I was taking a long and difficult hike through the back hills of Barcelona. Upon meeting my tour guide, Trevor, I wasn’t surprised to see him bald or British, but I was surprised by how young and calm he was and how when I looked at him, his eyes and mouth twitched shyly. His boisterous tone on his Web site led me to a much different impression â€“ something like a burly bald fellow wearing cargo shorts and speaking loudly. We were headed through the gypsy neighborhoods and up a mountain on our journey to Tibidabo, a cathedral atop a distant mountain, looking out over Barcelona.
Trevor was really good at standing peacefully at the lookout points. He didn’t step away until I did. At one point, we took a seat on a bench while the late afternoon sun soaked us. We listened to the gargle of wood doves. […]
We walked for miles. We had time to pick rosemary and hold it to our noses. We drank beer and shared Spanish dishes of vegetables, beans, and potatoes at a little oasis midway through our hike. We exchanged greetings with everyone we crossed: a group of old men walking downhill on an afternoon walk, an old white-haired woman carrying logs back to her house, a short, short man wearing 5-inch soled heels standing against a ledge with his bitty puppy. It seemed that the higher we went and the closer we came to our destination, the slower and stranger everything became. The glowing hills, the boundless sea, the distant mountains, and the panoramic view of Barcelona surrounded us. It’s strange that the city looks like this, I wondered aloud. When you’re in there, the Gothic buildings stand tall on all sides, old and rude and strong. You’re little. From here, I cup the whole city—its buildings, street performers, pedestrians, bakeries, gypsies, lovers, square white houses, glasses of wine—in the palms of my hands. Trevor said, “It’s like looking in the mirror. We’re always inside ourselves. And then the mirror shows us this exterior and it’s like, whoa! Who’s that?”
As we drew closer to the cathedral, we could see its Jesus, his arms spread like an eagle in the perfect blue sky. “There’s Jesus,” Trevor kept joking. “Wave to Jesus!” When we finally reached the cathedral, we had to take an elevator where we paid the operator two euros to take us to Jesus. And then had to climb a narrow spiral stairway. We were at the highest point in Barcelona. I couldn’t look down. It literally brought me to my knees.
“You look healthier,” Trevor told me after our seven-hour hike as we took the train back into the city. “You have some color in your cheeks.”
I got into this kind of thing because, speaking briefly as Holy Holy Holy Lord God Almighty, I enjoy mixing up humans and environments, and because there seems to be a market for it, but this kind of response is pure Bud De Sylva and Lew Brown.
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