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 2051:60

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I turn 60 this week. I don’t understand how this happened in the same way that I don’t understand how the sun makes its way up into the sky every day and shines its magical beams in my face, how you can actually make a whole new person out of a couple of cells you carry with you your whole life, how bread is so fucking delicious.

People tell me that age is just a number (they are generally under 60). They say that I look great for my age (I wear stylish clothes, am not grossly overweight). Some of them say, “Really? Wow,” like I just blew their minds that someone they know could be so old.

I want this birthday to be about gratitude and how older women are having a moment, how women, in general, are having a moment, in fact. But here in the days leading up to the fire hazard which will be my birthday cake, I am not feeling like having a moment, I’m feeling like having a nap.

I think it’s the shock. I think it’s the stereotype I have in my mind of my mom (although extremely fashionable ) in pink curlers and a kerchief heading to the market, a vision of what 60 used to mean to me. Read: old.

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Aging is so unoriginal. You have to do it, or you have to wear a casket. I always thought I could avoid it, like somehow being the youngest in a large extended family made me impervious. But when you’re  60, nobody is confusing you with being young anymore. I mean, if I got hit by a car and died at 59, people would say, “Oh, and she was only 59.” But if I was hit by a car and died at 60, they would say, “Well…..she was 60.”

I freaked out before 30. I freaked out before 40. I freaked out before 50. And now I am freaking out before 60. But what I have to remember is that the very day after each of those big birthdays, I felt just great. So I’m hoping the lead up is worse than the reality and you will get an empowering post about aging very soon.

Because what I want to feel about this birthday is that I am lucky as hell to have stacked up so many years, that I’m grateful about all that I have in my life, that I will gracefully go kicking ass and taking names, raising hell and having fun into my golden years. But today? Today I see pink curlers in my hair when I look in the mirror.