.. A Day at the Beach....

Antonia (Donna) Holloway moved to Barcelona several years ago where she plys her trade as a technical writer and on-line documentation specialist. We should all be so lucky as to manage to make ends meet living in a Mediterranean town! She sent this not long after moving there. We're glad to finally have the right place to “publish” it. -- Ed

The last several weeks have been quite busy looking for work, I swear it work harder getting work than I do when I actually GET the work...all this being social and dashing here and there... is quite hard in fact for my little hermit self. I decided what I needed was a quiet day at the Med. and reminded myself that I really haven’t been since I have been here. On sunday I dash down on my bike, meet a friend, take a brisk walk, but really, just to be a sand lizard, I haven’t.

So, Wednesday I jump out of bed (having been quite deligent in the work hunting-gathering thing on Tuesday) and got my beach toys together. Umbrella, little lunch and drink, towel, sheet, oil, book (English), Spanish verb book, walkman. I was ready for the day.

Now, what bus was I suppose to take? My flatmate suggested the 41 and that meant a brief hike of 8 blocks -- downhill -- no problem. Off I go. The bus was hot, but not too bad -- because it goes through the town -- it takes about 40min to get to the water. Well, actually it doesn’t get to the water. It stopped in a parking lot and the sign said “fini.” opps. What happed to the beach? Lucky for me, a family, mom, dad, baby, grandparents had got on the bus early and I followed them off -- trying to look worldly.

Cross the big street, through the Mcdonald’s (honest) and then... water! Clear, beautiful, salty water. Little beaches broken by the jetti’s. I got there about 11 a.m. and already the sand was littered with people, kids, umbrellas... but not yet toe-to-toe, I sighed and hoped it would not get too much more crowded.

Got myself settled and was a happy little hermit. Dunked myself in aquamarine water, tasted the salt. The morning was so bloody hot, not a whif of a breeze, the cool water felt great. I noticed when I came out of the water the old lady and old man next to me -- they had beach chairs, were chatting comfortably with the people on the next patch of sand. Then I notice the little grandmotherly type had no top on. just boobs and bottoms. Just chatting away to the strangers one towel away. Made me grin... a total Mediterranean experience. As I was settling in to my mystery novel, I glanced up, just one contented puppy... as I noticed the little grandfather type get up and kiss his little women -- ah, how sweet. then he slowly moved to the water... he was wearing a thong -- a little strip of nothing.. the man was older than my dad (no offence dad, but I couldn’t help but chuckle and wish brother was here... old grandfatherly types look kind of free and well, very strange in a thong-type swimsuit.

In a flash, I pretty much decided the beach folks were much more interesting than the mystery novel. I looked around. From toddlers to grandparents, people were swimming, sunning, playing tag ball, without tops and little bottoms. All bodies, fat, skinny, just right, and super models. I thought, how do these people face each other the next day at work? Clearly, my Roman Catholic upbringing was showing. I swim topless or more in the lake at home, but Mr. South doesn’t have the eyesight to see across the lake anymore... and I don’t think his horse grazing in the field is terribly impressed either. I wondered how long it would take me to find the courage and invisibleness to shed my top. I had to be home by 6 p.m. -- my flatmate was teaching me to cook a curry/rice dish...

The beach got progessively more crowded. People in Barcelona (BCN) are so darn used to having no space, being totally social and accepting of crowds, they just plunk their towel right next to you -- I mean, you can get stepped on when they get up. The wind started, the tide changed. The windsurfers came out, you could see the sailboats going to and from the marina. Almost like Zuma beach in LA -- except for the topless part. The water is very salty -- and was surprised how clear it was -- I could see past my toes and down to the sand. My flatmate (Shiela) says it is a bit dirty on the weekends. I don’t see how you could get in on the weekends -- way too many people.

I noticed a very pretty woman sunbathing to the right of me...just touching the water line. One of those nice, all over tans, thought hummm... perhaps I should move my towel closer to the older fat women chat group even futher to the right. Their boobs hung down to their string bikini line and the funny thing was -- they often put their top on while sitting under their umbrella, but when they went into the water, they left their tops on their chairs.

When I saw the hunky lifeguard, I decided that Baywatch just shoot their series here. About mid-to-late 30’s and to die for cute. I couldn’t tell what his purpose in life was (other to make me grin and wish I’d be faithful about going to the gym). He strolled along the beach, checking out the horizon -- the windsurfers were way to far out for him to swim too -- occassionally I saw the red rescue avon (rubber raft) zip out to collect one. There are no lifeguard stands so I have no idea where they hide until they are needed. But I truely wish I had better spanish so I could flirt properly. Actually, he was one of the few that actually had a real swimsuit on -- and of course that lifeguard t-shirt that clearly implies “I have been going to the gym since I was in the womb.”

The beach crowd thins out as the wind kicks up and 1 p.m. rolls around. People head home to take comida (lunch) and for small amount of time my mystery novel is more interesting than the beach crowd. However very soon I was once again entertained by the the new sun worshippers. A gaggle of teens plopped down beside me... and as with teenagers all over the world, they run in packs and very soon I felt like I was inside a high school play yard. Screeching, boys pulling the girls into the water -- girls squeelling “no, no” All over me... Very friendly people these Barcelonans. I wondered if it was genetic that girls -- regardless of where they grow up -- learn how to flirt and shriek and squeal. some of the girls soon took off their tops and I thought gee I wonder how they see the boys in school and not blush. But the afternoon was warming up quite nicely -- it was now bloody hot -- and I was spending as much time in the salty Med as I was on the beach sheet.

The European flavor and heat and feeling totally invisible I decided to shed my top. So lovely to swim free. It was not too long before my internal nagging convinced me that it was now about 4 p.m. and people I know could be wandering down to the shore. I can’t help it, I know I would feel wierd if someone I had just had an interview with came strolling by and said “hola, Antonia, dia buena.” I just don’t know if I could carry on a conversation with a total stranger with my boobs dancing free in the air. Ahh, sometimes it is good to feel free. The water was grand, the surf provided a nice rhythemic pounding, the children cried when mommy forced them off the beach, husbands came down in search of their families, the teens played on. Not a single boom box appeared and blessedly -- no rap music at all. Beat the hell out of Zuma beach.

Finally, body and soul tanned and rested, I gathered my toys and headed for the bus. Traffic in BCN is like 285 in Atlanta on a Friday night -- getting through town is a pain. Didn’t get much of the mystery novel read, but had a lovely day, felt that I could now say truthfully -- I had been to the Med. Read my mystery novel all the way home on the bus and walked up hill for 8 blocks.

Some days are just better than others.