitting for a friend, then six nights back in the guest suite, then two nights at my sister’s place in Montreal, then seven nights in a cottage in St Adele, then four nights in a hotel in Montreal, then two nights in the guest suite, then four nights down on Whidbey Island with a bunch of friends for our semi annual Long Dance, and then three or four nights back at the guest suite. Then fly to India. It’s crazy.

And in the middle of all that moving we have to sort out visas and flights for India and Bali, a hotel in Montreal, our income taxes so we can get them done without actually being in Canada next April, doctors, dentists and haircut appointments, months of mail to read, shop for the India trip, and pack and repack for each of those separate trips – 20 below for Montreal, and 30 above for India and Bali. What I finally realized was that I believed there’s no place to rest, and it was eating me up, especially because I was not in touch with the feelings, so it was showing up as not sleeping well.

Every time we’ve gone away on extended trips there was home to come home to. We could just stop. Put everything away in its rightful place. Get all the laundry done. Have everything neat and organized again. And just stop. This time there’s no stopping. At least not externally. This time there’s no home to come home to. No place to just be. No place to take a breath. No home. When I finally realized what it was all about the tears and fears came to the surface. I let the storm roll in and roll by. Stopping can no longer be about what’s happening externally. It has to be internal. I have to trust. Trust the moment. Trust that all that needs to be done will be done. Trust presence. Let go into each moment. And be stopped. In each moment. I have no idea if I can do this or not, but I know there is no longer any external place for me to do it, or to help me do it, so I have to find some other way. I have to embrace the feeling of being at home wherever I am, even if it is only for a day. I have to find that feeling of being at home in myself, in spite of the busyness and constant moving. And whatever I feel, it’s not personal, and things only become problematic when I think it is.

All of our time in Europe feels like a miracle. We chose what we wanted, it arose, magnificently, and then it fell away and was done. Miraculous. What a huge gift this life is.

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.