Barcelona, Continued. My friend already up and working from her beautiful home office by the glass terrace doors, I chat with her for a bit before stepping outside for some early morning yoga under the wavy wisteria framing the terrace. Blue skies above. S joins me for some sun salutations – my friend brings out steaming cups of coffee – her husband joins us with plates of eggs, salmon and avocado for everyone. We drink and eat while chatting about the lovely city around us, and shortly after, S and I are off to experience it on our own. Starting with a second cup of coffee at Cometa, a neat little hipster place with outdoor service, we wander through the winding streets and plazas of the gothic quarter and vibrant El Born to get to La Sagrada Família, where we kiss each other goodbye and walk around on our own with audioguides for an hour or so, taking in the awe-inspiring forest of pillars and gazing mesmerised into their colourful canopies. Chewing on that astonishing experience as well as a couple of tuna sandwiches, we spend another hour’s time in a quiet, leafy plaza before heading over for a long, slow stroll around Park Güell, again just so impressed by Gaudi’s visionary and playful creativity. By evening, we meet our friends for vermut and tapas-hopping in trendy Gràcia, so cosy with its narrow walkways, rustic storefronts and smiling locals. Between two of the tasty stops, I purchase a beautiful green silk top in one of the many alluring fashion boutiques dotting the small village-like quarter. Hungry for more Barcelona, I’m happy to have gotten a little sample of its charm. We finish off the one-day city experience in summery style – gin and tonics on the beach. Touristy, festive, fresh.
Roadtripping. The next morning, we hug our friends goodbye, rent a car and hit the road to drive south. S is the driver – gradually learning to read the traffic and feel comfortable with being behind the wheel of a foreign car in a foreign country with a very different driving style from what he’s used to in Australia and America – and I’m the navigator/DJ. Despacito comes up a lot on the radio as we soar down through the desert-like, rocky landscape surrounding the backroads and out along the glittery sea. Singing along and chatting a little bit, we mostly just smile at each other or the picturesque scenery. Around lunch time, we stop in a small, quaint seaside village, Peñiscola, curiously strolling up the steep, cobbled streets of the beautiful white old part of town perched on a small hill above the wide beach. At the top is an old castle, a lighthouse and lots of giant cacti. Seafood and wine with a sea view. Coffee with another sea view. Fuel for the next stretch of highway, which leads us to Valencia. We take a small walk in beautiful El Carmen, whose old buildings are held in different shades of striking yellow, with lots of orange trees lining the elegant plazas. Both eager to come back to experience more of the city sometime, we have a quick dinner at a vegan place before heading further south to the Alicante airport, where my parents are waiting to pick us up as we drop off the car at the agreed 10pm. // The following day, we all drive out on another adventure. After a lovely lunch at El Cranc, a seafood restaurant on the beach in Altea, we head up the road to L’Alfàs del Pi, stopping to take a walk around one of my dad’s projects, Alfaz del Sol, him sharing some of the creative thoughts that went behind the design of the place, and then we continue up the road for a sightseeing tour of the magnificent luxury villas and lush lemon orchards winding their way up the mountainside behind the seaside towns, a place I loved to go walking and photographing as a young teenager, when I was just as taken by the Mediterranean architecture and nature as I am now. // Friday, when my parents hop to Denmark and back (well, only my dad comes back; my mum decides to stay in Denmark to prepare herself for her longer travel out to take care of me after my knee surgery in Singapore next week) to greet my brother with champagne after he defends his master’s thesis in the afternoon, S and I embark on a trip on our own, this time to check out the picturesque apartment building, Muralla Roja, and to go for a walk along the nature park in Calp, from where you can look straight over to our house on the other side of the bay, and where we find lots of quiet secret spots along the palm tree and frangipani lined promenade below the huge white rock at the edge of town. Boys are jumping off a cliff in the water. Old men are cycling leisurely past us. Birds are screaming from their premises on the rock. The water is glistening in the warm, dry sunshine. // Finally, when picking up my dad from the airport on Saturday, we drive down to the waterside of Alicante, the three of us sharing a local specialty, salt baked sea bass, at one of the marina restaurants for lunch before heading back home to Albir along the hilly highway.
El Albir. A happy family place full of memories. Last year, right before moving to Singapore, I came here three times for some rejuvenation and nurturing in the middle of a long, emotional goodbye to London. Hopeful about what the future would bring, I didn’t think too much about it – it seemed blurry, but in an exciting way, I think. I would definitely have smiled if I could have seen what it did bring, or at least, what the first year of it came to bring. I’m loving being back here with S – and to see my parents again, so shortly after seeing them in Denmark, and knowing that I’ll see them soon again in Singapore. A nice continuum for everyone. My parents’ house in the hills above the small town is heavenly – big, white, clean, furnished with memories. Sweetly scented waves of dry mountain air and fresh sea breeze. The house sits on the edge of a nature reserve leading to a beautiful white lighthouse at the top of a cliff – we take S for a walk here, me showing him all of the secret little vantage points along the way. Watching the sunrise and sunset above the sea from the balcony – with plenty of chilled cava. Yoga next to each other on the balcony. Stepping through the manicured, flowery garden to the green gate at the far end of it, turning left down the neat, narrow garden path, reaching the most perfect, luxurious swimming pool, with clean, non-chlorid-smelling water for refreshing morning and evening swims. Taking care not to move my dodgy knee in the water, I’m grateful that I’m able to swim. Walking down to the beach for S’s first dip in the Mediterranean – what a joy to splash around in the salt water too. Healthy breakfast of sweet cherries in season. Homemade tapas for lunch. Coffee to go from D Origin Coffee Roasters. Checking out an exhibit opening at Fundación Frax, chuffed that this little town has such a great art scene and gallery. People-watching and sangria-drinking at the beach lounge, De Lap. Dining at our favourite Spanish restaurant, Enrique, my dad choosing the wine we drank every night when crossing the Atlantic onboard QM2 two years ago – my favourite (Spanish) wine.
Altea. The fresh and exciting feeling of waking up from our siesta to shower and dress nicely to go into the quaint old part of Altea for a slow stroll down the charming narrow streets, peeping into the little galleries, buying a few paintings from the same old guy who’s been painting here forever, dreaming of buying and redoing this and that old townhouse, gazing across the beach and sea from the steep streets, getting a few classic mojitos at our friends’ combined mojito bar and gallery, AlteArte, and having a hearty late dinner at a new, lovely seafood restaurant on the church square, Octopussy.
All of the Homes. By the end of this week, after lovely times in Denmark, London and Spain, I’m so ready to get back to work and everything else in Singapore. Boarding the plane on Sunday, I feel at peace knowing that these places exist, and that I can always return. Well, it helps that S is with me, and that I will see my parents soon again. Full of happiness, no sadness, life is now.
This week’s specials:
- On Loop: Still Despacito; and, Lana del Rey’s Swimming Pools.
- Reading: Hot Milk. Set in Spain, this short, well-crafted novel, which I bought and started reading in London last week, is the perfect holiday read that lasts me throughout the week on the Costa Blanca too.