Thursday, March 29, 2012

The New Neighborhood

In my new neighborhood it isn’t uncommon to hear acoustic flamenco guitar slipping through open windows.  It isn’t uncommon to feel your heartbeat steadily increase as you slowly climb the stone street hills, incense and loose leaf tea smells curl under your nose and the bright trinkets of the Arabian markets—tea cups and hookahs, stained glass lamps and rugs, color your vision.  It isn’t uncommon, either, to come across an open plaza with young people slack lining, drum beating, hair braiding, beer drinking, football kicking, the glorious 12th century Alhambra in plain sight across the way, the astounding Sierra Nevada peak just behind.
view from the old place
Laura, Soraya y yo
            I’ve spent the long winter and first part of my Granadino year in the cheaper, shorter-commute-to-work, heated apartment of a working class neighborhood called La Chana.  I enjoyed a bedroom window view of the mountains, the romantic sleepy train passing just under it. I enjoyed the cultural experience of Spanish roommates, the incredible meals made by Soraya, the Spanish lingo lessons from Laura, also a feeling that I really grasped the Spanish language having two españolas en casa.  I’m happy to say now, as the spring sun comes out to play, I am eating breakfast on the weekends up on my new home’s terrace, overlooking the city, situated just across from the Alhambra.  The new neighborhood is called the Albayzin, the labyrinth neighborhood the Muslims occupied when Granada was a somewhat peaceful mixture of Jews, Christians and Muslims.  The vibe is hippy, the tourists are many and the old convent—turned temporary residential housing—has an interesting international array of comers and goers.  My favorites so far being:
Encarnación (which literally means the flesh of God) the curvy spined, loud gestured 30-something Spanish woman who always asks what you’re eating and never hesitates to tell you what’s on her mind. 
Mercedes—the hot/cold Ecuadorian housekeeper, seemingly half my size, with dark hair that reaches her rear.  She speaks in only single syllable words and moves as gracefully as water. 
            This new location is so amazing that it often doesn’t feel real.  I smile at the tourist who passes my door as I come home, starry eyed jealousy occupies his face as I turn the key.  Yes, I live here. 
            The country that seems magical to millions, the city that’s enchanted all who’ve come, the neighborhood full of silence, music, mystery all at once. 

If you don’t love where you live, I recommend you change it.    

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

la petite fille voyage a Paris

In the little café, bright colored fold out chairs, circular tables and mosaic décor on the inside walls, I shared a too-salty quiche with Sarah.  I watched a young chef in a restaurant across the way—in and out of the push swing door, top button of his white uniform undone, bring out the wind, then plates, then casual conversation to the tables outside.  How handsome he was, and for me so seemingly French with his square jaw line, soft brown thick curls and prominent nose.  I heard French all around me and it merely mixed in with the soft stringed music in the air. 
            We’ve watched too many films.  When reality is real, the French chef, the yellow quiche, the dainty French music, present themselves I am reminded of a film—this can’t be real, I think, it’s much too choreographed.  But it wasn’t.  Touristic, it was, But authentic, it was somehow that too.
            No wonder writers, dancers, musicians, painters, poets and chefs have all come to Paris.  Beauty and aesthetic waft along the grey river, over lamp covered bridges and through wrought iron terraces.  The City of Lights is everything they say it is, becoming even more magical at night and surely causing us to fall in Love.
            It has no particular smell, Paris.  Only moments of unconscious inhalation that bring sudden scents:  croissants!  doughnuts!  lemon sugar crepes! Much as the people in the city aren’t one specific kind but short or dark, redhead or thin, hairy or pale.  
            We only rushed once in Paris.  With evening boat ride tickets and 9 and an Eifel Tower climb at 7:30, we knew it’d be a close call, and after Sarah met 4 handsome Chileans at the top, I knew it’d be closer. 
            The quick rhythm clunk of my fancy boots hitting the golden illuminated stairs fell in unison with Sarah’s behind and we swung around each flight, gaining ever so closer to the wide base of the 7,300 ton most visited monument.
We called as we flew down, faster and faster, loving the rush of the hurry, the feeling of importance—we’ve got a boat to catch!
And we did catch the boat.  We sat by a Scottish five year old and her red headed mother.  We went under gilded bridges and sighted teenagers drinking on the cement shores. 

            It’s no wonder they call it The City of Love, for there’s never a lack of seemingly happy couples—kissing on bridges, holding hands on the promenade, gazing at one another over a small table in a café.  In other moments we’ve asked how to attribute the magic, how to explain its existence —Was it my youth? The people? The place?  This time yes.  Paris, the city itself, is magical.  It’s not buzzing like New York City, or loud and alive like late night Madrid in July, nor is it friendly and cozy like the pubs and people that make Dublin.  It’s elegant.  Refined.  Existing both in the big and in the details.  A grandiose woman, over 600 years old, tall and stunning, and forever knowing so.  She doesn’t offer you her wild nights, to touch her breasts, but merely just to see, to absorb all she is with our eyes, which of course, is enough.