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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2 thoughts on “Love Letter to Spain: Viva Espana!

  1. Nice article but Spain is much more than Costa del Sol, Madrid, Roses and Barcelona. Try to travel around the rest of the country, i.e Galicia, Basque Country, Navarre, Asturias, Cantabria, the Pyrenaic regions, Castille.. Few countries in Europe offer such a deep variety of cultures and heritage, such a strong personality of its multiple nationalities, such a rich conglomerate of cuisines, landscapes and trilling History.. You’ll need many trips and some command of Spanish language to grab the essence of it 🙂

    • Thank you for the comment Javier. I have travelled the length and breadth of Spain and still I could never get entirely to grips with all of its amazing aspects, just as I never could the beautiful island that I live on. But I disagree, I HAVE captured the essence of it… As I have perceived it… And it is MY Spain that I am celebrating 🙂

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