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DAY 199

You walk, meander among little Spanish streets. White buildings, white towns. Pueblos Blancos. Spanish floats from second-story windows, vendors attempt to thrust cheap goods in your hands.  A clank of forks sounds, the clatter of cooking escapes from the open doorways, enticing smells encase the air.

Starving, you search for a place to eat, a place to settle into a chair, listen to the sound of the sea, pull out your novel (which, incidentally enough, happens to be in French), sip your sangria, enjoy your food, fall in love with life itself. 

But, suddenly—you stumble upon this—La Casa de las Conchas.  It is unexpected. You didn’t know much about this town, aside from the castle. You came here for the castle. You came here because you had to go somewhere. You came here because someones else told you to. Word of mouth—the best way to travel, the best way to find the local flavour. 

But now that you’re here, you’re ready to discover—and you do! See what you’ve found? Here is house, a tall narrow house, a house that is completely covered with beautiful seashells.

How? Why? Who?

Even utilizing the internet, it is difficult to know, difficult to find the answer.  Who covered this building with shells? And why would one go through that much work?

This house, it is a work of art. Sadly, the only thing that is inside is more tourist traps.

I didn’t go in.

I took a photo, and moved on.

Later, if I translated the webpage correctly, I got the full story.  In the 1950’s, a family of five needed work.  The woman, Justa, intrigued by history and full of love for her city, became a the first local tour guide. She found enough tourists to eventually buy this little house by the sea, a house for her and her family to reside in.  The father loved the sea so much that he began designs of sailors and ships to decorate the walls. He added a shell, then another.  With the support of the townspeople, he kept going, Another, another. All shells found in the area, all shells collected from the local sea, until the entire façade was covered. Thus, La Casa de las Conchas was born. By 1961, it had become a local landmark.

So the family went from giving tours of the local monuments to creating them. A full about-face.

I find that fascinating.   

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DAY 197

§ A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. § Oscar Wilde

 Oh I am so terrible at this!! I am always too busy. But I shouldn’t be. There is always time for photos, there is always time to write!

That said, I am obsessed with photos, I really am. I am obsessed with beautiful photos. And okay, Oscar, maybe, in some ways, they are as useless as pretty flowers, but…but…I love them, I can’t resist taking them, I need to have the photos. I can’t just go someplace beautiful and NOT take a photo, at least, not without feeling sick and terrible.  They are beautiful, yes, like flowers. Perhaps useless to others, but to me, they are so much more.

I went to this castle in a place called Peñiscola (yes, you can laugh) which is possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.  In the center, there is a castle. The blue of the Mediterranean goes on as far as the eye can see, row after row of white houses blanket the ground, topped by row after row of orange roofs. It is the perfect combination, and sort of makes you think that maybe you’re dead after all, and this is what heaven looks like. Or maybe you’ve fallen down a well and are now in wonderland. Or perhaps this is just paradise.

I fell in love with those photos. On the train-ride back to my flat, I was antsy with anticipation to look at them. I tried to resist temptation—no, you can’t look at them on the tiny screen, wait until you can view them on the computer!—but I failed, and couldn’t resist a peek. Oh, so gorgeous. I almost died again.

Then what happened, you ask? Well, I went home. I plugged in the card reader. And….nothing. The card reader was dead. It had committed suicide somewhere along the way. Oh NO! I tried everything. I looked it up online, downloaded programs, tried and retried and retried. I went to the camera store, and then he told me the sad truth, the truth I already knew but didn’t want to admit. My baby was sick, and the card was unsalvageable.

I was so sad, so depressed. You see, I am obsessed with the photos. It’s as if having no photos of something means it didn’t happen. I know it makes no sense, but bear with me!  It doesn’t help that I have a terrible memory. So I use my photos to make sure I never forget something worth remembering.

What did I do? The next weekend, I paid another €25 for the train ticket, spent another couple hours on the train, bought another pricy (but delicious) meal of sangria, pizza, and ice cream, enjoyed the views all over again—because I went back. Yup, I went all the way back to Peñiscola to get back those photos.  I’m glad I did. I found a lot more this time. I appreciated it even more than the first time. I met some interesting, and very proud, Dutch tourists who were fond of telling me about Holland’s Golden Age and how they made America what it is today (they voted for America to be it’s own governing state way back when) etc. I saw the cliffs.  I enjoyed the views. I didn’t get lost.

In the end, both days were perfect…and the resulting pictures were so worth the return!

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