(a continuation from May 1, 2015 post, Part 1)
Even though we have completely recovered from Madrid’s nightlife, our legs are still lucky enough to get an almost-three-hour respite from day-walking. We are now on a high speed train headed to Seville.
I’m heavily train-sedated by the time we arrive, and I stumble into the station to first glance up and see “Salida – Kansas City Blvd.” And directions to “Florida Street.” And a blurb on my text-machine referencing some lounge called “New York.” Where the heck am I? I feel like I’ve been dumped back into the States and my trip has come to a screeching halt! I shake my head like I’m tossing marbles around inside the top of an hourglass. Then I come to. So we do exit Kansas City Blvd. And we do hike up Florida Street. Then as we drag our luggage up through alleyways to get to the hotel, we see the town crowded with families, professionals, teenagers and young couples – everyone dressed in their Sunday best. Women’s high heels click on cobblestone walkways, and strollers and suitcases bounce through the cobblestone streets as Spaniards and foreigners arrive for the Semana Santa. By late that Palm Sunday afternoon, there is a crowd gathering outside the Cathedral. And, we, along with that crowd, are awaiting our first experience with a Semana Santa procession.
The procession is led by hundreds of the “brotherhood” in costumes almost identical to the dressings of the KKK. Regardless of being able to distinguish these costumes from the costumes of the KKK, they are so similar that I can’t help but cringe as they walk by. Nevertheless, I quickly get used to the costumes as I realize that they merely drape small kids and young teenagers who are carelessly strolling through the streets without concern or purpose. I begin to feel more comfortable, not threatened. The first float of Jesus passes through the crowd. The float is carried by big, strong men tucked inside and beneath the float. Every once in a while they stop to rest. 5 minutes pass. The crowds are silent. 1 – 2 – 3 hard knocks on the side of the float and then, in unison, the men hoist up the float, the crowd yells “ole!”, and the band begins to play. The music has the sound of magnificence. The float moves forward, its destination unknown as it moves forward into the abyss of a cloud of frankincense. I get to be there – a part of it. Amazing. It moves me.
Just when I think things are going so smoothly with this trip, there’s a snag. I left the European-outlet-adapter in the outlet back in Madrid. We discover this into the late afternoon as I’m pulling out the plethora of chords used to charge text-machines, computer, etc. Oops! I can’t be without my picture-taker in my text-machine for too long. I’ll die! Just die! We won’t be able to pick one up until the next day. In the meantime, I’ll have to be thrifty that evening and budget between picture-taking and navigating. As of now, the number of photos I’ve collected so far is only single digit, and Seville is difficult to navigate. Tonight it is between the picture-taker and navigator. But neither would win.
That evening we are awaiting a 9:30 reservation at what is, apparently, a fabulous restaurant in which stands on the other side of Seville. Following a beer, a wine, and tapas close to the hotel, we begin our trek to the restaurant. I have just enough juice in my text-machine to use the navigator, but, in the meantime, I decide I have to sacrifice picture-taking. Since street signs are posted sporadically, the city is difficult to navigate. Seville is like a maze. Not only is it difficult to figure out where to go, it’s difficult to figure out where one just came from. We know we are headed in the right direction, but when we begin to question which alley to turn down next, we are cock-blocked by 3 processions converging onto one another. We turn a corner and every street is tightly packed with people. The crowds’ chatter is deafening, bouncing off every wall of the city. People! Brotherhood! Drums! Horns! Floats! Frankincense wafts through the streets, disturbing our visibility so it’s difficult to see where we’re headed. (But, oh, the smell is so good!) An hour passes and we have only moved steps. To make matters worse, my text-machine dies so that means the navigator goes along with it. Why didn’t I bring that map? Even so, just like always, things work out. We finally make our way back to the hotel. We grab the first chairs we see at the closest restaurant, and we sit down to the best paella we’ve ever had. Maybe a better meal than that restaurant? I like to think so. We are back on track.
We do the touristy stuff, have a drink at the New York lounge, eat donuts, more processions, tapas and drinks, of course. And we visit a late night eatery where I teach a drunk 70 year old Spanish man-former-ballet-dancer how to “hand dance.” He is quite delighted. A different story for another time.
Next stop: Granada
A taxi drops us off in the hills of Granada where no car can no longer climb. The driver dumps our luggage onto the cobblestones; and, after we figure out how we will make it up and through the hills, I begin dragging, bouncing and thrusting my suitcase up the cobblestone streets. My daughter’s luggage is on her back. It is 85 degrees and we are dripping wet with sweat by the time we get to the cave. To a nice 65 degree cave, I might add. Instant-relief!!!
First order is food. We are starved. So after tossing our luggage into the cave, we head out on a search for food. We find ourselves lost within the many walkways in the Albaicin area of Granada. We know one of these walkways are going to lead to a plaza – with food. We just don’t get lucky right away. Walk. Climb. Climb. Walk. Climb. Climb. Finally we hear chatter and follow it, and when we reach it – Bam! – all of a sudden a plaza opens up and there is food!!! It’s not quite 1:30 yet, and most sit down for lunch at 2, so there are plenty of tables open. We order sangria and, of course, we get our tapas for free. We sit, relax and talk about adventures we have had so far, and how grateful we are for all the hiking and street climbing we’ve done in the recent past.
It has prepared us for the hills of Granada. Otherwise, we’d be dead by now.
Down in the foothills of the Albaicin is Granada’s city center. We find good shopping. Cheap tapas. Exceptional processions. The processions are a little more solemn than we have experienced so far, and the music is exceptional. No doubt, since it seems to be an Arts community. Yet there doesn’t seem to be crowds of spectators, just enough to fill the sidewalks and still find room to sit or stand where you please. Great for us!
What the locals do take advantage of are the local tapas joints. Especially on Calle Navas, where there are lots and lots (and lots) of tapas joints practically stacked on top of one another. Los Diamantes proves to be our favorite. There sits one table, and it’s like winning the lottery to get the opportunity to seat your butt at that table. We don’t win the lottery. So it’s standing room only and it’s caaa-rrrow-ded with a capital C. The crowd spills out onto the street so we decide to sneak through the back door, slither through the crowd, and nudge ourselves up to the bar. “Cana y Vino Blanco!” (por favor) There appears 2 drinks and paella. “Uno mas Cana y Vino Blanco” (por favor) There appears 2 drinks and a pile of shrimp. “Uno mas Cana y Vino Blanco!” (por favor) There appears 2 drinks a pile of clams AND a pile of fried sardines. We meet a lovely Chinese girl named Naomi. My daughter gets yelled at by an old bitty. And after 4 drinks each, generously portioned tapas, and shootin’ the breeze with Naomi and a couple locals, we are off to another procession. Of course.
Next stop: Cordoba
It is Springtime in Cordoba. Flowers in bloom. Pollen flying across our face. And the sweet smell of orange blossoms fill the air.
The taxi drives us up to Calle San Fernando, a narrow street lined with hostels, devoid of crowds. The crowds we are used to, anyway. Actually, empty. Though it is quite early, still my mind draws a question mark. Could I have made a mistake? Is this a bad part of town? Not wanting to alarm my daughter quite yet, I confidently continue the walk down the street in search for the home. We find the address on a very large door built into a very long wall. A wall the length of the remainder of the street. Our host, with the grin of the Cheshire cat and the heart of the Dali Lama, opens the door and welcomes us in, warmly and kindly. He escorts us through a deeply dark but ornately decorated parlor, which opens up to a bright and beautiful atrium, that leads us into a magnificent 19th century home. It’s a Span-sion!!! Wwwooowww! The home has 4 floors, many rooms. Our room is on the 2nd floor. The hostess is strikingly glamorous and makes a verge-on-dramatic appearance, and she speaks better English than the host. Nevertheless, when our hostess finds out my daughter speaks Spanish, it’s Spanish-only at full speed. At 220 words per minute, to be exact. I googled it! Spanish – 220 wpm; French – 200 wpm; Americans – 160 wpm. It seems that my daughter is keeping up with the Spanish just fine; however, I am curious as to how much of it she conveys to me. These 20 minutes of 220 wpm turn out to be about 2 minutes at 160 wpm. The math doesn’t seem right. Either my daughter is not conveying the whole message, or she has just relayed the condensed version. I tend to think the former. She does have a talent for that.
We Tour the Mosque, the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, and the Roman Temple ruins. Many of the private patios are filled with flowers and are open for the public to walk through and view. We do that too. Our favorite tapas place is El Gato Negro. There I discover my favorite find – vino fino, a brandy wine unique to the Cordoba region. Order a glass and the price is merely 1 euro. We revisit it quite often – this tiny restaurant, across from the river, similar to a French bistro, featuring all things jazz. Except no music. This leaves us wanting for jazz.
And it is the El Gato Negro that leads us to Jesus. Jesus of Barcelona.
About midnight, maybe sooner, we find ourselves at a Jazz club on the corner of Calle Fernando Colon and Calle Pedro Lopez. We sit at the bar and order 2 gin and tonics. It’s a jazz jam night so it’s a “whoever wants to get up there and play” type of evening. Some good. Some not-so-good.
My daughter notices a group of guys her age who also seem to be study abroad students. But “abroads” from other countries. I encourage her to talk to them. She’s at first resistant. So I call for the party beard (a cheap white cotton Santa beard that when worn magically attracts men and boys. who knows why). The man it first attracts is Jesus. He’s average body type. He’s 57. He is charming and nice. He’s not a Papai from Madrid. He talks to my daughter and asks for an introduction. (my daughter, my wingman) No sooner than she introduces us, the beard gets the attention of a eccentric yet suave Swedish boy and she’s off to leave me on my own. Hey! Abandoned by my translator…and buffer, if I need it. And I do need it. He tells me he’s Jesus from Barcelona. I tell him I’m Karen from California. He’s kind of a funny man. Charming. Sweet. However, I’m not attracted to him. Through much hand talk and his patience with my Spanish, and mine with his English, he invites me outside for a smoke. I don’t smoke. Regardless, I follow him out. He offers me a share of his cigarette. I oblige. Ha! Let me try this. There’s a way to hold the cigarette and smoke the cigarette that only a seasoned smoker knows how. I look like a dork, I’m sure. Smoking in Spain! Who knew? After one toke, I hand it back to him. Yep! It’s been confirmed. Smoking is still not for me.
The night moves on nicely, talking with Jesus. He’s not boring. Two whiskey shots! he orders after we walk back into the club. Two more whisky shots! 10 minutes later. All of a sudden Jesus from Barcelona tries to start kissing on me…blahyuk! This has gone from friendship to no-ship. My daughter is almost through with those abroad boys anyway, so I summon her over, and this time with just a little more grace than the last time, we get ourselves out of that jazz club. Quickly and almost immediately, we find ourselves deposited right into the middle of a crowd following the Virgin Mary. It is 2 in the morning.
The procession crowd is a solemn crowd. It is early Good Friday morning, the anniversary of Jesus’ death. From jazz club to church is a startling change of pace. We now seem to be following a Virgin Mary float which is following a Jesus on the Crucifix float down one of the main strips of the city. There is an uncanny silence amongst the crowd and the air smells of frankincense and orange blossoms. There are no drums. There is no band. There is no chatter. There is only the deafening silence that one cannot help but to be moved by while walking amongst 100s of people. We have two hours to go. One mile to walk. Final destination – the Mosque. This time following the 1-2-3 knocks on the side of the float, a band does not play. No one shouts “Ole.” Nobody claps. Chills run through my body. I am deeply moved. Only twice the silence is broken. On two separate occasions, the Virgin Mary is stopped and sung to. A beautiful male acapella voice rings through the air as the Virgin Mary stops and listens. The voice stops, and slowly approach the Mosque. We follow the float right up to the two gargantuan doors that secure the Mosque, and as the float enters, the doors slowly close behind it. It feels like the float has been put in its grave. Never to be seen again. The procession is over. Crowds fill the streets to return to their homes. We stop at a convenient store to buy a snack. And then return to the Span-sion.
Last stop: Jaen
We make it to Jaen, tired and exhausted.
That Easter day there is a procession, a Cathedral mass, tapas and drinks, a nap and a lot of preparation and cooking. My daughter and I agree that this is the best Easter Sunday we have ever had. Friends and family sit down to a home cooked meal that my daughter and I prepare and we all talk about our travels during the Semana Santa. The “Triangle.” Portugal. The Beach. We all agree that since the traditions of the Semana Santa were so prevalent throughout our travels, the sentiment of the Semana Santa now and forever hold strong in our hearts. Just as it does with the Spaniards.
The day after Easter I get on a train to Madrid for one night more before I take my flight home.
Hasta Luego Espana! Until next time…and there will be a next time!
For photos of Spain please go to https://urbnfotos.wordpress.com/
Ciao for now!