The Lizard Chronicles

Some of this is true. Some of this is better. –Too Much Joy

Barcelona Day 3: Montserrat (and more Super Meerkat) July 19, 2017

We had a tour booked for Sunday, so there was no sleeping for 11 hours that night. I awoke after having dreamed of getting a sunburn, so I slathered on sunscreen despite the heavy cloud cover. As we readied ourselves to got out, I discovered that the hairdryer in our room, which had been fine the day before, no longer funtioned. Actually, that’s not entirely true. It worked, but only for approximately three seconds at a time. I sighed, pulled my hair back, and gave a wave to my secret surveillers, as I was now sure that somewhere, people were messing with me. In fact, they were probably going to steal my awesome Super Meerkat idea and make millions. 😦

We got on the tour bus that took us to Montserrat. Unfortunately, a thick fog obscured much of our would-be view, but that was actually kind of cool in its own way.


The view when we arrived in Montserrat


Wall of fog


Stairway to ???

With the fog and occasional rain, indoor activities became preferable, so we explored the basilica, the museum, and some shops.


Basilica atrium


Shrine candles


I love everything about this.


Break glass for savior?

After that, we were hungry and thought it would be especially unwise not to eat before the next part of our excursion (i.e. wine tasting). The first restaurant we saw was packed to the gills, so we found a less crowded place, not really stopping to consider why it was so sparsely populated. Now, to be clear, we hadn’t booked this tour for the dining opportunities, which is good because our meal in Montserrat would not rank among the best on our trip. Even by tourist attraction grab-and-go food standards, our sandwiches were very, very sad. What’s more, I took one bite of something I’d thought was yogurt, only to find it was not. I’m really not sure what it was, other than repulsive. Seeing my reaction, of course, Rachel had to try it too. She concurred with my assessment.

By early afternoon, some of the fog had cleared, and we got to see some of the previously obscured scenery before we got back on the tour bus.

On our way to the winery, we passed by the Saint Bernard Convent, which naturally sparked in me a mental image of Saint Bernard dogs dressed in habits. We also passed a ferreteria, which is Spanish for hardware store, but what came to my mind was an eating establishment for ferrets. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could weave all my goofy mental images from this trip into one story…

The sisters of Saint Bernard Convent are shocked to discover that their storeroom has been robbed! Someone has taken the entire supply of brandy that was kept on hand  to refill the little barrels around their necks. A few of the pooches trot down the road to the ferreteria to ask if anyone there had heard or seen anything suspicious in the area. The ferrets tell the sisters that they hadn’t noticed any unusual activity, but they still want to help, so they call on their cousin, Super Meerkat. She uses her truth-seeing powers to uncover the thief and return the brandy to the Saint Bernards.

I would totally watch this movie.

Before long, we arrived at Parés Balta, where we toured the grounds and sampled some of their wines, all of which we wanted to take home. Our tour guide referred us to a wine price sheet that also listed shipping costs by destination and number of bottles. She was also sure to note that they also sold suitcases at the winery and would pack up any purchased wine to minimize the chances for breakage en route. I must say, this was a pretty brilliant move on the part of Parés Balta. Whereas shipping 6 bottles of wine to Chicago would have cost €98, the suitcases were €20. Sold! As a bonus, there would be room left in the suitcase for some shoes we’d seen during the first day of the trip.


Vineyard selfie


Lots of cava!

After getting back to the city that evening, we had dinner at Teresa Carles, which may have been my favorite meal of the entire trip–it’s a tough call. Suffice it to say, it went a long way in making up for our sad lunch.


Lotus flower chips–pretty and delicious!


Boston or Bust Part 2: Days That Begin With a Ride From Vision-Impaired Troglodyte Taxi Driver Can Actually Turn Out OK! September 24, 2014

The morning after my interactive disco Shakespeare adventure with my brother, I checked out of my hotel and caught a taxi to take me to his apartment, where I would spend my last night of the trip. Upon getting in the cab, I was immediately struck by the fact that my driver was a woman in perhaps her mid/late sixties. It’s not that this is a problem, it’s simply unusual. At first, I thought it was unusual in an awesome way–good for her! Also, there was something comforting at the thought of possibly getting a ride from someone’s grandmother. Perhaps there would be cookies.

I told the driver the address, and some confusion ensued. As it happens, there is a street by the same name in Boston, and it is near Cambridge Street. The driver asked if I was sure of the address since she didn’t know a street by that name in Cambridge. I told her I was certain.

“OK, I’m going to have to look it up,” she said as she picked up a large book and began to flip through it, repeating the street name to herself. “Ah, here it is,” she said and then handed the book back to me. “Can you read what it says there?”

Bewildered, I took the book from her. “My glasses are on the floor somewhere,” she said.

I read the text to her and handed the book back, assuring myself that plenty of people had problems reading small print but could see just fine for driving. She flipped through the pages again. This time when she landed on the page she was seeking, she produced a large magnifying glass to read the entry. “OK, got it,” she said and discarded the book. She then told me that, since she was not sure of the fastest way to get there, she would charge me a flat rate for the trip.

That seemed fair, so I settled back into my seat as she commenced with the usual cab driver chit-chat. When she got around to asking what brought me to Boston, I told her I’d come for a conference but was staying a bit extra to visit my brother. “Oh, was it that neurology conference that was just in town?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Oh, well, I’ve got something for ya. It’s not exactly neurology, but…did you hear that there was another beheading?”

I hadn’t had time to keep on top of news during the preceding days, but I figured she was referring to another in a string of beheadings of journalists by ISIS. I briefly considered the odd train of thought that led her from neurology to decapitation, but I didn’t dwell on it. “No,” I said. “That’s awful.”

What followed was a tirade against Muslims and how, in her opinion, they should not be allowed in this country. At first, I tried to argue, saying that a small number of people doing horrible things in the name of Islam did not mean that all Muslims were bad, but it quickly became clear that I was wasting my breath. She continued to spew her hate speech, and I clenched my teeth and waited for the ride to be over.

Several minutes later, her diatribe ended when she announced that I would have to help her look for address numbers, as she suspected we were nearing an intersection where we needed to turn right.

This, combined with her previously revealed vision problems, made me suspect that perhaps she should not be driving a vehicle for a living, but I told her the first address number I spotted so that she could, hopefully, pay attention to traffic. “Oh, OK, I know where we are. Not far.” She motioned ahead and to the right. “There’s a resale shop up here. You can donate clothes and stuff, and they sell it. They give all the money to AIDS research.”

I cringed, fully expecting that this announcement would be a precursor to rant against another group of people she did not like. Thankfully, I was wrong, and she instead began to ramble about how another resale shop she had donated items to had mishandled her shoes, putting them into a large, jumbled pile. Really, the nerve of people.

We made the right turn, “I think your street is down a ways,” she said.

At the same time, I looked up and, almost immediately saw the name of street where my brother lives, “No, it’s right here!” I said, and the cab stopped abruptly.

“Geez, how did you see that?” she marveled.

Oh, I don’t know…I am sighted! I thought, as she answered her own question. “It must look familiar from last time.”

“Right,” I said, handing her payment, just relieved that the ride was over. I got out of the taxi and went to the back to retrieve my luggage, but instead of getting out to the car to assist me or at least popping the trunk open, she began to drive away. “Hey!” I screamed and pounded on the back of the cab as I chased it a few feet down the street.

The cab stopped again, and the driver got out. “Oops. Sorry about that,” she said, making a motion as she was going to help me with my bags.

“I got it,” I said, quickly grabbed my luggage, and closed the trunk.

I’ve had some unpleasant cab rides before, but damn.

I figured the day had to get better from there, and I was right. I reunited with my brother and before long, we took off on our first excursion of the day: a visit to the World’s Smallest Museum in Sommerville.

I only wish I had time to see the entire thing!

I only wish I had time to see the entire thing!

Of course, that didn’t take up too much time, so we stopped for lunch at the nearby Independent. As we ate and chatted, it occurred to me that Chris and I had not spent much time alone together in a very long while, and it was nice. It was also striking how many of our conversations began with, “Do you remember…”

We occupied most of the day with reminiscing, drinking my favorite blueberry beer, and strolling around town.

Selfie by the river

Selfie by the river

Around dusk, we headed to the Lawn on D for fun with glowing oval swings, enjoying a lovely sunset along the way.


Swings weren't this cool when I was a kid.

Swings weren’t this cool when I was a kid.

I like the way it makes his socks glow.

I like the way it makes his socks glow.

It was dizzying but awesome. We followed that up with more conversation and cocktails at Drink and a late dinner at Veggie Galaxy. As the thoroughly enjoyable day (well, except for the bit with the awful taxi driver) came to a close, I found myself wishing I’d extended my trip just a little bit longer and vowed not to let so much time elapse before my next visit.