Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Spain Part 1

We crossed from France to Spain without even knowing it. This is the joy of The Schengen Zone. The misery is that the clock won’t stop on our 90 days until we enter Morocco. Doesn’t matter. The cold of the north is melting away, and like the little flower that could, we are about to bloom in the sunshine of the south.

Let the Culinary Delights Begin!

The pastis de xocolata was probably the singularly greatest thing my taste buds had ever sampled. The consistency of that velvet dense chocolate was so pure and uninterrupted in its excellence that I went silent in awe. I was 5 mouthfuls in and almost done when the heavenly feeling that levitated me and bathed me in a warm glow began to reveal itself for what it truly was: diabetes. I'm pretty sure that's the night I got diabetes, and damn, it was worth it!


The food is hearty and plentiful. The prices are more than fair. The menu of the day is often a choice of 3 mains. When the waiter asked us if we wanted wine with lunch, we responded by asking for the price; he was incredulous: “Incluido!”. He placed a full bottle on the table. I secretly thought of defecting to Spain.




Valencia

It’s uncontested that the Romans gave genesis to this city in 138 BC. And what a city it is – I could live here. I’d explore a new museum every week, drink tinto verano instead of sangria, nail down my favorite steak house, and brush up on my lisp. 

Great museum. Underground (that's how you know it's in situ)


This language really isn't Spanish


Those are cannonball holes that the birds have now made nests in



Latins Are Really Good At Waking Me Up

It's 02:30. We’re parked in some inland village that I’ll never revisit. Juan and his hooker wedge his car covertly in-between me and the other moho. Doors open and close. Non whispered voices. They get in the back seat and make sure I can’t sleep for the next hour. Then the opening and slamming of doors again and he drives off with his renewed macho. My life is so glamorous.

End Of The World

Cabo de Gata was good training for Morocco. Unbroken drab brown as far as one could see. Constant honking wind. Locked in poverty, and strewn with trash, we heard the Mosque warbling in the distance. An out of business beach with wood rot fishing skiffs. That smell is regret for buying this declining real estate. We only came because the campground wifi was highly rated and I had bought my NFL pass to the SuperBowl. We watched and drove away.  


Granada (It means Pomegranate)

From the worst to the best – I love Granada! I could live here for 2 months. Now for some history. This would be a good time for the cretins among you to take a bathroom break. 

The Alhambra is above but the hints of history are everywhere




Early populations of ancient bronze age tribes, Romans and then Visigoths passed through this city’s hall of fame. Around the year 711 AD the Islamic world began to conquer large swaths of what is today Spain. They ruled for 700 years and the final hold out under the forces of the Spanish Crown was the last Muslim ruled city of Granada. The entire city is an archeological treasure. You could stab a spade into the ground anywhere and find ancient artifacts. 

The Alhambra

The richly detailed designs of the Nasrid palaces that are the focal point of the following pictures date from the reigns of Yusuf I (1333 – 1354) and his son Muhammad V (1354 - 1391 AD). In 1811 Napoleon’s army tried to dynamite the whole complex and managed to blow up 8 towers before the hero Jose Garcia snuffed out the remaining fuses and saved the rest. 










As magnificent as it is ... it's even better when you realize that it was painted!


Romantic Travelers

This is how it all started. You can blame the insipid Instagram poseurs and social media influencers on the writers of the early 1800’s who as a reaction to the industrial revolution glamourized romantic travel to far away lost places. Weaving painting and (later) photography’s visual allure together with the culturally fascinating, these authors spun up a whole generation of affluent youth who ventured out into the world to see it for themselves. In 1832 Washington Irving wrote “Tale of the Alhambra” and in 1845 Richard Ford wrote “A Handbook for Travelers in Spain”. 


The word was out and the precursor to the backpacking hordes, which eventually became the jet setting tourists were coming to the Iberian Peninsula. You couldn’t stop them now if you tried. I strive to be a traveler, but occasionally it’s nice to lean into being a tourist and following the herd through the stunning buildings, through the gift shop, and right out the door to the gelato vendor. I make no apologies. I’ve paid my dues. 



Vegetarians – Look Away Now!




For 700 years, the piglets had it really easy under the Islamic Sultanate. However, during the Reconquista, when the Spanish retook Andalucía and ejected the Muslims and Jews (non ham eaters) in 1492. . . Well, let’s just say it was a bad year for the piggies. No one can do pork better than the Spanish. Jamon Serrano is delicious and yet, it’s just for rookies. The Jamon Iberico is a meditation on cured meat (free ranging pigs fed only acorns). It’s the perfect zenith of the decadence of Spain. The meat, coupled with the red wine sloshing over the rim as you inspect its legs because it’s so plentiful and luscious is just one example. The tradition of tapas essentially says, “Yeah – I want that, and that, and that too. I’m not settling for a single entrée. Make me fat on starters!” The lifting of that delicious Rioja to your pulpo greasy lips is slo-mo ecstasy as the inebriation kicks in and weighs like an opioid on the weary traveler who now realizes “Spain…I made it.” This is why most of Europe with a keyboard career are slowly migrating south. 

I don’t have a career and I’m not feeling too weary. I stare at maps and drive towards inspiration. Spain checks that box.

Ronda 

I had never heard of it. Didn't plan to come here. Would have missed it completely. Then a girl we know posted pictures.... That’s the beauty of long-term travel. “Looks good. Let’s go!” We went. I could live there for a month. Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles did. More than once.





The world's oldest bull ring

Sevilla

This made my “cool thing” list. These are three original Roman columns built during Hadrian's rule in the first century AD. They're all that's left from an ancient Temple and they are 14 ft below the current street level. There are houses on either side of them and nothing else remaining of the original Temple. Just a piece of Roman history from 2000 years ago stuck in the middle of a Spanish City. Super cool! How would you like to live next door to these?



These Euro cities are a wonderful reveal of the permanence of human culture. It thrills me to know that I'm part of a nano second in their cycle. Que rico. Que chévere.


Warm enough for us to finally take out the scooters and zip around the skinny alleys 

What is now a church began as a mosque. The minaret is the proof 


We loved Sevilla and played tourists for 5 days taking walking tours and sampling all the delicious food we could. Can you guess what I’m going to write now…? “I could live here for 4 months!” Sevilla is that good. 

Flamenco Is Bullfighting Without The Violence

This is a dance that encourages public participation. Well – maybe not from a hardened white man, but little Aleja segues right into it with nary a pause. I need to buy her a big frilly red dress. Surfer Rosa!



Faults of Spain

No country is perfect, and as much as I love Spain there is the whole dog poop issue that we need to talk about. It's everywhere. The Spanish are terrible about cleaning up after their dogs. That’s a huge strike in my ratings metric. The other is the vehicle emissions. I know they are part of the EU but it’s obvious as soon as you leave France that Spain isn’t playing by the same rules. You never see clouds of exhaust emanating from vehicles in Germany. This is almost third world urban air quality. I don’t cough this much in Northern Europe. Dog crap and unregulated car emissions – come on Spain – clean up your act. You’re better than this. 

The other notation I have on Spain being closer to the third world are the buildings. Sure, the ancient edifices are stunning and plentiful but the modern buildings seem to have zero maintenance budget. Nothing gets a second coat of paint and when they start to stain and peel the residents just accept it. There doesn’t seem to be any pushback against the eyesores of dilapidation. They just deteriorate. The design is good, the original execution is good but then it’s left to rot. What happened to your capital reserves? Where’s your line item for maintenance? They can’t all be broke. I think it’s cultural. It’s what they know and expect. The new buildings of Spain certainly don’t live up to their old noble ancestors.

“I’d Like To Make A Reservation Please”

If you’ve been paying attention to the above proclamations then you have surmised that I love it here and will probably someday live in Spain. The people are correct, there’s an overabundance of goodness, the prices are right, and the food is worthy of wrecking yourself. In addition – there is still so much more to see! We’ve barely scratched the surface. Part 2 of Spain will be forthcoming after the Portugal and Morocco dispatches.

Your man on point,

Captain Bobby



P.S./ I don’t have diabetes. Just funning ya.


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