Spain: What I Did
Saying goodbye to your parents in the airport before going off somewhere distant and foreign isn't easily done. The rushing moment of fear and reality hits, and all the worries clung to my mind like a bad taste in your mouth. But the excitement of making my dream come true was just behind security, and I at this point, there's no turning back.
After hours of waiting, boarding a plane for the first time in my life had me nervous. Were the wings strong enough? How good was the pilot at flying? How safe is this thing anyway? Despite all the worries, I reluctantly made my way down the isle to the small area where I would reside for the next eight hours, next to my art teacher and a stranger.
As we were trafficking, my nerves met an all time high. The old Frenchman next to me tried to assure me in a broken English and hand motions that I would be okay. He had flown many times, and though the take off seemed scary, it was nothing for me to worry about. On the other side of me, my teacher firmly held my hand until we made it up in the air beyond the clouds, and my fears started to subside.
Eight hours, one movie, no sleep, and two meals later, I had made it to Paris, France. Not that there was anything significant to see in the 45 minutes I was there. And my little understanding of French, (the word "merci") was really all I needed. We tiredly, yet quickly rushed to our next plane that we would ride for two hours to land safely in Madrid, Spain.
Finally I had made it, I was in Europe. The fears were gone and the moment seemed surreal. As soon as we got our bags and finding our tour guide for the trip, I purchased my first "cafe con leche" in the airport coffee shop. The shear bliss I experienced of having a latte in Europe, or just maybe it was just having a latte after all the flying I had done, could've floated me back up to the clouds, sans plane.
That evening I had another first, after checking into our "high tech" hotel, we took the metro to the city center where I got my first glimpse of the royal palace, still partially in use. (For business and social gatherings.) We ate a spectacular dinner. (They had prepared a special vegetarian dish for me.) And finally, after eating and heading back metro style, I laid my head down for the first time in two days and got some sleep.
Waking up in a foreign country did take me back a bit, I was groggy from jet lag and wasn't sure I remembered ever even getting to the hotel. (I was excruciatingly tired the night before.) The excitement was still immense though, I was more than ready to take on Madrid for the day.
Touring Madrid was spectacular, I loved the city. The world famous bull fighting arena was so big, but all the streets were incredibly small. Getting to go in the royal palace was amazing, and the view was beyond compare. The art of the architecture had me the moment I saw it, and the beautiful fountains that are placed in various places were wonderful. After touring the palace, I had my first experience bargaining a man for some beautiful fans he was selling, a man who also spoke no English. This was the first moment that all those years of taking Spanish classes came back to me, almost like it was a survival mode. Yet, my survival mode was nonexistent when almost being attacked by a woman at McDonald's for a euro. (A lovely welcome to Spain by a mad woman.) Ironically we ate an American restaurant where we ate burgers and fries. (Veggie burger for me.) We had free time during the day where I visited my first Spanish bakery and bought a delicious pastry that was filled with a very rich chocolate, one that I delightfully ate.
Later that evening we ate at a tapas restaurant, (Tapas are very famous in Spain, they are basically little appetizers.), where we ate famous Spanish omelettes, and various other tapas, and tried for the first time, a taste just enough to wet our tongues, of real sangria. As we laughed and enjoyed the small, cheerfully lit place, and had a grand time dancing when a band came by and sung the only real Spanish song any of us knew, the Macarena.
Though it rained during the day, I learned that the city is still beautiful and would continue to be even if the sky came crashing down.
And we were off via bus ride, a bus that we would come to know very well from spending so much time in it. Our bus ride to Toledo was long and nearly painful bringing back memories of the eight hour flight we had just taken a couple days before. We ate, packed, dressed, and we were on our way.
Oh, but once you're right on the outskirts of Toledo, it's like a painting painted by the best and most talented artist in the world. The colors were magnificent, and we could see the towers of the castle there and the cathedral. As normal tourists, we stopped the bus and took our pictures, and stood in awe of the small city.
When in the old city, it was nothing shy of picturesque. Seeing it for the first time, it made sense that one didn't have to have photography skills to capture the outside beauty of the city, it did all the work itself. But for one to feel the city, the atmosphere, the surroundings, to come to know it if just for a minute, no picture could capture that. In that moment, I understood that.
Yet, my attempts at capturing the city on my camera didn't come to a halt. Just walking down the street I stayed in awe, I needed to pinch myself to remind me that it was real. The rain from the previous days didn't seem to matter anymore because I was here in Toledo. I was seeing the cathedral of Toledo in all it's glory, and the first painting I've ever seen in person by El Greco. I had spent too much money in a factory where they hand make the jewelry and the swords from the famous Toledo steel. But I didn't regret it, Toledo was a fairy tale.
I think the one of the most memorable things about Toledo was when our tour guide for the city stopped us, and told us to look. "This is the view that El Greco was seeing when he painted his masterpiece. And today, you too are seeing what he saw."
Finally though, we had to leave for another city without even spending a night in the fairy tale city. We reluctantly got back on the bus, and headed for Granada. We stopped between cities to see the Don Quixote wind mills, which are worth seeing at least once in a lifetime. And on our way to Granada we saw a tenth of the worlds olive oil on the branches of millions of olive trees that went on for miles and miles.
When we made it to Granada the night had fallen. The view from our hotel on the mountain allowed us to see the city lit up to our right, and to our left, the Alhambra, the four part castle. We went for a night tour of the city where we were showed the life, hearts, and homes of the gypsies, the college kids, everyone. We landed in a dimly lit hole-in-the-wall place where we experience an art form created by pure emotion and movement, the Flamenco dance. We didn't understand the lyrics to the songs, but the dance captivated us all, and left us hoping to have such grace one day.
To be continued...