July 24, 2009.
Day One. Well, Day Two if you count our arrival yesterday morning after a day and night flying from Los Angeles through Atlanta to Barcelona. Three of us half-slept through the arrival day. Emmett, on the other hand, enjoyed it thoroughly, begging Christopher to “test drive” our home exchangers’ Mercedes Benz and swimming in the neighborhood pool—an astonishing Energizer Bunny.
The heat that first morning terrified us; what grand mistake had we made, we wondered, coming to Sitges and Barcelona in summer? Separately Christopher and I started making alternate plans and calculating the financial blow of having to transfer to an air-conditioned hotel for 3 ½ weeks.
But even a fitful, hot night’s sleep made a difference, and our first complete day here was much better. We walked through the narrow cobblestone mazes of Sitges’ historic streets, passing bakeries, butchers and boutiques, past the old church at the promontory, and down the grand stairway to the beach, stopping midway down to be splashed by ocean spray. The fine white sand was crowded with European vacationers and Spanish locals wearing not much more than their tans. Aaron and Emmett didn’t seem to notice. Their eyes widened at the sight of pedal boats with water slides waiting at the shore to be rented. My heart leaped at the sight of blue and white striped umbrellas and lounge chairs lining the sand as far as the eye could see. Christopher didn’t say what he was looking at most. At least all the sights took our minds off the heat. We trudged our way up the wide pedestrian promenade, changed into our suits, and, our priorities in order, sought out the boat man.
My Spanish kicked into gear and I felt a part of my brain working that hadn’t been put to use for a while. “Queremos alquilar un barco. Cuanto cuesta?” He answered, “Twelve euros.” I guess my Spanish wouldn’t be entirely necessary in a popular tourist town. He warned us that the water might be too choppy for the kids. Chalk it up to jet-lag-induced lack of judgment, he could not deter us from our mission. We wrapped up the kids in life jackets that would not have made the grade in California, and set out to the Mediterranean Sea. The waves crashing into our boat refreshed us as we headed straight out past the breaking waves. It was our first signal that the ocean temperature here would be a gift, much warmer than our own Pacific.
Christopher, Aaron and Emmett all tried the slide, displaying great bravery in my view. It was a great sign for how our kids would embrace this family adventure. Now, I’m a relatively adventurous person. I’ve traveled alone through Thailand where I didn’t speak a word of the local language. I’ve gone head-to-head with Morrocan big rigs driving two-lane highways from Rabat to Fez. I’ve climbed to the tops of Mayan temples that left other travelers grounded by vertigo, and ziplined over deep valleys and waterfalls in Mexico. Yet here I was in Spain, a country I’ve lived in, whose language I speak, at a beach resort, and I knew I was in trouble. I sat in the boat wondering how much longer until we could go back to shore, increasingly nauseous, my landlubber ways getting the best of me on the rocking plastic boat. Before our hour was up, I ordered our ship to shore. We rode the waves back to shore, avoiding a capsize, and stumbled greatfully up to those beckoning lounge chairs. Where my intrepid family proceeded to collapse into a deep sleep for the next three hours. We woke up at 7pm, the sun still shining, the beach still peopled with vacationers. We swam in the warm water once more that day, then headed back to our home for the next three weeks. Rested, refreshed, relaxed. What a difference a day makes.