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.
My daughter sat on a bench near the stairway. Looking over the crowd of fellow pilgrims who were milling about, I caught her eye. We nodded at each other. She’d spotted the suitcases, too. As I approached her she advised, “Quick, get on the bus. You need a seat near the front so you don’t get sick. I’ll watch our luggage be loaded.”
Waiting for my daughter to join me on the bus, I reflected on how she’d been six years old the first time she saw me jump out of our family car because I was carsick during a vacation. Her empathy for me was in high gear today.
The Pyrenees are a huge ridge of mountains between France and Spain. They are 270 miles long, extending from the Atlantic Ocean’s Bay of Biscay to the warmer waters of the Mediterranean Sea. I stared up at the snow-covered crags. Vast promontories surrounded us as the road weaved between them. At one point we even drove through a long tunnel burrowed through the rocky earth.
I’d read that this God-made boarder wall ranged from six to eighty miles wide. Paulo, our bus driver must have known a route through the narrower portion of the Pyrenees Mountain Range. I managed to enter Spain without nausea ruining anyone’s day.
Spain is located on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, which is slightly smaller than the Scandinavian Peninsula. Ancient Greeks called the people Iberians, probably after the river Ebro, along which they lived. Countries located around the Mediterranean Ocean used different names to describe this land though the centuries, but always returned to its original name, Iberia.
Our first stop after crossing the mountain was for lunch in Barbastro, located in the Spanish province of Huesca at the junction of the Cina and Vero rivers. The beautiful bluish-green water in the Cina River fascinated Tammie and me. We wondered if the color resulted from minerals the snow-melt water took from the surrounding mountains.
At the hotel restaurant I was surprised that I had an appetite. Then I was further surprised when our lunch turned into a fancy three-course meal. First, our waitress brought out large plates of stuffed tortellini swimming in pesto sauce and topped with crumbled parmigiana cheese. It looked like an entire meal. When we were finished, our waitress brought out plates of fish surrounded by sliced potatoes and pimento peppers.
Finally, a plate with a small slice of layered chocolate cake and a mini scoop of orange sorbet was set before me. I laughed with delight. Beside the sweets, each plate was decorated with a perfect treble clef, apparently drawn by the chef using a raspberry jelly pen.
Our next stop was at Torreciudad, a Marian pilgrim destination for centuries. Jose Maria Escriva, born in Barbastro in 1902, built a new shrine there in the 1970’s. Escriva is best known as the founder of Opus Dei, an institution of the Roman Catholic Church dedicated to teaching that everyone is called to Holiness.
That night in our hotel dining room, I sipped wine and surveyed our meal; garlic-onion broth, crusty bread and salmon. I commented to Tammie, “This morning I was worried about getting sick as we drove through the mountains. What a happy surprise my feeling well has been.”
Tammie answered with a smile, “I’m glad you’ve enjoyed entering Iberia.”