Michael Divine

Upon awakening, I rise and dress quietly and go for a hike, telling Violet I’ll meet her for breakfast downstairs. The main plaza is empty and vastly quiet in the morning light coming through the archways and pillars, casting long arcing shadows and igniting the towering bulbous shaped rocks that loomed overhead. I find a trail that winds up into the mountains and half-run/half-walk up the long winding trail of rocks and stairs, the rocks worn smooth underfoot, stopping now and again to take a picture, catch a breath or feel the great open winds that rush through me in the morning air- the chill of the earths breath mixed with the warmth of the morning sun. I crest ridge and find myself on a wide sloping rock face overlooking the valleys below and looking up towards the towering chimney like peaks of Montserrat. I breath. I sit. I relax into the earth, warmed by the sun and cooled by the breeze over my perspiration. But I am to meet Violet for breakfast and don’t want to keep her waiting so, with a good-bye to the peaks up there, I run down the stairs, glancing down at the picturesque scene of the monastery below me, with it’s bell tower and church of reddish stone illuminated in gold by the sun.

After a breakfast of coffee, croissants, Serrano ham, cheeses and fruits we go for a walk around the wide open empty square and then wander into the main cathedral itself, adorned in grey stone gothic curves and archways of white marble, through the main cathedral plaza and then into the vast open expanse of golden arches and pillars that is the cathedral. We file in line up past golden mosaics and into the little room housing the famed Black Madonna with Child (supposedly carved by St. Luke in 50 AD, rumor has it…), get a view from the nave of the church, up behind the altar and then chill in the little insanely ornate chapel behind the statue. Leaving there we stop into the art museum and are presented with a wide selection of Catalonian artists including Dali, Picasso, Rusiñol, Degas, El Greco, amongst others. We hang out for a while longer til throngs of tourists made the entire situation a little unbearable, so we pack our things into our little Citroen that we have named Narajazul (Blue Orange) and get on our way northeastwards towards the Pyrenees, stopping briefly at the market that has set up for some goat cheese, honey and fig pate.

Half way along on the highway we decide to stop through Zaragoza to check out the Basilica and the Arab/Moorish castle, the latter of which we never found. Word from the wise: Zaragoza, in fact, most cities, are a pain the ass to get into and out of. The Basilica itself is, basically, huge – columns 20’ square, massive vaulted ceilings with distant frescoes, insanely huge. And the chapel within the chapel.. and the other frescoes and the- anyways, says Violet, if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all, they are all so alike and, besides, it’s hard to not think about the death and insanity that came with all of this – the Spanish inquisition, the gold melted from the Aztecs and Mayans to built these altars… Sigh. Well, anyhow, we walk outside in the sunshine of the giant public plaza, kids running after pigeons, a large squadron of folks all dressed in suits, little cafes lining it serving café con leche, tapas, pizza, gelato and we make our way out of town passing through a plaza framed by various iterations of the metahedron star thing.

We leave there, on our way into the Pyrenees but part way there, I see a few dots on the map signifying the Loarre Castle, built in the 11th and 12th centuries – Long time ago! Old ruins! Cool! We arrive as the afternoon sun cast it in gold and it is windy, a little cold, and we try to make it quick cause we still have a long drive ahead of us. The castle walls tower over head and we play – running up stairs and under crumbling archways trying to get a better view and wondering what could have been what and imagining this place when it was in use. As we are about to leave we hear instruments tuning and find, in the barren grey stone chapel, soft illumination and a 6 or 7 piece string ensemble practicing and taking advantage of the stone acoustics. Their sounds are warming and haunting at the same time and breath life into a structure that seems to otherwise be a shell of a former world.

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