Travel makes my heart feel Big. Spain

A friend once told me “do what make your heart feel big”.  She explained that when you think of something, a decision, or opportunity, if it makes you feel like your heart is expanding it’s probably the right choice.  If it makes you feel like your body is tight and contracted don’t do it.  Whenever I think of taking a trip, an adventure, my heart feels really big.  And I find that while I’m traveling it grows even more.

To catch you up, back in December Cam and I learned that our collaboration proposal for a Residency at the Cite in Paris had been selected for a July/ August visit.  Since then we’ve been going through the tedious but fun process of preparing for a trip.  Cam and I aren’t rich.  We’ve had to plan and work to make this possible.  This spring we took on extra work.  We arranged to leave our work and return at the right time.  We found a subleaser for our apartment and packed it up.  We found dog sitters.  At night I poured over guide books and the lonely planet chat room.  I emailed my Spanish friends and family and tried to learn a little French.  All this preparation has been worth it.  We have freed ourselves up to learn of new places, taste different food, get out of our head, and become present to a new place.  Our destinations….
Madrid to see my exchange family.
Granada to meet up with my friends Ryan and Sean.
Morocco to see our grad school friend Lisa.
Paris for our residency.
Plus all the other little side trips or cities we will stop at en route.

After 24hrs of travel from New York to Madrid, we landed and were welcomed by my exchange sister Rocio.  This trip has been the easiest ,for me, yet to overcome my jet lag and transition into a different culture.  I credit this to the Garrido-Ramirez’s, my exchange family.  Rocio took us to her apartment, which is located above her parent’s house, we left our bags and then headed down to see Pilar and Nicolas.  Pilar had prepared a lovely tortilla Espanola (my favorite).  After eating we ran some errands to set up our phone and then returned home to eat lunch followed by our afternoon Siesta.  For dinner we went to my friend Eva’s house to meet up with her and her son Luisito.  He was finishing up a swim in the pool.  I volunteered to give him a bath while Eva and the rest made dinner.  I hadn’t babysit for him for a year, not since the Pilgrimage of the crying child (see blog entry), so I had fun laughing with him in good spirits as we played battling dinosaurs.  Meanwhile Eva put Cam to work helping her, Rocio and Salva make dinner.  When Luis her husband arrived home, we ate dinner and reminisced about how much we had changed since we were 17.

The next day Cam and I walked through the parque Retiro, stopping off to visit exhibits by Nacho Criado at the exposition spaces within the Park.  From there we walked by the stalls of used book sellers next to the park and on to the Reina Sofia.  Guernica, Hans Hoffman, Dali, a great video art exhibit.  That afternoon we returned for a delicious lunch made by Pilar (best restaurant in Spain) and then spent the afternoon with her sharing our art and hearing about the classes she was taking while retired. 

Highlights of the trip so far have been:

Preparing an American meal for my family.  This involved a 2 hr trip to the market followed by a collaborative effort between Cam, myself, and Rocio, too cook Poppyseed Chicken, Bruschetta, and Gooey Butter Cake.  The meal was well received and we stayed up late laughing and talking ( In part due to our consumption of sugar and wine).  That night I could barely sleep as I was so excited about our trip.  My heart felt big.

View of the Grill, a small portion of what was actually on it.
Over the weekend Rocio invited us to her father’s pueblo for  a BBQ and soccer game party with some friends.  A group of them were going on a bike ride and wanted to end the ride with a Spanish BBQ.  Unlike an American BBQ this one, was almost entirely a meat eating event.  Cam and I ate meat and drank alcohol for 24hrs.  (very unusual for us) We tasted meats like pancetta, salchicon, chorizo of Granada, and morcilla.  To take a break from all the eating and drinking at one point we went on a lovely mountain walk led by the excellent nature buff Angel, who stopped to point out the special qualities of plants (in addition to his excellent bug hunting).

Check out this beetle!  Angel chased after and caught it to show us.

That night we were happy to cheer Spain on as they beat France in the Euro cup quarter finals.  Note how inventive my friends were in moving their TV outside to accommodate for all the people.  

The celebration was followed by a lot of dancing, star watching, and talking.  There was so much dancing that I had to dance Cam and myself to bed or risk being called back to the dance floor.

We begin our travel South to try and get to Morocco.   We stopped in Granada to meet friends.  That next morning it was Cam’s first and my second visit to the Alhambra.   We beat the heat by getting there at 8am and then spent the warmer part of the morning walking around the gardens of the Generalife.

If you've never been the Alhambra it is a palace, fort, and garden built by the Arab rulers of Granada in the 14th century.  It is am amazing work of architecture with a long history of different occupants.  The buildings are full of complicated repeated patterns, Arabic writing, wildflower gardens, Spanish tiles, and fountains.  I bought a book of stories about the Alhambra written by Washington Irving (writer or legend of Sleep Hollow) during his one year stay at the Alhambra.  I've been enjoying reading the folk tales and stories of this amazing site it has legends that remind me of Alladin and Ali Baba and indeed sounded very magical.. Oh to have been someone newly discovering this place rather than one of the many tourists.  Anyways after 5 hours walking around, we returned to town for lunch and a nap.

That night we met up with my friends Ryan and Sean.  They had been traveling around Europe for a few weeks and were ending their vacation.  After helping them park, we walked up to find the Mirador.  We watched the sunset over the Alhambra from the mirador de San Nicolas, and talked to the old folk hanging out around the plaza.  We met one really nice man Carlos, who went there to relax after work, and he became a free guide of sort and took us to a Flamenco site in one of the caves nearby.

Walking home we looked for food, but everything was closed!  Cam and I say goodbye to Ryan and Sean and headed to our bed with hungry stomach but full spirits.

The next day we took the train south to catch the ferry to Morocco.


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