Author Archives: Cooper Zale

Two Inch Heels Part 13 – Granada

Monday October 29, some 20 hours after we boarded the overcrowded train in Benicarlo it finally arrived in Granada. We had spent the last couple hours sharing a compartment with two of our backpacker cohort, American guys like us headed for this beautiful old city nestled in the hills of the south of the country. When we got to our destination they headed off in their own direction, it was just Steve and I.

Spain continued to be true to its billing as heaven for thrifty travellers. We bought delicious freshly baked pastries at a storefront bakery for just five pesetas each, which was just ten cents U.S. Dinner with Paella, real steak, and wine for just 110 pesetas ($2 U.S.) And finally the hotel room, with two beds, tile floor and a small balcony with a stone railing and a great view of the Alhambra on the hill across town, just 160 pesetas ($3 U.S.) Real easy to eat well and sleep in nice lodgings and still stay close to that six dollars a day budget! So we were living relatively high on the hog for a while, including a bottle of wine with most non-breakfast meals. We spent the rest of the day doing nuts and bolts things like buying groceries, cashing traveler’s checks, washing some clothes (we actually found a laundromat this time), and writing and mailing postcards. These things, in a foreign land where you don’t speak the language, often turned into a logistical challenge that took all day.

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Two Inch Heels Part 12 – Aldea

Thursday October 25 was our last morning in Barcelona. The sun pushed its way through the narrow window of our room in the little pension, inspiring us to get up early and enjoy getting out in its bounty of heat and illumination one last time in our beautiful old Gothic Quarter neighborhood of bricks and stone. Our plan was to try to hitchhike south to Granada. If I had been traveling on my own I would have used my rail pass to take the train, but Steve did not have one, and he wanted to avoid the expense of the train if at all possible given his limited funds. I certainly appreciated that, having very limited funds myself, beyond that key asset of the pass. To have a continuing travel partner, at least for now, I was happy to go with the flow, whatever the universe presented as the way forward.

Steve and I bypassed our hosts’ little breakfast pastry spread for the moment, and went out to the little grocery store across the plaza from our pension and picked up supplies for our anticipated day on the road. I noted the prices in my journal…

Spanish sardines in oil 10 pst
4 (125cl) tubs of strawberry yogurt 32 pst
2 glazed donuts 10 pst
Biscuit cookies 9 pst
100 gm cheese 22 pst
2 bananas 9 pst
6 smallish tomatoes 3.5 pst
1 liter of Coca Cola 15 pst
Total 110.5 pst

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Two Inch Heels Part 11 – Barcelona

It was mid afternoon on Monday October 22 when Zo and Randall’s beat up old VW van, having survived the thorough going over by Spanish customs, finally entered the eastern port city of Barcelona, my travel partner Steve’s and my destination. Our hosts for the journey had picked us up about 100 kilometers south of Paris and given us the longest single ride I had had to date hitchhiking. With lots of hugs and emotion, our two fellow traveler hippieesque Canadians parted company with us there, with their plan to continue down the coast to the south of Spain for an intended crossing over to Morocco in North Africa.

Zo wrapped her arms around my waist and pressed her short stocky body against mine for a long hug, her wild explosion of red hair, somewhat constrained by her ever present red Canadian flag headband with the white maple leaf, again gently and now familiarly tickling my chin and cheek. She glanced up at me and ever so subtly shook her head and grinned, the reason for that minuscule head shake tantalizingly unknown, her eyes now not heavy with fatigue like they’d been last night when she suggested we sleep, not “together” in a sexual sense, but next to each other. As we momentarily held the embrace, it struck me how connected I felt to this person that I had only known since yesterday, and how much I was going to miss her company. Though I had always been shy about any physical intimacy with women, Zo had made me almost instantly comfortable with her and I had had no discomfort sleeping very close to her last night, with our clothes on and sandwiched between our travel companions. I realized my trepidation really was in initiating the physical intimacy, but if circumstances led obviously in that direction, or my partner initiated it, I had no problem being intimate, and really enjoyed it. If only we were in a world that was not so male driven and women were more comfortable initiating more intimacy, it would be a boon to a shy male type like me.

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Two Inch Heels Part 10 – Magic Bus

So Sunday morning October 21, Steve and I hoisted our packs and walked from the Rue Titon hostel to the main highway that headed out of Paris south towards Lyon, and stuck out our thumbs. I was a bit wistful to leave Giselle and her striking daughter Laurence behind, but was happy to have my new travel partner at my side. He seemed a good companion, a bit more extroverted than me, smart, funny and even-keeled, and all with low ego. I hadn’t seen him have the bouts of moodiness and withdrawal that had overtaken my last travel partner Jack.

Standing on the side of a big Paris thoroughfare packed with cars zipping past and lots of pedestrians as well briskly walking by us on the wide sidewalk, I wasn’t sure anyone would pull over and give us a ride. But someone finally did. A young guy, one of our cohort with his own long hair and bell bottom pants, driving one of the funkiest beat up runty little cars I had had the occasion to see in either Europe or the States. Later when I asked him, he told me with a dose of hippie pride that it was a Citroen “deux chevaux”. I knew enough French to figure out that that meant “two horses”, and I was ready to believe that the little engine, sounding more like a lawnmower under the front hood, might only be two horsepower (it was actually just nine). It was the cutest little ugly duckling of a car, his with a canvass rollback sunroof a lot worse for wear, which was closed on that crisp October day. Steve sat in the front passenger seat next to our host and driver while I sat in the semblance of a backseat squeezed next to our two backpacks taking up most of the space.

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Two Inch Heels Part 9 – Steve

It was Friday October 18, a long month into my odyssey and finally a gorgeous fall day after too much cold and rain over the past couple weeks. It never ceased to amaze me how much Mother Nature and her climatic moods influenced, even controlled, my own. A sunny day could assuage a lot. From atop the cupola of Sacre Coeur, I looked down at central Paris, my loneliness also medicated somewhat by the previous evening spent with Giselle, Paul and the stunning Laurence. Just somewhat.

As I stood alone on the observation deck and my eyes looked off at the city in the distance, my mind looked off into my future in the distance as well. After I visited Angelica in Tubingen I figured I would have about five more weeks, to go to Spain and Italy and end up in maybe Vienna. Once I got there I would have it licked, and could arguably say that I had seen Western Europe, and make my way back to England, maybe by way of Amsterdam, and then back home to the States. Of course, it felt a bit unnerving to be planning all this further travel when part of me just wanted to hop on a train and get my ass back to England and then fly back home as quickly as possible. I pondered whether to continue to consider that option of bailing, was undermining my coping with my situation, or perhaps instead providing a helpful escape valve.

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Two Inch Heels Part 8 – Paris

View of central Paris from Montmartre

When I finally woke up the little clock radio on the nightstand by my head indicated that it was already past eleven in the morning on Monday October 15, 1973. I had slept so deeply that it took my mind some thought cycles to remember where I was in time and space. I recalled listening to a World Series game last night on the radio, which is something I often did at night during the summer in my bedroom at home. But I quickly reoriented to being in fact far from home.

Realizing I was in a hotel room and not knowing when checkout time was, I got myself up, stumbled down the hall to the bathroom, hoping it would be unoccupied and have a shower with warm water, which it was and it did. It was the first shower I had had since I left Angelica and Helmut’s place in Munich four days ago. The two hostels I had stayed at since then had all had showers, but none with hot water. And I refused to take cold showers, and would go without, with just a quick bird bath with a moist washcloth instead.

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Two Inch Heels Part 7 – Low

Bridge over the Meuse river in Liege Belgium

It was a chilly Friday October 12, though the light rain had finally stopped. Our boat ride down the Moselle finished at the little town of Cochem, set against the hillsides on either side of the river with one big old stone bridge connecting the two halves. I had just read in the latest edition of the International Herald Tribune that with a temporary stalemate on the battlefield in the war in the Middle East, Israeli prime minister Golda Meir offered a ceasefire which Egyptian president Anwar Sadat refused. More young soldiers of my generation would be dying on both sides of the conflict.

Me and all the now drunken German tourists funneled down the gangway into town. Unlike my ride down the Rhine to Koblenz the previous day, I had not found any fellow travelers, or even English speaking tourists, to pass today’s journey with. Feeling cold and alone, I had tried to appreciate the beautiful vistas along the way. Hillsides covered with vineyards dominated by old stone houses and even castles plus the occasional picturesque little stone town, like my current location. I was headed to Trier another 100 kilometers or so down the river to the hostel there, and I was counting on catching some sort of afternoon train from the station in town to my day’s destination.

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Two Inch Heels Part 6 – Rivers

It was Wednesday October 10 1973 and I was headed to Mainz to take a boat up the Rhine river. I was thinking “up” because the boat would head north, but north was the direction of the river flow to the ocean so I guess it was technically “down” the river. I was due to meet my mom’s friend Giselle in Paris in six days and I decided in the interest of time that I would pass on exploring the Black Forest for now. My new plan was to spend a few days touring the great historic river, which separated France from Germany. The river that Patton’s army breached in World War II with my dad as an artillery platoon leader, and that I had done a report on in sixth grade with ample assistance from my dad. A couple of my fellow young backpackers that I had spent the night with in the Bern train station had suggested that the sightseeing boat rides on the Rhine and then the Moselle were spectacular.

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Two Inch Heels Part 5 – Angelica & Helmut

Egyptian soldiers crossing the Suez Canal

It was Thursday October 4 when I debarked the train from Bern Switzerland in Munich Germany, fifty pound (or should I say 22 kilo) pack on my back, bleary from lack of sleep, but happy to recognize Angelica and Helmut on the train platform smiling and scanning the numerous people exiting the train. I on the other hand looked much different than the five foot six inch shorter haired fifteen-year-old kid they had met three years ago. Now I had a long curly mop of hair, surrounding my head in what they called a “natural” on a white person or an “afro” on a black person. I was now six feet, and even taller wearing my two-inch-heeled shoes. When Angelica figured out by process of elimination who I was she started waving vigorously and her face lit up. Helmut followed her lead and waved as well, though more sedately, and put on his best charming smile.

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Two Inch Heels Part 4 – Rail Pass

Andermatt Switzerland

It was Wednesday October 3 when I awoke in the chilly male bunkroom of the youth hostel in Chur. I was the only one still in the bunkroom, not wanting to surrender yesterday by getting up and facing today. Ensconced in my toasty sleeping bag, my consciousness was still processing the profound events of the past couple days: the tears, the fears, but mostly the joys. By the time I finally exited my cocoon to acknowledge that yes, life goes on, I was the only one left in the bunkroom.
I put on my clothes, and debated trying to wear my hiking boots again. But since I was doing so well in my heels, and there didn’t seem to be a sign of rain that might mess them up, I’d wear them again instead. For the third day in a row I decided not to take a cold shower, and used a wet slightly soapy washcloth on some key body parts instead. I entered the main room, and as I figured, my erstwhile travel partner Jack, and my more recent comrades, David, Bublil, Peter and particularly Ashild, had already departed.

I ate my stash of Granola and yogurt, the latter having stayed nicely cool in the unheated dormitory room, and pondered the state of my heart and my soul. I thought of Ashild, who with her calm and caring demeanor, her good energy, had made the effort to really connect with me. She had even asked to and written thoughtful words in my journal, like she really cared about me and wanted me to remember her. We had shared moments of real intimacy together, walking back from the tavern together two nights ago, and with her big soft warm rear end on my lap yesterday, neither of us uncomfortable touching in that way.

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