“Cadaques is known for even the most mindful to lose all sense of time,” a withered Catalan man murmured as I waited at the Arc de Triomf bus depot in Barcelona. I had been living almost a year in one of Spain’s most spellbinding cities after graduating from college without knowing a stitch of the native languages. I listened carefully to the old man as he continued, “Did you know the villagers say that the North winds will drive a sane man crazy?” I couldn’t help but smile at this mesmeric description of a town that I had come to love and felt a sense of anticipation to perhaps losing my own mind this time around.
I had always thought of Cadaques as my escape off the beaten path, offering a riveting sense of self in a timeless aura. Resting beneath a range of winding mountains along the deep, blue Mediterranean Sea, Cadaques exemplifies a quaint, artsy, Catalan village that emanates an air of secrecy and seems to attract the most open minded and adventurous traveler. After spending a year living in Barcelona and carousing through Europe, I had taken on an approach to traveling without a cause and allowing myself to just be and feel a place with all of my senses. I felt that I had truly found myself but had reached a point of internal conflict about whether to continue living in Spain or head back to New York where I had lived all my life. I needed a place to think, to be, and to figure out what and where it was that I wanted to plant my roots, and create my home. Once again, I made my way to Cadaques.
I had arrived, just as the summer weather sweetened the air, and immediately settled on one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen in Cadaques. As I turned from the still, sparkling water, I rested my eyes on the last drops of sunset from the mountains that I had just crossed by bus. The heat of the sun had created a crimson of fiery colors that panned across the sky and caressed the tips of the mountaintops. The magnificence of this incredible sight, literally took my breath away, and I knew at that very moment this would truly be a summer to remember.
As I swung my backpack over my shoulder and headed toward the water, I could see my dear friends sitting in the town’s infamous Maritim café, where artists Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro had also drifted to years ago, spending many afternoons soaking up the endless ocean views. Sipping un café and casually chatting about plans to take the boat out for the night, my friends, as always, welcomed me with unos grandes abrazos y dos besos (big hugs and kisses), grabbing my bags and excitedly shrilling, “Guapa, que morena!! Como estas? Que tal? Como ha ido tu viaje? ” (Beautiful, you are so tan!! How are you? How was your trip?) I circled the table diving into one conversation after the other and absorbing all the genuine Spanish love I had received from everyone.
With bags in tow, I headed up to my friend’s house to throw together a beach bag and change into my bathing suit. As I walked up the familiar cobble path, the sight of my favorite purple flowers erupted against the electric blue windowpanes and stark white walls of the typical Spanish architecture. I stood for a moment taking in the fresh aroma and cut a stream of flowers to lace through my curly hair. I passed the town’s church where we had spent last New Year’s traditionally shoving 12 grapes into our mouths and wishing for yet another fulfilling year.
I stopped at the entrance of my friend’s home to grab a glimpse of the eastern mountains and the harbor where the village fishermen were gearing up their boats for the summer season. I could not wait to settle in knowing that I would lose all sense of time in endless days of basking in the summer sun, taking lazy afternoon naps on the boat, swimming through the clear ocean water, feasting on freshly caught mussels, fish, and sea urchins, and soaking my feet as I draped my sun-kissed body on the smooth laden rocks. I was expecting nothing less than pure bliss and was prepared for a summer filled with adventure and spontaneity.
That evening we packed up the boat and set sail to anchor alongside an alcove of rocks about 20 miles from the main fishing harbor. It was a perfect night with the sun tucked in while the hot air came to a simmer and the ocean water still inviting for a swim. “We have something special planned for this evening,” my friend, Juan, secretly confided. I attempted to wheedle the details out of him, but he refused and splashed into the 15 feet deep water after giving me two sly pecks on the cheek.
I changed into a bohemian style dress that I often wore when in Cadaques, but turned to hear, “You might want to change into something more conducive to climbing.” I thought for a moment to what that could possibly mean and as I arched my neck and lifted my eyes to the mountain cliff I could see where the bonfire had already begun in preparation for dinner. I opted to wear my bathing suit instead, with the dress tied around my waist, and muscled my way to the top of the mountain. My last heave and I was met with one hand to yank me up and another filled with a glass of red wine.
The wind from atop was quite startling compared to the slight breeze we had enjoyed all evening. “These are the infamous winds,” noting my change in stature and holding my hands he whispered, “Do you feel it?” I instantly thought of the old man I had encountered in Barcelona before heading to Cadaques and couldn’t help but smile at that memory.
Juan led me to the cliff side, stretched out my arms and slightly held onto my waist as he tilted my body into the wind. I couldn’t feel his touch, only the strength of the wind pushing me upward. My hair loosened and as I opened my eyes the stream of purple flowers that had been laced through my curls glided into the wind, and instead of feeling frightened that I would fall, I felt a sudden sense of lucidity. It was my first night back in Cadaques and perhaps my last summer living in Spain, but I couldn’t help to think of the hope, youth, beauty, and passion that I had discovered through my Mediterranean year of experience. I was reminded that although I may begin a new chapter in New York that fall, I still had this summer ahead of me and the dream that I would one day find my way back home to Spain.
I often think about that moment on top of the mountain over ten years ago. It was a time in my life I would always have, to escape to in my mind; remembering the smell of the ocean breeze, the taste of sweet wine, the sound of the lingering waves, the touch of the smooth sand beneath my toes, and the feel of the whirling wind that would always linger inside me.
That place, I’ll always know as home.