I was a teacher for 32 years and my husband still works nine months a year. We successfully raised our two kids and now we’re happy to get away from the frigid place we call home, Maine, for those impossible months of January, February, and March. (We don’t ski, snowmobile, ice skate, or even go sledding, so why are we still here? This is where we were born and raised, and we can’t quite cut the ties.)
It’s wonderful that we have the opportunity to choose where we live each winter. First criteria is climate, and with only the one exception of Paris, we’ve done great. (Paris was brutal…almost as cold as Maine, but with a stronger wind.) Liking Europe as much as we do, that narrowed it down to Spain, Italy, South of France, and Ireland.
Spain was wonderful. We rented part of a house that had been a small-scale wine factory, and it was lovely. Our landlord lived in another part of the house and her married daughter in another; it was a huge house. They were there for every little question we had and were eager to accommodate us. It seems there are festivals there if anyone drops a pencil, and Joanna saved goodies for us. One was a beautiful cake, but when we bit into it, there was a ceramic king in one side and a ceramic bean in the other; I got the bean, so he got all the fun. When their first pressings of olive oil were ready, we had some of that also.
We were just 14 miles northwest of Barcelona, half way up Mount Crumpet (same road, anyway), so we got to enjoy that world famous city. One must see the Gaudi explosion called Sagrada Familiar Cathedral. I could never do it justice in describing it, and anyway, it is still a work in progress after all these years and fated, I believe, to continue long into the future. Gaudi was Barcelona’s favorite son, and his fantastic works dot the city.
The part of the city I like the best, however, is the expansive Las Ramblas which is worth at least a half day for anyone. It’s mind boggling. They sell everything on Las Ramblas from birds in cages to marijuana lollipops. There are street performers and “statues” that are so lifelike I just had to touch one. But the heart of the area is Mercat de la Boqueria, the most fantastic, colorful, delightful display of fresh foods I have ever seen…yes, ever. They sold handmade candies and little baskets of quail eggs, and all farm produce, hot foods, scrumptious fruit salads in large plastic cups, and on and on. I bought one red pepper that was so large I took it home and made stuffed peppers for us. We had to push to finish it.
Spain was great, but at the time, we didn’t know it was just preparing us for the best yet: Baja, our favorite of all time.