Friday, October 06, 2006

October in Barcelona

It’s October in Barcelona, a perfect time of year. It’s still warm—the days start chilly and dark but by noon the sun is out and hot—but there are cool gusts of wind and fluffy clouds that make the days more pleasant than they were in high summer. Yesterday, the wind was so intense that the tall winged doors of the apartments in this building and around the courtyard slammed loudly open and shut, unsupervised and unsecured, so violently that I heard crashing glass above me and, later, disgusted sweeping.

Most of the tourists are gone now, though the Bus Turistic still sails around the city with sun-glassed travelers on the open top and La Rambla is still (always) bustling. However, it’s a slower bustle than summer, and there’s an impending sense of the city settling in, shoring up for the coming fall and winter. I feel settled: unpacked and getting my bearings in a new apartment and neighborhood (a stroll brought pleasant surprises, including a Nine West store, a beautiful church with a tranquil courtyard just off a busy street, and a dry-cleaner’s); plowing through increasingly difficult Spanish (and feeling like a mainstay, knowing I’ll still be around next month, the month after that, while my classmates are in the city for only a week or two); planning for trips and visits (the first of our autumn visitors arrives tomorrow; next week, Andrew and I go to Amsterdam); and spending pleasant days and evenings reading, crocheting, eating meals on the terrace.

Last year, I visited Barcelona at the end of October. The day I left, I walked on La Rambla before catching the bus to the airport; it was a cool, bright day, and most of the leaves on the sycamores that line the street had changed to faded green or yellow. I had the sense of being in a strange half-state, getting ready to leave the city but at the same time trying to imagine what it would feel like to be there permanently, to call it home. The city felt familiar—it was my third visit in three months—but I felt very much outside of it, with my backpack heavy on my back and euros for the bus fare jangling in my pocket. Within hours I’d be far away, tucked into the undefinable spaces of airport and airplane, between time zones and languages. There was a solar eclipse that day, and up and down La Rambla people stood and stared through dark foil lenses at the sky. That was how I left Barcelona: city cool and blinding-bright, crowds craning their necks to the sky, foil glinting, in the air the frisson of something unusual about to happen. That was October.

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