By: Lorraine Iverson
My husband, Doug and I recently visited Spain for the first time. Since we’d never been there we did the “if it’s Tuesday it must be Valencia” style travel plan. That style of traveling used to work for me. And I hate to admit this, but I think I’m getting too old for that type of trip. There was no down time, not much of a chance for quiet reflection and observation of ancient mosques and cathedrals. Only time for one art museum!
I loved Spain and its people but we were trying to do too much in a short period of time. In two weeks we visited Barcelona, Valencia, Javea, Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba and Madrid. If you’ve been there, you know that’s a lot of traveling and a lot to absorb. I should have known better but it had worked in my past. “Past” being the operative word here. My first European trip was probably 25 years ago and it was a whirlwind as well. But 25 years ago I was younger (no need for specifics here), thinner and had my original knees. Instead of "the rain in Spain", it was the pain in Spain was mainly in my knees! So lesson learned. Pick a couple cities to visit and do smaller day trips from there. Packing up and driving for three hours, unpacking, trying to see a lot and doing it all again in the next day or two is too much.
I’m glad we were able to visit all of the places we did. Next trip we’ll probably go back but stay in Barcelona and then take a train to Sevilla and have a little more of a mellow journey.
Barcelona is one of the most hip and happening cities I’ve visited. It’s very stylish and cosmopolitan yet small enough to experience in a short amount of time. And it has tons of history and cultural drama. I fell in love with the architecture, especially Gaudi, and tried to visit all of his work in the city. He was an artist way ahead of his time. The Sagrada Familia, an enormous cathedral in the heart of the city was his most famous work. He took over the project as chief architect in 1883, he died in 1926 and the project is still under construction. It’s an amazing work of art with some of the spires having a surrealistic, almost space-age look to them. Projected completion date of the cathedral is still 10-12 years away. The Park Guell is another of his projects in the city with a strange, organic yet futuristic look to it. It looks likes it was built by hippies on acid in the 70s. We also visited La Pedrera, an apartment building he created 1905-10. Besides the wave-like appearance of the outer walls there is an army of Star Wars looking sculptures on the roof that are actually vents to the building. The man was amazing and even today would be considered futuristic.
Seville, in the south, is a lovely, romantic city full of festivities much of the year. By accident we arrived for some national holiday honoring the military. But it looked more like Carnival in Rio. Marching bands were all dressed in wild costumes as colorful birds, fish or flowers - playing music and dancing through the Plaza Nueva to the delight of everyone there. And it seems everyone in all the cities we visited were always hanging out in one plaza or another. People don’t seem to stay home and watch the tube in the evenings. They are always having a wine or coffee in an outdoor cafe or just walking about. They aren’t isolated in their cars or houses. Of course, evening doesn’t really begin until dinner around 9pm. So there’s not a lot of time for an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. We would wander back to our hotel at midnight and the streets and plazas were still busy and festive.
While the Spaniards are out and about, they all smoke like chimneys! I’ve never seen such a large population of people still smoking. In other European countries I visited there were folks puffing away but Spain definitely has not heard about the connection to lung cancer or heart disease. I think the tobacco companies must have figured out some way to block that information. Plus, every store and cafe has cigarette machines with brands that are no longer sold in the US - Pall Mall, L&M, really. I’d love to know how this all came about.
Smoking aside, almost everyone we encountered in Spain was friendly and helpful. My husband loves to practice his Spanish skills so engages everyone (EVERYONE!!!) in conversation. And they were all kind and patient and helpful. We did need a lot of help because we were lost - a lot. I have a pretty good sense of direction and would try to get us to our destination but Doug, happy to engage, always asks for directions. We have a little male/female role reversal in this department.
Another small annoyance we encountered on this trip was the selfie stick, which I believe has been banned in most tourist attractions and museums in the U.S. And well it should be. What a distraction for those of us trying to absorb culture and history. There was always someone standing in front of the sacred spot of whatever posing with their stupid selfie stick. It seemed to be not about what they were experiencing but “look at me in front the cathedral, look at me in front of the tomb of Christopher Columbus, look at me at the flamenco show,” and on and on. Why spend the time and money to travel when you really just want to put your mug on Facebook? PLEASE!
I feel like we have just scratched the surface of Spain and I’m anticipating the next visit. So I can take lots of pictures of myself in front of the cathedrals I missed…….
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LORRAINE "RAIN" IVERSON - Life
Rain Iverson has traveled many paths and is always recreating herself. As a business woman, she co-founded and managed a technology public relations firm and one of the first computer conferencing software companies. She has served on non-profit boards, retired at 50 to become an artist and then 10 years later came out of retirement to become CFO of her son's company. Rain is the matriarch of a large, blended family with a great husband, children, grandchildren and lots of extended/blended family members.