What is best?
There’s a Zen proverb in which a monk visits a butcher’s shop.
He asks the butcher for his best piece of meat.
“Everything in my shop is the best,” answers the butcher. “You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best.”
At that moment, the monk – as often happens in Zen proverbs – became enlightened.
Everything is best, and everything is a potential cause for joy… or perhaps enlightenment.
Lily wants me to write about my best travel experience – and that’s my long way of avoiding the topic altogether.
But as I write these words now, in the new office of the prestigious Fly Club, I can look out the window and see the church on Tibidabo, illuminated tonight in the clear Barcelona sky.
It takes me back to when Morena and I were here, months ago, and it was our first day in the city.
Trains, more trains, and automobiles
We’d had a long morning – waking up in Madrid, AVE to Barcelona, taxis to the hotel and then all across the city for her job interview.
Anyway she took us to get coffee at her favorite place, and for a while we admired the sand and sky and waves.
Then, Venus somehow talked us into spending the last hour of the day on a bus to Tibidabo.
She stayed behind, and off we went.
It was hot, a day in late June, and we were soon dizzy and miserable on the bus. It moved slowly, caught in rush hour traffic, up Via Augusta, nondescript grey buildings on both sides.
Once again, I thought, I just don’t like Barcelona all that much.
It seemed like an hour later when we were still on bus V17, and totally fed up, and I suggested we get off the bus and catch another taxi.
Black and yellow taxis are easy to hail on any corner. In a moment one stops.
“Yeah, it’s a long way to Tibidabo,” said the driver.
But 5 minutes later we were there, surrounded by pine trees, and in a minute more we were on top of the hill – finally in the fresh air.
Mount Tibidabo: Escape the City
No goal for this visit – Venus just said the views were nice.
And she was right. The city stretched out on its grid for miles, all the way to the sea. The blocks of flats and offices look like a giant beehive from up here.
It was sunset by this point.
I’ve wasted enough money today that I’m feeling practically aristocratic. We go to a bar with a sea view and sit down for cocktails – negroni for the bitter old guy, mojito for the lady.
And there we admire the view for an hour.
Secretly, I’m terrified. My whole life is in Madrid, but if Morena gets this job, I guess we’ll be here.
Do I even like Barcelona?
Im not sure.
I’ve been here 5 or 6 times, and it’s never made much of an impression.
Every time I’m outside one of Gaudi’s palaces and have to elbow my way through crowds to get a glimpse of anything, I want to gag – and get back to Madrid as soon as possible.
(Am I the only one who thinks Sagrada Familia looks like a line of old, chewed-up cigars standing on end? Probably.)
But as we sit and the gin starts to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, I start to feel better about it.
The view really is spectacular – from up here everything seems quiet, and the seagulls are wheeling and diving in the distance. The cars and buses below are silently moving.
In the offing, just before the horizon, a cargo ship sails slowly toward the port. There’s a sense of space here that you don’t usually get in the city.
After a while, it’s dark, and we’re both hungry for dinner.
I pay for our exorbitant cocktails and we get ready to go.
“The taxi was about a million times more comfortable than the bus,” I say. “Why don’t we take another one back down?”
My girlfriend nods. “I’m nervous about the interview,” she says.
“Yeah, but it’s been a good day. Long but good. And by the way… Maybe I could live here.”
P.S. All characters portrayed herein are real, flawed people with lots of problems and self-doubt. Bar Mirabé on Mount Tibidabo has 12 euro negronis and 6 euro olives, and is open 7 days a week. Taxis are available through the MyTaxi app and by waving hands on sidewalks. I don’t recommend anyone take bus V17 for any reason. 6 months later, I’m living in Barcelona. I’m still not sure if I like it more than Madrid. This article was written in 40 minutes, with the help of Lily of the Fly with Lily podcast. Thank you for reading. Good night.