Love Letter to Spain: Viva Espana!

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New from Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life

Dearest Espana

I’m here with you now old friend and as I think about, it’s been a very long, off again on again relationship that we two have had…

I am taking the time to know you more and appreciate my memories and impressions of you, then it will deepen my connection to you and to my self, a self freed from the fetters of sitting still, a self that travels, a self away from the sane and sanitized safe of ‘normal’ every day life.

We take ourselves with us on all our journeys, in our relationships, to all those places travelled in body, mind and heart. So this is not a love letter to a country, it is a voyage into my knowing and loving of it…

Our relationship started in my teens, when I was on an exchange visit with a French family… I was the envy of my friends, since any of us rarely went abroad and I got to go to France and to Spain, all in one trip. It felt like Christmas had definitely come early!

I stayed with the family (of husband, wife and 2 daughters) in a hotel, possibly for the first time in my life. But bless my blonde Celtic skin, I was already sun burnt before I had even arrived! As the honoured guest I was seated in the front passenger seat of the car for the trip from France, and so, thanks to the southern sun penetrating the car’s front windows and my thin white skin, my arms were burnt red raw by the time I arrived. …

I was slightly over awed by the hotel, in Rosas, on the Costa Brava, but soon disillusioned when I realised that the food was a distinctly average Spanish approximation of French food, and not only that, but they repeated the menu every 4 days…

The bleaching white sun was a revelation, but I couldn’t tan myself in it; my poor burnt skin blistered and festered under my long sleeved top instead, and then peeled itself off, to heal itself pink. So I learnt about the sun and about respecting it, in my Spanish way.

I loved the way the high heat just stopped me in my teenage tracks, yet I started to get bored with the repetition of hotel breakfast, beach (where I had to cover up my poor burnt arms), hotel lunch then beach, then hotel dinner… I learnt later never to be bored, to fill my time and my head with reading, with thought games and to simply appreciate the experience.

That first Spanish encounter lasted a week and left a weak impression on me, but still, much later, in my mid twenties I certainly wasn’t going to turn down a gift horse in the mouth when the opportunity to return to Spain came a knocking again…

I was now an adult, with my first proper wage and long term boyfriend. The parents of his best friend had just bought an apartment near Villajoyosa on the Costa del Sol and our group of friends were going to be the first people to stay in it. The five of us decamped at the air port and our hire car conveyed us away from Alicante and up into the dry and dusty mountains, to our own little casa.

We drove around, sat on the beach, played board games and ate sea food and steak. When I look at the pictures of that holiday now, I remember that there was a lot of food, fun and laughter. And as for my personal growth, I recall trying out my cassette course Spanish and shyly and proudly buying us all food supplies, all by my little self.

And I discovered Spanish wine and Spanish chocolate and the simple pleasures of being with a group of friends, away from the every day.

The people in our mountain town were friendly and we were soon ‘hola’ing’ everyone every day. Spain then was a holiday world of our co-creation. We were five young adults out on a mini adventure, all in the prime of lives, and despite a time of economic crisis back at home, we were all in work and the holiday was our heavenly reward. Life felt good.

I have since returned to Spain a number of times and it some how seems to have measured so many tide marks in my life…

In my thirties I visited Madrid for a February weekend of jay walking and culture and olives and for the first time I can remember – tried Tapas: the joyous small pick and choose feasts of a myriad of foods. After several trips to the country I had learnt some very basic Spanish, with my particular interest being the words of food (food being love to me). And I found that even a few words and the willingness to communicate usually went a long and appreciated way…

Even in winter Madrid was a city of blazing sun, late breakfasts and wonderful culture. I adored it and I knew I wanted to return to Spain again and again, and so I did…

Later on in life I have had the pleasure of visiting Barcelona a number of times and I love this city. It has the gorgeous twin virtues of being a vibrant, cultural city set next to a beach. What a fabulous combination!

Then there is the unique, flowing, beautifully insane and ground breaking architecture of Gaudi, from the unfinished cathedral sized ‘family’ church La Sagrada Familia, to the blue tiles and lizards of Gaudi park and the numerous buildings he designed and left as a legacy all around the city.

In the centre of the city I have meandered down Las Ramblas, the street running from the city centre to the sea. On the way being gently entertained by street statues and then dawdling past all the stalls/shops.

Just off it is also one of my favourite food markets in the world, where you can wander around stalls that sell every variety of fruit and vege and spice and meat and living, moving sea food and eat tapas and watch the Spanish world go by.

I also discovered the Champagne counterpart Cava there, so what a delight to haunt the cava bars and eat tapas, picking intriguing plates of mini food skewered with cocktail sticks off the bar and then throwing down the cocktail sticks for the bar staff to add up your bill.

I have also toured Spain on the back of a motor bike, a gorgeously visceral way of seeing this vast land mass; blasting down the motor ways, and branching off through high rise cities, then through the quieter country roads, driving past olive groves and field after field of grape vines. We gaped at Roman remains, wondered around Moorish palaces and soaked up the sun.

We’d fetch up at lunch time to bars in the middle of every where, with hams hanging down from the ceiling on hooks, and cigarette smoke blowing back up, and had to figure out the regional peculiarities of the establishment’s menus. They were never listed in the dictionary. Before we left for the trip I was laughed at by my then boyfriend when I packed a little book called ‘The Spanish Menu Reader’; but this little book was so valuable on that trip – with out it we may just have starved or lived entirely on chips!

I remember too evenings spent in city squares watching the Spanish people out on their paseo – the nightly ritual of walking around to see and be seen…

The highlight of that trip was a three day stay in Seville, and to this day I remember wandering round the narrow streets of the Jewish quarter, and visiting the delightful cathedral cum mosque, cum cathedral.

Every place, every city has its’ flavour. Next on my love list is Malaga which is cosmopolitan, elegant and gracious. It was the birth place of Picasso, who is proudly owned there. It also has one of my favourite shopping areas – a traffic free network of streets that are a happy declaration of unabashed retail therapy. Malaga has the most incredible renaissance style cathedral, the giant ornate angles of which defied the lens confines of my tourist camera. And at night I sat and people watched in the garden square next to it and absorbed the flowers, the scents, the smells and the luminous darkening sky.

And this is only part of the way through my voyage to my own Spain… I’m saving and savouring more, for later…

PS: The author of this ‘Love Letter to Life’ has published a whole book of these gorgeous ‘Love Letters’, for more travels in the imagination, thoughts on life, general naval gazing and a poetical exploration of life.  You can peruse it, dip into it or read it from cover to cover – whether to entertain you, gently answer life’s puzzles, to celebrate or simply to know you that are not alone. You buy your own copy of Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life on Amazon and book websites around the world, in both paperback and Kindle.

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Love Letter to Spain: Jay Walking

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The latest post from Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life

Dear Jay

I love to walk, to get me into the great or even little, out doors and to stretch my sinews and to breath new air. I like planned walks, I like familiar / done again and again walks, and I like new places and new route marches too.

Walks enervate me, they inspire me, and they get me out of the womb of inside. I’ve had some of my most beautiful ideas when walking – in fact my first blog and book came to me in this walking way.

Sometimes my walking strategies are consciously purposeful, where I will seek and see the obvious; or else there is an oblivious aspect, with a subconscious hidden purpose – where I simply set myself free – in body and mind and allow routes then answers and inspirations to download to me, gorgeously and easily.

So all this leads me on neatly to Jay Walking – not an illegal or reckless crossing of a roadway, but my redefinition, which is: the wondrous act of wondering about, without defined route or purpose, just for the sheer unadulterated, meandering pleasure of it.

I guess jay walking comes to me naturally, since I have never walked life’s path in a straight line, veering from the course, and stumbling into others as I do, and sometimes dancing ahead, sometimes crawling behind, some times stalling; but always some how, moving forward.

At this present point I am in Spain, in the heartland of Flamenco – the city of Jerez de la Frontera. It is, for me now, the perfect place for jay walking, so I’m off – route less and purposeless, letting my legs lead me on. I have all the time, temperament and space I want, to saunter.

It is still the cool of the morning and the world is alive. I march past a bodega (a local maker and purveyor of wine), the doors of which have been widely flung open to the world, and the warm delicious smell of Sherry meets me out on the street. I walk past cafes where the breakfast chatter and smell of coffee floats out to me too. I stride on and off endless grey pavements, stepping around dog mess and parked cars and watchful of oncoming traffic, through side streets shaded by the tall buildings on either side. Even on the quietest streets I meet people coming to and fro. My solitude self bridles, then surrenders, for this is not my world, this is their world I am wandering through.

I come out of the shade on to a main road, with shops and hair dressers and more and more people, going hither and thither. I maintain my air of brisk importance, of speed and purpose, but it’s an act, I’m just pottering, purposefully forward.

I take in all my surroundings – the streets, the shops and the people. I decide which side of the road to be, and jay walk along, zig zagging and criss crossing, still striding onwards. My strides take me to a town square, complete and replete with a fountain, pigeons, trees and pleasant shade; it is all orderly and ordinary and yet beautiful in its’ deliberate urban way, and it demands to be a respite.

I sit on a bench and surreptitiously start to people watch. Like the urban spy I am, I watch the couples, the mothers with babies, the grand mothers, the young and the old. I absorb their clothes, their gait, the expressions on their faces. People come and go, passing by me, on my bench: The morning food shoppers, and the retired men gathering together in smiling groups. And a market stall holder from Senegal sets out his wares of purses and bags, to trap the passers by, to while and wear away his time.

As well as people watch, I dog watch too. There are dogs of many pedigree that walk, sniff and trot through here. They are part of the picture and so I appraise them… That dog is old and stiff, that dog is attentive, that dog is nervous…

Sometimes, just sometimes, some one sees me. I’m looked up and down. But that is all fine. I’m watching them watching me after all.

So this is jay walking – the giving myself the simple gift of freedom for a while. Not setting a course for the next few hours, to sail with the wind, to wander and to wonder.

I am setting my head and my legs free, since my British head has been crowded and busy for the longest time. My Spanish head instead is at liberty to stroll, to create, and most importantly to rest and to play. With out effort now I observe and I learn; learning more about myself than the people or even the environment that envelops me.

So often when I am confused or stalling in life, the urge is to push, to work, to blast through, all with my head down, carrying on until the clouds lift or the job is done. But really what I need is space at times like this. Confusion clears when it isn’t confined and cramped. I don’t have to spiral down or get lost in it. I know that after the storm comes the calm and clarity, and then I allow them to come to me, softly. I don’t have to know all the answers now. I have asked the questions and will trust my heart and my subconscious to do the rest, treating them to a rest and sweet change of scenery.

I’m used to the quiet countryside scenery of my UK home and here in Jerez I’ve been told that these can be mean streets or they can be merry streets, and so I decide to be safe , yet remember, aside from being sensible, that safety is more often an emotional state than a physical one, and so often is a choice we can make…

So this is the joy of jay walking for me: Its’ freedom, its’ litany, its’ spice, its’ wanton lack of structure.

And I have given myself the gift of sauntering in Spain, but you can amble aimlessly almost any where. Just give yourself some time and some space – for minutes or for hours, and it can be in new or familiar surroundings. You can jay walk with or with out purpose. What I love about the process is that I so often find that questions or issues that have been nagging at me, will resolve themselves more effortlessly, when I move and I allow and I change the scenery.

I can walk as a solitary jay or in company, and both have their place and purpose. I love my solo strolls when I just follow my nose, to exercise body and mind and also exorcise demons and cyclical negative thinking. With companions, you can chatter or have silence, and follow their path or lead yours, or indeed do a joint jay walk, where between you will randomly decide on the direction you take.

So this is my gist of jay walking. It’s how I do it, yet there are no rules, that is its’ spare, free beauty.

As I have walked, so have I run out of words now. And I have considered and celebrated once again and here is the end of this letter / this journey / this jay walk.

Yours wanderingly

   Sandra x

PS: I love the neglected form of Letter Writing and have written a whole book of Love Letters to Life, celebrating, loving and learning about life, and which you can buy from any where around the world. In the UK you can buy the paperback or the Kindle version on Amazon. If you would like details of how to purchase it else where, please leave a message below…