Seeing the world, one country at the time

Spain in a Nutshell

Spain is Celtic music and sardanas, fideus and fabada, cava and sidra, and cold, rainy weather. “What?!” you think. “What happened to flamenco and sangria, paella and sunshine?” Spain is those too, just like the tourist brochures promise. It is a mosaic of cultures, history, architecture, languages, cuisines and personalities, influenced by the many cultures that conquered and inhabited it. Phoenicians, Celts, gypsies, Sephardic Jews, Basques and Moors helped shape the country and its unique culture. The Catalans on the northeastern coast are nothing like the Andaluzes in the south, the Madrilenos of the center, or the Asturianos of the north coast.

I was born on the shores of the Mediterranean and that is where we returned at the “official” end of our trip. We spent more than a month in Sitges, a little resort town south of Barcelona, once a fishing village cut off from the big city by the mountains of Garraf. Now it is known for its party atmosphere and is a favorite hangout of Barcelonans on weekends and of foreigners in the summer months. It is also infamous as the gay hub of Europe. To me it is home, to us an oasis; a rest-stop at the end of our long trip. We were so happy to finally unpack and have a home to make our own for a while. We planned to job search, finish our website and celebrate Lars’ 40th birthday.

In reality we spent our month trying to get into a routine - which had become a foreign concept to us - and entertaining guests, who arrived nonstop to enjoy the Mediterranean weather. First came Lars’ family from Norway for a week, followed by a quiet week when we just spent time on photos and catching up on email. Then as May 20th neared, friends began to arrive from as far away as the U.S. to help celebrate Lars’ big day. He was oblivious to the plans I had been making and was surprised to find Sofya, Margreet and Herbert (from our Asian travels) and Thomas and Patricia (from our Brazil trip) on our doorstep. We spent a week of long nights and good times together and on the big day, other friends from the area and from Thunderbird showed up and we partied all night long and shut down the local disco at 7 am, then went home to gorge on French fries. Meanwhile, Thomas and Patricia were off on the beach getting engaged! So we had even more to celebrate.

The day our last guest left, my relatives arrived from Sweden for a week and after a couple days together, we left for Madrid to visit Sophie, Diego and their son Jonathan, friends I’d met in the US years ago. We had a fun few days discovering Toledo, downtown Madrid and Alcala de Henares and their son Jonathan. Then we returned to Barcelona just in time to see the Swedes off and close up shop in the apartment before our renters moved in.

We headed off to Oviedo, the city where I studied for one semester during college and a place close to my heart. We stayed with my old friend Jorge and his wife Ana in the coastal city of Gijon and met up with other old pals and my host family. Our week there consisted of lots of sidra (the local cider), fabada (bean stew) and walks on the coastal cliffs and in the mountains. Asturias, the province in which Gijon and Oviedo are found, is rugged and green, rural and beautiful. It is more like Ireland than the Mediterranean or southern coast of Spain. I was sorry to leave, but we had to make it in time to a wedding in France. After leaving Oviedo we dropped by Madrid on our way north to Paris, our next stop on the last leg of our trip.