gratitud(e)-a-thon day 2052: if not now, when? Turning 60 in Spain

 

A missed connection, due to Boston weather, but greeted by this, plus champagne and rose petals on my bed. Happy birthday to me!
Barcelona is electric and eclectic and on the beach, to boot.

So, I did it, I turned 60. This is the thing about birthdays, no matter how you feel about them, they’re coming for you. You never get to say, “Hey, I”m busy, can we do this another time?” And while I was dreading it, with a deep feeling of panic, it walked in, sat down and there we were.

 

But, where we were was Barcelona, Spain. In a beautiful boutique hotel with a bed covered in rose petals and a bottle of bubbly in a bucket with a rich chocolate mini cake that read “Happy 60th Birthday.” Let me just say right here, this could take the sting out of turning 107. So, yeah, my advice, if you’re dreading a birthday, is to get the heck out of dodge, put yourself in another place and ride it out. The “after” is almost always tolerable, it’s just the before that bites you in the ass.

It seemed like this store was set up to take pictures of. Kind of perfect.

 

One thing that was really super cool is that I got to do and see something that I had always wanted to do and see. We drove the five and a half hours from Barcelona to Bilbao, where the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum is located. Since the first time I saw this whack-a-doodle building in a magazine, 20 years ago, I have imagined seeing it in person. It captured my attention in an almost obsessive way. It always felt far away and like I probably would never get there, but once I knew we were going to Barcelona, I was sure I would make this side trip happen. And it did not disappoint, in the least. And the inside is just as great as the outside, not only in its architecture but in its works–beautifully edited and I would have to say, actually perfect. It’s overwhelming to turn a dream into a reality. I know this sounds like a Disney commercial (cue up It’s a Small World, if you want), but I don’t know how else to put it–I had always wanted to see that museum and I got to, after 20 years. That’s damn good shit.

I made it!

 

 

Hotel Maria Christina in San Sebastian. This was a very special place. And there were churros for breakfast!

We saw so many beautiful places. Spain is so much older than the US, that no matter what you’re looking at, it’s hundreds of years older than the most historical monuments you can find in the U.S. This means even the ordinary is a treat to look at.  I loved the Joan Miro Museum, located high on a hill and overlooking the city of Barcelona. I’m not terribly into abstract painting, but his work has always captured my heart. The Picasso Museum is special, not just for the work, but also for the old, restored building it resides in. Gaudi is everywhere, including the sidewalks of Barcelona, which are flowers. You can only imagine how much I loved this! The Real Alcazar, a royal palace in Seville is breathtaking. This place is surreal. In scale and architecture, its beauty is a 2,554,987 on a scale of 1 to 10. Go to the Dali museum if you don’t want to do LSD, but want to feel like you have. And of course, we saw numerous churches, extravagant and lovely, rivers, the sea, the steps on which some character in Game of Thrones died, a seaside town dressed in nothing but blue and white (oh, my beating heart).

It was a magical trip and I thank Linda Plazonja for giving me so many tips. If you haven’t been to her site, click her name and you’ll be there. And if you think her website is beautiful (it’s one of my fave sites ever) you need to go on a trip with her. She is the absolute Travel Queen, with a thorough knowledge of a place and a gift for seeking out the extraordinary. You can also have her plan your trip. (CAN’T RECOMMEND THIS EMPHATICALLY, ENOUGH–YOU WILL NOT BE SORRY!)Also, I have to shout out the Mercer Hotel in Barcelona (which Linda pointed me to, of course), which acted like our home away from home, which we kept leaving and coming back to. Exceptional and thoughtful service in a sleek and modern boutique hotel that’s built into a 4,000 years old wall).

 

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My travel companion in Spain and life, Peter. A keeper!

So, gratiud (this is Spanish for gratitude, in case you thought I left off the “e.”), so much gratitud for a mind-expanding, dream of a 16 days. I am 60. And I am just fine.

gratitude-a-thon day 722: l.a. has a few things the east coast doesn’t have

L.A. is vast. It looks less like a state and more like half the country. You can see for miles, roadway, and then mountains in the distance, and always the omnipresent Hollywood sign looking down on you, reminding you that this is a place equal to the solar system when it comes to shiny stars.

The divide between the very rich and the very poor is everywhere. Even Rodeo Drive, where my husband and I walked from our hotel on Sunday morning to find a homeless man with all his gear camped out in front of the impressively flashy Louis Vuitton Store. Inside, their least expensive item could give this man a fresh start.

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Even Rodeo Drive has a homeless problem.

There are a lot of boobs in the land of lala. A LOT of them. There are also a lot of cars. Those two things seem to be calling cards. That and plastic surgery. It is an decidedly un-New England place.

Still, there is a lot to like about it. And I do. Take the weather, which was a sunny 85 while we were there. And the beach. And the food. We had a birthday brunch for 25 at Bacaro L.A. for Mr. 21, ate at an old school deli in Beverly Hills, called Factor’s Famous Deli, one of the best restaurants my mouth has ever been to called Bestia (I WANT TO EAT HERE EVERYDAY AND NIGHT), and our favorite place in Venice Beach, Gjelina. There are palm trees. There is some pretty freaking awesome shopping.

And there is my son. A frat brother at USC, enjoying every minute of Cali sunshine. This is perhaps the very best part of California: Jake. My boy who has is now officially 21, and has been celebrated and toasted enough to last him until he’s 81.

I am usually crabby when I return from L.A. because I feel like the weather here is so limiting. But yesterday, as we flew into Logan, the fall colors, and sharpness of the ocean, and total un-L.A.-ness of the landscape made me happy to be landing here. On this coast. For now. It also has a lot to offer, although it’s missing that one must-have ingredient: my incredible boy.

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Gjelina. The lamb meatballsssssss.