Danny's European Adventure-Epicurean Delights, Friends, Skulls, and a Manic Man

        Our first day in France began with our last morning in Barcelona. Back to work for the rest of the Spanish world, but much to look forward to in ours. I got to running for the fifth straight day as men and women in snappy suits headed of to their office jobs, and workers who were going to get their hands dirty marched to theirs.

     My hierarchy of daily exercise in the days past knee surgery, and with a cranky back, goes this way. Gym if available, I have a little one in my basement. If I have access to a bicycle, either my own toted along, or one for rent, and if all else fails these days, I run. I still do run by choice some when I am in big cities, in New York always since it is one of my favorite things.

     But it appears that I am going to be going about fifteen in a row here, and that will almost certainly be the most since the amazing, or insane (your choice) 7,131 I did through 2005. I may be in traction back in the good ole U.S.A, but that’s the way it’s going to be.

    We picked up our rental car at the airport in Barcelona and off we went north. It is about 100 miles to France from Barca and it is a magnificent ride through the Sierra Nevada range of the Pyranees, with some spectacular views with the mountaintops still covered in snow. We stopped for a great lunch in the seaside city of Callela before proceeding to our home for the week in Montserat, France, a tiny village in the wine country of Southeast, France of around 600.

     We couldn’t have nicer accommodations for our stay for our party of four, a simple, but lovely villa with a mountain view over a small outdoor pool. There is a far more interesting side part however, the fact that the husband of the couple who runs the little compound that includes four villas does volumes of serious contemporary sculpture that abounds the area. Also, his engaging wife, who runs the operation, took us around and detailed what is behind many of his ideas. Which included a crypt, which was a long, dark, tunnel with about thirty metallic skulls in various colors and patterns. Using only a phone flashlight for illumination, it created a creatively creepy feeling as you passed through.

     We wandered leisurely through the afternoon for a lunch in LaGlasse, a village up in the mountains, and later enjoyed another lovely evening, this time not in a restaurant, but with friends we met last year in the nearby village of Boutenac. Their hospitality, a delicious duck dinner, and ample amounts of red wine and conversation were delightful to say the least.

    I went back to our apartment, thinking it unlikely that I would get to see the Champions League semi-final between Liverpool and Barcelona. After having been in Barca for five days just before, I had experienced the jubilation of the fans after they rolled Liverpool in the first leg 3-0. It seemed a bit impossible for Liverpool to mount a realistic comeback.

    I had sampled my French TV options the day before, and it was clear that the CANAL Sports channel that would carry the game live was on another tier. And that didn’t prepare me for an experience I likely will only have again if the same channel replicates what I am about to describe for Wednesday’s other semifinal.

     After surfing through to make sure I had not missed something, I handed the remote to my sister-in-law, and a few minutes later she said “Look at this!” What was dubbed Euro Channel 17 had their own version of the game. They could not show it, so they were bouncing back and forth from a desk where a host and four pundits were breaking down the game, which was in the 75th minute with Liverpool having made a miraculous comeback to lead 4-0 in the game, and 4-3 on aggregate.

     Of course, this still meant that a single road goal for Barcelona would give them the victory over the two legs. What they were bouncing back to were two men wearing headsets, facing the camera, with their eyes on a monitor watching the game. One man was the play-by- play announcer, and he was very enthusiastic (remember this is all in French and I can’t understand a word), but he seemed somnambulant compared to the apoplectic man next to him who bore a string resemblance to Danny DeVito.

     At first, I thought our man Danny was a Barca man, since he was seemingly desperately begging for a winning goal. Arms flailing, chewing a pencil, and regularly grasping his head in dismay, I finally figured out that the result he really wanted was for Liverpool to hang on for dear life. They would occasionally cut back to the desk, where the five experts were calmly voicing their opinions, which again I could not understand at all. Trying to decipher something from the French graphics was about all I could attempt.

     Relief came to “Danny” as the final whistle blew. He then buried his head in his partners chest and then planted a big kiss on each cheek. Liverpool 4, Barcelona 3, and it was back to the pundits for analysis. There must have been some hefty embargo on the video, because I watched another hour, and only got five head shots and the occasional still photo. That was OK, I had just witnessed something completely unique, and I had laughed myself to exhaustion.

     Nighty-night came easily and it was up this morning for a sixth straight running day, and my body still hasn’t rebelled. Another active French day awaits, perhaps at the end I will have the chance to rekindle by relationship with the manic “Danny”.