There are no mistakes. That goes for life, as well as traveling. You want to plan, but you can't get too caught up in the idea of the end result; for one thing, you may never even get there, and for another, your desires may change and you may find yourself changing course anyway.
|(note: Marlowe is trying out weird faces; |
it's a rite of passage as an 8-year-old)
The first time we came to Europe as a family, three years ago, I was aching to see Versailles again. I wanted to show the girls the real palace where Marie Antoinette lived and the "movie set" of Sofia Coppola's gorgeous film. Decadence, luxury, style and royal living at its sumptuous, excessive best.
This is it! I was going to say to them, arms wide enough to envelop Versailles and its grounds as a whole. This is it!
That didn't quite work out the way I'd planned. The grounds were crowded and the lines for the palace (and even the women's bathroom) were deplorably long. The Metro ride back to Paris was at least 45 minutes (after a 15-minute walk to the train station). What to do?
(Imagine the voice of a superhero TV show narrator) Just then, the Shachory family spied a sign at the edge of the fountain... "Rent bikes here!"... Thus changing the course of family vacations FOREVER...)
And so, a family tradition was born.
A few days ago, we rented bikes by Barceloneta Beach and rode north, helmet-free and unencumbered by anything but a backpack, picnic food and a few beach towels, along the sun-sparkling beaches of Barcelona. Past nude beaches and party beaches, naval installments and tourist traps, picnic benches and tapas bars, surf shops and structures built for the 1992 Olympics.
It only takes a minute or two on a beach cruiser to change your attitude. The world seems better with the sun on your back. I found myself staying at the back of our group, watching my girls in their sundresses weaving in and out of pedestrians, laughing with their heads thrown back, hair flowing in ropy beach waves behind them, the tinkling sounds of their bike bells on the sea breeze.
At the northern end of Barceloneta, Raf stopped short, eyes on the black-clad surfers lined up in the waves.
"Surfers?" I asked, lightbulbs popping in my mind.
He didn't speak, a smile on his lips.
It was a game changer. In other words, if we loved Barcelona before, now that he knew there was surfing, it was all over. Suddenly, the "... but there's no real surfing..." consideration was gone. Suddenly, Barcelona transformed into a viable, livable city for him.
After two hours, we returned the bikes and grabbed tapas on the beach, served by a blonde girl from Palos Verdes who visited Barcelona four years ago and never left. Then we wandered up to Olimpica Beach and splashed a while and fell asleep on the hot sand, daydreaming about Barcelona and inhabiting all it has to offer.