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April 08, 2007

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Roger

Part of the reason to travel, I think, is indeed to completely lose oneself and wander. As you said, we reinvent ourselves and get into the rhythm of a place. We discover that we do like to become lost in a moment, wandering about a strange new place and perhaps finding the unexpected.

One of the most profound travel moments I had was wandering around Rome on my first visit there and quite unexpectedly coming upon one of the world's greatest treasures, the Pantheon.

Lee

Yes! It's so much better when you don't go looking for things, even if they're the "standard" tourist attractions. So much better to just happen upon them. They're much more of a surprise and a wonder then. A friend of mine and I did that in Paris with both Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. We just sort of "found" them in our wandering, looming out of the skyline at us.

I like wandering across the little "moments" too, that you'd never see otherwise: someone sketching, the odd itinerant street performers, odd, undocumented pieces of history that nobody visits (like that little cavalier's monument in Santa Maria Del Mar that just broke my heart). Those are treasures.

Kristin

Beautifully put, Lee. I've been in search of my own version of that place, too, and sometimes I have found it in places as divergent as Bruges, Venice, Marrakech, and Xi'an. Places where narrow passageways branch out and disorient me, where things are not laid out with rational logic to make way for the automobile, where I'm not quite sure what I'll find when I step into a shop. I prefer things to be organic to planned out (which was at odds with all of the planning I had to do when I was a scientist). I too like to feel that I'm "discovering" something, even though it's in the middle of a city of millions of people that has been around for centuries.

Interesting story in today's Chicago Tribune about how architects are preserving facades but not the feel of old buildings as a building boom rages on. I couldn't help but compare the transformation of the former Maxwell Street Market into another generic suburban-type mall with the sumptuousness of Barcelona's La Boqueria. I guess this is called progress, though.

Lee

You're lucky to have found it, Kristin. I'm still looking. This is one of the reasons, I think, I was so drawn to the Barri Gotic and the rest of the Old City in Barcelona. I keep hoping I'd stumble across it in my blind, mapless wanderings. No such luck, but I did collect some great "moments."

The gutting and reusing trend is a pretty popular factor in urban planning right now. I'm not sorry to see the facades, at least, preserved, because at least it keeps the neighborhoods the same height. It's where all the new high-rises go up that it becomes a disaster. Pretty soon, it's going to be as dark on Manhattan's streets as it is in the Barri Gotic, but without the courtyards and squares to alleviate it.

Roger

Ann, the coffee you gave me was waiting on me when I arrived home from work on Monday. I ate a few yummy beans immediately and then had my first press of it this morning. Oh my gawd...how wonderful. It puts American coffee to shame. It is both smooth and complex, I am still trying to figure out all the levels of flavor I'm enjoying. Thank you so much for thinking of me with such a wonderful gift. Each pot I have will evoke fond thoughts of you and memories of my own travels and tourism.

Lee

So glad you're enjoying the coffee, Roger! It was a shamefully easy present to buy. It's sort of payback for your wonderful stories about Barcelona, which finally tipped me over the edge into going. So thank you, too!

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