We are home and planning our next adventure because the compass never stops spinning. Check out my Future Adventures tab to see some of the possibilities! I’d love your feedback and ideas.
Here we are in cute little J’ville. The town is so perfect we felt like we were on a movie set. Lots of cute shops, restaurants, galleries, wine-tasting venues, and even an impressive Halloween-themed show by the local art league. It was fun wandering around pretending like we lived here.
While I welcomed an excuse to stay home after a harrowing drive up the mountainside in the pitch-black the night before (In the dark), I also looked at a day off from sightseeing as an opportunity to invite our hosts at Finca Mosca down to our (their) cottage for a glass of wine. But if we were going to be home the entire day and we had groceries to use before we packed everything up and moved on, why not invite them to lunch?
We liked Mouche and Christian immediately when they welcomed us to Finca Mosca. Unlike many of our hosts who are invisible during our stays in their apartments, they were eager to engage with their guests. They seemed genuinely interested in the social benefits of renting out their cottage, not just the financial gain. They bought the property sixteen years ago, living on it part-time in the beginning. They worked diligently, when they could get away from work and other obligations in Belgium, hauling materials up the mountainside to remodel the cottage. They have lived on the property full-time now for two years. They possess that magical combination of being both industrious, but also laid-back. Most importantly, they understand how to enjoy life. I marvel at the way they embrace living in a foreign country: learning the language, taking advantage of the bounty of their natural surroundings, and accepting their neighbors as their new family.
Lunch was nothing fancy; we used what we had on hand. It was a bit too cool to sit on the terrace, so Mouche and Christian brought two more stools down from their house and nestled in with us at the kitchen counter. They brought a delicious French rosé, a nice Spanish red, and some beer, and we talked through the afternoon.
This, my friends, is what this trip is all about. It’s not about the sights, the weather, the food, or the exchange rate – although all of those things may add to our adventure. We travel to interact with people – people who live outside our little box and who add so much to our lives with their perspectives. We get no greater satisfaction than spending an afternoon like this.
When we lived in Germany, we loved the concept of die erfahrung as it applies to travel. Literally the words mean “the experience,” but the concept goes deeper than that. Travel is not about how many sights on your itinerary you accomplish; it’s about what you experience while accomplishing them. Some people never learn the distinction; we feel fortunate that we did. It keeps the compass spinning.
Nice stop in Tarragona as we made our way from Barcelona to Valencia. Tarragona was once a capital of Roman Spain, the first to be toga-certified. Residents were allowed to wear togas, meaning they were considered to be full Roman citizens. Maybe it was the wine. Now that I think about it, Rome may have conquered all the Mediterranean countries just for the wine and olive oil. Can’t say I blame them. It’s a strong motivation!
After seeing architect Frank Gehry’s masterpiece, the Guggenheim-Bilbão, we thought we’d drive by the bodega, or winery, he designed for the Marqués de Riscal winery in La Rioja. We didn’t know the exact location, only that it was in/near the town of Elciego. We wondered if we’d recognize it on a drive-by.
¡Sin duda! (Without a doubt!)
As we descended the hillside into the town of Elciego, there was no mistaking Gehry’s work practically floating in the trees before us. So much more beautiful than the museum! I love the way he worked the titanium to get the purples, pinks, blues, and greens in the “wings.”
In addition to the vineyards and bodega, this winery also has a luxury hotel named for its architect. Lovely spot!
We passed through the province of La Rioja on our way from the Basque Country to the city of Zaragoza in the province of Aragón. La Rioja is the primary wine region of Spain and produces some excellent wines, in our humble opinions. The countryside reminds me of Il Chianti in Italy.
This happens to be harvest season. We saw many pickers in the vineyards, and every 15 minutes or so passed one of these trailers laden with fresh-picked grapes. Looks like it will be a good season!