Our arrival

6 12 2006


With the help of Le Enchanteur’s magic, my traveling companion and I have been transported from a lonely beach in Queensland to a hillside in Spain. We have decided to begin our Grand Tour by spending Christmas in Granada, surely one of the most beautiful cities on earth.
Since we are setting out from Australia, at a considerable distance from everywhere else, and neither my companion nor I care for the thought of flying, Le Enchanteur’s magic is a welcome addition to our luggage. It is the little silver flute that I found in the bag given to me at the start of this journey. It was an addition to the familiar items I had carried before on these journeys.
I discovered the flute’s magic quite by accident. I played a few bars of Greensleeves and found myself in London, with Buckingham Palace before my startled gaze. Realising what had happened, I quickly played Waltzing Matilda and found myself home again.
So while my companion held my arm on that balmy Queensland beach, I played a few bars of We Three Kings, a popular carol in Spain where the Three Kings are still venerated.
In the wink of an eye, we were standing on a hill overlooking the magnificent vista of Andalucia. Above us, perched like an eagle on the hilltop was a beautiful old castles, and below small white houses scattered down to the plain, like icing sugar on a cake. The air was a crisp and cold, and we were glad of our warm traveling clothes, which a few moments ago had seemed so unsuitable on a warm summer day.
While we were exclaiming over the view, a group of children came toward us. Shyly they beckoned us to follow them to a charming village of white houses nestled into the hill. We made our way up winding paths to a dear little house perched on the side of the hill. A woman who proved to be the children’s mother met us at the door.
“Welcome to la Casa del Almendro,” she said. “I am Carmelcita Vasquez, and these are my children Pedro and Gitana. We will do everything we can to make your stay here a happy one.”
The House of the Almond Tree – Edith and I looked at each other in delight. The courtyard was indeed shaded by an almond tree, and Carmelcita had laid out a delicious breakfast of orange juice, mushroom omelets and the fried, sugar dusted cakes called roquillas.
While my companion and I made short work of this repast, our luggage was collected and taken into the house by Pedro and his father Domingo. Carmelcita and her husband and children lived in a house nearby and we were truly grateful that they had agreed to look after us during out stay. Their welcome was everything we could have wished.
After breakfast, my companion and I did some unpacking, and explored our dear little house. It was quite whimsical inside, and looked as if it had been carved out of the living rock. The walls had little carved niches rather than shelves in which Edith and I placed a few mementoes and books. The fireplace was similarly carved out of the rock, and Carmelcita assured us that though the nights were cold, our house would be snug because the chimneys tunneled through the walls, spreading warmth to every part of the house.
My bedroom was charming and overlooked the little courtyard below. I placed my clothes into a deep cavern cut into the wall, whitewashed and lined with shelves. The cover on the bed and the rug on the floor were handmade and there was a desk by the window where I stored my art and writing materials. Edith was equally delighted with her bedroom, which overlooked the Andalucian plains.
Later that morning, while we enjoyed fragrant coffee from our own dear little kitchen, Pedro and Gitana decorated the almond tree with tinsel and gold stars and chatted excitedly about Christmas, and what they hoped the Three Kings would bring for them. Edith and I were reminded that here, Christmas goes on until January 6, when the Three Kings bring presents for the children.
It would be, we agreed, a marvelous way to spend the holiday season, in this delightful village, with Granada less than an hour away, and the companionship of the Vasquez family.


Waiting to Depart…

4 12 2006


My travelling companion looks trim and elegant as she waits on the Queensland shore before our departure on the Grand Tour.

Why did I choose Edith Wharton as a companion – why did she choose me? I have long loved her books, and I was enchanted to learn that she wrote in bed until noon, tossing the sheets of paper on the floor as she finished each page.
She was not a woman of her time, but a woman who lived in her own time – here is a sample of her writing:

“You have hit upon the exact word; I was fond of him, yes, just as I was fond of my grandmother, and the house that I was born in, and my old nurse. Oh, I was fond of him, and we were counted a very happy couple. But I have sometimes thought that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing- room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go as they list; but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.”

“And your husband,” asked the Spirit, after a pause, “never got beyond the family sitting-room?”

“Never,” she returned, impatiently; “and the worst of it was that he was quite content to remain there. He thought it perfectly beautiful, and sometimes, when he was admiring its commonplace furniture, insignificant as the chairs and tables of a hotel parlor, I felt like crying out to him: ‘Fool, will you never guess that close at hand are rooms full of treasures and wonders, such as the eye of man hath not seen, rooms that no step has crossed, but that might be yours to live in, could you but find the handle of the door?'”

Who would not want to travel with this woman? And why does she want to travel with me? I don’t know, she just smiles and says that the time is ripe for adventure, and leaping into the unknown off the Queensland coast seems like a great adventure.
We have discussed the places we want to visit – New Zealand, Tahiti, Egypt, Peru, Italy and Spain. Perhaps not in that order, and perhaps we will actually wander off our plan when other places of interest show themselves. We have a globe of the world, and we will will spin it to see where we go. For what is an adventure if there is no mystery, no chance?
So I hand her the globe and with one white, elegant hand, she spins…