08 September 2010

Tapas, Vino, Vida

Before I even start this blog, I feel like I should set the stage by mentioning that I'm using my personal computer with public WiFi, sitting on the steps of a giant Cathedral in middle of a public square in Cadiz where people are enjoying desayuno and café con leche at little cafeterias in the sun. To my right, a French-speaking family and some SAS students are chatting and to my left, a group of homeless people are enjoying white wine out of champagne flutes and asking the passerby's if they would like to share.

Spain is nothing and everything I expected it to be. Just like in the States, each city in Spain has its own unique personality. Los Angeles isn't just like San Francisco, and accordingly Madrid isn't like Sevilla or Cadiz. I'm so glad I've gotten to experience all three, you'll see why.

We made port in Cadiz, Spain which if you look on a map is basically the bottom southwest-ish tip of the country. I took a train with a new travel buddy, Michaella from CO, from the coast to Madrid where we spent 3-4 days taking in the city almost entirely by foot.

We made an effort to get to a few big ticket items (The Prado, Royal Palace, Reine Sofia, Plaza Mayor...), but wandering lead us to the best parts of Spain that were relatively untainted by the idealized and romanticized versions of Madrid that have been fabricated by the business of tourism. We both wanted no part of Flamenco, Bull-fights, or guided bus tours and therefore spent a lot of time navigating the metro, walking into bars asking for directions, getting flat out lost, and just stumbling into cool spots by accident. There is something so liberating about having absolutely no idea where you are, but knowing you're safe and will find a way back to where you need to be eventually. We probably walked three or four miles from wherever we got off on our first metro jump, and took in the most amazing sunset, sights, smells, and sounds before "dinner."

I put dinner in quotes because meal-patterns are probably the most foreign characteristic of Spain compared to other big cities worldwide. People rave about the food here, and I'll admit it's been fun, but I don't know how they do it! Spaniards basically eat some variation of the same thing for each meal: potatoes, olives, eggs, cured ham, tomato paste, bread, and cheese. The only place you can even get paella or any other "spanish" dish you've heard of can only be eaten at the restaurants with pictures outside the windows (tourist magnets). Oh, and beer, wine, or coffee is consumed all day long. Like seriously. Beer - for breakfast. Beer or espresso and potato crisps and maybe some toast and tomato paste spread.

Anyway, enough about food. Some highlights over the next 2 full days in Madrid included lots of time in the metro, some unplanned emergency shopping stops, great art, photography adventures, food, and countless attempts to order tap water, not bottled at the bars.

My unplanned emergency shopping stop? Zapatos. SHOES. Not even two hours into our second day walking around Plaza Mayor searching for El Rastro (a big farmers market type thing), my leather sandal broke! The part that attaches in-between your big toe and that second toe just straight up ripped out. We spent the next 45 minutes flopping around the square searching for shoes -- harder than you'd think because every store near us was either selling ham or postcards. I ended up blowing 15 Euro on a funky pair that I'll never wear again to get me through the day. We missed out on the market, but a good sense of humor led to other fun sights that day.

Michaella and I decided that on our way back to Cadiz we'd get off the train in Sevilla, put our bags in lockers, and see what the fuss was about because the SAS folks were totally raving about it. We spent the first hour trying to figure out how to get to the historic district and honestly, after all the hassle getting there, it wasn't even worth it. My experience might be tainted by just how tired we already were from our time in Madrid, but Sevilla is honestly the most touristy place I've ever been in my life. Uggh. We visited the big Cathedral, which was cool, but everything else was dedicated to that romantic imaginary Spain that I talked about earlier. Horse drawn carriages? Flamenco-style aprons for sale on every corner? No thanks. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we made the stop, but only for the revelations that grew out of what we experienced. We opted to take an early afternoon train back to Cadiz where we parted ways and I spent the evening wandering on my own through this little fishing town.

The 6 hours last night and the 4 I've spent this morning walking around and dining alone,have been the most rewarding of my entire time here. Last night after I dropped my backpack off at the boat, I got as far away from the restaurants with menus printed in English and into this back alley little Cafeteria/Bar (everything is called a bar here) and ate all the tapas the bartender recommended and was treated to a glass of his favorite vino tinto on the house. :) I sat there for probably three hours just listening to all the people laugh, eat, and drink around me as I wrote in my journal. It was amazing. I felt relief and contentment in the truth of that place. Hard to explain.

This morning, too, has been equally rewarding. Just walking around, picking up some fruit at some side market, stopping for café con leche and listening to the chatter among groups of friends or neighbors. This pace and independence makes my heart happy! Tonight, we push-off at 8 pm and by late tomorrow afternoon I'll be in Morocco. So surreal. SO SO surreal. Go to sleep in one land, wake up in another. I've loved getting emails from you all! I'll get back to them when I can get internet again, in the meantime I'll say a mass "I LOVE YOU!" to everyone.

Adios for now! I can't get pictures to upload for some reason, I'll get some up sooner or later though.

1 comment:

  1. Yay!! I hope you loved Spain :) I'm sorry Sevilla wasn't as exciting for you, but I hope Madrid was magical. I never made it to Cadiz, but I've heard only good things about it. Love you! I look forward to hearing more from ya :)