No Time for Tea

Dear Tasha,

As you already know, while you’ve been away exploring tea farms in the magical-looking Azores–a trip I should have been with you for–I survived another (solo) getaway with MB. We took the car and fled just over the border near Puigcerdà to France to ski.

 

The view from our hotel window.

I love the Catalan Pyrenees and especially the fact that when we cross the border and switch to French, we could still speak Catalan if we wanted to.

 

Of two hearts…

The village where we stop for breakfast is one street wide, and there, of course, the croissants are always made with butter. The little cafe has a fireplace–which makes MB the happiest cat in town–and we split a sandwich avec jambon, fromage, tomate, et un peu d’huile d’olive.

 

The ham was not jamon, as we know it and as it appears two minutes down the road back over the border, but more like a sweet prosciutto. It was a strange and wonderful treat, albeit with the soundtrack of MB’s constant cooing in the background about how everything’s better in France and why don’t we come here all the time because it’s so close. Some things are better enjoyed in peace.

It gets worse when she insists we stop at the chalet restaurant at the top of the telecabine for a Bailey’s before the first run.

Mind you, at this point, it’s taken us since 15h the day before to actually arrive at the peak (and we weren’t even there yet.

 

The peak!

The last place I wanted to find myself was inside. But she’s not one to be dissuaded, so we trudged off in the direction of log cabin, which looked one part authentic and three parts Disneyland–next to a woodpile of impressive magnitude, which I had to convince MB she shouldn’t take home–to suddenly find ourselves in our own little version of heaven.

 

After spending twenty minutes in a trance staring at the piles of cheesy au gratin potatoes loaded on everyone’s plates, the petite tapped barrels of serve-your-own wine,

 

the crepe stand(!!!)

 

and the hot chocolate piled high with whipped cream and dusted with cocoa powder, we finally hurled ourselves outside again, armed with a list of what we would eat once we had spent an acceptable amount of time on the slopes (proportional to the drive we made to get there). You should have been with us.

By the end of the day, MB had drunk only beverages of the alcoholic variety (The water I encouraged her to hydrate with I drank most of and then spilled the rest on the floor Lucille Bluth style. At least it wasn’t vodka, or MB would have really killed me.) In any case, I would say as far as sporting partnerships go, it was overall a very successful day.

 

Two amazing desserts in one tiny truck!

Earlier she had accosted the wait staff at our favorite chalet for restaurant suggestions, and we capped the trip off with a stop at a boutique to buy some amazing honey and local cheese and then went straight on to the local luxury hotel for MB’s requisite fireplace (which she insisted on stoking regularly much to my horror), apertifs, and a fondue dinner that was so heavy I didn’t eat the entire next day.

 

Putting her mouth on someone else’s fire blower. Acceptable?

She finally got her Bailey’s nightcap for a steep 6 euros a glass. I think it was a necessary burden given the horror show of a drive back home we had, lost down narrow alleyways in small French villages, on switchback after switchback in the pitch dark. We took a wrong turn somewhere around kilometer 2.

I came back to a horror show of a Wednesday that included back to back meetings and a Catalan field trip which I dreaded and then loved because it made me think so much of you. We went to the National Library of Catalunya (Sant Pau-Santa Creu), a place you should have visited.

 

I stole all the library photos from a classmate named Yessica.

Apparently, they open it up for Sant Jordi each year and give free tours all day, so if you make it back for our favorite holiday, I will bring you. You would have loved the book delivery system just like the one in Oxford, the collection room with an old printing press and some of the oldest versions of novels, like Little Dorrit (La Petita Dorrit), in Catalan.

 

The library used to be a hospital and is the one, in fact, that Gaudi died in after his fatal encounter with that streetcar. The ceilings are the arched Gothic style of a cathedral and the stonework old and worn.

 

There is a collection of old photos of what the space looked like when it was a hospital (incredible), but now the lofted space is filled with rows of bookshelves and reading tables and low-lit lamps and silence. Old men carefully turn the tissue-like pages of books with cracked leather covers, and every person under 20 is on Facebook.

 

We weren’t allowed to take photos with people in them.

 

 

 

The library houses the first published work in Catalan, at least the type that comes between two covers. There is a facsimile that we passed around that shows the ink-stained pages and the ruffled edges where mice chewed the paper away. The handwriting is so old, it almost looks like some style of Arabic and is written in a form of Catalan too antiquated for me to decipher. While I was searching their website afterwards, I found the most beautiful archive of old photos of Barcelona. It also includes newer photos including the 29M vaga in 2012, which I think you were here for and which still gives me chills to see.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at a calçotada at Can Cortada, a gorgeous old masia right in Horta where we had a graduation dinner a couple years before you arrived. We had our calçots served to us on roof tiles, the way they’re meant to be, and a porró of dessert wine to boot.

 

Next February you’re coming here, and we’ll do things right. Afterwards, I met a new friend at a xocolateria in Gracia (as if there were any room left after that feast) that you would have loved and discussed, over our tiny chupitos of xocolata amb nata, bread and the politics of food.

 

Later, I wandered into a place you would have loved (if not for the shop for the name at least) looking for new books for my nephew.

 

Your favorite kind of name.

I’m going to post-it translate them so that my sister not only knows what she’s reading him, but one day I’m going to unstick all the notes and test him on what he’s learned. He’s walking already by the way. How does that happen so fast?

 

I haven’t done my homework because…

 

I love walking through Gracia because it is the barrio that is most often changing here, and it is filling up with cute little places that I want to take you to one day.

 

Cupcakes will never die here.

 

 

A sewing workshop!

Have you seen my favorite floristeria there, right around the corner from the metro stop? Every time I walk by I want to buy that lemon tree.

 

It’s getting warmer by the day now, as you can probably tell from where you are right next door. The first signs of spring are in the air. I saw one of the white flowered trees that usually dot the hillsides in Esplugues on my way back from Can Cortada and the seagulls are back, swooping circles around my window each morning. I get so overheated at tennis that I have to blow on my palms in between every volley. My coach thinks I’m crazy.

I’m signing off now, because my list of things to do is so long, and none of it has gotten done this week, and I feel, per usual, guilty. Keep sending me photos of your adventures, and I look forward to your letter even though I know it’s going to make me jealous.

Love,

m.

Melissa Leighty