My sister Elaine and I took a one week Tauck tour to Spain this summer which took us to Barcelona, Granada, the south of Spain (Ronda and Andalucia), Seville, Cordoba and Madrid. We saw the oldest bullring in the world in Ronda; took a horse-drawn carriage ride and saw a private flamenco performance in Seville; a guided tour of the Prado Museum (Museo del Prado) in Madrid; saw beautiful cathedrals, including Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished, but amazing Sagrada Família; and The Seville Cathedral, the final resting place of Christopher Columbus; as well as the Alhambra. There’s so much to see and say about Spain that it will take me a couple of blogs to tell the story. First, let me start with the 10 Things I Like/Learned About Spain.
1. The Rain in Spain is Never on the Plain. How many times have you heard the expression, “The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain,” from the musical MyFair Lady? But for the entire seven days we traveled around Spain it did not rain one drop and our travel guide confirmed, “The Rain in Spain is Never on the Plain.” We had the most beautiful weather – cool, crisp and dry. We traveled in June. However, we were warned that in July and August it often gets so hot in Madrid that only crazy people and tourists can be seen on the streets. It was more apt to say, “The cranes in Spain,” because there was so much construction going on.
2. There are more than a billion olive trees in Spain. More olive oil is produced there than any other place on the planet. The groves are so vast they can be seen from the space shuttle.
3. Spain is a very green place. The country is very energy conscious. I never saw so many windmill turbines—on mountaintops, along the roadways—and with so much sun, solar power is also very big. Lights in hotel rooms go off when you leave the rooms.
4. The crisis. In Spain people speak of “The crisis.” Spanish citizens will take out their savings, the limited amount they’re allowed per week, because they’re afraid of a run on the bank, and put it in their houses. One tour guide told us, “It’s very hard to find a good husband in Spain. The boys are lazy. They don’t want to get married. They live at home where they get their meals and the keys to the car.”
5. Did you know there was a famous American bullfighter? That’s not a load of bull. His name is John Fulton and he was Spain’s first U.S. matador. He ismuch revered in Ronda, a city with the oldest bullring in Spain and the largest ring in the world, as one of the best bullfighters. When in the ring, a bullfighter is not American or French or Spanish. Matadors come from all over Spain (they’re recruited at fairs and carnivals and in Spain) to train at the classic bullfighting schools in Ronda. They’re like movie stars. The first fight took place in 1785 and the matadors were the local born Pedro Romero and the Sevillian, Pepe Hillo. In the mid-1700s, bullfighting became a spectacle. Spain tried to get its citizens to stop bullfighting but they said “We’ll give up joining Europe if we have to.” Bullfighting goes back to Roman times to the ancient Cult of Mithras, which consumed the meat and blood of the bull. It costs 120 to 150 Euros to get a good seat in the shade for a bullfight. All the action is on the shady side. You can get a seat at a minor league bullfight for 40-50 Euros. They say everything in Spain is late except for bullfighting and trains. They lock the doors at 7:30. The bulls are raised to be territorial and aggressive. You hear a lot about the red cape in bullfighting, but the truth is, bulls are color blind. They go for the movement. As the Paso Dobles music plays, the ground shakes as the bulls charge the matadors but in reality, the bulls don’t stand a chance. They are killed methodically in a three-stage process which is pretty gory. Bullfighters used to be on horseback. They hold two bullfights a year in Ronda. I’m glad there were no actual bullfights taking place when we were there but I did enjoy learning about the proud and rich tradition. And there are women bullfighters.
6. Saffron is worth more than its weight in gold. And I can attest to the fact that the paella, which uses saffron to give it its rich, golden yellow color and good flavor and aroma, is delicious. A box of saffron might cost you 20 Euros.
7. A good set of castanets made out of wood from the Castagna tree can cost up to 2,000 Euros.
8. The Prado. Seeing the Prado museum was the main reason I wanted to go to Spain and I wasn’t disappointed. The Museo del Prado, one of the world’s bestart museums and the Spanish national museum of art, was right across the street from our hotel in Madrid. In fact, we saw three museums while we were in Madrid, including one which housed Pablo Picasso’s famous “Guernica.” My favorite painting in the Prado and everyone’s favorite seems to be “Las Meninas” by Diego Velazquez.
9. When tour guides say, “It’s only a five-minute walk” (and this seems to be true of tour guides all over the world) what they really mean is: It’s the beginning of a forced death march. This phrase must lose something in the translation. And speaking of translation, I did learn one Spanish word—“Joyeria,” which means jewelry, one of my favorite things.
10. I love Italy. I studied there for six months in Florence in college. I didn’t know much about Spain and had only been to Barcelona to start a Mediterranean cruise. But when I finally visited, I found the country to be just as charming, the people just as friendly and the land just as beautiful as Italy. I was surprised at how much I loved Spain. And now I’m interested in visiting the rest of the country.
Georgia Author Marilyn Baron writes humorous women’s fiction, humorous paranormal short stories and romantic suspense. Her latest release, Dead Mix, is available at http://www.twbpress.com/deadmix.html. To read more about “The Edger,” visit her blog at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales at http://www.petitfoursandhottamales.com/marilyn-baron/; for her angel stories visit TWB Press at: http://www.twbpress.com/achoirofangels.html. Find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Marilyn-Baron/286807714666748. Her next book, “Under the Moon Gate,” a romantic thriller set in contemporary and WW II Bermuda, will be released from The Wild Rose Press in spring 2013.