Tapas, Touchdown and Tangoes

The Wolfs are now on home turf. We exited Spain Dec 8 and now are nesting in San Antonio Texas. The trip back was without incident just looong. But that jumps you ahead and you need to hear about Sunny Spain.

We left Paris after a wonderful week and flew to Sevilla, Spain where we jumped on a train to Cordoba and then taxied to our apartment in town. Truly a day of planes, trains and automobiles. The reason for the stop in Spain was because I heard that the Alhambra, located in Granada was a sight not to be missed in a lifetime and since we are taking the trip of a lifetime it was on the list. But, while we were in Germany our friends said “wait you’ve missed Cordoba and the La Mezquita” So we changed plans and included both. And BOTH were not to be missed.

Spain challenges me. We were there 3 years ago when we did the Camino de Santiago, the walking pilgrimage through northern Spain. And we did a quick visit to Barcelona before getting on a Mediterranean cruise long ago. The challenge for me is the food and the lifestyle. I don’t adjust to a tapas culture very well. I don’t like sardines. I don’t like to eat dinner after 9 PM and I’m not a big siesta person. I like early mornings when the day is clean and fresh. Spaniards like the night. John and I enjoyed walking the streets of Cordoba with the busy cafés, families noisily enjoying each other while we were on our way home and they were just ramping up for the evening. Luckily, the tourist destinations keep “regular” hours.

The apartment in Cordoba was well situated, delightful to view (outer entry door with an inner courtyard with potted plants cascading along the walls) AND dark and cold. Spain is really meant for the summer months and our apartment would have been delightful in September. In December, tile floors and inadequate wall heaters gave our space a Cminus on the comfort scale. Additionally, the owner had timers on both the wall heating units and the water heater and had removed all but one bulb in the living room chandelier (there were no other lamps available). We don’t watch much TV on the road so reading becomes our evening entertainment. That and we’ve relearned how to play backgammon. This landlord was an energy hoarder.   Or maybe I’m just tired of being on the road. Both could be correct.

Life is always mixed so while I’m griping about the living conditions there were a lot of roses in our Tapas Days. In truth the Alhambra in Granada and the La Mezquito in Cordoba were stunning. What is truly unique about Spain is the mixture of the Moorish and the Christian influences both in the art and architecture which just tickle your eyes; breath-taking buildings, columns, gardens. And-all-things-Roman-lover John was thrilled with the remnants of that culture.

First, Cordoba. An important Roman city and an Islamic cultural center in the Middle Ages. It’s best known for La Mezquita, an immense mosque dating to 700 C.E. featuring a columned prayer hall and Byzantine mosaics. A 1600s Catholic cathedral now occupies the center of the mosque. The pictures will stun you; it is a photographers dream.

And the Alhambra in Granada was extraordinary. It’s a grand, sprawling hilltop fortress complex encompassing royal palaces, serene patios and reflecting pools from the Nasrid sultan dynasty. Those are stunning photo ops also. I must say that Granada was my favorite city—a little more cosmopolitan, more food variety and I got to Segway through town. History on Wheels with a patient and affirming guide. It was grand and I was so proud of myself. Granada was a comfort A+ stay.

While in Cordoba we went to the Bullfighters Museum because an actual bullfight sets off gagging responses on my part. We learned that bullfighting has a lot of choreography involved—it’s art more than killing bulls but I still didn’t want to go. We wandered thru display cases of the bullfighting costumes that were sequin studded; the famous costumes we saw were for tiny guys—their waist sizes may have been smaller than mine! We also went to the Museum of the Inquisition; that involved all kinds of gaggy torture devices. Another Cordoba highlight was the Calahorra Tower and museum which documented an era when the Islamic, Christian and Jewish cultures lived in harmony and peace…a world of beauty and promise for a few moments.

Leaving Spain meant a little backtracking. One way flight from Spain to Eastcoast USA was costing $1700pp. ONE WAY! So we opted for Turkish Air for $578pp—we just flew from Madrid back to Istanbul and then onto DC. Every hour I spent in the Istanbul airport I was making $100!

December meant touchdown visits with travel companions, John’s mom and family, a visit to see Grand Oliver (who now tops the scales at 33 pounds—give or take a few) and James and Karolina, a quick sighting of Dan and Tiffani waiting on a townhouse completion in Denver and a warm and wonderful stay with Johanna, Greg, Abigail and Sam in San Antonio. The best part of Christmas is being embraced by family. I was ready for familiarity. By the way a new “grand” is due in July in North Carolina. Hallelujah!

So now we are off again in 4 days for the journey to Buenos Aires and a new living experience. MAYBE, we’ll take tango lessons. Or shop for leather and eat some holy cow. Whatever, I wonder how we will be stretched by Argentina, Chile and Peru. I am beginning to understand how we’ve challenged ourselves. I’ve learned a lot about what is tolerable. A lot of what frightens me. A lot about the importance of family and connection. A lot about how “wealthy” Americans are. A lot about the richness of other cultures. A lot about “understanding” which now is defined by standing under/standing beneath/humility.

Years ago I received a girl scout Brownie penknife with the words “be wise, beware, use me with care.” What I hope is that we Americans use all our gifts and talents with wisdom and care for our global brothers and sisters. Be at peace with yourselves and others—that’s my New Year’s wish. Blessings, LIZ

Tapas Photos link

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