Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Okay, so I guess my husband's birthday isn't quite over yet, because here I am blogging about him. Again.

Dan simply has these moments when he wants to cover all his bases, make things right again. Just do the right thing. It's taken us on some adventurous detours.

Our honeymoon, five-plus years ago. After observing Dan's obsessing over how we were going to see all of Europe in a month, and yet dwelling the most on locales in Spain and Portugal, I finally told him to just chuck the rest of Europe and plan the trip around those two countries. And with that, he researched countless guidebooks, got the maps, made the online reservations and the itinerary (all of which he excels at, so much better than I do), and we flew off to London, then Toulouse. We rented a car in Toulouse and took a hop, skip, and a jump over the border into Spain.

After a stop at the Salvador Dali museum in Figueres, we made our way to the resort town of Pineda de Mar, a short train trip away from Barcelona. For the next few days, we took the train into the city and walked down La Rambla, took in Antoni Gaudi's mind-blowing Modernisme architecture masterpieces, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

But on that first day, all we wanted to do was to check into our hotel. So we parked our teeny rental car, pulled out our stuff, dropped it off at our room, and came back to the car only to find that we had been ticketed. Turns out there was a big municipal meter that was sitting on the sidewalk only a little ways up from where we parked, and we not only didn't see it, we didn't feed the meter for the time that we had parked there.

Now, keep in mind: the fine for our faux pas was miniscule by American standards. It was the equivalent of two bucks. I don't know exactly what it was - maybe the first flush of a new marriage, the need to do right by a foreign country, or just Dan - but suddenly, inbetween all of the other things we had on our itinerary, we had to pay this ticket somehow.

So, every day we stayed in Pineda, at some point in each day, Dan had to be on the trail of settling this ticket. He was armed with only the ticket, his better-than-average elementary Spanish, and my company. We managed to shoe-horn this quest inbetween Gaudi-viewings, a visit to the Miro museum, and checking out the area's preparations for the festival of San Juan.
It also took us into a small glimpse of the law and its enforcers a la Espana.

Our quest took us first to the local Guardia Civil house, which was situated on the beach in Pineda. I read later on in James Michener's Iberia that the Guardia Civil had been an official branch of Franco's enforcers in the days before the restoration of the monarchy. What we saw, however, was the equivalent of a National Guard troop as uniformed beach bums. They directed my husband to the local police station to help with the ticket. And so we had to pursue its payment another day.

That next day we stopped off at the local station, which was much more formal and together than the Guardia Civil beach bunker had been. Through a lengthy conversation in Spanish, my husband finally got the story. Payment of the fine was achieved through the muni-meter itself. Seems a teeny slot at the bottom of the machine was where the ticketed person inserted the ticket, the money for the fine, and, presumably, a mea culpa, and all was forgiven.

Dan and I went back to the machine. We examined the bottom slot, which was large enough for only bills, not coins, to pass through. So we couldn't pay it with our coin pesetas at all. Sigh.

We went to a local restaurant that night to take in a traditional meal commemorating the beginning of the San Juan celebrations. A woman on the train back from Barcelona we had been on earlier in the day had pointed out all the people fishing in the sea from shore and told us they would be fishing all night for the feast of San Juan. Dan and I left them to it after the meal and went back to our room.

The next morning, we drove off down the road to Valencia. We had a candied cake in the backseat, a traditional festival food that we were noshing on as we drove. Before we left, Dan handed me the ticket and two American dollars to stuff in the muni-meter slot. They barely managed to fit.

Mea Culpa, Pineda de Mar. We hope all is forgiven.

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