I’m sitting at Bar Canton drinking the best coffee cortado in the whole of Spain. The sun is positively chirping. It’s such a beautiful morning and the crowd at the bar is a warm and friendly crew of Spanish working men, all idling over breakfast before they head off to work. It’s about 8 a.m. and because of those super long, super cold mornings typical here in winter, the sun has just broken through.
Because this is Spain, a lady has just offered to buy me a sandwich. This is the passion, pride, generosity and grace of the Spanish people that amazes me so very often. But I’m not in Tarragona anymore, I’ve come up country, or gone down country, to the left or the right a bit and wound up in a little town called Valls, somewhere in the Reus, Tarragona, La Pobla nexus as you head North from Barcelona. Or South. Probably. And it was terribly strange how it happened, too.
Zoom back, little camera, to maybe three days ago, I’m walking along the beach near the marina in Tarragona. Unlike Benidorm or any Spanish hotspot resort locale, the beach in Tarragona remains undeveloped, pure Wim Wenders if you can imagine it in black and white. The sea, the beach and then the echoing chambers of a long, long semi-enclosed industrial car-park; graffiti, darkness, The Lost Boys, a burnt out car.
That’s when my two restless feet decided, independent of all sense and reason, to go for a walk. I looked around, once towards the direction of the French border, eyeing Toulouse as my next major stop, then back the other way, thinking of remaining in Spain and heading towards Barcelona. All right, thought I, I’ll walk back to Alicante, won’t take more than a few weeks. Heave ho and off we go.
One foot in front of the other I hit the lighthouse at Tarragona, first lit on the 1st November 1864, dismantled a hundred years later and reassembled as a working beacon for those traversing the seas and museum on the Llevant in the 80’s. But that was a dead end, and the next three hours were a scramble to find a route through the Tarragona docks and out of the city.
Walk, walk, sun rising on Bonavista. Carry on walking. In Reus by the afternoon. Dawdle and spend a night. Sunday morning in Reus, nothing doing, carry on walking. Walk, walk, walk. Motorway verges at night, the scent of the citrus trees on dragging country lanes, the moon, stars. La Pobla. A gentleman and his wife pull up to me at eleven o’ clock at night in their car to give me a blanket and some food. The next day in the morning I’m gruffly awakened under my blankets by a police officer who buys me a coffee. The lady who serves me the coffee gives me a brand new notebook. At night, while I’m trying to find Villalonga, I get stuck at an oil refinery and have to return to my checkpoint. Heading back to La Pobla I sit and watch a fire on a three hundred foot cooling tower shoot fifty feet into the air. Very Bruce Springsteen.
Again walk, walk, walk along the motorway at night like the only person left on planet Earth. To be here in Valls at Bar Canton just as the sun comes up. To find, to my surprise, the best coffee in the whole of Spain and the best tortilla española, too. The lady has just given me the sandwich.
Lost in Spain.
People are the greatest thing.