Yesterday, as DP and I left our apartment for school, I looked up to see that the green wooden balcony doors of the apartment directly across from ours were wide open revealing the brightly coloured duvet of a just slept-in bed and a lovely chandelier that I covet. These green doors have not been open for a month.
You see, Barcelona was closed for August.
You think that I am exaggerating but Spain believes in taking its holidays and, in particular, the month of August. Everybody goes on vacation. Those who can afford to, leave the city. Even the South American contractors working on our friend Margarita’s apartment promised that they would be done for the first of August.
“Si. Claro,” they told her. Yes. Of course.
Where do they all go, los Barceloneses? Some flee to their summer homes along the Costa Brava, ancient villas where entire extended families set up housekeeping for the month. Others drive north, up into the Pyrenees, where it’s at least ten degrees cooler. The wealthy Barcelona people pack their Louis Vuitton bags and travel first class to other countries, continents. They disperse.
We returned to our little corner of Barcelona to find the shop where I get my clothes mended operating on a reduced schedule from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. weekdays only. (I was just delighted that I could still get my trousers hemmed.) The drug store closest to us was closed for all 31 of the days that call themselves August. The Gracia Correos (Post Office), famous for its long hours, was playing incredibly hard to get. Most of our neighbourhood restaurants disappeared behind heavy metal shutters pulled down to the street and locked tight for the month. Our neigbourhood was a ghost town and DP and I were tumbling tumbleweeds, rolling around wide empty streets.
Then August 31st begat September 1st and the Barceloneses returned with their perfect tans and a million compact cars. Honk honk!
This afternoon, on our walk home from the train station, DP stopped in at a bakery called Paul for an after school treat. He bought a quiche and two chocolate macarons. The woman at the counter asked if he was French. When he said that he was not, she replied, “You always buy macarons and quiche. I thought you were French.” DP said, “But why not quiche and macarons? They’re magnifique.”
We’re so glad that it’s September so that we, and all of Barcelona, can get back to normal. So we can buy prescription drugs a block away, stop at our favourite little bakery on the walk home from school and because the neighbours are back with their windows flung wide open and I am basking in the glow of their perfect little chandelier. (I have a little thing for chandeliers.)