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spain, part 1

March 19, 2009

jeanine-002

The thing about traveling… or should I say the thing about me traveling, is that I spend my days in an overstimulated state.  I am wide open, taking in every single sight, sound, smell, taste, encounter.  Fully.  Completely.  So that when I come to put it all on paper, it appears flat and lacking color.  A little like I’m serving up dry toast and instant coffee as opposed to a warm apricot croissant and double espresso with a thick layer of crema. 

I sit in front of the screen and I stumble on my words because how do I convey how life changing the past two weeks have been?  I feel so fearless and free.  I feel very unlike myself… yet I’ve never felt more like me.  I’ve journeyed from place to place with very little planning and never once fretted because it seems like the road has already been paved for me.  I’m just following signs and directions to my next destination.  Yes, the advantage of planning is you save time and money, both of which are in short supply, and I could certainly benefit from a little foresight and organization skills but every time I sit down to plan the next step of my journey, something unexpected happens or someone invites me to tag along and I inevitably switch directions.  I’ve barely opened all the heavy guidebooks I brought.  I am guided in other ways and am quite enjoying the road a little less traveled.  My feet take me where they want to go and I somehow stumble upon gems along the way. 

But that doesn’t tell you much about Spain, does it?  I thought I would share a couple journal entries and give you the facts, strait up, then I’ll embellish when I get home and have had a chance to process it all. 

jeanine-006

The journey to Spain begins on a Monday morning at 4:30am.  After a few hours sleep, I hop off the old boat on which I slept with my friend Saffa, catch a cab to the airport, fly to Malaga, meet Rafael and Sandra (friends of a friend), they take me to the beach and treat me to a glass of red wine and the best damn olives I’ve ever had, walk the beach, take a siesta in the afternoon (I adapt well to the cultural differences  – ha ha), Sandra gives me a tour of the old city at night, it smells of ocean and sweet dama de noche and orange blossoms, stray cats roam the streets, cathedrals are lit from below, a crowd gathers after evening mass, we walk past Arabic ‘teterias‘ (tea houses), little tables with fuschia colored candles and silver tea pots, we go to Pepa e Pepe’s at 10pm for wine and tapas, dates wrapped in bacon and fried calamari, I eat more fried food in the past 8 hours than I have in the past 6 months combined, but apparently it is okay because they fry everything in olive oil here… mmm hmmm, sure.  The saying in Andalucia is that they even fry the air here.  I believe it.

The next morning, I take the bus to Granada.  It is so empowering to get by on your own in a place where you don’t even know the language.  The 2-hour ride has such beautiful views of the country side, my head nearly explodes from overstimulation.  I want to tell the bus driver to let me off as I would be happy to walk the whole way to Granada.  That is the thing about buses.. such a great way to see a place but it all goes by so quickly, you barely have time to process it.

From the bus station in Granada, I take the number 3 bus to the cathedral stop.  From there, I walk up the cobblestoned alleyways lined with tiny shops selling gypsy wares, scarves and lamps and Moroccan tea pots and exotic tea leaves… the whole alley smells of incense.  Near the  top of the alley, before the church with the fountains where the dogs drink and the little tapas bar where they sell beer and tapas for 1 euro 50, I veer left and come to a massive wooden door with a cast iron knocker.  It looks like a secret society but it is far from that.  It opens to a community of world travelers.

Get settled into bed 4 in room 4 then hit the town.  Walk for hours.  I know the general direction but have no set route, which is the best way to discover a new place.  Feels like a treasure hunt.  It is 26 degrees, I am sweating my tits off.  I see my first olive trees and massive aloe plants as big as shrubs and orange trees hanging heavily and oh so seductively over white walls.  Saunter across plazas where hippies and dogs play, under window sills where men sit, picking their guitars and singing flamenco tunes. 

I come back to the hostel and have me a proper siesta then meet the group for a free tour of the gypsy caves.  We are all from different places (4 canadians), some are beginning their journeys, some have been on the road for months.  And the tour, well the tour is beyond words really.  We zigzag up the hills, lined with caves where people live.  Some very primitively, no electricity or water… others are like cave mansions dug into the side of the mountain.  We stop at the tour guide’s friend’s cave.  Her name is Rosa.  She made tortilla de patatas and lemonade for us.  We visit her home and sit in her garden overlooking the city down below.  We then hike to the top of the hill and watch the sun drop into the horizon.  Get back around 9pm then a bunch of us go out for wine and tapas until midnight.  Sit in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting up a couple from England until 1am then hit the pillow. 

This post is getting long and my internet time is dwindling, so I’ll have to share the rest of my Spanish adventures another day… hopefully sometime soon.  But I can’t guarantee anything, I may fall into a gelato-induced coma and be unable to type.  The streets of Florence are calling and I can no longer resist.

Ciao!

jeanine-009

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2009 7:52 am

    gorgeous – I know all the photos are going to be just amazing. it’s one place I’ve really wanted to visit.

  2. March 19, 2009 7:56 am

    oh yeeeaaaaah, i am there with you, baby.. i fact i am this close *holds finger and thumb 1mm apart* to getting on a plane and joining you 🙂 x

  3. lizzy permalink
    March 19, 2009 9:57 am

    oh oh oh, the facts alone are delicious & have my imagination dancing about with the visuals & senses.
    i just returned from a month in israel. and your first paragraph described aptly what i’ve been trying to give words to, both internally & to those about me. written & verbal accounts are inadequate. do you mind if i quote you on that? the responsibilities of everyday life have settled quickly onto my shoulders & the processing time seems to be nowhere & i’m holding so tightly to the beautiful memories that i barely express them…
    onward, wandering soul.
    thank you for sharing, as ever.

  4. Alison permalink
    March 19, 2009 11:09 am

    Sigh!

  5. March 19, 2009 3:05 pm

    It’s so nice to live vicariously through you during this trip 🙂

  6. sophie permalink
    March 20, 2009 3:49 am

    Mmm, I think I have to write this comment again, sorry if the previous one pops up somewhere!
    haaaaaa, Granada… I would have told you to walk the cobbled streets of the old part all the way up to the ancient wall on the hill overlooking the city, to see it washed in the sunset – but sounds like you’ve been there, done that. 😛

    Re-haaaaa… Firenze! Make sure you hit the street market full of silk/cachemire scarves and nice, cheap leather belts!

    Where to next??? I wanted to recommend you hop on a train (direction, Roma) and get off at Camucia-Cortona… from the stazione, a regular bus will take you up to the ancient (we’re talking Etruscan-old) walled hilltop village of Cortona… there’s a cheap hostel there, ostello San Marco, which you should pretty much have to yourself at this time of the year: ask Sergio to give you a bed in the dorm “con vista”, on the last floor, where ceiling-high windows open from your bed over the belltower onto the mist rising off the Tuscan countryside… as farrr as lago di Trasimeno, where Hannibal fought the Romans with his elephants….

    Cortona is one of these timeless treasures words can’t describe… I guarantee you will run out of space on your memory cards! Have some decadent pastry at Banchelli, on the main drag (the only flat street in town!), use the cheap internet upstairs at old teatro Signorelli (say hi to Fiorella if she’s manning the bar for the grumpy old locals!), and make sure to get lost a few hours in the fabulous, elegant museum on the main piazza, full of incredible paintings and Etruscan finds… scratch the chins of the street cats for me climbing up via Maffei, especially the half-paralyzed dark one who goes into fits of intense purring….

    *siiiiiiiiigh* I GUARANTEE you will love Cortona! 🙂

    And then, there’s Lucca….

    I can’t wait to see your photos, and see Italy all over again thru your beautiful writing: bonne route!

  7. March 22, 2009 1:33 pm

    I am positively swooning over those lemons. you are having one awesome journey.

  8. March 22, 2009 6:13 pm

    Bravo! A wise traveler lets the place decide the itinerary. How else can one learn what Spain has to teach unless you let her show you what she wants you to see?

  9. March 22, 2009 8:45 pm

    this is so amazing! you are a wonder to behold—and, my goodness that lemon tree is delightful!

  10. kathryn Guerriero permalink
    March 23, 2009 12:07 pm

    xoxoxxoo

  11. March 23, 2009 9:01 pm

    dear lord you had me at hello. that lemon tree? SWOON! flipping SWOON!!!! oh lady travel on. peace.

  12. March 24, 2009 7:46 pm

    Words and photos are but maps of the territory – but you are an excellent cartographer. Thanks for sharing a bit of the wonderment of your journey.

  13. March 25, 2009 12:10 pm

    t those lemons and that blue, blue sky makes my heart feel mellow.

  14. sendingpostcards permalink
    March 26, 2009 7:53 am

    beautiful photography, love your blog!

  15. March 26, 2009 1:25 pm

    Your images, your words… delicious, absolutely delicious. Talk about faith. I can’t imagine a better example of it than being able to relinquish one’s agendas and itineraries in a foreign land, and instead embrace wherever inspiration takes you!

  16. April 1, 2009 9:32 am

    Happy Fool’s Day! 😉

  17. April 3, 2009 11:15 am

    Great pictures

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