January 03, 2011

"Grand Adventure".

Music is very important to me.
In fact, it is highly essential and compliments my daily life in the most vital way. I listen to music every day, the whole day.

I turn on the radio in the morning as soon as I walk out of the bedroom, I listen to the radio while I drive to and from work. In the lab, music can be heard in the background the entire day and as soon I come home in the evening, I put on one of my favorite CDs.

There has been many songs in my life that have captured my senses, due to the rhythm, the enticing harmonies or the poetic lyrics. Today my memory holds a collection of various melodies, which have stayed with me for one reason or another. As soon as I hear the first familiar tunes, in a split second I am taken back in time, recollecting particular moments of my past and the people in it, while my being is infused with bittersweet contemplation.

Just The Way You Are by Billy Joel is one such song, which brings smile to my face and amusement to my mind. Hearing it on one of the radio stations the other day, my mind traveled back twenty years, taking a sentimental walk down the memory lane.

I was twenty two, going on twenty three, celebrating New Years Eve in the company of a dear friend on the Island of Furteventura, one of the Spanish Canary Islands located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Africa. We were two young girls who decided to escape the cold winter of Scandinavia, spending two weeks in warmer latitudes, as the year crossed into a new decade. Little did I know then, that this would be such a life changing trip for my best friend and in turn for me as well.

It was more than two decades ago, yet still today I remember the trip vividly. Particularly the excitement when we realized we were assigned to a studio apartment with a large terrace and a magnificent view of the ocean and the stunning sunsets, which would take place every single evening above its turquoise blue waters.
Furteventura, at least the part where we stayed, was unusually pristine, rugged and unexploited. There were very few hotels and all one was left with was unspoiled beauty. With that said though, some of the hotels directly on the beach were luxurious. Particularly the German ones, which were part of a type of Club Med vacation resorts, a term that was quiet unknown to two young girls, who traveled and stayed on a budged.

A few days into the new year, my stunning friend, a true Scandinavian beauty, a cool blond and very sophisticated young woman, caught the eye of a man in his early thirties, walking along the beach one day. After the polite introductions we realized he was German and involved with television entertainment. Within a short while, we were both invited into his hotel later that evening for dinner. I guess I was mostly invited as a chaperon, or as I later realized, a date for the traveling companion of our new acquaintance.

The evening came and when we crossed through the gates to the hotel, it felt as we entered paradise. We were greeted by opulence and beauty, not just in landscaping and architecture, but also in the entertainment and amenities. And the dinner to which we were secretly smuggled into, consisted of a rich buffet, where the tables were literally breaking under the weight of the food offered. Anything from meat to exotic fish, grilled, cooked, baked or fried, fruit and vegetables, some that I have never seen before or since and deserts that even today make my mouth water.
The evening progressed and my friend and her new suitor disappeared at one point, while I was left with his companion. An old man in my eyes then, but my age today. Many years later I often contemplated with amusement what he must have thought off me, a young girl who could have very well been his daughter. A playboy at the best and apparently a photographer by profession, he was tall and striking, with long blond hair, wearing a hat and cowboy boots, his face weathered by the elements, but very distinguished and his manners sophisticated. And he was a perfect gentleman the whole evening, while we walked around the hotel premises, trying to communicate in a broken German and  poor English.

Our walk and the innocent, but memorable evening finally ended in the hotel's bar on the other side of midnight, where he bought me a glass of my first good wine. Even today I recall the odd and long looks of all the mature women present in the intimately lit, smoke filled room. Many of them looked lonely and what I perceived desperate, something unknown to me in my youth. I felt terribly out of place and surprised over this scrutiny then, as the man I was with held no interest of mine. Today I know better, as time has caught up with me as well...
All this became strongly etched in my memory, an odd moment frozen in time while the bars piano man played Just The Way You Are softly in the background.
He played many more songs that night, but this one stuck with me for eternity.

Eventually our lovely vacation came to an end and as we boarded the plane, my friend knew she was in love. She found a soul mate, even though the infatuation came to be short lived. After our return home, she packed her bags and left to be with her love in Germany, where she stayed for many years to come, long after the relationship ended. Even though we are still in touch today, I lost my very best friend on that island and no more than a couple of years later, I left Sweden too, for good. I guess in some way her departure was a catalyst to my own.

What is even more fascinating about this story is the fact that today, the man she left her family and friends for is a famous television commentator and a talk show host, with his own very popular talk show, interviewing prominent guests on German television.
I wonder to this day if fond memories of Furteventura ever cross his mind - or that of his friend. After all, when translated, the name of the island means something like "Grand Adventure".
And it sure was one indeed.

Authors Note: To those of you who read this to the end; I humbly thank you for your patience and effort in making your way through a very long post - and I dedicate this beautiful compilation below to all of you. 
It is a classic and a beauty, both in harmonies and lyrics.


Elizabeth said...

What a beautiful story. Those were the days when we just packed up our stuff and went on a well-deserved adventure with music to accompanying us.

Have a great start of your week.

Anonymous said...

Great story and lucky her!

Billy Joel is a class act and has always hung his heart on his sleeve in his lyrics. Love the song and it's always been a favorite of mine too when it comes to easy listening music.


Claus said...

What a story!! The adventures of youth, huh? how great it is to remember them, and wonder the "if's". Thank you so much for sharing!!
have a great first week of 2011 ahead!

Baron's Life said...

Could be a great story or a sad story depending on how your friend's life actually turned out to be in the end.
You are right about the music...it is an important element of life, at least, it is for me, which reminds me of my first Walkman and the endless number of tapes I used to have to carry everywhere I went, especially when traveling. Now I just download 5000 songs into my IPOD and I leave..times have changed. Incidentally, now I know how young you are in addition to being so beautiful.

Donna said...

What a beautiful story. I always love reading your stories, Zuzana.

Happy New Year my dear friend!


Julie Hibbard said...

Don't go changing to try and please me...
What wisdom in that line! If only we could know then what we know now, we'd do a whole lot less 'changing' for men and know that real love-true intimacy-depends on knowing the real you.
I love your stories, your writing is so amazing. I feel I know you so much better than I know most of my friends.
Music is the key to life. Like a scent that brings you back, nearly every song on my iPod takes me to an exact place and time, frame of mind, a boy I liked...listening to the record player, over and over.
I, too, always have music on. I sing and dance through my day and through my chores. Perhaps it is why I have never felt lonely. Someone is always here with me. John Mayer spent the day with me yesterday...I think today, it will be Billy Joel.
(PS My daughter and I saw Billy Joel and Elton John in concert together a few years ago--spectacular in every single way!)

Jerry said...

I like your longer stories. They hug me from the first line.

Yes, music transports. A few days ago I put on -- and I don't know why -- an old recording of Gregorian Chants as I lay down to snooze a little on the sofa. Soon I was drifting back to university times when I had to study those chants...but moreso how it felt to be younger and a little frightened and full of yearning. It was the re-living the emotions of my younger years that truly struck me.

I enjoy you and appreciate your words and comments.

Betsy Brock said...

I love that song. And I do agree that a song can hold sentiments and memories that will always be associated together.

What a beautiful story...life changing for you both!

Bossy Betty said...

It's amazing how songs can bring back so much--and such specific memories to us. Loved your story and now I am going to go dig out my Billy Joel CD's!

Brian Miller said...

oy. what an awesome story...all brought back by a song....songs do that to me as well...bring back the vivid memories....loved every minute of this one...smiles.

Dan said...

This is a great song, and a wonderfully vivid memory. Thanks for sharing it with us. Isn't it funny to look back on our thoughts and feelings, and realise that we had such a different perception of the world when we were younger!

Myrna R. said...

Of course I read your post through to the end. It's a lovely story. Funny, how life twists and turns.

Thanks for the song. It's one of my favorites and holds many memories as well.

Christmas-etc... said...

Oh my... you had me hooked from the start and it is I who must thank you for this lovely post!! You have a lovely style of writing - I actually felt as if we were sitting at a cafe together and you were telling me this story. Thanks so much! It was a real treat!
Happy New Year!
PS I love that B. J. song too!

Unknown said...

I agree, Zuzana. Music adds to much to our lives! lol! :)

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful and touching story! It must have been a grand adventure for two young girls. Your story was intriguing to read...I couldn't stop reading it : )

Kath said...

Lovely Zuzana, I hope 2011 brings you, your own Grand Adventure xx

Phivos Nicolaides said...

Great story. I also love music!

sprinkles said...

Yes, a "grand adventure," indeed! Thanks for sharing it.

I agree that songs can definitely take you back to a different time and place. Depending on the particular memory, it can be fun to look back on old times and wonder, "What if?"

That's pretty cool your friend dated is a famous television commentator and a talk show host. I don't have any exciting connections like that in my past.

adrielleroyale said...

Wow, that sounds like something out of a movie! Great story telling - even better since it is a true story :)

SandyCarlson said...

I can remember being young and having similar experiences and making similar decisions. In the end, I found my way home, changed and sad and lonely (read: scratched and dented) and with a story, if nothing else.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Jill from Killeny Glen said...

Zuzana! REALLY! You MUST know by now that I am a TRUE sucker for a lovely, romantic story! I would most certainly read to the end! ;)

I am a Billy Joel fan...well, I guess I should clarify that I was...think I will listen to some more of his music tonight as I work.
Thank you for reminding me!

Hilary said...

What a great story, Zuzana. It felt like I was on that holiday with you and your friend. I've been in a similar adventure myself, years ago. It's amazing how a song can be so deeply etched into your mind.. how it brings back that moment in time. Beautifully told, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Dear Zuzana ~

What a wonderful story! You had me enthralled until the very end! :) Thank you for sharing a part of your past with us and how it shaped your life - as all experiences do...

I've always loved Billy Joel - and especially "Just The Way You Are" - unfortunately that song brings me back to a place in time not as happy or wonderful as yours... but it still has deep meaning for me -

And just as I've talked about before (and as you have too) music definitely has the amazing ability to bring you back to a place in time without having to leave the present...


Regina said...

Beuaiutfl story and post Zuzana . I have to come back and read it over and over again. Indeed music is the language of the soul.
Happy New Year and best wishes my friend.

Reading Tea Leaves said...

This didn't seem a long story at all Zuzana. I was completely hooked from beginning to end!

It sometimes feels strange looking back at one's experiences when young. Almost like it happened to someone else! But music has an uncanny way of bringing back memories. I too had holidays and travelled abroad with a best friend, and each one an adventure. Happily she still is my best friend and we have been through 'thick and thin' together.

Thank you for sharing your story, they are always a joy to read and as ever I love your musical choices:-))


Anonymous said...

What a fascinating story! And how brave of your friend to move over to Germany to be with her love.

Ah - the joys of youth!

steviewren said...

Great story! I love reading about your past adventures. I imagine that older gentleman has never forgotten the beautiful young woman he spent the evening with. Nor do I expect that those older women have forgotten the young beauty who won the attentions of the intriguing older man.

Youth is truly wasted on the young. Oh, for a few moments of my early 20s again....

Rajesh said...

Wonderful post. I love the details of vacation.

A Lady's Life said...

Such memories! It's amazing what comes to mind at the oddest moments.
And youth is such a splendid thing.
My song that I think of is Barbara's - Memories.In the corners of my mind.
Now I'll be singing it all day lol
Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think I know of anyone that has been more places than you. I enjoyed your post. Sounds like you and your friend had quite a time. "Just the way you are" is one of my favorite songs, a very good beat. :)
Lord Thomas of Wellington

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

Lovely... Thank you for sharing this memory, with us.

Have you thought of writing all of them, down? All of your memories...?

Gentle January hugs...

Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

I live in the music baby. I know I must drive my family nuts but it's just how I fly. I'm always beltin' out a turn. I love that Billy Joel song!

I just adored your beautifully written story sweetie. :o)

God bless ya and have an extraordinary New Year!!!!

Unknown said...

I loved this post. how exciting and what many experiences to cherish.

Bhushavali said...

That's so lovely!!!
Fashion Panache - My Green Shrug
Tiruvarur Temple Tour - Part 4

S. Susan Deborah said...

Ahhh, dear Zuzana, I could soak in the magic of that "grand adventure" that enveloped your friend and you. Older men always hold an eternal fascination for me and I can just imagine how that man would have been. And Billy Joel, what can I say. I enjoy all his songs. Now this post for a perfect one in terms of romance, music, adventure and fond memories.
Tell us more stories dear Zuzana. I would love to read them through and through.

Big hugs and much love,

Zuzana said...

Elizabeth, Di, Claudia, Baron, Donna, Julie, Jerry, Betsy, Betty, Brian, Dan, Myrna, Ann, Michael, LadyCat, Kath, Philip, sprinkles, adrielle, Sandy, Jill, Hilary, Christine, Regina, Jeanne, ladyfi, Stevie, Rajesh, A Lady’s Life (welcome), The Bach, Amelia, Nezzy, Doreen, Bhushavali and Susan – oh thank you everyone for the kindest comments ever. I am delighted to know you did not get bored reading this recollection from my youth.

Indeed, it is always so bittersweet to ponder ones past, to contemplate how seemingly insignificant events can change ones life and move it in an entirely new direction.

Thank you all for always taking the time to stop by and particularly this time around I am endlessly grateful to all your for reading such a long post - as I know your time is limited.


direstrait said...


Titane333 said...

Thank for this beautiful story and so lovely song. XOXO

Zuzana said...

Luis Felipe (welcome) and Christiane, thank you so much for your kind words - glad you enjoyed my recollection.;)