Call Me, “Your Highness”

Chilled from spending two hours in the shadowed Our Lady of the Pillar Basilica, I stepped into the sun-filled cobble-stoned market square. I wasn’t sure of the time, but my belly told me it was time to eat. A group of fellow pilgrims walked past Tammie and me. One of them motioned to us, “Come on, Juan is taking us to a restaurant where there’s a buffet for 14.95 euros.”

My daughter grumped, “There’ll be too much food at a buffet and I don’t want to pay that much for lunch.”

Not wanting to do what everyone else was doing, I confided, “I have to agree with you, Tammie. What would you rather do?”

Brightening up, she said, “Let’s go into the restaurant, but order food from the counter and eat it outside.” Food samples lined the counter for visitors. Tammie picked tortilla espanol; I ordered a basket of calamari and two skewers of large shrimp and olives topped with a creamy dressing.

We sat at a table in the shade and tucked into our generous servings. A cheeky sparrow landed near our feet and hunted for crumbs to eat. The shrimp and olives were fresh and delicious, but my big basket of calamari surprised me. I’d never had calamari before that didn’t have at least one rubber band running the length of each piece. I pointed that out to Tammie and concluded, “I guess that’s the difference between ordering calamari in Spain, rather than in Wisconsin.” Continue reading

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The First Lady

I had joked with my daughter Tammie, on the bus about the next city we were visiting in Spain. Its name could be spelled either Zaragoza or Saragossa. I’d told her the second spelling made me think of the Harry Potter stories, commenting with a chuckle, “I can see Hermine in a Spells and Incantation class doing it right…giving her wand a pert flip and twitch and clearly enunciating, ‘Sara-goes-AH!’”

Our pilgrimage bus finally pulled to a stop and we filed off. A warm breeze playfully fluttered the name tag on the lanyard around my neck. Adjusting the travel purse on my shoulder, I glanced around, taking stock of where we were. My sense of direction told me we were on the north bank of Rio Ebro. Our pilgrimage visit for today was the Basilica de la Senora del Pilar. I saw the huge church on the south bank of the River Ebro. The numerous spires of the massive building were impressive.

Walking across the bridge, Tammie stopped mid-way to take a picture of the basilica. I stopped and waited, pondering its history, which extends back to just several years after the death of Jesus.

James, one of the twelve apostles who followed Jesus during His three years of public life. He, along with the other eleven men, had the Holy Spirit descend upon him at Pentecost. They all followed Jesus’ command to go out and, “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The country James went to was Spain. Continue reading

Entering Iberia

In the hotel dining room, I surveyed the deluxe breakfast laid out for us, croissants, sweet rolls, several types of sausage, eggs, bacon, ham, cereal, fruit, juices, various cheeses and coffee. I felt hungry, but wondered if eating a hearty meal was wise.

Today we were leaving Lourdes and crossing the Pyrenees Mountains to enter Spain. I had been dreading this part of the trip, since I suffer from motion sickness. Would the zig-zag route through mountain passes trigger awful, potentially messy symptoms? Reaching up, I lightly touched the anti-nausea patch behind my left ear to reassure myself.

In the lobby, Juan, the owner and manager of Mater Dei pilgrimages commanded in a loud voice, “Before getting on the bus, make sure you see your luggage being loaded. I don’t want anyone missing their luggage when we arrive at our destination.” I spotted Tammie’s and my suitcases among the sea of other suitcases. Continue reading

Songs of our Own

The white, snow-capped Pyrenees mountains behind the city of Lourdes, France, appeared at first to me as very white clouds. Then, as the bus neared the city, I realized the white was snow and that misty clouds concealed the bare rocky crags. The small city and its outlying farmhouses in the foothills below could be seen basking in the mellow, spring-afternoon sunshine.

In 1945 a movie titled, Song of Bernadette, told the story of Bernadette Soubirous, a fourteen-year-old girl, who saw an apparition of a beautiful lady at the grotto called Massabiele, near the city of Lourdes in 1858. The beautiful lady eventually identified herself as the Immaculate Conception. After visitors began to bathe in a spring which started to flow during one of the apparitions, unexplained healings took place.

As our bus turned onto a narrow, cobbled-stone street and pulled up to our hotel, I thought about the movie. How accurate was the story to the actual events that took place? I knew that many people simply believed Bernadette’s word. Others didn’t believe her even after the miracles. This made me think about the Stuart Chase quote, “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof will suffice.” Continue reading

A Closer Look

Something was wrong with the outlet adapter. My curling iron blinked when I turned it on but wouldn’t heat up. Feeling befuddled from lack of sleep, I grumbled and fussed until my daughter plugged it into a different outlet, where it did work, but didn’t have a mirror near-by.

Getting out of the wrong side of the bed can happen even while on vacation. With our five-a.m. wake-up call, I’d only had five hours of sleep. Then, instead of taking a speed train to Lourdes in southern France today, as we’d originally planned, we were riding a bus. The French train workers were on strike.

Beneath all these aggravations, was the niggling, pinching, chafing realization that today would have been my 48th wedding anniversary if my husband, Arnie were alive. I felt sad and, in a way, abandoned.

Our early morning wake-up call was not only to avoid the morning commuter traffic in Paris, but because it would take our bus longer than the train to get to Lourdes. I picked up a boxed breakfast and a cup of coffee from the hotel lobby, trying not to spill or drop either as I took my seat on the tour bus. Continue reading

Striking Contrasts

Strong gusts of wind swirled clouds of ice crystals over the crest of a huge drift between my house and garage. I stood at the staircase window, watching and waiting. This unexpected spring blizzard had already raged for nearly 48 hours. Surely it would end soon. As I watched, the day’s light slowly began to fade. Shielded by cold, gray clouds, our warm, bright sun was dropping behind the horizon.

My daughter Tammie stepped up alongside me and commented, “It looks like it’s still snowing.”

Nodding, I answered, “The weather report is that the storm will end this evening. Anyway, I’ve noticed the wind usually settles down after the sun sets. I hope the man who plows my yard will be able to come then.”

My daughter and I needed to be at Chicago’s O’Hare airport tomorrow to take a flight to Europe. It had been good luck and a quick, last-minute decision that allowed Tammie, who lives in the Twin Cities, to arrive at my house just as the blizzard began two days ago. We’d been snowbound ever since. Continue reading

Closing Door

Rain pelted down onto my car’s windshield. I leaned forward and stared at the rivulets of water. Were there a few ice crystals in some of those drops? I pulled out my phone and texted my daughter Tammie, “It’s started raining here already. My car’s thermometer shows that it is 35 degrees. Are you still planning to drive home tomorrow?”

All morning as I did my errands, I stopped often to text my daughter updates on the weather. “It stopped raining.” Then, “The rain has started up again.” Later, “I saw a few ice crystals in the falling rain.” I’m not usually so preoccupied with the weather, but the weather service had reported a large spring snow storm moving through the Mid-West for the last two days. Both my home and my daughter’s were in the center of its path!

Having a huge storm approach Wisconsin doesn’t usually bother me, but this time I had something important to do and didn’t want the weather to get in the way. My daughter and I were planning to leave for vacation in France, Spain and Portugal on Monday. But first Tammie needed to drive the three hours from her home to mine. She planned to do it on Saturday afternoon. I was worried that the storm would make the roads too bad by then.    Continue reading