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Mussels

When I was fifteen, my family was invited by our relatives to stay in the south of France for the summer. One of the highlights of the trip was a day-long boat ride to San Tropez on, more or less, a yacht. Aboard the ship was our captain, a chef, and a beautiful girl that I’m guessing was our server.

The sea was calm, we had a bounty of food, and I had my first ‘taste’ of rosé. As the sun set that evening, my brother and I relaxed on the bow of the boat and gawked at the French. Anchored in San Tropez, we ate buckets of mussels drowning in cream, garlic, and white wine. Scantily clad models walked around in 80° weather. Needless to say, our view of sea life was skewed in a romantic way.

Almost 15 years later, I found myself packing for the Classfare Issue of European Adventures. With my pre-teen perspective top of mind, I packed my silk scarf, a bathing suit cover, and a white bikini, anticipating a sail down the Costa Brava in Barcelona, enjoying sunshine and cheese boards with figs and rosé.

Mussels-2

So when we finally boarded our 39-foot monohull, my excitement mounted. We dressed down and prepared for the journey toward the quaint cove of Tossa de Mar. But it wasn’t long after setting sail — five minutes, perhaps — that my sandcastle of dreams melted away under an opposing current, thirty knots of headwind, and seven-foot swells. I instantly regretted brushing off the suggestion of Dramamine before leaving the port.

After six hours at sea, I was eager to feel solid ground under my feet. We arrived in Tossa de Mar as the sun was setting, green and draped in towels. We were only a dinghy ride away from the promise of food and shelter. After a significant effort to mount the motor, half the crew, myself included, jumped into the lesser craft and headed toward the shore. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but somewhere between the sailboat and land, our heavenly vessel of deliverance died. Floating there, I resolved my romantic notions of the sea and came to a new appreciation of ‘boating,’ along with its mystery and volatility.

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After two nights in the cove, we determined to see more of the Costa Brava. On the way back to Barcelona, we made a stop in the port of Canyelles. The dinghy worked this time, and we successfully anchored and motored into a quiet place. If there was any amount of difficulty that existed, I’d become unaware. Though our clothes had been damp for days, and I was in a constant physical state of motion, my newfound perspective forgave any strife.

We walked along the winding trail to the beach in silence. Loosely observed by local fishermen and their children wading in the shallows, we felt unnoticed. Just off shore, we stumbled across an unnamed bar, small, and occupied by a group of girls gushing over a bride to be. We seated ourselves on two white benches that overlooked the sea, and we ordered mussels. They lacked the decadence of San Tropez, but they didn’t need it. Most things are better with a bit of grit anyway.